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Series Review: Outer Banks Tennis Academy by Jennifer Iacopelli

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

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Game. Set. Match. (from Goodreads):

Nestled along the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks Tennis Academy is the world’s most elite training facility. In this pressure-cooker environment, futures are forged in blood and sweat, and dreams are shattered in an instant.

Penny Harrison, a rising female star, is determined to win the French Open and beat her archrival, Zina Lutrova. But when her coach imports British bad boy Alex Russell as her new training partner, will Penny be able to keep her laser-like focus?

Tennis is all Jasmine Randazzo has ever known. The daughter of two Grand Slam champions, she’s hell-bent on extending her family’s legacy and writing her own happily-ever-after…until her chosen Prince Charming gives her the just-friends speech, right before the biggest junior tournament of the year, the Outer Banks Classic.

With a powerful serve and killer forehand, newcomer Indiana Gaffney is turning heads. She’s thrilled by all of the attention, especially from Jack Harrison, Penny’s agent and hot older brother, except he keeps backing off every time things start heating up.

With so much at stake, dreams—and hearts—are bound to break.

breakdown

Series: Outer Banks Tennis Academy
Author: Jennifer Iacopelli
# of Books: 3 (Full Series Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Sports, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: warm *spicy YA*
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2013 – ongoing
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was a tween, there was this Canadian TV drama called 15/Love that was set at a tennis academy and followed teenage tennis up-and-comers. It wasn’t the greatest show ever (in terms of acting) but I did get addicted to the drama of relationships and athletics.

I’m not entirely sure how this one crossed my radar but I liked the athletic approach. I also liked that it would be told by multiple leads because I find I enjoy contemporaries more when told that way.

The Concept / The World:

I’ll be the first to say that I’m not overly familiar with the tennis world. While I understand the game of tennis, I’m pretty clueless about how one becomes a professional tennis star. I was a little worried that I would get lost in that aspect of the story but that was never the case. Everything is kept to the basics or explained in a way that the reader will immediately understand so don’t let that deter you.

The Plot:

The synopsis gives the impression that this series is all about the romances but there is a strong focus on character development as well once you start reading. I thought there was a great balance in this respect and was pleasantly surprised that the character growth is so prevalent. More on that below.

Add to that some drama and some high stake situations and I was completely addicted to the story. It moves at a great pace and you can’t help but want to keep reading!

The Characters:

Usually I am a fan of multiple POVs because it pretty much guarantees that I will enjoy at least one character’s POV. (This does fail sometimes: City Love is a great example). HOWEVER, that wasn’t the case here at all!

That doesn’t mean I immediately loved all the leads though. This is where character development and growth truly enhanced the reading experience. As you learned more about the girls and their pasts, you are able to understand why they act the way they do. I don’t mind angsty characters so long as it is “justified” (meaning explained) to me while I read. Even better is that you get to see them change as a result and I really enjoyed that aspect. This is very much a character driven series.

The Romance:

Definitely a highlight for me! I really liked all the pairings for the girls and the resulting drama and character growth that comes from these relationships!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really hope the third book gets published. While things are wrapped up at the end of Losing Love, it didn’t feel complete to me at all. So I’m eager to get the closing chapters on these girls’ stories.

Series Rating: 4/5

Game. Set. Match. 4/5 | Losing at Love 4/5 | Book 3 TBA

overall

This is a great contemporary sports read for those who want a somewhat lighter tone to their read but still has solid character growth and swoon worthy romance.

Read if You Like: sport stories, tennis, contemporary
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POVs
similarreads

  • For Everly by Raine Thomas
  • Catching Jordan by Miranda Kinneally (Hundred Oaks Series #1)

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Serial Saturdays: Hitched by Kendall Ryan

Serial Saturdays: On the occasional Saturday, I review a serialized series (a series that is released in parts that would normally make up a whole novel) to see if the series is worth keeping up with or worth buying all its parts. Here is this week’s offering:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Hitched (from Goodreads):

Marry the girl I’ve had a crush on my whole life? Check.

Inherit a hundred-billion-dollar company? Check.

Produce an heir… Wait, what?

I have ninety days to knock up my brand-new fake wife. There’s only one problem—she hates my guts.

And in the fine print of the contract? The requirement that we produce an heir.

She can’t stand to be in the same room with me. Says she’ll never be in my bed.

But I’ve never backed down from a challenge and I’m not about to start now.

Mark my words—I’ll have her begging for me, and it won’t take ninety days.

breakdown

Series: Hitched

There is a standalone spin-off titled: The Fix-Up

Author: Kendall Ryan
# of Parts: 3
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Drama, Humour
Heat Rating: hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: July – August 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I adore fake relationship stories; I think it’s my favourite romance trope. And Kendall Ryan is an author I have a ton of titles marked as to-read. So I decided to make this the first of the novels I have of hers.

The Concept:

The first novella’s synopsis is slightly misleading. The whole “heir” situation is mentioned but it doesn’t become an issue until part 2. Rather the whole “should we enter a fake marriage to save the company” is the main plot line. And I mean, you can’t take the idea too seriously either because what would having a baby do to save a million-dollar company? Not much. But as I always say, let fiction be fiction and enjoy the somewhat soap-opera nature of the drama about to ensue.

The Plot:

As is usually the nature with a shorter series, things move at a quick pace and are never as elaborated on as you would like. I think it really helped that these two had a shared past of growing up together thanks to their super close families.  It just gives everything a little more credibility to the somewhat quicker timeline and makes the situation seem more likely.

That being said, this read like a soap-opera so I’m glad it was a quick read because the dramatics can be a touch too much at times.

The Characters:

I read parts 1 & 2 right after each other and part 3 many months later so I kinda forgot about how quirky these characters are. Especially Noah. I’ve never had a male character talk about his penis so much. It was a little off putting to say the least…That being said, I was really afraid Noah would be an over the top alpha male but he really has a sweet side to him that I found to be charming–penis mentions aside.

I liked Olivia a lot. She’s a very well rounded character and is definitely the right choice for this story.

The Romance:

Again, it helps that these two share a past. It’s obvious to everyone except these two that they are a perfect match and I enjoyed watching them discover that throughout the volumes (but especially Part 2). There are probably more sexy times than actual conversations between them but they do have a great chemistry together so I can see why that would be the case.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I think people who don’t like quirky characters and shorter stories will have a hard time getting into this. But if you like quick reads with a touch for the melodramatics, check this out!

Read if You Like: short series, fake relationships
Avoid if You: want more developed story and characters

similarreads

  • Caught Up in Us by Lauren Blakely (Caught Up In Love Series #1)
  • Lord Bachelor by Tammy L Bailey
  • Break by Vanessa Waltz (Billionaire Series #1)

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DNF Series Review: The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 4: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Unnaturalists (from Goodreads):

In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.

breakdown

Series: The Unnaturalists
Author: Tiffany Trent
# of Books: 2 (The Unnaturalists, The Tinker King)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk
Heat Rating: unsure
Point of View: First Person & Third Person
Publication Dates: August 2012 – February 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading The Unnaturalists at 18% (Start of Chapter 6). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love a good steampunk novel and 2012 was the year I added every one to my TBR list it seems because that’s when I discovered the genre. I didn’t get to this series until my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for 2017 and I selected it as a 2012 pick.

I was very excited to see the blending of science and fantasy–each steampunk world is unique and this one seemed to be in a league of its own so I was anxious to see it all come together.

What I Liked:

–The “Saints” are Famous Scientists–

The scientist in my loved how scientists are viewed as saints in this world. Lots of people see science and religion as two mutually exclusive things but the blending of the two together here brought a smile to my face.

What I Didn’t Like:

–I Immediately Felt Lost in the World–

The key to a good steampunk novel is building the world so the readers can fully understand the vision the author wants to convey…something that did not happen here.

I don’t mind being thrown into a world I don’t know or making me ask questions, but you have to provide me with the tools to understand what the heck is even happening. With this novel, I got lost in all the terms that were being thrown out to describe people, places and the fundamental foundations for the world. I’m not saying that everything needs to be fully explained on every page in excessive detail–even a glossary at the back of the book would work because I would be able to put two and two together and figure out the world myself–all I’m saying is that you need to do something to provide the basis for the world as the reader goes along.

Will I Finish It?

No, I don’t think I will. I wasn’t really invested in the plot (probably because I didn’t totally understand what was even happening) but I also wasn’t loving the characters either.

Series Rating: DNF

The Unnaturalists DNF | The Tinker King N/A

overall

The execution is really what hurt this novel for me. I think if I didn’t feel so lost at the start, I would have fully enjoyed this novel.

Read if You Like: being thrown into worlds, steampunk
Avoid if You: need world building

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Have you read this? Should I return to this series? Leave a comment!

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Series Review: The Bet by Rachel Van Dyken

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Bet (from Goodreads):

“I have a proposition for you.” Kacey should have run the minute those words left Seattle millionaire Jake Titus’s mouth. It’s been years since Kacey’s seen her childhood friend Jake, but the minute Jake mentions his ill grandmother, Kacey is ready to do anything for the sweet old woman. And if that means pretending they’re engaged for her sake-so be it.

But Kacey wasn’t counting on Jake’s older brother Travis still being there. She calls him “Satan” for a reason: she’s never forgotten the way he teased and taunted her. Yet when they meet again, Travis’s gorgeous smile is a direct hit to her heart . . . and Kacey’s more confused than ever. As the days pass, only one thing starts to become alarmingly clear-she never should have accepted Jake’s deal . . .

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: The Bet
Author: Van Dyken
# of Books: 3 (The Bet, The Wager, The Dare)
Book Order: Connected (but chronological events)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Humour
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple (The Bet); Alternating
Publication Dates: March 2013 – July 2014
Source & Format: Own & Public Library–eBook

thoughts

NOTE: I only read The Bet (#1) and The Dare (#3). I DNF’d The Wager at 14%. Find out why below.

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve really enjoyed Rachel Van Dyken’s previous series in the past and I’ve had this one marked on my TBR forever. I only had the first book on my eReader and that’s why it was selected for my #ShelfLove Challenge for 2017.

I didn’t know entirely what to expect going into The Bet. It gets a few polarizing reviews on Goodreads but I went in with an open mind and the need to be entertained.

The Plot:

As whole, this series is about a meddling Grandmother who wants her grandsons to get their heads out of their butts and get married to the “ones that got away”. Grandma Nadine is an over the top character as are her antics. Her meddling isn’t a huge focus in The Bet (#1) but it does become a huge part of the latter two novels.

This results in some mixed feelings for me in terms of the plot. I enjoyed The Bet as Nadine is more of the filter-less Grandmother who inserts a comment or two along the way. But her interference in the next two novels is very hit or miss. Most of the time I enjoyed the concept of the second chance romance but not the execution–mainly Nadine’s manipulation–of the plot. It takes everything to this over-dramatic level that I wasn’t a fan of.

The Characters:

I think these characters really make it or break it for the readers. They aren’t the most mature out there and I wouldn’t say that all of them are completely likable either. I think I was just in the right mood for tolerating some of these characters when I read the books.

Case and point: Kacey. I really struggled with her because she does some down-right awful things to Travis when they are kids. I’m talking full out bullying the boy to the point where I’m shocked he turned out as nice as he did. But she does have these moments where she comes across as a genuinely nice girl (now that she’s older) so it was hard to pinpoint my exact feelings on her.

I think if you don’t take them all so seriously and focus on the silly things that happen along the way, you can enjoy this novel without loving the characters. (But I understand that is a hard thing to do in a romance novel–case and point why I DNF’d Book #2 The Wager).

The Romance:

These are all second chance stories that happen quickly (usually within a week or two), reestablishing this connection from the past. We only get a few flashbacks to the past so it was hard to convince me that all these characters were a great match. The connections of the leads in The Wager and The Dare just seemed so superficial to me because their past was a shared night of lust.

Why I DNF’d The Wager (#2) at 14%:

I was actually pretty excited to start this one because I love a good “player redemption story”. But the immaturity of these characters irritated me to no ends. Their opening chapters just seemed so ridiculous to me and I couldn’t get into.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Bet 4.5/5 | The Wager DNF| The Dare 2.5/5

overall

I think if you enjoy stories that don’t take themselves too seriously and can get past somewhat mature characters, you will enjoy this series. However, Rachel Van Dyken writes much (much) better romance novels so perhaps try Ruin or The Matchmaker’s Playbook instead.

Read if You Like: over the top drama, quick second chance romances
Avoid if You: dislike immature characters, struggle with humour in novels

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Single Sundays: Tiger Lily Jodi Lynn Anderson

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 Tiger Lily (from Goodreads):

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair…

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

breakdown

Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: Teen, Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I came across this book at my local library when I was getting into eReading in 2012. I’m really only familiar with the Disney version of Peter Pan but Tiger Lily is a character that we only see a flash of and it’s in a slightly negative light. So I was curious to see what her story was and learn a bit more about her.

Of course, I never got around to this story. I blame my focus on book series for this blog a bit since standalones get a lower priority. So that was why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for 2017.

The Concept / The World:

I wouldn’t say this is a retelling but more so an origin story. The introduction of Wendy really doesn’t happen until well after the 80% mark so you spend most of the time learning about Tiger Lily’s home life and how she met Peter. It’s like a prequel to the events of Peter Pan.

I truly struggled with forgetting the Disney Peter Pan story and remembering that a retelling will change things. You get inklings of common story themes (Hook, the crocodile, mermaids) but things change (like how people get to Neverland, etc)–that’s the point of a retelling. It manipulates what you know to show you a new perspective.

I also thought it was interesting that the novel is narrated by Tinkerbell. It provides some good insight for why Tink is often a pest to Wendy and others.

Also–maybe it’s just me–but this book felt “weird” to me. I mean, the whole premise of Neverland is an odd one (and I like that this one addressed why some people were older and some were forever young) but I really struggled with understanding what exactly was happening. Everything just seemed “odd” to me.

The Plot:

I definitely read the synopsis and interpreted it wrong. I thought the story would focus a bit more on Wendy’s arrival and how Tiger Lily deals with that. But like I said above, that only happens in the last quarter of the book.

For the most part, I felt like this book didn’t have much of a plot. The first 20% jumps all over the place talking about past stories and current situations. And then you get Tiger Lily living her life and struggling with her relationship with Peter and her family. I think I wanted more drama than the mundane everyday life moments. It just didn’t capture my attention like I wanted it to.

The Characters:

I find origin stories often focus on the mundane but what really makes them are the characters (Blackhearts is a great example of that, where the story is slower but you just fall in love with the characters).

Unfortunately here, the characters fell flat to me.

I went into this really wanting to like Tiger Lily. She’s such an enigma of a character to me and I wanted to see her in a new light. But I just felt indifferent to her. I couldn’t get a good read on her character (perhaps because we get everything through Tinkerbell who develops a bias?) and that stopped me from getting total invested.

Peter was annoying–I mean what type of maturity did I expect from a boy who never grows up?–and I felt like Tiger Lily could do better.

Understanding Tinkerbell was a highlight though–I almost wish this was called “Tinkerbell” instead.

The Romance:

Like I said, I wasn’t feeling the love between Tiger Lily and Peter. When I don’t like the two characters, I don’t like the romance between them. I also didn’t get the draw of Tiger Lily. Everyone seemed to be in love with her and I didn’t get why.

My Audiobook Experience:

This was a book I probably should have read as a physical book because I could have benefited from page breaks. The start jumps around a lot between past and present and I found myself getting lost. And having the third but first person POV with Tink made it hard to follow at times.

My Rating: 2/5

overall

This book was a huge let down. I feel like my expectations and what the story actual was were polar opposites. If you plan on reading it, know that Wendy Darling doesn’t play that big a role in the story despite what the synopsis implies.

Read if You Like: Peter Pan retellings, slower stories
Avoid if You: want action, want all consuming romance
similarreads

 

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Trilogy Termination: Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

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Spring 2017

Trilogy Termination Blitz: I finally finish some trilogies I started years ago by reading the final book! But don’t let my delay in finishing them deter you from picking them up…or should it?

Miss the Introduction Post? Read it here!

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Angelfire (from Goodreads):

First there are nightmares.
Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.

Then come the memories.
When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie’s power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie’s memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt.
Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.

breakdown

Series: Angelfire Trilogy
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
# of Books: 3 (Angelfire, Wings of the Wicked, Shadows in the Silence)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 A Dance With Darkness

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Angels, Paranormal, Action
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2011 – January 2013
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover; eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Angels were all the rage when I was a teen and I grabbed this book during the trend. This series is praised for its action scenes and I love books with a little physical confrontations along the way.

The Concept / The World:

This story is very rich in terms of its history and lexicon. There is a solid background and substance to create this world and is very unique compared to other angel YA reads. I wish I read the third one closer together because I did forget some of the history despite having notes on the first two novels.

The Plot:

Throughout this series, I struggled with its pacing. You have these pockets of mundane, everyday teenage problems pocketed with scenes of action and plot development. The problems with the everyday teenage stuff I’ll address below but the actions scenes are great. They are written in a way that is like watching a movie so it was super easy to visualize.

I also really enjoyed the overarching plot of this trilogy as a whole. While each book has its own main plot line, everything bridges together nicely. It just gives this series a consistency that keeps you invested in the story and characters.

The Characters:

I admit, I was hesitant to start Shadows in the Silence because I remember really not liking Ellie’s character. She started the series as a selfish and somewhat petty teenaged girl. But when I read Shadows in the Silence, I found she wasn’t as annoying as I remembered. She really does grow and I can appreciate that.

There are a lot of characters in this story and I think it provides a richer experience. Again, I probably should have read the finale closer to the previous installments just to keep everyone straight but it was easier to dive back in than I expected.

The Romance:

Once again, I picked the “wrong team” but I knew it was never going to work with my pick. I really wasn’t a fan of the romance here, it was a little cliche and I find Will is a little dull as a hero. Then again, I wasn’t reading this for the romance!

Series Rating: 4/5

Angelfire 4/5 | Wings of the Wicked 4/5 | Shadows in the Silence 3/5

overall

This series is pretty on par with the other paranormal YA reads of its time. However, this one excels in action and a rich world that will keep readers interested.

Read if You Like: angels, YA paranormal reads
Avoid if You: want more romance based

similarreads

  • Newsoul by Jodi Meadows (Newsoul Trilogy #1)
  • Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush Saga #1)
  • A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford (A Touch Trilogy #1)
  • Angel by L A Weatherly (Angel Trilogy #1)

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Series Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

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 Dorothy Must Die (from Goodreads):

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I’ve been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

breakdown

Series: Dorothy Must Die
Author: Danielle Paige
# of Books: 4 (Dorothy Must Die, The Wicked Will Rise, Yellow Brick War, The End of Oz)

There are 9 prequel novellas. Full List Here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Magic
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2014 – March 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover (eBooks for novellas)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It was the title and cover that first grabbed my attention when I was browsing the new additions at my library. I’m always up for a good retelling and this one sounded fabulous. Afterwards, it was a series I saw everywhere.

I had it on my list for my 2016 365 Days of YA Challenge but wasn’t able to get around to it. So I decided to make it my Christmas Holiday binge series, opting for it to be the first of my personal 2017 5 Year 5 Book Challenge selection.

The Concept / The World:

In Dorothy Must Die, I loved the world we were introduced to. Those first few chapters in Oz were really cool. This is such an interesting spin on a classic! Not knowing who is truly “wicked” and who is truly “good” creates a tense atmosphere that the reader can enjoy throughout the series.

What I also like is that you don’t have to be a diehard Oz fan to get what’s going on. This takes place after the original novel(s)/movie/play so as long as you know the basics, you can survive. Plus, the prequel novellas build up the world as well.

But why are the Wizard of Oz retellings so weird? Wicked is one of the oddest stories I’ve ever read; and while this series isn’t as bizarre as that one, it does have its quirky moments.

The Plot:

My struggle with this series is the adventure aspect of the plot. I am not a fan of adventure stories; they are slow to me and often lack excitement because you are just moseying along to the big climax. It’s a lot of waiting around for things to happen. And that is the case in this series at times. Even though I get why, I did find some chapters of this story to be slower as Amy waits to make her move.

That being said, there are some great twists along the way that would rejuvenate my interest. This is a really cool story with a lot of interesting characters in an always changing setting.

The Characters:

The fact that you really don’t know who to trust gives this story an exciting edge. I’m always a fan of stories with truly “evil” characters and this one has them.

I also really liked Amy. Her character development from Dorothy Must Die to The End of Oz is fantastic. She grows so much. Plus: she’s very likeable. I have such a softspot for the underdog and Amy is the very definition of one.

The Romance:

This is such a minor aspect of the story. When it’s there, it’s cute and made me really happy. But there is so much else going on that it only gets these little moments. Which, I actually appreciate because it keeps the story on the World of Oz and not on Amy pining after some love interest on every page.

When to read the Novellas?:

They are all prequel novellas, taking place before the events of Dorothy Must Die. So it’s really up to you if you read them before or after. I, personally, enjoyed the revealing of the world as I read the novels by going in “blind”. It provided me with something that would spark my interest when the story ran a little on the dryer side of things at times. You really aren’t missing out on anything in the novels by not reading the novellas; they just give you that extra bit of detail.

Maybe too much detail? Truthfully, I couldn’t get through The Return to Oz. It bored me to tears–but I get the appeal of these novellas. If you absolutely adore this series and don’t mind lengthier novellas, give them a shot.

Series Rating: 4/5

Dorothy Must Die 3.5/5 | The Wicked Will Rise 3/5 | Yellow Brick War  4/5 | The End of Oz 4/5

overall

If you love a story with strong (albeit quirky) world-building and the ultimate underdog heroine, you’ll definitely enjoy this series! But others might find it slow and not enjoy the no-holds-barred magic element. And this is (likely) not the Oz you grew up with, so know that going in!

Read if You Like: the Wizard of Oz, magic based stories
Avoid if You: want more action, want more romance
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Novella Serial Review: Pulse by Deborah Bladon

Serial Saturdays: On the occasional Saturday, I review a serialized series (a series that is released in parts that would normally make up a whole novel) to see if the series is worth keeping up with or worth buying all its parts. Here is this week’s offering:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Pulse (from Goodreads):

Jessica Roth dumped her boyfriend, moved to New York and wanted desperately to start her new life off with a bang – a literal mind-blowing, soul-shaking night of pure, raw, memory making sex.

She thought her one time chance encounter with attorney, Nathan Moore, in a hotel room would become a jumping point for her exciting, single and adventurous life in the city.

One night turned into two, into four, and into more – always at the same place, always at the same time – no last names, no personal details, and absolutely no complications.

What Jessica doesn’t count on is that in Nathan’s world boundaries are made to be pushed.

He wanted her in ways he promised he never would. She wanted him in ways she couldn’t admit.

When their lives ultimately collide outside the walls of the hotel room, Jessica is forced to face the truth about the only man who has ever made her pulse race and her body ache with unadulterated pleasure.

breakdown

Series: Pulse

Part of a larger universe. Full reading order found here.

Author: Deborah Bladon
# of Parts: 4

There is a companion novella (#4.5) called Impulse

Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Erotica, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May – September 2014
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I tend to enjoy stories where the leads expectantly fall in love. I just love watching those feelings develop and seeing the sexual tension burning between them. And I’m always on the lookout for solid romance serials so this seemed like a no brainer for me.

The Plot:

What I really enjoyed about this serial is that it kept me guessing in terms of the dramatics. While I knew that there were going to be twists, I rarely guessed them right which is such a treat for me as a reader.

I also liked that it had a good balance between the sexy times, the character development and the plot. These are slightly longer novellas (~80 pages in each) so you do get that extra time to develop everything as opposed to the ~20 page novellas out there. And while there are plenty of sex scenes, I didn’t feel like I was only reading those.

The Characters:

I had a bit of an up and down with these two.

First, Jessica was a good heroine though near the end she started to run a little hot and cold. It was hard to keep track of her actions and thoughts because she seemed to be all over the place. Which made sense given some of the plot developments but sometimes it just seemed unnecessary.

As for Nathan, I really liked him in the first part. He had this great mysterious vibe to him that was alluring as a reader. But then he turned borderline abusive to me. He was suddenly very controlling and demanding–more so than the “typical” alpha male you see in erotica. I didn’t like how Jessica conformed to that either. In part 3, he seems to shy away from that attitude so it made it easier for me to read but it did diminish my like of him.

The Romance:

These two have a great chemistry that is there from the start. And despite the fact that things move fast, I really did like the emotional connection these two had. It isn’t totally apparent at the start but with the series as a whole, you could see why these two are a great match.

Details on Impulse (#4.5):

Impulse is a “companion sequel” to the Pulse series, told from Nathan’s POV. It’s about the total length of all 4 parts together and definitely a solid story.

Series Rating: 4/5

overall

I thoroughly enjoyed this serialized romance. It has passion, great drama and is definitely addicting!

Read if You Like: serialized romances, quick reads, good twists
Avoid if You: dislike erotica, quick romances
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Novella Serial Review: Chase by Cassia Leo

Serial Saturdays: On the occasional Saturday, I review a serialized series (a series that is released in parts that would normally make up a whole novel) to see if the series is worth keeping up with or worth buying all its parts. Here is this week’s offering:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Chase (from Goodreads):

Larissa Jacobs’ financial debt is climbing after a failed attempt at becoming the next big thing in Hollywood–and now her roommate has asked her to come up with the rent by the end of the weekend or she’ll be out on the street. But her roommate soon takes pity on her and offers to help her get a job working with him for an escort service. Larissa’s first client is Senator Chase Underwood: gorgeous, married, and the current presidential candidate. Will his penchant for sexual domination destroy his prospects of world domination?

breakdown

Series: Chase

Part of the broader Power Players Series (Luke Series & Knox Series)

Author: Cassia Leo
# of Parts: 4 (Chase, Disclosure, Exposure, Closure)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Erotica, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: August – November 2012
Source & Format: Own–Kindle

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Cassia Leo is one of those authors I have a lot of books by but haven’t really read. Despite being really excited for her Luke Series, I ended up DNFing it. So I was a little hesitant to start this one but the premise was really intriguing and it was only a total of 80 pages…

The Plot:

There isn’t too much of a plot besides Chase and Larissa trying to figure out how they can be together–and that isn’t overly complicated either. The pages consist of sexy times, Larissa pining for Chase and Chase promising they will be together before he departs. Rinse and repeat.

But the ending? While I expected it, I just didn’t like the far-fetched nature of it all.

The Characters:

When you have a series of this length, it’s hard to get to know these characters on a deeper level. But they work for this story. Could they have been elaborated on? For sure but they did the job well here.

The Romance:

They meet once, kiss and Chase decides he has to risk everything for a girl he essentially hooks-up with in a limo after 5 minutes of meeting. It’s classic over the top, insta-love at its “finest”–and I wasn’t really a fan.

Series Rating: 2/5

overall

If you want a super quick read of insta-love or love the idea of a presidental canditate falling for an escort, give it a try. Otherwise, pass!

Read if You Like: serialized novellas, erotica
Avoid if You: want a little more substance to your erotica

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Series Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

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 Prisoner of Night and Fog (from Goodreads):

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

breakdown

Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Author: Anne Blankman
# of Books: 2 (Prisoner of Night and Fog, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Suspense, Romance
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2014 – 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This series crossed my radar one day when I was blog-hopping. I’m not sure what blog specifically (this was before I started keeping notes) but I do think this series has been on quite a few over the years.

Anyways, the concept was really what drew me in and that’s why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge this year.

The Concept:

I’ve only read a few books set in WWII but what I really liked about this book was that it was set before the war started. When it comes to Hitler, I feel like we often focus on what he did during the war (and rightfully so) but not too much on how we got to that point. It’s a fascinating view point and provides quite a bit of insight on why WWII began. I will admit, I looked up a lot of things on Wikipedia to learn more and see how it this story was woven with history.

But that doesn’t mean this series is an easy read. Prisoner of Night and Fog opens with Gretchen’s brother beating a Jewish man simply for being a Jew and the narrator explains the ideology for his actions. And it’s hard to stomach as a reader–not only because it seems so “normal” but also because you know it is only going to get worse.

The Plot:

A Prisoner of Night and Fog started a little slowly as it established the setting and the circumstances Gretchen finds herself in. But once Gretchen starts her investigation, it really picks up. I love a good conspiracy theory and this one delivered. It gave this story a dangerous edge that kept the tensions high and me eager to see what would happen next.

And those tensions continue to be high in the aftermath of a Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. This one had a tone of suspense throughout that had me desparately wanting to know what would happen next. Trying to piece together how the current events of this novel lead to the start of WWII was such a refreshingly unique experience for me as a reader.

The Characters:

I thought Gretchen had tremendous growth as a character throughout this series. She transforms from a naive and gullible girl into a crafty and caring woman who can see the bigger picture of what is happening around her. I was definitely rooting for her and grew attached to her as a character.

And the rest of the characters do their jobs flawlessly.

The Romance:

I wasn’t going into this book expecting some epic romance and that definitely isn’t what we get. It does its job by keeping things simple and not distracting from the main plot of the story; rather, it enhances the various tensions in the book. It provides some context for the world Gretchen finds herself in but I never felt like this series was a romance set in dangerous times–it’s a story about dangerous times that features a romance.

My Audiobook Experience:

I loved the audiobook! Heather Wilds is the narrator and she is just fabulous. The accents were perfect, she didn’t sound ridiculous when she did the male voices (one of my biggest peeves) and she conveyed the right tone at all times. And while it was really hard to listen to some of the violence and ideology, I think that just made the book have a bigger impact on me as a reader.

I will say though that a certain character’s name was pronounced one way in the first book and then another in the second. It threw me for a bit but it doesn’t really matter. I just thought it was a little weird.

Series Rating: 4/5

Prisoner of Night and Fog 4/5 | Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke 4/5

overall

If you love historical novels that are lighter on the romance and seamlessly weaves history into its narrative, pick this one up!

Read if You Like: historical novels, WWII settings
Avoid if You: are uncomfortable with violence or discrimination

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