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Single Sundays: America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert

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 America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t (from Goodreads):
Book nation, in the history of mankind there has never been a greater country than America. You could say we’re the #1 nation at being the best at greatness.

But as perfect as America is in every single way, America is broken! And we can’t exchange it because we’re 236 years past the 30-day return window. Look around–we don’t make anything anymore, we’ve mortgaged our future to China, and the Apologist-in-Chief goes on world tours just to bow before foreign leaders. Worse, the L.A. Four Seasons Hotel doesn’t even have a dedicated phone button for the Spa. You have to dial an extension! Where did we lose our way?!

It’s high time we restored America to the greatness it never lost!

Luckily, AMERICA AGAIN will singlebookedly pull this country back from the brink. It features everything from chapters, to page numbers, to fonts. Covering subject’s ranging from healthcare (“I shudder to think where we’d be without the wide variety of prescription drugs to treat our maladies, such as think-shuddering”) to the economy (“Life is giving us lemons, and we’re shipping them to the Chinese to make our lemon-flavored leadonade”) to food (“Feel free to deep fry this book-it’s a rich source of fiber”), Stephen gives America the dose of truth it needs to get back on track.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Nonfiction 2015
Author: Stephen Colbert
Genre: Nonfiction, Politics, Humour, Satire
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

In September 2015 I decided to start listening to audiobooks. It takes me approximately an hour to go grocery shopping when I am at school when you factor in walking, buying and returning home. I reasoned that would be the perfect time to listen to an audiobook instead of regular old music.

Lindsey @ Bring My Books wrote a great review of Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me audiobook and it inspired me to try listening to audiobooks of nonfiction novels–especially humour ones. Why I didn’t clue into that earlier is beyond me but it made me want to try an audiobook!

This one was just based on what was available when I looked. I loved watching The Colbert Report and I figured if I could watch Stephen Colbert on a daily basis, listening to him narrate his audiobook wouldn’t be that difficult.

The Concept:

As a Canadian I will admit that I didn’t get every American reference–however, I probably know more than the average Canadian about American politics thanks to my viewing of The Daily Show with John Stewart and The Colbert Report. He even throws in some hilarious Canadian references that had me laughing like a crazy person as I took the subway.

This book is essentially a satirical view of American politics and ideals. It basically reads as if you were watching an extended episode of The Colbert Report but on a much more candid level. As you progress through the story, Stephen gives his ironic tips on how to reclaim every American stereotype I’ve ever heard. It’s entertaining and hilarious and was everything I expected from Stephen Colbert.

The Writing/Narration:

Like I said, I felt like I was listening to a longer episode of The Colbert Report–which is exactly what I was expecting. I couldn’t imagine anyone else delivering this novel other than Stephen Colbert.

Did it Impact My Life?

I suppose it did. The simplest way is that it made me like listening to an audiobook. I had tried to listen to one or two before but I couldn’t get past a female narrator changing her voice to sound like a man during YA fiction. But listening to the author narrate their own nonfiction title–that works for me.

It also taught me a bit more about American politics and ideals. It was rather enlightening.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

This book thoroughly entertained me. It was so much fun to listen to! I don’t think it would have been the same experience if I had read it. Having Stephen Colbert actually speak the words in the way they are intended to be really helps the humour come to light.

Read if You Like: political satires
Avoid if You: don’t like books that deal with politics

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  • A Nation Worth Ranting About by Rick Mercer

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Single Sundays: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

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 All the Rage (from Goodreads):
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Author: Courtney Summers
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Mystery
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

A few years ago I read a fantastic novel called You Against Me which focuses on the siblings of the two people wrapped up in a rape case. I loved how it showed the effects on both families involved in a rape situation. So what appealed to me about All the Rage is that it deals specifically with the victim of a rape case–the victim who no one believes.

The Concept:

There are so many rape cases that are never reported for the simple reason that they feel powerless. Shame, self-blame and the belief that reporting will have no effect are all common reasons rapes are never reported. (You can read an in-depth news article here)

I think that sometimes these statistics do more harm than good. For example, if you broadcast something as an unfavourable experience (such as reporting a sexual crime), people won’t want to go through it. However–and more importantly–they also prove that the system is broken if these are the statistics it produces. Rape culture is getting more awareness now in mainstream media but still, no real change is happening. The double-standards, prejudices and attitudes towards victims disgusts me and it made me all the more eager to pick up this book which explores all these facets in today’s modern world. 

The Plot:

As is expected, this story mostly focuses on Romy trying to live her life after reporting her rape. It’s an absolutely heart-breaking story to read because this poor girl is just continuously decimated by her peers. She is the butt of every joke and is continuously bullied by everyone in town. Yes, everyone. This book does a great job of showing that it isn’t just young people who have stigmas against anyone involved in a rape, it spans all ages and genders.

I was actually surprised with the mystery element to this book. I really just thought this book was going to be more about Romy’s life after she reports her rape and how she has to deal with all the backlash at school. So having that mystery aspect kept the book moving forward. I thought it was a great mystery plot and very unpredictable. It also adds another layer to the story that really drives the message home.

The Characters:

Romy is a hard character to get a grasp on because she is unravelling before you. Her story is so emotionally draining that it breaks your heart that there are women around the world who live in Romy’s world everyday.

My problem with Romy is that she is an unreliable narrator. Which is fine, I just found that I had a really hard time following what was happening. The critic in me can appreciate the frazzled, tormented mind of Romy but the reader in me got lost a lot trying to figure out what was happening and that really diminished my reading experience.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I’m so torn over how I feel about this book. On one hand, I LOVE the message is has and how it opens the discussion about rape and how society deals with it. On the other hand, I got lost sometimes in the narration. There are still parts in this book that I have no idea what was happening and I really don’t like that.

I think this is a great read for young people to read. It’s very eyeopening and the mystery aspect makes you want to keep reading about Romy’s experience even when it gets hard to swallow it all. It’s definitely a book that will stick with me for the rest of my life because it truly nails the message that we need to fix how we perceive rape in our culture or else we will suffer terrible consequences.

Read if You Like: eye-opening realistic fiction
Avoid if You: don’t like reading via unreliable narrators

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Series Review: Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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

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Synopsis for Cinder (from Goodreads):
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Series 2015
Series: Lunar Chronicles
Author: Marissa Meyer
# of Books: 4 (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter)

There is a novella between Cress and Winter called Fairest; there are also short stories (full list here)

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: January 2012 – November 2015
Source & Format: Own–Kobo (CinderScarlet & Winter) Public Library–hardcover (Cress

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve wanted to read Cinder since its publication but trying to get my hands on it was a hard thing to do. I guess everyone loves a good science fiction fairy tale retelling. It seemed like the best of both worlds. Eventually, Cinder and Scarlet went on sale for my Kobo but I didn’t want to start something and wait. So this past Christmas Break, I decided to tackle the Lunar Chronicles.

Yah, that was the best decision EVER!

The Concept / The World:

I love that this series isn’t a a full blown retelling of various fairy tales; that it has a loose adaptation and a unique one at that. It reminds me a lot of the TV Series Once Upon a Time where they integrate everything together in a way that always surprises and intrigues me. The science fiction spin on everything is great. It’s not overly complicated but it is complex and I like that a lot. It was so much fun to read!

I also like that we get introduced to new female characters in each book who each get their own story while continuing with Cinder’s. It provides a fresh perspective and also prevents Cinder’s story from being dragged out by forcing so many books. Not that her story couldn’t be that many books, I just like how it all adds to the experience.

The Plot:

I felt like each book built up and reached a climax within it’s own pages.

I think Cinder stands on its own when you compare it to the rest of the series. It serves as the main introduction to the overarching storyline of Scarlet through Winter. But even on its own, it captured my attention from start to finish. It’s a smart yet fun YA story.

Like all the books, I thought there was a great blend of romance, plot and character development. It keeps everything moving at a strong pace and I never felt like there was a dull moment. Even in Winter which was ridiculously long!

If you are worried that there is going to be too much Science Fiction or that it is the main focus of the plot, I wouldn’t worry. The SciFi in this book is used as a great device but I wouldn’t say it is straight Science Fiction or is overly complicated. Everything has been explained in a great (and might I say accurate) way that is easy to follow. It compliments the story in a great way.

I also want to say that I was never able to predict exactly what was going to happen. Meyer definitely takes some risks in where she pushes her characters to go and I appreciated that realistic edge. These are Disney fairy tales where everything is happy-go-lucky (not that I don’t love those tales as well) but I found it refreshing that there was a darker tint and the stories didn’t follow the fairy tales exactly. I would say that these stories are more inspired by fairy tales than they are straight retellings.

The Characters:

I loved all the characters in this series. Of course, I have a few standouts (Thorne is one for sure!) but it was so easy to fall in love with this cast of characters.

Cinder won me over right from the get-go. I loved her wit and some of the comments she would say had me chuckling aloud. Scarlet was strong and stubborn yet had space to grow; Cress was probably a close second favourite because I loved her approach to life and how she handled herself; and Winter was sweet despite all her wounds. All in all, each heroine had her own personality and battle to face and I looked the unique aspect they all brought to the story.

I also liked that there was adequate character development of all the characters, even those who weren’t the leading ladies. The male “sicekicks” had great depth to them as well and I loved them just as much as the ladies did.

And I also have to say that I loved Levana

The Romance:

As soon as Kai and Cinder interacted for the first time, I was in love with them as a couple. They are definitely two of my favourite YA characters ever and I couldn’t help but root for them to get their happy ending.

I also liked all the other romantic pairings. I felt like each couple complimented each other very well and I could see why they would like each other. Well, not so much in Scarlet but I get what was happening there and why so I can over look it (and for the record, I thought that that particular relationship improved in the last two books).

Overall, solid romances that contributed to the stories but never took away from the main plot.

When to read Fairest?

What a dilemma this was! I had no idea when to read Fairest as it is a prequel story but was published between Cress and Winter. I went with Marissa Meyer’s suggestion on her blog to read them according to publication date–and I would say that the author knows best.

I felt like reading Fairest before Winter helps you understand why Levana does the things she does and gives you the history of Luna. You might gain a little sympathy for her but I wouldn’t worry about that too much. I think it benefited me to get the full history before I read Winter than had I read it after. Regardless, I definitely wouldn’t read it before Cinder, it would just cause a disconnect between the stories I think.

Should You Read the Short Stories? When?

I waited to read all the short stories until Stars Above, the short story collection, came out. It’s a great collection and it was nice to reunite with all these characters. I think the exclusive end epilogue story to Winter (called Something Old, Something New) makes it worth it on its own but I did enjoy all the other stories as well. They are put in chronological order as per the Lunar Chronicles time line though most a prequel stories. Again, I would refer to Marissa’s suggestion of reading order if you want to intersperse the short stories with the larger novels, but for fans who have already read the main novels, it’s a great treat to be reunite with everyone and learn a little more about your fave characters.

Series Rating: 5/5

Cinder 5/5 | Scarlet 5/5 | Cress 5/5 | [Fairest] 5/5 | Winter 5/5

overall

It’s been a LONG TIME since I’ve enjoyed a story as much as this series! I don’t even know that last time I gave a series all 5 star reviews! This series was just a great blend of everything I adore about the YA genre from start to finish. Definitely a new faovurite and one I would consider reading again years from now.

Read if You Like: Science Fiction, Fairy Tale Retellings, long story arcs
Avoid if You: want a straight romance retelling, dislike ongoing story arcs

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Single Sundays: How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

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 How to Be a Woman (from Goodreads):
Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven’t been burned as witches since 1727, life isn’t exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them? Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women’s lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother.

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Author: Caitlin Moran
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Feminism, Humour
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: June 16, 2011
Source & Format: Public Library–Audio Book

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After successfully listening to my first audiobook (Stephen Colbert’s America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t), I quickly went out to find another one to listen to while I ran errands at school. I remember seeing this book everywhere when it first came out and I heard it was a pretty funny read. I was also interested in how it approached feminism. I had tried earlier to read Spinster, a book that I thought focused on the modern view of a women but instead focused on one woman’s discovery of notable female poets…at least, that was all I got from the first two chapters before I DNF’d it.

So while How to be a Woman is essentially a memoir, the promise of humour made this book way more appealing to me and so I was excited to read it.

The Concept:

The book is essentially Moran describing her growth into womanhood from her youth to now. What makes it fun is Moran’s witty and often cynical approach to the various topics, like getting her period for the first time or shaving her legs. Things every woman has essentially had to go through or every girl will go through–making it very relatable for the female reader and enticing a laugh from her simultaneously.

The Writing / The Narration:

She reminds me a lot of a Georgia Nicolson from Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, only if she was 35+ years old and lacked a filter. And I mean no filter. There really isn’t a thing that Moran does’t touch in this book and while I admire and respect that, it didn’t make it any easier to read/listen to.

Case and point: her lengthy chapter on the discovery of masturbation and pornography. First, I commend her for discussing a somewhat taboo topic in society but that didn’t make it easier to listen to while I was grocery shopping in public…

One thing I think this book struggled with was maintaining the balance between Caitlin Moran’s personal life and her observations of what it means to be a woman. I had no idea who Caitlin Moran was before I picked up this book and so I had very little interest in hearing her long-winded stories about her personal life. I understand that this book is a memoir and a lot of her stories were completely relevant to the topic at hand–but it made me feel as though this book was 20x longer than it really needed to be.

And I’m upset that I feel that way because when she actually does get to the observations of society and what it means to be a woman, I was thoroughly engrossed. Her reflections are spot on and it makes me wish she spent more time talking about them with little tidbits of her life thrown in here and there instead of having the first 5 or so chapters retelling her life story.

Did it Impact My Life?

Yes, in a way. It reminded me that it shouldn’t be awkward to talk about some of the things she does in the book and I think it shows some of the double standards we have in society with respect the men and women. There is a time and a place for everything of course, but I think my reaction to some of the topics she addresses goes to show how conditioned I am about certain things. So in that sense, I found this book to be enlightening.

It also reassured me that I am not alone in my observations of how females act or why they feel pressured to do something a certain way. As I was listening to some of the things she was saying, it was absurd to me that some of these positions/standards haven’t been challenged.

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My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

While I think some of the humour would have been lost if I was reading the actual text, I think I might have preferred to read this one instead. The audio book clocks in at approximately 8 hours and I know it would have taken me only 5 to read it. I felt like it was slower at times and I think reading would have let me move past those parts at a better pace. But once I got used to Caitlin’s approach and she started to delve deeper into the feminist issues, I found it much easier to listen to.

Read if You Like: cynical humour, British humour, books about female views
Avoid if You: want a short audiobook

similarreads

  • Yes Please by Amy Pohler
  • Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

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Series Review: Nocte by Courtney Cole

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 Nocte (from Goodreads):
My name is Calla Price. I’m eighteen years old, and I’m one half of a whole. My other half—my twin brother, my Finn—is crazy. I love him. More than life, more than anything. And even though I’m terrified he’ll suck me down with him, no one can save him but me. I’m doing all I can to stay afloat in a sea of insanity, but I’m drowning more and more each day. So I reach out for a lifeline. Dare DuBray. He’s my savior and my anti-Christ. His arms are where I feel safe, where I’m afraid, where I belong, where I’m lost. He will heal me, break me, love me and hate me. He has the power to destroy me. Maybe that’s ok. Because I can’t seem to save Finn and love Dare without everyone getting hurt. Why? Because of a secret. A secret I’m so busy trying to figure out, that I never see it coming. You won’t either.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: New Adult Fav 2015
Series: Nocte Trilogy
Author: Courtney Cole
# of Books: 3 (Nocte, Verum, Lux)

There is a novella published between Verum and Lux called Initium.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Dark, Romance, Suspense
Heat Rating: really warm (Noctum); warm (Verum & Lux)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating (Noctum); Single (Verum & Lux)
Publication Dates: November 2014 – October 2015
Source & Format: Provided by Author –eBook  |  Thank you Courtney Cole!

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I really enjoyed Cole’s If I Stay and so I jumped on the chance to review this series. It promised lots of twists, a passionate romance and strong characters. I couldn’t wait to see what was happening to these characters and so I dove right in…

The Plot:

“A secret I’m so busy trying to figure out, that I never see it coming. You won’t either.”

That synopsis is so true. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was happening but I was proven completely wrong. It positively floored me when everything was revealed. And the best part was that I could have figured it out if I had known what to look for in hindsight. Especially Nocte; I felt like it was executed flawlessly with respect to the mystery and that is what makes it a 5 star read.

Verum also had a great twist but I found it didn’t captivate me as much. I found it hard to be constantly told “I just can’t tell you, you have to figure it out yourself”. I don’t like when I am purposefully kept in the dark. It’s kinda like lying by omission: if I don’t know you aren’t hiding something, I’m cool with it because I don’t know better. But when I know that I could know and it simply isn’t being told to me, I get frustrated. I like where it went, I just didn’t like how I got there.

Lux was a book that left me with mixed feelings. I spent so much time confused out of my mind trying to figure out what was past/present/future/real and it was a little exhausting. In her author’s note, Courtney Cole writes that that was her purpose in her writting. She wants the reader to experience what Calla is reading and in that respect she succeeds. Once everything starts to get revealed though, I was totally on board and it was nice to see how everything came together.

Note on the Novella–Initium:

I read the novella, Initium, between Verum and Lux which is the order the books were given to me. That is probably the right order regardless and it isn’t too spoilery. It does a good job of getting your mind going and trying to link up everything you’ve learned in the previous books for the big reveal. But at the same time, but I almost wonder if it is better to read it after you finish Lux. There are a few things I think would have a bigger impact in Lux if you didn’t get that backstory you do in the novella. But even with my knowledge of what happened in Initium, I was still surprised by what happened in Lux so I think whenever you read it would be fine.

The Characters:

All these characters play their roles perfectly. They develop at a great pace but they all still have their secrets that make you want to get to know them more.

I liked Calla as a character. Her love for her brother really made me like her (as a sister myself, I understand that drive to protect your sibling). I didn’t love how she referred to Finn as “crazy” when she knows full well (and even understands) his illness but that is more of a personal issue for me (I don’t like the terms some people associate with mental illness). And at the same time, I understand how it worked for the story and the need for it. In short: Calla was an easy character to get to like and that made reading her story so addicting.

The Romance:

I really liked the romance. It compliments the story in a great way that you appreciate the more you read. I think it is more of a focus in Noctum than the other novels. The final two novels focus more on Calla trying to understand what is happening, including her romantic life but it definitely takes to the background.

Series Rating: 4/5

Nocte  5/5 | Verum 4/5 | (Initium 4/5)  |  Lux 3.5/5

overall

If you enjoy books that make you think and distort reality, this is a great one for you to read! It keeps you on your toes and constantly has you guessing what is going to happen. But if you don’t enjoyed being toyed with, then I wouldn’t pick this one up. Overall, it is one of the most intriguing New Adult reads I’ve read in a while and I liked the suspense and mystery it brought to the genre.

Read if You Like: mindfucks, psychological thrillers, rebuilding the past
Avoid if You: don’t like mysteries, don’t enjoy distored realities, want a romance driven story

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Series Review: Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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

Illuminae Files Trilogy

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Illuminae (from Goodreads):

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav YA 2015
Series: Illuminae Files
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
# of Books: 3 (Illuminae, Gemina book 3)
Book Order: Companion
Complete?: No, Book 3 will be published in Fall 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Action
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Emails, Files, Chats, Reports
Publication Date: October 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

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:

This book was everywhere before it came out! Those who had ARCs loved it and so my interest was peaked. I’ve been looking for a great Science Fiction YA Thriller since I read Across the Universe by Beth Revis and Illuminae seemed right up that alley.

What I Liked:

–Format–

Originally, I tried to get the eBook of this from my library but they kept delaying when the release for it would be. I didn’t really understand why until I picked up the hardcover in person. When I first heard of the book, I totally missed the paragraph that told you this book was told through “hacked documents” etc. So when I opened it up and saw how everything was formatted, I simultaneously breathed a sigh of relief (because the size of the book scared me a little) and grinned in excitement!

You would think a story told like this would suffer from underdeveloped world building and the like but it’s the exact opposite! Because you can include pictures and reports about everything in the world, it really makes it easy for the reader to see and understand what is happening. It also makes reading go a lot faster since the pages aren’t loaded with text.

–The Plot–

I loved that there were so many elements at play! From the romance (which was there in just the right amount) to the plague to the actual escape: it was just plain fun and addicting to read! I really wanted to get to the bottom of everything and there were great twists along the way.

–The Humour–

I just have to say that there were quite a few times I laughed out loud during this.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Nothing?–

Nothing immediately comes to mind when I think about what I didn’t like. I didn’t like how heavy the hardcover novel was to hold when I was reading in bed but that can’t be helped. I will admit though that it took me a little while to warm up to Kady but I was a total fan of hers by the end!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I think it is really interesting that the next book will feature completely different characters. While I love Kady and Ezra’s story (and really grew to like them as characters), I definitely want to see what else is happening in this world at the same time!

updates

–November 24, 2016– Book #2: Gemina

Illuminae was going to be a tough act to follow–but Gemina is more than a worthy successor!

I’ll admit, it took me a little while to warm up to Hanna’s character. Like Kady, I had to learn more about her character and see how she handles herself before I could call myself a fan. I think it’s hard to get to know these characters sometimes because the narration is just documents and chats. You don’t get the inner emotions you would if it were a first person narration; more outside looking in. But despite that, these are really well developed characters, it just takes a bit of time to establish it all.

I loved the action-suspense vibe we got in this book! Illuminae has some high-risk situations but this one really seemed more life-and-death to me and that made it a lot more thrilling to read. Add to it the great plot twists along the way and you have yourself a pretty addicting book!

My Rating: 5/5

Illuminae 5/5 | Gemina 4.5/5 | Book 3 TBP

overall

One of the coolest reads ever and one of the best reads I read in 2015! If you want to try Science Fiction but are scared to jump into the complicated worlds, this is a great introduction!

Read if You Like: unique POVs, world-building, Science Ficiton
Avoid if You: want more romance

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Series Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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

Six of Crows Series

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Six of Crows (from Goodreads):
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Series: Six of Crows

This is a spinoff of the The Grisha Trilogy.

Author: Leigh Bardugo
# of Books: 2 (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure, Heist, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: September 2015 – September 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook; Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s not a secret that I didn’t really enjoy the Grisha Trilogy. The pacing was off, I couldn’t stand the lead character and I felt like nothing ever happened. And that was a shame, because I loved the Grisha universe and liked a lot of the secondary characters–it had a lot of potential but just didn’t live up to the hype surrounding it for me. So the idea of reading a spin-off, with a completely new cast of characters but set in the exact same universe was appealing to me.

When I read that this was going to be a heist novel, I was stoked! I’ve been looking for a great heist novel since I read the Heist Society novels years ago and have come up disappointed every time. But this one sounded like it could be the next fantastic heist novel for me.

What I Liked:

–Multiple Character Perspectives–

I like my books to have a lot going on in them so that I am never bored. I found the Grisha Trilogy really didn’t have that much else going on other than the main plot line and the romance, so it was a little dull at times. It was especially difficult for me because I didn’t like the lead heroine who was also the sole narrator. I didn’t particularly care for her story but I did like a lot of the side characters and wished their story was told.

My wish was granted here…in a sense.

I really enjoyed reading about multiple characters. It kept things interesting and kept the pace faster. I also liked that each character had a bit of a mystery surrounding them that we got to uncover more as we read. Plus, these characters were infinitely more interesting than Alina ever was and that helped immensely.

–The Heist–

A good heist is hard to write and I think this one was done exceptionally well. I loved the many twists and turns and I liked that it kept me on my toes.

What I Didn’t Like:

–I Still Feel like I’m Missing Something

Naturally, heist novels leave stuff out. You always learn about things after the fact because it is more suspenseful that way–and I really enjoyed that about heist novels. It’s also the reason why I understand that they are more often than not third person POV (it just makes things easier).

But at the same time, there were a few things about the characters that I wish were made clearer earlier on in terms of personality. As I said before, one of the things I liked was that their past was slowly revealed and that is completely true. But there were some things about some characters that I felt should have been elaborated on earlier (it’s hard to give an example without giving a spoiler). Because when it was revealed, it was like getting kicked in the face–it just seemed to come out of nowhere and it made me feel like I was missing something.

I still feel like I don’t have a full grasp on what really happened. And to be honest, I had the same problem with the Grisha Trilogy where I felt like things weren’t properly explained. Whether that is a fault in the writing or a fault in my reading abilities–which I tend to lean towards because I am a fast reader–I’m not sure. It could have also been the result of a residual assumption from reading the first series and not really enjoying it. Regardless, it prevented me from getting fully immersed in the story and really made it hard to rate this book overall.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m really excited to see what happens next! I became really invested these characters and their stories and I’m looking forward to learning more about them all. With the way everything ended, I’m not sure what is in store, but it if can keep building the momentum I think the sequel will be fantastic!

updates

–November 17, 2016– Book #2: Crooked Kingdom

I picked this book up earlier than I intended just because everyone was so “wowed” by it on Twitter. But I also really wanted to see how everything was going to wrap up and I didn’t want anything to be spoiled for me.

This book was a little up and down for me.

I thought there was wayyyy too much detail at times. Bardugo goes off on these tangents throughout the novel and while some are beneficial for character development, others just threw me off course and made me forget what was happening. You could have easily cut out a few pages and had a totally solid novel. So I found myself getting bored at times simply because we weren’t moving the plot forward because of this excess detail.

What I loved about this book was discovering how attached to these characters I was. One of my biggest problems with the Grisha Trilogy was not loving the leads (minus the Darkling and Nikolai of course) and I really didn’t have that problem here. There were romances I was rooting for; characters I wanted to see come to their full potential; scenes that made my heart stop. This is quite the crew assembled here and they were fabulous!

So overall, it was a solid novel to wrap up this series. Maybe we will get to see this crew in another adventure somewhere down the line but I think everyone will be satisfied with this finale.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Six of Crows 4.5/5  |  Crooked Kingdom 4/5

overall

This series is very different from the Grisha Trilogy. Fans of the Grisha Trilogy will enjoy this alternate look at the world but it is much darker and almost a more grown-up version of the previous series. And even if you didn’t enjoy the Grisha Trilogy but enjoyed the world, this is a great read and definitely not as generic as the inaugural series.

Read if You Like: heist stories, multiple character perspectives
Avoid if You: dislike long books, third person narration

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Single Sundays: Soundless by Richelle Mead

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 Soundless (from Goodreads):
For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever…

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav Author
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: November 10, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Even if Richelle Mead wasn’t one of my favourite authors ever, the cover of this book alone would beg me to pick it up!

Soundless was one of my most anticipated reads of 2015 simply because it is Richelle Mead’s newest YA novel–and a standalone one at that! I’m used to Mead’s paranormal series–both adult and YA–so I was very, very curious to see what she would do with a standalone novel. I also love mythology/folklore based stories so this seemed like a no-brainer to pickup.

The Concept / The World:

What I love about Richelle Mead’s ability to build worlds is that they are complex (meaning they have layers) but they are easy to understand and get acquainted with. It doesn’t take copious amounts of pages to understand what the setting is; but at the same time I never feel like the world is under developed.

The idea that this village has no hearing is really intriguing–and is very well done. You can tell she has done her research on the matter. It was very easy to visualize every aspect of this book as I was reading.

As for the folklore, it really doesn’t come into play until later on in the story so don’t expect it to be there as soon as you start.

The Plot:

I don’t know why I was expecting a faster paced book before I picked this up as this story reads very much like an adventure story; and that is because it is. I usually find adventure based stories to be a little dull and I did feel that with this one at times. However, Mead does a great job of ending her chapters in places that make you want to continue. So in that respect, I did find it to be suspenseful at times. I also liked its unpredictability as it kept me on the edge of my toes; wanting to see what was going to happen next.

BUT, I still feel like the plot is really simple. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I think it is just your personal preference. I like a lot of things happening in my stories and the straight-forward plot made it a little boring for me to read. And to be honest, I don’t know what else you could do with the story she wanted to tell to make it a bit more exciting.

So I’m a bit mixed on my feelings for the plot: I think the simple plot works for the story but I can’t help but want the more complex plotlines I’ve come to expect from Mead’s series.

The Characters:

What I like about Fei compared to Mead’s other heroines that I have read is that she doesn’t seem like a carbon copy of them (mainly Rose or Sydney). While she is a rule follower, I didn’t feel like I was reading Sydney reincarnated as a Chinese artist who lives on a mountain. All the characters are their own selves and that made it enjoyable to read but at the same time, they weren’t anything you haven’t encountered before. 

Fei is a tad on the dull side but I liked her spirit. I didn’t hate her but I didn’t love her either.

The Romance:

This is the only place where I find the synopsis is a bit misleading. “Unlikely romance” implies that it comes out of nowhere but when I was only a chapter in, the “unlikely romance” becomes very obvious. So in that respect, I was a little disappointed because it wasn’t what I was expecting. It really is just a small background subplot and nothing really develops from it.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This one is really hard to review because I such mixed feelings. I really wanted to be blown away by this novel but it fell a little short in that regard. It’s beautifully written–no question–but I just wanted more from it. More action, more drama and more romance. I think if I read a review prior to this, I would have had the right mindset and have enjoyed it a lot more. Simply put: it’s a straightforward tale with a little Chinese folklore thrown in about a girl who uncovers the simple truth about her village.

Read if You Like: slower books, adventure books, simple plots
Avoid if You: want more action, want more drama

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  • Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff (The Lotux War Series #1)
  • Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Allison Goodman (Eon Series #1)

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Single Sundays: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

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 Black Iris (from Goodreads):
It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn’t worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She’s not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it’s time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She’s going to show them all.

breakdown

Author: Leah Raeder
Genre: New Adult, Suspense, Romance, Mental Health, LGBT, Dark
Heat Rating: hot
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember where I found this book. It was either on someone else’s blog, NetGalley, a “can’t wait for” list or through a book on Goodreads. Regardless, I wanted to try my hand at a New Adult suspense novel. Normally, I go for the more romance focused New Adult reads but this one had a darker spin, a LGBT aspect and a revenge based premise.

I was really intrigued by the synopsis (and the cover) and couldn’t wait to dive into this one when my hold finally came in!

The Concept:

This story is told completely out of order. Each chapter is clearly labelled so it is easy to keep track of the timeline…for the most part. I do recommend trying to read this book in bigger chunks than littler ones so that you can keep everything straight. Because it does move around quite a bit. For example, one chapter could be May 2015, next is Feb 2014, followed by March 2015. It isn’t a simple alternation between the past and the present…and it really works with this story and its unreliable narrator.

Also, the LGBT premise is really fantastic! I kinda forgot about it when I picked it up so it surprised me a bit when I first started. Nevertheless, struggling with one’s sexual identity is the backbone of this book. It’s very heartfelt and real and grounds the story with its very dramatic revenge plot line.

The Plot:

As the reader, you spend most of your time trying to put together what has really happened to Laney that has caused her to go down the path of revenge. Laney is an unreliable narrator and completely knows it (she tells you multiple times throughout the book). So that can make it frustrating to read at times because you know you aren’t getting the full story. But only getting little breadcrumbs at a time also makes it equally exciting and captivating. I had a hard time putting this book down because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. It really reminded me of watching How to Get Away with Murder because we only get fragmented pieces at a time, leading up to the big reveal.

While Laney’s mental health issues as a result of her family life and sexual identity are very realistic and an important part of the plot, don’t think book is meant to be one of those realistic fiction reads about someone who is suffering a sexual identity crisis and has a major epiphany. Because it isn’t. It’s a revenge story about a girl who wants to hurt everyone who ever hurt her. Who those people are and how she is going to do it is the main plot line of this story. It’s dark, it’s gritty and it takes no prisoners and compared to my usual New Adult fodder I found it to be very refreshing.

But I also found it to be detrimental to a certain degree. I don’t mind drug and sex references in my books, I might not like it, particularly the drug usage, but I won’t let it prevent me from reading a story. And while the drug usage and sexual situations worked for this story (ie they moved the plot forward and weren’t in there just for shock factor), I think there was just too much of it earlier on, especially the drug usage, and that dampened the experience for me a bit. It shifted the focus away from the larger issue of the plot for me which is the need for revenge.

The Characters:

This book has quite the cast of characters! They are all deeply flawed and so layered that it definitely keeps things interesting.

Laney was a very complex character and because she is an unreliable narrator, I had a hard time deciphering what was real and what wasn’t in terms of who she was as a person. Part of the problem lies in the fact that she is a character going through an identity crisis, so she doesn’t even really know herself. It was cool to see her evolve into her “true” self. But the execution, at times, makes it hard to get a read on her and her true motivations.

I would say overall, I didn’t really connect with any of these characters despite understanding them. I didn’t find myself rooting for Laney to succeed like I thought. But at the same time, I’m not sure if you are supposed to or not. Laney straight up says she isn’t your typical heroine in your typical story and that is 100% true. So I think it is expected that you aren’t going to root for her but you will understand her character and her motivations. You may not agree with her motivations or methods but you get why she feels like she has to do it that way.

The Romance:

I think this is the first book I have ever read that has a “true” love triangle. What I mean by true love triangle is that all three people involved are in love with each other. Person A is attracted to B + C, Person B is the same with A + C, etc. The only one that comes close is No One Needs to Know but it doesn’t really count because two of the people involved are twin siblings with no incestuous tendencies. It makes for an interesting dynamic and one that I really enjoyed watching unfold.

I find for the most part, the romantic relationships are based on physical attraction. It’s never really elaborated (at to me) why they all shared some inexplicable connection with each other initially. But by the end of the story, it became slightly more apparent to me why these characters were drawn together. I personally just like that little bit more for my characters, especially near the start, when it comes to their romantic relationships. In the end, it doesn’t really matter because the romance is just a tool to drive the plot forward and what we have is more than enough to satisfy that requirement.

My Rating: 4/5

I really struggled to rate this book when I finished it. While reading, I would say it was at a solid 4 and then the big reveal happened and I immediately thought 5 stars! But when it came to picking my rating on Goodreads, I hesitated. I adore books that give you all the clues throughout but prevent you from putting everything together until the big reveal–which is what this book did and that was why I wanted to give it 5 stars. However, I dropped it to a 4 because I did spend a lot of the time reading confused as to what was happening and keeping the plotline straight. And the dramatics (like the drug usage) slightly killed it for me as well, especially near the end. I just felt like it was a little too much when all was said and done, thus a 4 star review.

overall

I think a lot of readers will struggle with the format/execution of this book. The flip-flopping between past and present can be difficult to follow at times. It is also a book that slowly builds up to the big reveal so you may be left scratching your head for quite awhile. But overall, I found it to be enlightening and entertaining and it’s encouraged me to pick up other New Adult suspense novels.

Read if You Like: diverse books, books with GLBT themes, books dealing with mental health
Avoid if You: don’t like unreliable narrators, stories with drug usage

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Series Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

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

Passenger Series

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Passenger (from Goodreads):

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav 2015
Series: Passenger
Author: Alexandra Bracken
# of Books: 2 (Passenger, Wayfarer)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Time-travel, Adventure, Romance, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: January 2016 – 2017
Source & Format: NetGalley–eBook | Thank you SO MUCH Disney Hyperion for granting my wish!

disclaimernetgalley

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:

When I was browsing NetGalley one day, they were taking wishes for Passenger and I just had to take a chance. Not only is the cover beautiful, but the premise itself sounded right up my alley. I love time travel books and I’m a sucker for a sailor like Nicholas so needless to say, I was intrigued. I hoped it would be more of A Thousand Pieces of You (although that one deals with alternate dimensions) type of book instead of the dud that was Timeless by Alexandra Monir.

What I Liked:

–The Time Travelling Premise–

Time travelling can be very confusing; especially when there is a chance you can come across past selves and the like. I will admit I was more than a little confused with the time travelling concept of the Ruby Red Trilogy but that wasn’t the case here with Passenger. I thought the world was pretty straight forward and everything was easy to follow. Even the loop-holes and roundabouts were easy to understand and I really liked that. It’s complex without being overly complicated. It made the story flow in a great way and made it addicting to read.

–The Adventure–

Normally, adventure novels bore me but time travel novels seem to be the exception. This one was fast paced and goes to a lot of interesting places and times. I always felt like the plot was moving forward and it never seemed dull to me. There were also some great twists along the way and you have the romance to fill in when necessary. This story simply builds up at a great pace and it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Insta-Love Connection–

It’s weird that this is my dislike because I actually loved Nicholas and Etta together. They were adorable together and I loved how they treated each other–I’m a sucker for a forbidden romance after all.

BUT, I just didn’t like how it seemed to be so insta-connection on their part. They had hardly spoken and they were already swooning over each other. Which is fine, I get the physical attraction between them. I also get that in times of high stakes, emotions are amplified and so I could see how they could fall so fast for each other (and I did LOVE their romantic scenes together don’t get me wrong). I just wanted to see more of a tangible connection between them at the start.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m really excited for the next part of the journey! I think some interesting twists are at play and I don’t even know where to start next!

updates

–August 18, 2017– Book #2: Wayfarer

**Copy Not Provided for Review**

It took me 3 attempts to finally get the time to read this book–it’s rather daunting in size! I was excited to see what was in store for Etta and company and I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

I did find the first half to be a touch slower–there weren’t a lot of new developments happening and it was a lot of basic adventure. Some things felt more organic than others in terms of character development and that strained the story a touch for me. And while it was fun to jump from time to time, I needed just a touch more. However, the last half of this book captured my full attention. It was non-stop action and great character moments! I couldn’t put it down.

It’s a solid conclusion that wraps everything up very nicely.

concSLOW

My Rating: 5/5

Passenger 5/5 | Wayfarer 4/5

overall

If you are looking for a great adventure novel or want to give a time travel novel a shot. I highly recommend this novel! It was fun, heartwarming and simply a fantastic read!

Read if You Like: world-building, time travel
Avoid if You: dislike time travel, dislike forbidden romance

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