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Series Review: Him by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

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 Him (from Goodreads):

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend… and a big one to learn about himself.

Warning: contains sexual situations, skinnydipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav Author(s)
Series: Him
Author: Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy
# of Books: 2 (Him, Us)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, MM Romance, Sports, Hockey
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: July 2015 – March 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When two of your favourite authors co-write a series together, you know the expectations are high. I love Bowen and Kennedy’s work respectively so the fact that they wrote a MM romance together had me eager to read it. I’ve really become a fan of MM romance over the last 2 years thanks to some great authors telling some even better stories. So I was STOKED when I managed to snag these two books on sale for my Kobo.

The Plot:

I really enjoyed the balance these novels had between the character development, romance and the drama. They just had a great flow to them that kept me hooked on their every word.

And the tension! GAH! In Him (#1), we don’t know exactly what happened between Jamie and Wes (Ryan) right away. Instead, we get little snippets of their last summer at camp together until we finally get the big reveal. I just loved the anticipation that brought to the story.

The Characters:

I really loved both our leads. Jamie is such a sweetheart and I enjoyed watching him grow into the man he becomes. I found his approach to his sexual identity was refreshing and realistic as well. And Wes is also a great guy. I loved his attitude and approach to everything. He has this maturity to him that I also found refreshing.

The Romance:

There is no denying the great chemistry these two have. Boy oh boy, their scenes together are steamy! But for me, I wanted a little more emotional connection in Him. I got the attraction between these two physically but I wasn’t entirely sold on why the boys liked each other. Sure they have a lot in common and have been close friends for years, but I needed a little more to see why they would make great partners for each other in the long run.

Which we get to see in Us (#2). I found this book really tested their relationship in a realistic way and that reaffirmed for my why they are a good match for each other and why they love each other. We still get plenty of steam but the emotional connection between the guys is the main focus.

Series Rating: 4/5

Him 4/5| Us 4/5

overall

This super sexy read is great for new and returning MM romance fans!

Read if You Like: mm romance, sports romances, hockey
Avoid if You: dislike steamy scenes

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Single Sundays: When It’s Real by Erin Watt

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 When It’s Real (from Goodreads):

Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.

Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave Read of 2018, Canadian Author
Author: Erin Watt (pen name of Elle Kennedy & Jen Frederick)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Source & Format: Public Library (Hoopla)–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This novel was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017. Not only is it written by a duo of authors I adore but it also has some of my favourite romance tropes. Fake relationship; in love with a celebrity; hate to love you; in love with a musician. In fact, I was so scared that I would pick up this book and end up disappointed that I kept putting it off. Which is why I made it a selection for my 5 Year 5 Book Reading Challenge for 2018. I needed to read this book and I was going to read it sooner than later.

The Plot:

Have you ever wanted a book not to end? Seriously, I could have followed these two until they day they die. The story just flowed so effortlessly from start to finish and I found myself getting caught up in it all.

I think the best part of this novel is that nothing seems rushed. The romance has a slow burn vibe to it so that continues to build and rope you in. But in the meantime, you get to focus on Vaughn and Oakley growing as characters, tackling their everyday (and as a result of their arrangement) problems. Everything just had a great balance for me.

The Characters:

These two easily became new favourite characters! They are written extremely well; I never felt like they were wish-washy in their convictions or actions. And I think that is the result of some great character development. The characters we get at the start of the book are not who we end the book with–only they are because you have watched these two evolve before your eyes.

And the rest of the cast is superb! They truly support Oakley and Vaughn and add to this story in a great way.

The Romance:

SWOON! Seriously, it’s a wonder I didn’t hurt anyone while listening (and swooning) to this audiobook as I drove. Oakley stole my heart and I loved watching Vaughn unravel his character. Their banter at the start of the book immediately sold me on their relationship and I couldn’t get enough of them as the story progressed.

I do have one issue with the romance and I put it in the spoiler box (even though one aspect is something revealed in the first three chapters) but I don’t like to do spoilers without warning.

My Little Complaint

One thing that really bothered me in the middle of the book was Oakley’s attitude that “he could get any girl he wanted” and that Vaughn should be “honoured” that he was even thinking about her. This attitude really got on my nerves because I felt like Vaughn was trading her toxic relationship with W (who kept reminding her that should be grateful he wasn’t pressuring her for sex when he could get it from anyone) for another one with Oakley. Thankfully, I felt like Oakley matured out of this attitude within the next few chapters.

[collapse]

My Audiobook Experience:

I am SO SO SO happy I (found and) listened to this as an audiobook! The narrators (Caitlin Kelly and Teddy Hamilton) were so amazing! I seriously found two new favourite narrators. They truly brought these characters to life for me. I felt every range of emotion in this book and I think it was amplified thanks to their stellar performance.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

I don’t say this very often (especially with contemporary romances) but I definitely plan on rereading this book in the years to come. I just loved the characters, the romance and the story!

Read if You Like: fake relationships, swoon-worthy heroes, jaded celebrity hero
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary romances

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Series Review: Reverie by Monica Murphy

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for His Reverie (from Goodreads):

I knew from the moment I first saw her she was the one. The only girl I could ever want.
The only girl I could ever love.
She is light.
I am darkness.
She is innocent.
I’ve done too much.
She is good.
I am bad.
She is my every dream.
I should be her every nightmare.
We come from different worlds. She’s…perfect. And I’m…
Not.
Somehow she wants me anyway. So we’ll grasp at what we can. We’re going to make this summer count. She’s my secret. And I’m hers.
The problem with secrets is they never last for long. And when others discover we’re together, they’ll do whatever it takes to keep us apart. All I know is: I won’t let them.
Because Reverie Hale? She’s mine.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Reverie
Author: Monica Murphy
# of Books: 2 (His Reverie, Her Destiny)
Book Order: Chronolgical
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: really warm **spicy YA**
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: July 2014 – August 2014
Source & Format: Own & Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read pretty much anything by Monica Murphy so it’s no surprise that I had the first book sitting on my Kobo shortly after its release. And like many books I own, I don’t get around to them until years later (thought it’s no fault of their own).

I was eager to start this forbidden “New Adult” love story and I made sure to pick up the sequel from my library as my card was expiring to binge read the series.

The Concept:

First and foremost, I would classify this story as Young Adult and not necessarily “New Adult”. To me, “New Adult” stories take place the summer after high school to the first year after graduating college. These characters are still in high school and to me, it reads like your more dramatic YA contemporaries.

One thing I enjoyed about His Reverie is that it is mostly told through Nick’s POV with the occasional diary entry from Reverie along the way. It’s not often that you get a romance novel told solely (or close to) from the male POV so I enjoyed that fresh take.

The Plot:

This story centers itself on a very dramatic first love. Monica Murphy has a knack for writing dramatic YA and it definitely shows in this series. It reads almost like a soap opera but the characters are pretty grounded so it isn’t as over the top as you expect.

The Characters:

I really liked these two. Nick is trying to do his best given the crappy hand life has dealt him but his heart is in the right place. You really want to root for him after all the stuff he has gone through.

I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t sure about Reverie at the start. I’m not always the biggest fan of the “innocent” heroine and their accompanying naivety but she really grew on me as the series progressed. I think she has the best character development in the series of the two.

The Romance:

If you enjoy stories about all consuming first loves, this is one for you! I thought these two were cute together but I needed to see more substance to their relationship. To me, they are in lust not love for a majority of His Reverie. It’s a very insta-love connection, one that is mostly based in attractiveness and this unspoken connection. Later on in the book it is implied that they talk and bond over other things but I felt like their feelings developed much too fast for me to be completely convinced it’s true love.

Series Rating: 3/5

His Reverie 3/5 | Her Destiny 3/5

overall

If you like lots of drama in your YA contemporaries and stories about first loves, this is a great (and shorter) series to pick up!

Read if You Like: stories about first love, lots of drama, quicker reads
Avoid if You: dislike lots of drama

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Series Review: Hearts by Claire Contreras

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 Kaleidoscope Hearts (from Goodreads):

He was my older brother’s best friend.
He was never supposed to be mine.
I thought we would get it out of our system and move on.

One of us did.
One of us left.

Now he’s back, looking at me like he wants to devour me. And all those feelings I’d turned into anger are brewing into something else, something that terrifies me.
He broke my heart last time.
This time he’ll obliterate it.

breakdown

Series: Hearts Trilogy
Author: Claire Contreras
# of Books: 3 (Kaleidoscope Hearts, Paper Hearts, Elastic Hearts)

There is a novella that is a prequel to Book #2 Paper Hearts called Torn Hearts

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Second Chances, Romance
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2015 – March 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not sure how this series crossed my radar. I can only assume the cover of Kaleidoscope Hearts caught my eye on a Goodreads widget or perhaps Kobo recommended it to me.

Regardless, I tend to enjoy second chance romances and this series is all about them. I like the secrets and tension that happens and Kaleidoscope Hearts with its “in love with brother’s BFF” trope had me eager to start it.

The Plot:

I went through the same cycle with all these books. The start had my attention because there was so much tension and animosity between the leads. The mystery to their past relationship(s) had me eager to learn more. But by the midway point, my interest started to wane. I felt like we kept cycling the same drama back and forth. The push and pull of the romance just kept tugging and tugging but not making any positive progress. It got tiring to read because I got it you know? Of course their are obstacles in the way but we don’t need to rehash those every other chapter.

And it also drove me nuts that a lot of the unnecessary drama was the result of these characters purposefully being uncommunicative. We’d get their thought process in their inner monologue but they’d never tell their partner that. For example (I’m going to keep this pretty general to avoid spoilers), in Elastic Hearts, all Victor has to do is tell her that they can’t be seen together for a few weeks until everything blows over and the consequences are no longer at play. Instead, he essentially breaks up with her and tells her nothing about how his plan will secure a future for them so she assumes (rightfully so) the worst of him and that he doesn’t want to be with her.

SO FRUSTRATING!

The Characters:

I never fell in love with any of these characters. Part of the problem was their lack of maturity. For people well into their 20s, they acted like high schoolers at times. This was particularly apparent in Paper Hearts (which I actually DNF’d at 13%) where our heroine goes off on the littlest of things at our hero. I mean, I understand her hurt and anger towards him given their past, but she could turn a simple comment into something else completely with a snap of her fingers. Ugh. Everything was way more dramatic than it needed to be.

I also found that these characters were all over the place in terms of their personalities. They would act one way and then be something else entirely in the next chapter. So I could never get a good read on them or who they were. There is quite a bit of potential for development but we don’t really get any or enough to impress me.

The Romance:

I thought all the leads had good physical chemistry. You could feel the tension that flowed between them when they were in a room together. However, I felt like the emotional connections could have used some work.

It’s hard to craft a good second chance romance. You’ve got characters who have already established a relationship and usually the reader only sees them attempt to reestablish it after something has torn them apart. Which is the case here. I mean, you do get little flashbacks to the past so you know they had this great chemistry years ago but nothing showed me that the pairs were soulmates without a doubt, you know? It was almost like an unspoken connection that just convinced them that that person was the one and I would have enjoyed seeing more of the partnerships come to life.

When to Read #1.5 Torn Hearts:

This novella is included at the start of Book 2, Paper Hearts. It serves as a good introduction to the lead characters in Paper Hearts, giving a context for the situation they find themselves in. I don’t know if knowing why these two split before I started Paper Hearts “ruined” a bit of the mystery of the second chance story or not. I don’t think I would have enjoyed that story regardless.

Series Rating: 2.5/5

Kaleidoscope Hearts 3/5 | [Torn Hearts 3/5] | Paper Hearts DNF | Elastic Hearts 2/5

overall

I’ve read better second chance series. While all the right ideas were there, the execution could have been better.

Read if You Like: second chance romances
Avoid if You: dislike longer romance stories

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Fresh Fridays: From Here to You (Crash and Burn #1) by Jamie McGuire

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

Crash and Burn Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for From Here to You (from Goodreads):

As Darby Dixon sits in a tiny Texas church bathroom on her wedding day holding a positive pregnancy test, she realizes that of all the bad decisions she’s made in her life, marrying her abusive fiancé would be the worst. She’s never been able to stand up for herself, but she’ll sure as hell stand up for her baby. With just the cash she has on hand, she runs to get a bus ticket to the farthest place she can afford. Between her sheer grit and pageant-queen smile, she lands a job as a front desk clerk at the Colorado Springs Hotel. It’s not a glamorous life, but she and her baby are all that matters.

A former Marine, Scott “Trex” Trexler has worked in the most dangerous, corrupt, war-torn places on earth. Now he finally has a chance to return to the last place he’d felt at peace–Colorado Springs, Colorado, to take a new job with the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, a top-secret military installation buried deep within the granite.

The moment Trex walks into the inn, Darby knows he’s dangerous. There’s no way she wants to get involved with another man who seems to be keeping way too many secrets. As charming and devastatingly gorgeous as Trex is, he clearly isn’t telling her everything. But as wildfires rage on the mountain and Darby’s ex-fiancé shows he isn’t so willing to let her go, both she and Trex are soon to find out that what you don’t know absolutely can hurt you.

breakdown

Series: Crash and Burn

This series crosses over with The Maddox Brothers Series

Author: Jamie McGuire
# of Books: 1+ (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, more books to be published
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: August 21, 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Forever Publishing!

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading From Here to You at 32% (start of Chapter 11). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was really excited when Forever Publishing offered me the opportunity to read Jamie McGuire’s new series. At that point, I had only read (and enjoyed) Beautiful Disaster but I planned to read its spin-offs in the coming months.

I can’t remember how this book was marketed to me but I knew I wanted to read it. Reading the synopsis prior to starting it for my #ARCAugust 2018 Challenge, I was hoping for a slightly suspenseful yet heartfelt read about two people finding each other in an unlikely place.

What I Liked:

–Darby’s Strength to Leave Her Abusive Fiance–

I started out really liking Darby. She definitely has her flaws but I liked the little bit of strength and resiliency that I saw when she makes the decision to leave her fiance on their wedding day at the start of the book. That takes guts to leave everything behind and essentially live on the run to take care of your unborn baby. I admired her drive to do that as she comes across as a very dependent person given her circumstances.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Nothing Really Happens–

I swear that the first 10 chapters alternate between Darby rejecting everyone’s offers of help (tiresome even if it is understandable) and Trex’s weirdly secret job. That last one is what irked me the most. I don’t want to read a FULL chapter about some purposely vague government operation that I can’t know about–what does that have to do with the story? Jamie McGuire does that “intentionally left out” information in her books all the time and it drives me NUTS.

–Everything Hits You Like a Slap in the Face–

I won’t tell you the number of times I’m just reading along and then BAM! Revelation from the past suddenly–and out of nowhere–appears. Darby’s dropping stuff about previous abuse; Trex is suddenly in love with her after literally saying 5 words to her. I had to reread a few things to just be sure I had a grasp on things. It all felt a little forced in the end.

–Love At First Sight–

I have a low tolerance for love at first sight but I can admit that sometimes it has its place. This isn’t it.

I didn’t get why Trex was so in love with Darby after literally running into her in the hall. Perhaps that was because I didn’t really know Darby either so what makes her so appealing? I didn’t really connect with either character so their romance came up dry for me.

Will I Finish It?

Nope. There was one character I was interested in and if she gets a book, maybe I’ll read it but I’m not returning to Darby’s story anytime soon.

My Rating: DNF

From Here to You DNF | Book 2 TBP

overall

This book just didn’t come across as organic to me. Everything felt a little forced and as a result, I didn’t get invested into the characters or the story like I wished.

Read if You Like: slower stories, insta-love
Avoid if You: dislike secrets, dislike insta-love, are triggered by abuse

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Series Review: The Rule Breakers by Jennifer Blackwood

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 Rule Book (from Goodreads):

Starr Media Second-Assistant Survival Guide

1. Don’t call your hot boss the antichrist to his face.
2. Don’t stare at hot boss’s, um, package or his full sleeve of tattoos. (No. Really. Stop!)
3. Don’t get on the malicious first assistant’s bad side.
4. Don’t forget to memorize the 300-page employee manual.
5. If you value your cashmere, steer clear of boss’s dog.
6. Boss’s dimples are lust-inducing. Do. Not. Give. In.
7. “The elevator ate your clothes” is not a valid excuse for showing up to important meetings half dressed.
8. Don’t break seven of the rules within the first week of employment if you, ya know, are in dire need of money to support your sick mom.
9. Whatever you do, don’t fall for the boss. See rule eight about sick mom.
10. Never forget the rules.

breakdown

Series: The Rule Breakers
Author: Jennifer Blackwood
# of Books: 2 (The Rule Book, The Rule Maker)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Workplace, Humour
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person Single; Alternating (The Rule Maker)
Publication Dates: May 2016 – January 2017
Source & Format: Own & Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Kobo had been recommending this series to me for forever, so I decided to pick up The Rule Book one day. Of course, I didn’t read it right away but when my “big city” library card was expiring, I decided to read my copy so I could read the library’s copy of the sequel and save myself so cash 😛

I love a good contemporary romance in the workplace. But seeing as I read this on the cusp of the #metoo movement, I went in a little hesitantly. This promised to be funny and light so I went in optimistically.

The Plot:

Both books are pretty simple in terms of their plot execution. It mostly focuses on the girls fighting the forbidden feelings they have for their respective boys but failing at it spectacularly. That leads to some funny moments that definitely had me chuckling along.

These books have a lot of build up to the “main event” (ie the characters giving into their feelings and starting a romance) and not a lot happens. Then suddenly the relationship starts, the big conflict arises and the book is wrapped up within a chapter or two. For me, it just made everything seem rushed and I wasn’t a fan.

This was the case in particular with The Rule Book. It really irked me that the drama at the end of the novel was caused by simply omitting something. I put my complaint in spoilers below because it is hard to explain but I kept it pretty general so it isn’t a major spoiler.

My Problem with the Ending of The Rule Book

When Brogan accuses Lainey of the breach, she makes no effort to defend herself whatsoever. Perhaps she feels like it’s a waste of breath because Brogan is completely convinced but she just takes it as is and leaves. While I understand that that is part of Lainey’s character flaw (look how the other assistant treated her and how she just let him), her inability to even try to right the situation really bothered me.

[collapse]

The Characters:

I liked all the characters and their humor. It provided a lot of great scenes and witty remarks. They’ve all got their flaws that they have to work at so I appreciated their vulnerability.

In some ways I wish Brogan had his own POV in The Rule Book because it would have been nice to get to know his character a little more. But on the other hand, I enjoyed slowly learning about him as Lainey did. There is something to be said about a little bit of mystery!

The Romance:

This was definitely stronger in The Rule Book (#1) than in The Rule Maker (#2) I really struggled with the romance in The Rule Maker because I never saw that deeper connection between them nor did I feel the tension brimming. It just made the whole story seem a little lackluster and I felt myself getting a little bored.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

The Rule Book 3.5/5 | The Rule Maker 3/5

overall

If you’re looking for a lighter read that doesn’t focus on sexy times and has a dash of humour, these books are great, quicker reads!

Read if You Like: workplace romance, light reads, humour
Avoid if You: want erotica, want longer stories, want more emotion

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Fresh Fridays: Beauty of the Beast (Fairy Tale Retellings #1) by Rachel L Demeter

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

Fairy Tale Retellings Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Beauty of the Beast (from Goodreads):

Experience the world’s most enchanting and timeless love story—retold with a dark and realistic twist.

A BEAST LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF HIS PAST

Reclusive and severely scarred Prince Adam Delacroix has remained hidden inside a secluded, decrepit castle ever since he witnessed his family’s brutal massacre. Cloaked in shadow, with only the lamentations of past ghosts for company, he has abandoned all hope, allowing the world to believe he died on that tragic eve twenty-five years ago.

A BEAUTY IN PURSUIT OF A BETTER FUTURE

Caught in a fierce snowstorm, beautiful and strong-willed Isabelle Rose seeks shelter at a castle—unaware that its beastly and disfigured master is much more than he appears to be. When he imprisons her gravely ill and blind father, she bravely offers herself in his place.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Stripped of his emotional defenses, Adam’s humanity reawakens as he encounters a kindred soul in Isabelle. Together they will wade through darkness and discover beauty and passion in the most unlikely of places. But when a monster from Isabelle’s former life threatens their new love, Demrov’s forgotten prince must emerge from his shadows and face the world once more…

Perfect for fans of Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera, Beauty of the Beast brings a familiar and well-loved fairy tale to life with a rich setting in the kingdom of Demrov and a captivating, Gothic voice.

Beauty of the Beast is the first standalone installment in a series of classic fairy tales reimagined with a dark and realistic twist.

Disclaimer: This is an edgy, historical romance retelling of the classic fairy tale. Due to strong sexual content, profanity, and dark subject matter, including an instance of sexual assault committed by the villain, Beauty of the Beast is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

breakdown

Series: Fairy Tale Retellings
Author: Rachel L Demeter
# of Books: 1+ (Beauty of the Beast, Book 2)
Book Order: Standalone
Complete?: No, Book 2 is in the works
Genre: Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance, Historical
Heat Rating: Hot **mature subject matter**
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: March 15, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found out about this book after seeing a review for it by Raven @ Dreamy Addictions. Most of the fairy tale retellings I read are from a YA perspective so I was curious to see what an adult version of a Beauty and the Beast retelling would be. Thanks to her review I knew that there was some darker scenes but overall it was an enjoyable read and I quickly marked it for my TBR.

What I Liked:

–No Magic–

I suppose you could argue that the magic involved in the Disney version adds to the charm of the story but I really liked the lack of magic here. The idea of the rose dying and imposing a time limit almost rushes the romance between the two–almost forcing them to be together. But without that in this story, we get to focus on the characters and their connection. It gives the story a realistic tone that simply adds to this story in a positive way that very few Beauty and the Beast retellings can achieve.

–Slow Burn Romance–

I enjoy slow burn romances because they usually take the time to show you how great a couple can be together. You see everything that draws them together and you see them start to change their mind about the other person as they fall deeper in love.

That’s entirely the case here. While these two seem to have a basal attraction to each other, their relationship really blossoms over time thanks to conversation and mutual understanding. You saw their chemistry come to life as you read and as time passed and I loved that.

Nothing ever felt forced between them or simply a result of being the only two people in the house (the biggest argument people have about this fairy tale). Their relationship was healthy and mature which is not always the case in this type of retelling. It’s starts as friendship and slowly becomes something more.

–Great Leads–

What I really liked is that both of these characters are strong yet flawed in their own way. It’s not just the “perfect” heroine taming the beast. Both leads had to work on becoming better people and letting someone else into their world. Throughout the novel they each had great character development and I loved watching them evolve as people while falling in love.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Middle Lagged a Little Bit–

All in all, the pacing of this book was pretty great. I found myself completely absorbed into the world. But I did find that the middle did get itself stuck in a bit of a lag. There was a point where the secondary plot just got shoved aside so it made the resurgence almost seem a little rushed. And some scenes felt slightly repetitive. However, I really just loved watching these two so I never felt bored with the story.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

According to a Goodreads Q&A, the next book in the series might be a Little Mermaid or Aladdin retelling so I can’t wait to see what is done next!

My Rating: 4/5

Beauty of the Beast 4/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This is a great fairy tale retelling series for adults. Please do take the disclaimer to heart (though it is just an isolated scene) but know that this isn’t some dark erotica. It focuses on the great characters and the connection between them while weaving your favourite tales into it.

Read if You Like: slow burn romance, adult fairy tale retellings
Avoid if You: want erotica, want magic, are uncomfortable with sexual assault

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Single Sundays: The Wrong Prince by C K Brooke

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 The Wrong Prince (from Goodreads):

Two princes. One bride. A dire misunderstanding…

Geo and Dmitri are the princes of Tybiria. Though Geo is the obvious athlete, it’s bookish Dmitri that yields the credit – and consequences – for slaying a foreign prince. But whose arrow really struck the boy?

Luccia Camerlane is the Baron of Backshore’s enigmatic daughter…as well as Prince Geo’s secret mistress…until she learns of her disastrous betrothal to none other than his brother, Prince Dmitri.

When Dmitri is abducted by the deranged King of Llewes, star-crossed lovers Geo and Lucie must set aside their woes and differences to rescue the Crown Prince from the formidable Wintersea fortress. A precocious castle ward, a fascinating love-quadrangle, and a hit-woman harlot complete this action packed rom com in another wickedly fast-paced fantasy adventure from C.K. Brooke, author of The Red Pearl and the Books of Jordinia.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: C K Brooke
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **spicy YA**
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 17, 2016
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank You C K Brooke!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Adventure stories are not my favourite reads. I find them boring and drawn out but there is just something about C K Brooke’s adventure stories that keep me coming back. I’m always entertained when I read her books thanks to their twisting, never dull plots and the eclectic cast of characters. So even though this story’s synopsis boasted of a love triangle (ugh, my least favourite trope ever), I knew that there was likely more to this story than mooning teenagers…

The Concept / The World:

I always love the worlds C K Brooke’s creates. They just have so much to them and you can tell she is one creative writer who plans out exactly how things are going to work in her worlds.

I will say though that there was a slight disconnect for me in terms of the sexual content. While there aren’t any straight up sex scenes, it’s alluded to quite frequently. Now, I like a “grittier” side to my stories but for the most part this story was pretty light and airy–almost wholesome to a degree–and the visits to brothels and the like just seemed slightly out of place with the rest of the story in terms of maturity. I hope what I’m trying to say is coming across… I guess, while this book feels very young in its audience there are some aspects that people who enjoy “clean” reads will not like (though nothing is full out described).

As for the concept, like I speculated before I started this book, there is more to this book than a love triangle gone awry. Yes, it’s an important factor in the story but there are other plot lines happening.

The Plot:

The synopsis gets it right: “Action packed rom-com” is the perfect way to describe this plot. This story was the perfect mix of fun, serious and heartwarming all at once. I just loved the way the story kept building and moving. Yes, it helps that we get multiple character POVs so we are constantly getting new layers to the story. Like the Jordinia Series, reading this book had me thinking about The Princess Bride and how they have similar vibes and styles when it comes to plot development and interesting characters.

The Characters:

I really liked all these characters, but Dmitri and Pavi take the cake for me. I just really loved their storyline. But the rest of the cast is unique and entertaining and you really can’t ask for much more. All the female characters are strong and independent so that was great to see. I thought the character development was good for the shorter length of the story. Everyone is complex and we get enough backstory to get a solid read on their characters so that was great.

The Romance:

While the love-quadrangle is definitely at play, I think you know where everyone’s hearts lie so there isn’t anything overly frustration about the love triangle. It doesn’t become the main focus of the novel though it does play a role in the overall story. Part of the reason this isn’t a 5 star read is because I did get frustrated though with the lack of communication between 2 characters because it came across as immature even though they were having an affair which seems pretty mature to me…

My Rating: 4/5

overall

Perfect for fans of fast-paced adventures with a dash of romance!

Read if You Like: rom-com adventures, fast stories, multiple POVs
Avoid if You: dislike YA fantasy

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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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Series Review: Clayton Falls by Alyssa Rose Ivy

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

book4

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Derailed (from Goodreads):

When you’re lost, sometimes the only place you can go is home.

Broken over the death of her fiancé, Molly leaves law school to return to her childhood home in North Carolina. Expecting to lay low until she can figure out what else to do with her life, she finds herself in the arms of her high school sweetheart, the boy who represents everything from the past she tried to leave behind.

Looking for an escape, she instead finds a way back to the girl she almost forgot existed and a future she never dreamed possible.

breakdown

Series: Clayton Falls
Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy
# of Books: 4 (Derailed, Veer, Wrecked, Book 4)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: There is a Book 4 planned but no release date
Genre: Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single (Derailed); Alternating
Publication Dates: September 2012 – ongoing
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I picked up Derailed as a freebie one day on Amazon in 2013. I think I somehow knew that the “hero” was in a band because I always thought of it as a “band” novel–even though that is far from the case. I enjoy second chance stories for the most part and I thought this one had an interesting premise. I even picked up the boxset a few years later (2016) for a good price because I assumed I would want to read the sequels.

Like most books, I don’t get to them right away. If you check my activity on Goodreads, you’ll see that I moved Derailed (Book 1) on and off my “TBR” a total of 4 times over the span of 5 years. It was on my “pass” shelf until I drew the title from my TBR jar in January 2018 as a part of my Tackling the TBR Challenge for 2018. So I did my best to go in with an open mind and started the book.

Why I DNF’d Derailed at 42%–but kept progressing through the series:

So I did end up DNFing Derailed at 42% (just at the start of Chapter 10) for a few reasons. The main one was that this story was not catching my attention. The romance didn’t seem to have any substance to it (I felt like they were just nostalgic for each other and the feelings they shared)–and I was 42% of the way there! And there was a bit of a love triangle which didn’t help. I also didn’t like Molly as a lead. She was so boring to read about yet she was pretty melodramatic. I just found that I couldn’t get a good read on her character.

After I DNF’d it, I went on to read the synopsis for the next two books (since I already owned them) and saw that the leads were some characters that did capture my attention so I decided to give them a shot.

The Plot:

I found it took me awhile to get into all the books. We get these weird meetings between the leads–where they seem to blow the tiniest things out of proportions in an attempt to add “tension” to the relationships–and then we slowly uncover who they are as people. The endings all seemed a little rushed to me in the sense that things I would have liked to have seen early on to provide depth are neatly wrapped up in a chapter or two. It gave the books a lopsided feel to them in that regard.

For me, a lot of the dialogue between the characters came across as stiff and I feel like a majority of the chapters are dialogue. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I found that the lack of inner monologue resulted in the drama being escalated rather quickly and in a more melodramatic fashion than I anticipated.

The Characters:

Besides not liking the leads in Book 1 (Derailed), I did like the rest of the cast. One of the nice things about this series is that it does take place in a small town so you see a majority of the same characters throughout the series.

Once we delve a little deeper into the characters, I found the stories became more enjoyable. With Book 2 (Veer) that was the case entirely. When you start to understand their actions and feelings based on their past it makes it easier to like them as characters.

However, I found the character development to be very underwhelming throughout the series. I felt like we only scratched the surface of these extremely complicated characters. It’s not enough to simply list their troubled pasts–you have to do something with that. And I feel like this series never does anything with the foundations it lays down.

The Romance:

Again, I think the romances suffer from the underdevelopment the rest of the series does. All these characters fall hard and fast; and any conflict is quickly resolved in a neat fashion. So while I could see the basic/initial draw they each had to each other, I wanted to see more conversations and moments of growth with the romances.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

While I think the premise for the 4th book is cute, after the ups and downs I’ve had with this series, it’s going to be a hard pass.

Series Rating: 2/5

Derailed DNF | Veer 3/5 | Derailed 2/5

overall

I craved more from each of these novels. But if you are looking for a straightforward, lighter romance that doesn’t feature in-depth sex scenes, this would be a good series for you.

Read if You Like: lighter reads, second chance stories, small town settings
Avoid if You: want more character development, want erotica

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