Tag «Rating: 3/5»

Fresh Fridays: Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1) by Rhoda Belleza

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:

Empress of a Thousand Skies Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Empress of a Thousand Skies (from Goodreads):

Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

breakdown

Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies
Author: Rhoda Belleza
# of Books: 2 (Empress of a Thousand Skies, Blood of a Thousand Stars)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Blood a A Thousand Skies will be published February 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Adventure
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel. I marked it on my wishlist at my local library simply because I love the cover. The synopsis was intriguing enough but it seems like every plot in a science fiction novel lately has had a similar premise (I get why though: race and class divides are a part of the science fiction backbone so of course there are similarities) so I wasn’t overly eager to read this. Add to that the somewhat mixed reviews on Goodreads and I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

Note on Empress of a Thousand Skies Synopsis:

What I’m about to say may be considered by some to be a spoiler but I actually think it is better labeled as a warning because it is important to know what you are getting into and what type of story to prepare yourself for. So read this section if you want a little guidance for the type of story you are picking up or avoid and continue down to the next section.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding

When you read those lines from the synopsis, you think the plot will be Rhee and her accused killer meeting and proceeding to save the world together. The key word there being “together”, implying that they actually get introduced to each other. That is not the case.

The best way to describe this story is as two parallel stories that contribute to the overall plot of the world. Maybe there is some suspense in wondering if they will ever meet but for me, knowing that they weren’t going to meet helped me starve off some of the disappointment of discovering that they won’t…yet.

What I Liked:

–The Plot is Always Moving–

I don’t like stagnant plot lines and this one never felt like it got stuck or dwelled too long on one thing or another. I think it helps that we get both Aly and Rhee’s POVs too since you get that back and forth plot development. New secrets and alliances are constantly being revealed so something is always grabbing your attention. It helps to build the story and subsequently the finale.

–Not Afraid to Take Risks–

Not that you need to kill off characters to keep a story going but I like the suspense that happens when you aren’t sure who is safe and who isn’t. The action scenes we get here–while sometimes few and far between–had me paying attention because who knows what could happen next!

What I Didn’t Like:

–Somewhat Predictable–

While there were definitely plot twists that surprised me, I think the one big twist in this novel was super obvious. So that dampened the reading experience a touch but I still found myself interested in what would happen next.

–Slightly Lackluster Ending–

Because of the obvious plot twist, the ending was definitely lackluster in my opinion. I really needed something big to happen to “wow” me to take my experience to the next level.

My Audiobook Experience:

For a third person POV narration, I had a very easy time following what was happening. The narrator kept my attention and she was really expressive which helps. I think I would have liked a male narrator to do Aly’s parts simply to remind me when I stopped mid-chapter who the POV was following. Otherwise, it was a solid narration.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

While I wasn’t wowed with this novel, I did enjoy it. I’m curious to see what will happen in the finale and how everything weaves together.

My Rating: 3/5

Empress of a Thousand Skies 3/5 | Blood of a Thousand Stars TBP

overall

While not a standout novel in its genre, this series will definitely keep readers interest throughout.

Read if You Like: science fiction, world-building
Avoid if You: dislike slower stories, want more romance

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Series Review: Every Day by David Levithan

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Every Day (from Goodreads):

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

breakdown

Series: Every Day Trilogy
Author: David Levithan
# of Books: 3 (Every Day, Another Day, Someday)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Six Days Before

Book Order: Companion (Another Day), Chronological Sequel (Someday)
Complete?: No, Someday, will be published in 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: August 2012 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

David Levithan writes one of my all time favourite novels, Will Grayson, Will Grayson. But despite that, I’ve never read any other title by him.

Every Day is a book I’ve seen floating around over the years so it caught my eye when I was browsing new audiobook series to read. I immediately loved the concept and was excited to see what would happen in this story.

The Concept:

This is such a cool idea for a story and I’ve never read anything like this before. I like the feeling that there is something bigger happening in this world and there is a bit of a mystery to it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get elaborated on too much (this is more of a romance with extenuating circumstances than the other way around).

What’s cool is that this story had me thinking about ethics and morality and what it means to live your life. It had me thinking about how we treat and view others, especially when we focus on outward appearance.

The Plot of Every Day:

As I said above, this is a romance that has some extreme circumstances. Finding out why A moves from body to body, or how, takes a back seat to A’s obsession with Rhiannon and being with her. Which is fine, but as you’ll read below, I kinda wanted more.

The Characters in Every Day:

I really didn’t empathize or sympathize with A by the end of Every Day. A does some pretty silly things without truly thinking about the consequences and that annoyed me. By the end, it seemed like A didn’t matter what he did to those other lives so long as he got to be with Rhiannon and I just didn’t agree with that.

Rhiannon is also a bit of a dud if you ask me. I never grew to like her character but I think part of the reason is that she is never elaborated on other than as the object of A’s affections. She also does some pretty questionable things (in my opinion) but I did appreciate her candor near the end of the story.

The Romance in Every Day:

I was not sold on this; which really sucked because this is definitely the whole premise of this story. I just didn’t see the connection between these two. They share one day and they start this all-consuming romance that just irked me.

It also seemed to me that Rhiannon was trading one unhealthy relationship for another–never a good thing.

Why I Won’t Be Reading Another Day:

Another Day is Rhiannon’s companion novel and seeing as I didn’t love her, I’m not going to listen to 9 hours of her drab inner monologue. It also doesn’t look like it is going to answer some of my burning questions in terms of A’s life so I’ll just wait for the third novel.

My Expectations For the Rest of the Series:

I still have a lot of questions about why A changes from body to body so I hope we get those!

Series Rating: 3/5

Every Day 3/5 | Another Day N/A | Someday TBR

overall

A very cool concept that unfortunately gets overshadowed by an angsty teenaged love.

Read if You Like:  YA contemporary, teen romances, magical realism
Avoid if You: want more of a fantasy/mystery plot

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Series Review: The Lone City by Amy Ewing

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Jewel (from Goodreads):

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

breakdown

Series: The Lone City Trilogy
Author: Amy Ewing
# of Books: 3 (The Jewel, The White Rose, The Black City)

There are some short stories. Full reading order here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2014 – October 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This is one of those series that would pop up on occasion for me. Mostly anytime when I reviewed any of the books from The Selection Series or browsed my library’s eBook collection. I’ll admit, I didn’t really know what the series was about until I decided to pick it up as an audiobook series and read the synopsis.

I also wasn’t sure what to expect but I have a few standards that I like all my dystopian novels to have: an intriguing world, a heroine I can tolerate and an actual plotline.

The Concept / The World:

Although the concept is very similar to other dystopian novels (especially The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood) I’ve encountered in the past, I definitely got sucked into the world. I just love high society books and all the scandals of the haves vs the have-nots. Ewing does a great job of establishing the society here and why everything is as it is. There are a ton of secrets so you don’t know who you can and can’t trust and it just makes the entire story addicting.

The Plot:

You aren’t going to find the action-packed plotlines of The Hunger Games here but you are going to get more of a dramatic plot than The Selection Series ever provides. Meaning there is more than just a forbidden romance at play here.

It helps that this world is so intricate in its structure. Like most caste system stories, it’s the haves vs the have nots and that creates a tense atmosphere of danger and intrigue. The risks are high and you never doubt that for a moment thanks to the antics of the upper classes.

However, I did find the pacing to be off at times. For example, The Jewel starts off with a bang because you are thrown into this super interesting world. Getting acquainted with it and watching Violet navigate this was exciting to read until it reached a lull. The introduction of the romance (just past the 50% mark) really slowed down the plot since the romance becomes the larger focus and the rest of the intrigue takes a backseat. Thankfully it picks up again at the end.

The same can be said about The White Rose which suffers from the typical Book 2 of a Trilogy Slump. It was terribly slow even though important developments do happen–especially near the end.

The Black City, book 3, keeps the pacing strong at the start but wanes a little again in the middle. I was a little disappointed by some of the big “twists” but it was a solid ending to the series as a whole.

The Characters:

I went through a bit of a rocky relationship with Violet. In The Jewel, I liked her as a heroine more so than others I’ve encountered in this type of dystopian story. She didn’t drive me insane though I did roll my eyes many a times at some of her comments. (Often during the romantic scenes because I really wasn’t feeling that aspects). I think I was able to forgive some of her naivety because she really is kept in the dark due to her position/role in society. Of course she is going to react impulsively and not really think things through all the time.

And that’s the case as the series progresses. She doesn’t make the wisest decisions–she fails to see the bigger picture at times and that drove me a little nuts.

But I did like a lot of the side characters and I liked that it was easy to hate the villains.

The Romance:

This was a huge disappointment truthfully. I’m all for forbidden romances but this one just bored me. Their connection just seemed very superficial to me and it definitely borders on insta-love. I just wanted a little more substance here. I can’t help but feel that Garnet (the son of the Duchess who bought Violet) would have been a more intriguing love interest for her rather than Ash (who is a little dull despite all the efforts to make him compelling).

The Novellas:

I read both Garnet’s Story (#1.2) and The House of Stone (1.5) right after I read The Jewel. Garnet’s Story in particular does a good job bridging The Jewel and The White Rose and since I loved him as a character, it was great to get that insight. Raven is also a strong character so it was nice to fill in some of the gaps about her story. I opted not to pick up the other short stories.

My Audiobook Experience:

This was the first series I had read exclusively through an audiobook and I think it was a great choice. As I’ve often said in my other audiobook reviews, audiobooks do a great job of conveying emotions I wouldn’t have necessarily felt while reading. I also think it helped me understand Violet a little more. It’s so easy when you read words to interpret them one way instead of another. And I think by having someone speak Violet’s words and convey the emotions she is feeling, it helped me get what Violet’s motivations were–cooling my irritation with her.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Jewel 3.5/5 | The White Rose 3/5 | The Black City 3/5

overall

I’m a particularly hard critic on my dystopian novels but this one was solid from start to end even if it didn’t feel like that at times. While some things were predictable, others wowed me and had me wanting to know more. It’s addicting albeit slow at times but I think readers who enjoy high society dystopian novels will enjoy this.

Read if You Like: high society, dystopian
Avoid if You: want physical action

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Single Sundays: Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean

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 Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick (from Goodreads):

Say you want to start going to the gym or practicing a musical instrument. How long should it take before you stop having to force it and start doing it automatically?

The surprising answers are found in Making Habits, Breaking Habits, a psychologist’s popular examination of one of the most powerful and under-appreciated processes in the mind. Although people like to think that they are in control, much of human behavior occurs without any decision-making or conscious thought.

Drawing on hundreds of fascinating studies, psychologist Jeremy Dean busts the myths to finally explain why seemingly easy habits, like eating an apple a day, can be surprisingly difficult to form, and how to take charge of your brain’s natural “autopilot” to make any change stick.

Witty and intriguing, Making Habits, Breaking Habits shows how behavior is more than just a product of what you think. It is possible to bend your habits to your will—and be happier, more creative, and more productive.

breakdown

Author: Jeremy Dean
Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help, Psychology
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: December 25, 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I picked this book up in the hopes it would help motivate me to develop some good habits. See, I finally finished my post-secondary education and was about to start my career so I wanted to get some good habits started right from the get-go of my new lifestyle.

My hopes for this novel were that it would help me come up with some strategies to implement a routine that included work, reading, working out and writing!

The Concept:

The scientist in me really appreciated the use of psychology/sociology studies to explain why certain approaches were more successful than others. I like evidence and I don’t like books that just spew out ideas that have no support. So that really worked for me.

For me, I wanted this book to focus more on creating habits as opposed to breaking them and I felt that at times, this book geared more towards the breaking of habits. But maybe that is just what I got out of it.

The Writing/The Narration:

However, at times, I felt like I was just sitting in a psychology lecture because the first half of the book is so focused on the science of what a habit is and why it is hard to break. It was more educational to me than inspiring for the first 50% of the book. Though that did improve on the later half.

I’m glad I listened to the audiobook though. I think I would have felt like I was reading a textbook if I read the physical book. It was a very easy read.

Did it Impact My Life?

Perhaps not as much as I had hoped. I think I wanted some clear cut strategies for starting new habits and I didn’t totally get those. BUT, it helped to remind me that it can take a while to create a new habit; that I shouldn’t be afraid to try new strategies; that it’s ok to miss a few times or make a mistake. So I did find it a worthwhile read because it made me want to try and create some new habits.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

A very informative book but it didn’t offer too many everyday strategies for making/breaking habits. Instead the focus seemed to be more of why people struggle and that it is a normal occurrence to endure.

Read if You Like: nonfiction, psychology
Avoid if You: dislike self-help books

 

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Movie Mondays: Before I Fall

Movie Mondays: On the occasional Monday, I will review a book series or novel that has been made into a movie. I will then answer the question that everyone asks: which is better, the movie or the book? Here is this edition’s offering:

Book: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (2010) | Movie: Before I Fall (2017)

Which did I read/see first? the BOOK

Book Cover | Movie Poster

Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Point of View: First Person, Single
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Before I Fall has been on my TBR list before I even knew what “TBR” meant. It graced every teen “must read list” in 2010 and I’ll admit, it grabbed my attention. But the holds list was super long and it slipped my mind. And then I read her Delirium Series–the inspiration for this blog–and really didn’t like it. So I was hesitant to pick up another Oliver title.

I went into this book with a fresh mind but it was hard.

Sam is everything I detest in a YA contemporary heroine. She’s self-absorbed, lost in her own world and just not that nice of a person. But that’s the whole point of this novel isn’t it? Sam is supposed to learn some life changing lesson and become a better person because of it.

And that happens to a certain extent. She definitely learns some valuable lessons but I’m not sure if I like the motivation for it. For me, Sam never escapes the persona of a selfish girl. Her desire to change comes across as someone who needs to fix things in order to redeem herself as a “nice person”. I guess it just didn’t come across as selfless to me.

As for the novel itself, it wasn’t as repetitive as I expected. Oliver does a good job of not rehashing every moment of every day. She also does a decent job of leading you on a bit of a mystery. Trying to figure out how everything links together kept me interest.

overall

I’ll be honest, I rushed through this book a lot because I had to return it so my experience wasn’t everything it could have been. In the end, I had a hard time liking Sam and that really did colour my impressions of this novel as a whole.

Rating: 3/5

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Were My Expectations Met?

Considering I wasn’t a huge fan of the novel, I wasn’t really sure how I would enjoy the movie. If I couldn’t stand Sam and her friends just by reading about them, how would I feel was I watched them be awful teenaged girls?

But the movie is really well done. Like the book, you aren’t rewatching scene after scene of the same day. I suppose that is the beauty of films and their ability to have montages 😉

And I will admit, watching Sam’s story here made me slightly more emotional (in a good way) as opposed to the novel where my feelings were more annoyed than empathetic.

How Close is it to the Book?

From what I remember of the book, this was pretty close. And what I think they left out (like the scene with Sam’s teacher, etc.) made the story stronger here. But the root of the story and its message are the same.

I will say, that Sam’s self-realization in the movie seemed a touch more natural to me. I don’t know if that is because you don’t have her internal monologue for the entire story and you only see what is on the surface/what is said. Or perhaps it is because you have a person you can visually see reacting to everything that helps you empathize. However, I still really struggle with the ending overall.

Did I Like the Cast?

The first role I saw Zoey Deutch (Sam) was the TV show The Ringer where she played a similar character to Sam. She’s a great actress who can play more than just a bitchy teenager (she was great as Rose in The Vampire Academy Movie) so I thought she was a great choice for Sam. Like I said above, I really didn’t like Sam in the book but Zoey brought a touch of humanity to Sam here.

The rest of the cast was great as well. I don’t know if I would change anything about the cast.

thewinneriswinmovie

I definitely enjoyed the movie a touch more than the novel. I think not getting Sam’s internal monologue for every scene really helped me focus on the story and the circumstances instead of her petty, selfish observations.

Do you agree? Leave a comment below!


Synopsis for Before I Fall (from Goodreads):

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

Trailer:

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Series Review: A Thousand Nights by E K Johnston

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for A Thousand Nights (from Goodreads):

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love, Canadian Author
Series: A Thousand Nights
Author: E K Johnston
# of Books: 2 (A Thousand Nights, Spindle)

There is a FREE short story, #1.5 called The Garden of Three Hundred Flowers

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes — I think
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2015 – December 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Like most people, the cover is what drew me to this series. They are gorgeous!

But A Thousand Nights was everywhere the year it came out, gracing a ton of lists for one reason or another. It is also a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights–a story I’m still not acquainted with despite reading The Wrath and The Dawn last year and noting that I probably should read it because it is a popular base tale for retellings.

The Concept / The World:

It’s hard not to compare two similar things and I’m going to do my best to stop comparing A Thousand Nights to The Wrath and The Dawn before I even begin this review.

This series is a world layered with a darker power. Whether that power actually exists or not: I’ll discuss that in The Writing Style section below. You have a king murdering women for some unknown reason and people are suffering because of it. There is this air of mysticism to the story and it makes the circumstances so much grittier as a result. You truly get transported to this other world within the first chapter and that was definitely a highlight for me

The Writing Style:

I think you will either love or hate E K Johnston’s writing style. It has an old fashioned feel to it often seen in your classic stories; the words flowing like you are reading an epic.

It took me awhile to get comfortable with her style because books just aren’t written like this nowadays (or at least what I usually read isn’t). Personally, it’s a touch wordier than I like, though I found it had a great flow.

But I think my biggest issue was the fact that I couldn’t tell what was real vs what was just allusion. What I’m trying to say is that I had a hard time deciding whether the magic of it all was actually happening or it if was just the result of the narration. As a result, I often had a hard time understanding the progression of events and that in turn caused me to lose interest at times.

The Plot:

I was really disappointed in the plot for A Thousand Nights. I truly felt like nothing was happening until the last 50 pages or so. It seemed to be more stories about the Heroine’s life back home and I just didn’t care–that wasn’t the story I wanted to read. I wanted to see how she was going to save the king. Instead, you spend most of your time reading about stories within the story and that just has no appeal to me. I needed a little more stimulation and the book just seemed to drag.

Spindle started off a little more promising but it lost that momentum around the 45% mark. I’m not a huge fan of adventure stories and this one felt like that at times. Again, my interest waned and I found myself skimming the last half of the book. It just couldn’t keep my attention.

The Characters:

I think this is one of those rare cases where the worldbuilding overshadows any character development. Johnston spends so much time weaving tales of this land that she fails to really build up her characters. Yes, you get their histories thanks to the various stories but because you spend so much time in the past, their growth in the present is lackluster.

I also think because of the writing, I felt distant from the characters. You weren’t getting a lot of inner monologues because not a lot was happening in the present.

The Romance:

As a romance fan I like it in my stories and it really isn’t present here. That isn’t a bad thing but when you don’t have much going on, it would have served as a nice distraction.

The Novella–A Garden of Three Hundred Flowers:

This is supposed to be a bridging novel of sorts between the two stories and it does serve that purpose. I really found it to be more of an extended epilogue of A Thousand Nights so I like that it brought me some closure in that respect.

It is a free eBook so if you like this series I do recommend you pick it up before you read Spindle.

Series Rating: 3/5

A Thousand Nights 2.5/5 | [A Garden of Three Hundred Flowers 3/5] | Spindle 2/5

overall

If you are a fan of worlds filled with stories and love the weaving of tales, you’ll enjoy this series. But if you like action, romance and adventure in your retellings, look elsewhere.

Read if You Like: story telling, retellings
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action
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Series Review: Sins and Scandals by Lauren Smith

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:

Sins and Scandals Trilogy

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for An Earl by Any Other Name (from Goodreads):

An earl in the streets, a rogue in the sheets . . .

Leopold Graham, Lord Hampton, was never a man to let propriety stand in the way of his pursuit of pleasure. Hedonism is his only desire in life—until his father’s death saddles him with debts that threaten to bankrupt the entire family. Now the only thing that stands between him and utter ruin is marriage to a proper, and preferably wealthy, young lady.

Ivy Leighton is no sweet English rose. Perhaps it’s her gypsy roots, but she would rather make a spectacle of her independent spirit than sit quietly on the sidelines. If that means that the only place she’ll ever have in society is firmly on the shelf, then so be it. But when Ivy runs into the handsome, rakish Leo who’s looking for a respectable, well-bred wife, she can’t stop thinking about the troubles they can get into. Now she just has to convince him that a life with her is really what he needs.

breakdown

Series: Sins and Scandals Trilogy
Author: Lauren Smith
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, A Scottish Lord for Christmas, will be published December 2017
Genre: Adult, Historical, Romance
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: August 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Forever Publishing!

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Over the last year, I’ve discovered that Lauren Smith writes great novella series. They have solid plots, swoon worthy romance and never feel like they are half the size of other works in the genre. So I was really excited to see what she would do with a historical romance novella as opposed to the contemporary works I usually read by her.

What I Liked:

–Felt Like I was Back in Downton Abbey!–

The cover made me think this was a regency era novel but it’s actually set in 1911, which is fabulous! It had a great Downton Abbey feel to it because this is precarious time in history. You’ve got a change in the hierarchy of England and women are searching for the right to vote and be independent.

I loved the setting and how it contributed to the antagonism between Leo and Ivy. Instead of your heroine rebelling for the sake of rebelling, she’s rebelling to contribute to the greater good of society (suffragette movement!).

–Fun Plot Line–

It’s not in the synopsis but I liked that there was substance to the reason why these two were brought together. It added a lighter flare to the story and added some fun to the circumstances.

What I Didn’t Like:

–I Just Needed a Little Bit More–

While these two had great chemistry and I could see why they would be a fabulous match, I felt like things were wrapped up just a little too quickly at the end. Not that I wanted some unnecessarily drama but another chapter would have been great!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really enjoy this setting and how there are so many interesting factors contributing to the character’s motivations. We’ve met the next hero so I’m curious to see what his story has in store.

updates

–September 6, 2017– Book #2: A Gentleman Never Surrenders

**I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own and not influenced by my source.**

I’ll be the first to say, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Owen as the hero in this novel. He didn’t leave the greatest impression on me once I finished An Earl by Any Other Name for obvious reasons. But if anyone could get me to fall in love with an unlikely hero, Lauren Smith is that author.

And she definitely succeeds!

I immediately fell in love with Milly and Owen’s story–and their romance. I adored Milly’s independent spirit and her drive to be something more than what society deems. Watching her get that confidence and grow as a character was such a treat. And learning more about Owen’s motives and seeing him evolve as a character helped erase my previous misconceptions about him and love his characters.

Those misconceptions I had about him were the same ones that Milly had as well at the start. She’s apprehensive about the situation she now finds herself in and that brings out these fantastic moments between them. You get these heart-warming moments where they discover there is something more to the other than they ever thought and they fall that little bit more in love. They have a fantastic chemistry and have these delicious moments of sexual tension that I just adored.

These two charmed me completely and I absolutely loved this story!

My Rating: 4/5

An Earl by Any Other Name 3/5 | A Gentlemen Never Surrenders 5/5 | A Scottish Lord for Christmas TBP

overall

This was a nice break from the regency historical novels we often see. If you want a Downton Abbey era novella series, this is the one!

Read if You Like: quick reads, Downton Abbey, historical romance
Avoid if You: want a full length novel
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Series Review: Kingpin Love Affair by J L Beck

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Indebted (from Goodreads):
It was suppose to be a debt settled, just a price being repaid.
Instead love was born…
…from unpaid dues it bloomed.
See, that’s the funny thing about love, you never expect it.

After losing her mother to cancer a few months prior to graduating, Bree Forbes was finally able to take some time away and enjoy her college days. That all changed in a blink of an eye the moment Bree came home for break. She didn’t expect to find her dad strapped to chair, a gun pointed at his head.

Alzerro “Zerro” King wasn’t a man to be messed with. Women flocked to him and men ran from him. He ruled the mafia with an iron fist and no one ever crossed him unless they wanted to pay the price. He believed the only way to pay for something, if unable to do so, was to do it in blood. Nothing got him harder than stringing someone up, and putting a bullet in their head.

That is until Bree.

One look is all it took for him to know she could pay for her father’s debt in many other ways… Ways that could get him hard.

Could a big city mafia king fall in love with the small town country girl? Would she be able to handle his dark and demanding ways? When push comes to shove, would Bree end up running only to be killed? Or would she sacrifice herself for love?

breakdown

Series: A Kingpin Love Affair
Author: J L Beck
# of Books: 4 (Indebted, Inevitable, Invincible, Injustice)

There is a novella #4.5: Infringe

Book Order: Chronological (Indebted + Inevitable); Connected (Invincible + Injustice)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Dark, Romance, Contemporary, Erotica, Mafia
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: November 2014 – August 2015
Source & Format: Own & Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

PLEASE NOTE: This review is only for the first two novels of the series (Indebted & Inevitable). Find out why I didn’t read books 3 & 4 below.

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found Indebted as a freebie on Amazon one day. On occasion, I enjoy a dark romance read–when they are done right. I had totally forgot about this book until I was cleaning up my Goodreads TBR and reread the synopsis: I was really intrigued.

I love stories where someone falls for the enemy or reluctantly falls in love with someone.

The Concept:

You know, I don’t read a lot of books dealing with the mafia. Crime stories yes, but most of them seem to be about motorcycle clubs nowadays. So in a way, it was refreshing to spend some time with the mafia setting.

The Plot:

The story here moves really fast thanks to the somewhat simple plot. And I don’t mean simple in a bad way. I liked how uncomplicated this story was because it gave more meaning to the secrets and twists when they did occur. It was great to just read about these characters as they went through the motions.

I will say that the plot was stronger in Indebted vs Inevitable. Indebted focuses more on the situation whereas Inevitable has slightly more romantic tone to it.

The Characters:

To be honest, neither lead really did it for me. While I understood the reasoning behinds Zerro’s personality, he wasn’t my ideal dark romance hero.

Bree was boring as well. Her emotions are all over the place–which is understandable when you start falling for a guy who essentially kidnapped you–but I just didn’t like her hot and cold approach to things. Her overreactions to certain things and not others bothered me a bit.

As for the rest of the characters–I think my lack of desire to read the next two books shows how much I didn’t really connect with the cast.

The Romance:

The romance here is one that gave me mixed feelings. I’m all for a good forbidden and dark romance but not when it borders on abusive like this one did.

There would be moments where I really liked these two together; then Zerro would have to “show his dominance” and it would just turn me off immediately. Their relationship isn’t healthy by any stretch of the imagination so if you don’t enjoy relationships that straddle the line between abusive and normal–stay away from this one!

Will I Finish It?:

I’m satisfied by the conclusion we get in Inevitable so I have no desire to continue on with the series. I’m impartial to the other leads and while I know they would be quick reads, I would rather spend that time on a series I’m more excited to read.

Series Rating: 3/5

Indebted 3.5/5 | Inevitable 3/5 | Invincible N/A | Injustice N/A

overall

If you are a fan of darker romance and are looking for a quick read, this one might be worth picking up. However, if you want to try your hand at a darker romance–this isn’t the one to try to wet your tastebuds. There are definitely stronger titles out there.

Read if You Like: dark love, mafia, suspense romance
Avoid if You: dislike dark love, can’t read potentially abusive romances

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Fresh Fridays: Royal Replicas (#1) by Michael Pierce

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

Royal Replicas Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Royal Replicas (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

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

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

What I Liked:

–The Mystery of the Competition–

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

–The World–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Choppy Romance–

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

–It Played Things Too Safe–

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

The Novella, Royal Reset:

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

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

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

My Rating: 3/5

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

overall

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

Read if You Like: dystopian, courtly intrigue, mysterious plots
Avoid if You: hate love triangles
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Single Sundays: Draw Play by Tia Lewis

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 Draw Play (from Goodreads):
Jake:
I can’t believe my coach assigned me a tutor. I’m all that on the field and between the sheets — who cares about my stupid grades?

But Claire doesn’t treat me like I’m dumb. When we’re not busy fighting, she actually encourages me. And with those sexy curves of hers, I know just how to thank her.

Claire:
I hate football players, but I need the money. Jake is just as cocky and arrogant as the worst of them … but his touch sets me on fire.

I have to believe he’s different, that he won’t use me and break my heart. Because I can’t stop wanting him. I just hope I survive the ride.

breakdown

Author: Tia Lewis
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Sports
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 1, 2016
Source & Format: Own (Kindle)–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was really excited when I saw this as a freebie on Amazon: I’m a sucker for the “in love with the tutor” trope. Add to that, I was looking for a story where a “popular” guy goes for the “nerdy” girl. I wanted some great sexual tension but a sweet romance as well.

The Plot:

What I liked about this story is that both of these characters have self-esteem issues. Claire is worried about her appearance (mostly her size) and how others tend to use her only for her brains; Jake’s academic abilities are overshadowed by his athleticism and good looks. They don’t see themselves as anything other than how people treat them and so they have a lot of growth and learning to do.

When it comes to the plot though, it follows your typical routine formula. They reluctantly meet, they exchange insults, they start to see the other person for who they truly are…and I think you know how the rest goes. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was exactly what I wanted to read at the time. I wanted a cute, quick and sweet romance that I would enjoy reading in one sitting.

The Characters:

Claire was a little overdramatic and I hate to say that because she does have a sad past that does warrant her reactions. There was a lot of potential there but it kind-of fell flat by her irrational actions. I just didn’t warm up to her as much as I had hoped.

I thought Jake had the best character growth. A lot of that is thanks to Claire and her ability to see him as a person and not a commodity. And in turn, he helps her with her self-confidence. I really enjoyed that aspect of their relationship. I like when romances aid in personal character growth.

The Romance:

This was more of a slow burn romance than I anticipated. And for the longest time, I didn’t see how these two would ever fall for each other. They were constantly at each other’s throats. It takes them a while to reach the point that is described in the synopsis I think.

But I really did warm up to these two as a couple and could see why they were drawn to each other.

concSLOW

My Rating: 3/5

overall

While it personally lacks that little bit of polish, this is a super cute NA sports romance that focuses on getting to know the person, not just getting into their pants.

Read if You Like: sports romances, in love with the tutor trope
Avoid if You: want more plot twists

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