Tag «Rating: 3/5»

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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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:

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?

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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

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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…

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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

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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.

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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

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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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Single Sundays: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

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 5 to 1 (from Goodreads):

In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa doesn’t want to be a wife, and Contestant Five, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. Sudasa’s family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable—and caged. Five’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Five thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

Told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Contestant Five’s in prose—allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Author: Holly Bodger
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Poetry
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I marked this as a book I found from a blog but I’m not sure where. Not that it really matters, this book seemed to be everywhere when it came out so I’m sure it wasn’t a single source. The cover was making lists of fave covers; the synopsis is more than intriguing and the narration style is noteworthy. So I put it on my TBR but never got a chance to read it back in 2015. Which is why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge as a pick for 2015.

The Concept:

I love stories that challenge our everyday norms; in particular our views on gender roles. I just loved the idea of a matriarchal society–where women are in control and boys compete to win their hand. It’s very reminiscent of something you might see in Victorian times; only this is the future and an isolated society and girl’s are the ultimate prize. I thought this exploration was done fantastically and you can tell it is the driving force behind this story. It really makes you think about what it means to be a woman or a man in society and the expectations that come along with it.

The Narration Style:

I definitely missed the part in the synopsis about Sudasa’s chapters being in verse so that was a cool surprise. It’s easy to read (the flow is great) and the formatting is awesome. Very unique. As a whole it really works as a tool to convey how restricted Sudasa is in her life.

HOWEVER, I did struggle near the end trying to interpret what was happening. The ending seemed so rushed to me because it is told in verse (not in full paragraphs) and I had a hard time following. I just felt like I was misinterpreting what was being said and so I couldn’t put in together the developments. And in turn, that dampened my reading experience (and my rating).

The Characters:

I really liked these two as leads. They were not only rebellious but also intelligent as well. Meaning they thought about everything they did before they did it. I liked that they weren’t overly impulsive.

For this story being a shorter novel, I was really impressed by how developed they were as characters.

The Romance:

I just want to say that if you think this is going to be some epic romance between two people who never wanted to get married–think again. Like I said above, this story is all about pressures from society and not the romance. The marriage situation is just a tool to emphasize the circumstances.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

As I approached the final few chapters, this was going to be a 4/5 star read for me. Unfortunately, this story just felt a little rushed at the end. It’s a great story about gender roles/expectations but it isn’t a romance by any stretch of the imagination.

Read if You Like: dystopia, reversed gender roles
Avoid if You: want a romance
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Single Sundays: Illicit by June Gray

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 Illicit (from Goodreads):
I never meant to be the other woman…

Jake and I felt a connection the moment he walked into my life, an attraction both of us tried so hard to deny. Still, I found myself longing for the very thing I couldn’t have.

I didn’t set out to fall in love with Jake. Not when he clearly wasn’t mine.

He was my mother’s.

* Illicit is a full-length standalone novel told in five parts. It contains strong language and sexual content and is recommended for readers 18 and over. *

breakdown

Author: June Gray
Genre: Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Taboo
Heat Rating: Really Warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 27, 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I normally don’t read books I buy the same day I get them. Usually, they sit on my eReader for a couple months years until I randomly select the title for a reading challenge or as a way to pass the time. But after reading a particularly emotional draining read, I needed something to pick up my spirits.

I love forbidden romances. Not the dirty, taboo erotica kind: I’m talkin’ the ones that make you wonder why stepsiblings can’t fall in love or ones where the heroine falls in love with the off-limits hero. They are usually filled with sexual tension and swoon-worthy moments. But I’m also extremely picky. I want the author to convince me that these our leads should defy all convention and stay together–you need to prove it to me.

I read–and enjoyed–June Gray’s Disarm Serial years ago. So when this title popped up on a “discounted eBooks” email I subscribe to, I took a second glance. And when I saw the line “He was my mother’s.”, I quickly double checked the price and immediately bought it.

The Concept:

Like I said, it’s hard to find that somewhat forbidden/taboo romance that isn’t pure erotica and makes you feel all icky immediately after reading it. So I was excited that this story was going to explore this type of “taboo” relationship.

Mila Ferrera’s Everything Between Us has a similar “taboo” relationship where the daughter falls in love with her mother’s lover. I really enjoyed that story because there was SO MUCH MORE than just the forbidden romance (like the characters’ mental health and their subsequent development) at play. But I haven’t come across a similar situation elsewhere.

Now, this concept is not for everyone. I mean, if this was real life, I would be seriously concerned. But like I said in my “Let Fiction Be Fiction” Discussion post last year: I like when you can explore these situations in a fictional setting. I’m curious by nature and I wanted to see if June Gray could convince me that this romance was more sweet than gross.

The Plot:

This story was originally written as a serial that got bundled together into one novel–and it shows since the story is divided into parts. That also means the story moves fast and keeps the details to a minimum. Which works well since there is always some new twist that occurs to keep the reader coming back for more.

But in the same breathe, that means you really only scratch the surface of what is happening here. Instead of teasing out the conflict, you only what’s needed to get the point across. I’m not saying I wanted a full blown essay on why it’s ok to lust after your mom’s boyfriend–I just wanted to explore this situation a bit more because it is so unique.

The Characters:

Naturally, due to the format of this series being a serial, the characters are pretty one-dimensional. But they do their job well to tell the story.

The Romance:

I appreciated the fact that this never turned into an erotica (yes, there are sex scenes but they are pretty tame compared to some NA stuff I read). It’s not like you are reading page after page of lusty thoughts and then said thoughts acted upon for another 5 pages.

You actually get to see these characters interact; learn a little why they might be drawn to each other; and don’t forget the sexual tension!

But at the same time, I did want a little more to this. A mutual love of books does not seem a valid of enough reason to sleep with your mom’s boyfriend…#sorrynotsorry

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This one started so strong for me, but the serial nature of this story ends up being its downfall. It feels a little rushed and then it becomes a little too dramatic. I wanted a heartfelt forbidden romance and I didn’t totally get that here. But I do appreciate the fact that it isn’t erotica!

Read if You Like: taboo/forbidden romances, serialized stories, quick read
Avoid if You: dislike cheating; can’t get passed the taboo nature.

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Fresh Fridays: Hellion (Billion Dollar Bastards #1) by Emmy Joel

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:

Billion Dollar Bastards Series

Other books in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Hellion (from Goodreads):

Prison darkens their past. Ink colors their skin. Vengeance fuels their ambition.

Addiction has a name.

Once a coldhearted brawler who ruled the streets with his fists, now a billionaire contractor who rules society with his wealth, Malcolm Bradshaw has only one priority: Pharaoh Construction. Built on lies and ghosts that need to stay silent, it’s his gateway to Texas elite. But when he agrees to restore a centuries-old estate for the wedding of American royalty and long-buried human remains are found during excavation, his self-made kingdom is put in jeopardy. He’ll walk through hell before he backs down from anyone–especially Cate Lois, the introverted archeologist sent to look over his shoulder. From the shyness of her smile to the secrets in her eyes, she’s a drug he knows he shouldn’t touch.

It looks like sin. It talks like temptation.

Mysteries of the past and backroom business dealings don’t faze Cate. Taking what she needs and walking away was never a challenge before. But shadowing Malcolm, who beneath his expensive suits and easy charm is a tattooed son of a bitch, rattles her. What started as a plot to appease her blackmailer and steal a collection of rare artifacts becomes irrevocably complicated the moment Malcolm strips her down to bare skin and naked lust.

And what it doesn’t destroy, it turns into pure, decadent ecstasy…

breakdown

Series: Billion Dollar Bastards
Author: Emmy Joel
# of Books: 3 (Hellion, Rival, Saint)
Book Order: Connected by Chronological Events
Complete?: No, Rival, is to be published in May 2017
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Erotica, Mystery
Heat Rating: hot (Kink: mild)
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 11, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley via Author–eBook | Thanks so much Emmy Joel!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was asked if I was interested in reading Hellion, I was drawn to the description for a few reasons. One being the mystery behind the human remains and the jewels. That sounded positively juicy! Recently, I’ve found myself drawn into the world of romantic suspense (something I never really enjoyed before) thanks to a new fascination with mystery novels (last year it was fantasy novels, I guess 2017 is all about the mysteries). Add to that the danger of 3 criminally-convicted male leads and I was very excited to see what danger this series would bring.

What I Liked:

–Reads Like a Soap Opera–

I don’t know how many people know about the Soap Opera, The Bold and The Beautiful, but it’s this 30 minute soap opera with a tiny cast of larger than life characters. Their lives are all intertwined through romances, family and work, which means there is a ton of drama and secrets.

Reading Hellion reminded me of that show in the sense that you have these characters that are all linked together but you aren’t quite sure how. Everyone is looking out for themselves and everyone has a secretive past. Add in some drama about the jewels, the intrigue about the body and a dash of somewhat forbidden romance and you’ve got yourself one non-stop story.

–Not Full-Blown Erotica–

I don’t mind sexy times in my novels but I wouldn’t say I am a fan of full-out erotica (you know the ones with very little story and a whole lot of sex). So I was a little worried when I saw this labeled as “erotica” and looked at the page size. I didn’t want to read 125 pages of smut and then get a few pages to quickly wrap up the mystery plot (and no shame if you do want that!).

But there was a great balance between the sex scenes and the mystery. It switched the narrative to the actual plot when it needed to and returned to the romance at the appropriate times.

–The Mystery is Woven Throughout the 3 Novels–

I like that the mystery aspect is something that is continued throughout all the novellas. I feel like it just helps tie the books all together besides having the 3 men all be good friends and business partners.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Novella Format–

Obviously from my above comments this story has a lot of positives to it. It has all the right components to make for a great trilogy. However, it does suffer greatly from the novella-size format.

Everything just felt a little underdeveloped to me.

I wasn’t really sold on the romance because I hardly felt like these two interacted with each other. I felt very little chemistry between them and that made their hasty romance even more of an insta-love situation (which I’m not a fan of even though I was expecting it here).

And while the mystery is going to be carried out over the next two stories, I do feel like it was very “rushed” here. I would have enjoyed it being a little more layered and developed.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I can’t wait to find out the conclusion for the mystery and there is one particular couple that has me curious to see what is in store for them. Maybe the next two will be longer…

My Rating: 3/5

Hellion 3/5 | Rival TBP | Saint TBP

overall

This (will be) a great summer weekend binge series once all the books are out for fans of shorter stories that pack a lot into them.

Read if You Like: romantic mysteries, bad boys
Avoid if You: dislike novella format, want straight-up erotica
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