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Series Review: Starbound by Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner

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 These Broken Stars (from Goodreads):

Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.

The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

breakdown

Series: Starbound Trilogy
Author: Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner
# of Books: 3 (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, Their Fractured Light)

There is a novella: #1.5 This Night So Dark (free on most eBook Stores)

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Science Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: December 2013 – December 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: After finishing These Broken Stars, I opted not to pick up books 2 and 3 of the series. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been searching for a great science fiction “thriller” since I read Across the Universe by Beth Revis years ago. You know, that science fiction novel that has a mystery element to that gets slowly revealed the deeper you go. I have yet to find a book that compares to Revis’ stellar trilogy, but I had high hopes for the Starbound Trilogy.

Of course, the beautiful cover of These Broken Stars (TBS) drew me to this series but the synopsis kept me around. Add to that, is the fact that Kaufman’s Illuminae Files Series is probably the closest thing I have come to finding something comparable to Across the Universe (ATU). This one seemed like a no-brainer for me to pick up. TBS and ATU have similar premises: a hero and heroine who should never cross paths yet somehow find themselves as the sole survivors of some mysterious phenomenon and are left trying to find out why. So, needless to say, I had high expectations for These Broken Stars.

What I Liked:

–The Covers–

Ok, I just have to say that these covers are gorgeous. It almost makes me regret reading the eBooks because I didn’t get to see these covers in person.

–The Character Development–

Both characters had great growth throughout the novel. They learn to adapt and learn to appreciate the other person and its beautiful to watch. It really is the primary focus of this novel–besides the slow burning romance–and it works well.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Inspiration for Illuminae?–

Am I the only one who feels like this series is eerily similar to The Illuminae Files? Both series are three connected novels, each focusing on two different leads, and by the end, everyone is linked together. Even the interview briefings before each chapter with Tarver talking to whomever were reminiscent of Illuminae. It just didn’t seem as fresh to me as I expected.

It is a nice concept though. I think I would be bored watching the same two characters in this world and I like the 360 degree it provides of the overall world.

–The Almost Supernatural Science Fiction Elements–

I really enjoyed the anticipation of figuring out what was happening on this planet Lilac and Tarver find themselves on. But the reveal kind of disappointed me. It really wasn’t what I was expecting and it was a bit of a let down. I think I wanted a more logical explanation than what we got.

–Very Slow Plot–

This could have easily been 100 pages shorter if you ask me. It felt like it took forever to get to the main plot or get anything new happening. It’s reads like an adventure novel–and if you’ve read previous reviews, you know I don’t enjoy adventure novels for this reason. I wanted this novel to be more of a mystery/suspense read and instead, it’s a slower paced novel about two people learning to adapt to their surroundings.

Will I Finish It?

I contemplated back and forth about picking up This Shattered World. After I finished TBS, I marked it as a “pass” on Goodreads. But then, I thought I should give the next two leads a shot–they might be different so I thought I should read it. And then a couple days later, after reading some friends’ reviews on Goodreads, I changed my mind once again and decided that I wouldn’t be continuing this series.

I get the impression that the rest of the series is similar to this first installment and so I don’t think I will enjoy the next 2 novels.

Series Rating: DNF

These Broken Stars 3/5 | [This Night So Dark] 3/5 | This Shattered World N/A | Their Fractured Light N/A

overall

I’m definitely in the minority for this one so maybe look elsewhere for a review. I think if you want a science fiction story that slowly builds its science fiction plot and keeps its focus on the characters and the romance, this is a great one. but it’s not an action packed story by any stretch of the imagination.

Read if You Like: more romance based YA reads, supernatural-esque SciFi
Avoid if You: want action
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Fresh Fridays: Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1) by Rhoda Belleza

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

Empress of a Thousand Skies Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

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

Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

Note on Empress of a Thousand Skies Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

What I Liked:

–The Plot is Always Moving–

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

–Not Afraid to Take Risks–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–Somewhat Predictable–

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

–Slightly Lackluster Ending–

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

My Audiobook Experience:

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

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

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

My Rating: 3/5

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

overall

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

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

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Blog Tour: West (History Interrupted #1) by Lizzy Ford

Synopsis for West (from Goodreads):

If you could change history, would you?

College graduate Josephine “Josie” Jackson answers ‘yes’ to the question on a survey while visiting an Old West tourist trap. The next morning, she wakes up in Indian Territory in the 1840s, where she’s given a mission to complete before she can return to her time: to reset history by finding and stopping the man responsible for a horrific massacre.

It seems easy enough, until she discovers that three other women have been sent back to the same time period. When Josie uncovers what happened to them, she realizes the chances of her getting out of the past alive are not good.

To survive, she’ll have to trust the very man she’s there to stop, someone who has every reason to distrust her and only one reason to help her – to prove he’s not the monster she claims he’ll become.

Other books in the series:
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breakdown

Series: History Interupted
Author: Lizzy Ford
# of Books: 3 (West, East, North)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?:  Unsure
Genre: New Adult, Time Travel, Romance, Adventure, Historical
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 2014 – July 2017
Source & Format: Audiobookworm Productions–Audiobook

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon | Audible

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This year, now that I commute nearly 2 hours (roundtrip) to work, I’ve fully jumped on the bandwagon for audiobooks. I love them! It’s great feeling like I’m accomplishing something during my drive besides getting to work. So I’m really excited to be doing my first audiobook blog tour!

I was drawn to West for a number of reasons but the main two were (1) time travel and (2) new adult genre! While I mostly read New Adult Contemporary Romances, I’m always looking out for other non-contemporary NA reads. And time travel?! One of my favourites to explore because I love the delicious tension that it brings.

What I Liked:

–The Suspense–

There are a lot of things at play in this story and I love how everything weaves together. You’ve got Josie’s mission to stop a massacre; the rivals trying to stop her; the mystery of the other time travelling girls; Josie navigating the life she has taken over and her learning why she was the one picked.

It may seems like a lot but this novel does a great job of balancing out everything, taking it one step at a time. The way it builds kept my full attention. I loved trying to decipher what was happening and why. And not knowing which characters I could trust and not trust adds this layer of suspense that had me wanting to delve deeper into the story.

–New Adult Based–

Nearly all the time travel novels I’ve read over the years have been YA based–and there is nothing wrong with that! –but it’s nice to read about a heroine closer to my own age. Josie is that touch more mature and not as malleable as a heroine you is a few years younger. 

What I Disliked:

–More Romance Focused than Anticipated–

This isn’t to say that I had a problem with the romance itself. It’s a touch more insta-connection than I like personally but that goes with the time travel territory (ie, I expected it). And I did get the allure of the main love interest and why Josie is drawn to him. So that isn’t what I’m talking about herr.

What I’m getting at is that a majority of the novel seemed to be geared more towards this budding relationship than the various issues at hand. The romance is weaved nicely throughout the other mysteries but I felt like I listened more to descriptions of the Sheriff’s abs than I anticipated when I picked this novel up.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’ll admit, this started a little rough me. I found the delivery to be a little slow and perhaps a little choppy in turn. It might have also been due to the setting of the novel (ie everyone has a slower drawl to their speech). But once I bumped up the speed to 1.25X, everything went a lot smoother. Everything just flowed that little bit better.

Lillian does a good job of making each character have a distinct voice and she does a great job in particular with the male voices–it was never awkward which I find can be when you have a lone female narrator. She gives all the characters from that time period the appropriate accent which helps set the tone and setting for the novel in a way I probably wouldn’t have had if I had just picked up the novel.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

WOW! A lot of stuff went down in the last few chapters and I have so many unanswered questions that I really need answers to!

concSLOW

My Rating: 3.5/5

West 3.5/5 | East TBA| North TBA

overall
If you love a time travelling novel that keeps you guessing until the end, this one’s for you!

Read if You Like: time travelling adventures, romance
Avoid if You: dislike romance, dislike new adult
similarreads

  • Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston (Never Trilogy #1)
  • A Million Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (Firebird Trilogy #1)


Lizzy Ford (Author)

I breathe stories. I dream them. If it were possible, I’d eat them, too. (I’m pretty sure they’d taste like cotton candy.) I can’t escape them – they’re everywhere! Which is why I write! I was born to bring the crazy worlds and people in my mind to life, and I love sharing them with as many people as I can.

I’m also the bestselling, award winning, internationally acclaimed author of over sixty titles and counting. I write speculative fiction in multiple subgenres of romance and fantasy, contemporary fiction, books for both teens and adults, and just about anything else I feel like writing. If I can imagine it, I can write it!

I live in the desert of southern Arizona with a pack of spoiled dogs and Tubbs, the Godfather cat who rules them all.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Lillian Yves (Narrator)

Lillian Yves grew up in Oklahoma, went to school in NYC and now lives in Southern California. She considers herself from the East, West and somewhere in the middle. She is a graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC for Musical Theater. She adores acting and performing so much that she teaches an after school program for the local school system. She got her start working in audio books when she narrated her own novel, Yonder- A Southern Haunting and shortly after the release of Yonder she was contacted by Warren Adler (The War of the Roses) to narrate two novels for him and after entering the world of narration, she has never looked back. She performs on most weekends and does play readings through out the Los Angeles area. Her main hobbies include her husband and her cats. She loves to hear from listeners.

Narrator Links: Facebook

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon | Audible

Book Tour Organised by:

Audiobookworm Promotions

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Series Review: The Lone City by Amy Ewing

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Jewel (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

breakdown

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

There are some short stories. Full reading order here.

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

The Concept / The World:

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

The Plot:

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

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

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

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

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

The Characters:

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

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

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

The Romance:

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

The Novellas:

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

My Audiobook Experience:

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

Series Rating: 3/5

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

overall

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

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

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Series Review: Black City by Elizabeth Richards

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 Black City (from Goodreads):

A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war.

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-old Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Read 2012
Series: Black City Trilogy
Author: Elizabeth Richards
# of Books: 3 (Black City, Phoenix, Wings)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Vampires, Dystopian, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: November 2012 – June 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover, eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not sure how I learned about Black City when it was first released. I think I was browsing new titles at my library and came across it. Regardless, I devoured the book in one sitting–when I should have been studying for exams–and loved it! I remember when twist after twist happened, I emerged from my room telling my roommates how AWESOME this book was.

So why did I wait 5 years to read Phoenix? I don’t have a good answer. I was dying to read it, taking note of the publication date and waiting and waiting. And I think life and school just got in the way and this book went to the wayside. That’s why I made this series a part of my Make Me Read It Readathon for August 2017.

The Concept / The World:

Gah, I adore this world! I love a good vampire story and dystopian fiction is my kryptonite. So the two of them together? Magic. (Or some might call it “Urban Fantasy”) Not a lot of series can do this well (Darkness Before Dawn for example) but this one is the standard for me. It has a rich world, a complex political situation (swoon!) and a setting that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The Plot:

This series has everything I want in a plot. It’s engaging, action-packed and has just the right dose of romance. And the TWISTS! They always got to me. This series always kept me guessing.

Everything just builds so well. Phoenix (book 2) is the perfect example of that. Usually, Book 2s in Trilogies are a little slumpy but this one was not! Definitely not. It was addicting from start to finish and one of the strongest sequels I’ve ever read.

And the grand finale was fabulous! It wraps everything up beautifully and never had a dull moment. AMAZING!

The Characters:

I loved Ash and Natalie. They each have such a compelling story and character background. I couldn’t help but want them to succeed in everything they tried.

But the rest of the cast is phenomenal as well. You have the people you love to hate; the ones who surprise you and the ones who just make the story that little bit stronger. It’s a rich world that is only enhanced by its rich cast.

The Romance:

It’s perfect! You see why they are drawn to each other despite their differences. I was a fan from the start.

Series Rating: 5/5

Black City 5/5 | Phoenix 4.5/5 | Wings 5/5

overall

Why aren’t more people talking about this series?!?!? I just love the cast, the amazingly heart-pounding plot line and the passionate romance. It has everything I want in a paranormal dystopian (urban fantasy) series!

Read if You Like: vampires, paranormal dystopian, urban fantasy
Avoid if You: dislike action, paranormal
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Fresh Fridays: Flame in the Mist (#1) by Renee Ahdieh

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:

Flame in the Mist Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Flame in the Mist (from Goodreads):

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love, Must Read Author
Series: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
# of Books: 2 (Flame in the Mist, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical, Retelling
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

If you asked me what my top 3 Disney movies are, I would say without hesitation: Aladdin, Mulan and Hercules. I loved Mulan as a young girl because she is like every girl you will ever meet. She’s bound by family duty and love and pressured by society to be a certain way. What girl doesn’t feel that at some point or another? And her transformation to assert her independence is inspirational for any young girl who watches it.

So I think it goes without saying, I was very, very excited to pick this book up. Even if this story wasn’t based on Mulan, I was eagerly awaiting Ahdieh’s next series after I completely fell in love with her The Wrath and the Dawn Duology last year.

Best Advice: Forget Disney’s Mulan & Keep to the Basics!

I know I just touted Disney’s Mulan (and I could write a very long post praising the movie) for its awesomeness, but I think it important to go into this remembering that that movie is based on the Chinese legend Hua Mulan–as is this book.

So expect plot differences and new characters; don’t expect songs and a talking dragon.

What do they share? A heroine who has always struggled with her place in society and her family. A girl who is smart in ways people don’t expect; who has a knack for crafting military devices that save her friends. A young woman who begins a journey to learn that she is more powerful and independent than she ever thought.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

I love everything about Japan, particularly feudal Japan. I just find its history and culture to be fascinating. So having the novel set here immediately hooked me in. Ahdieh has a great power to weave worlds and it shows here. It’s rich and layered and even though it is influenced by another source, she makes it her own.

–The Politics–

I’m a sucker for political intrigue in my reads. It’s one of the reasons I adored The Wrath and The Dawn series so much. I love when you don’t know who you can trust; when there is more at play than you can ever imagine. This book has that thanks to the multiple POVs we get. You have this 360 degree view of the world and everything that is at play and I loved it.

–Mariko’s Character Development–

Mariko really blossoms before your eyes in terms of her growth. She’s shy and reserved at the start but slowly begins to break out of her shell. Her journey isn’t without fault, and she sure isn’t perfect but she continues to learn as she goes. Definitely a heroine you can root for.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Romance–

This was a huge disappointment for me. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place for it, but its appearance just seemed so sudden and abrupt that it took me a long time to realize what was happening. (It’s hard to elaborate without spoilers).

I genuinely grew to like the two of them together by the end but I just didn’t like how this was handled at the start. I guess I wanted a little more build-up.

–Slower Start–

I’m not sure what I was expecting at the start of the novel. I thought it was action but when I thought about it, I think I knew that there wasn’t going to be physical action immediately. Mariko’s character definitely isn’t at that point at the start and you know that thanks to the synopsis. So what was my problem?

Truthfully, I think it just takes the reader a few chapters to get acquainted with the world. Like I said above, this world is rich and layered and you don’t really get the full picture of what is happening until you are a few chapters in. It needs to build, and it definitely does as you go, just give it some time to get there.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

GAH! This start has so many great inklings to lead into the sequel. It’s building up to a fantastic climax that I can’t wait to see!

My Rating: 4/5

Flame in the Mist 4/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This story kept my attention from start to finish; from the rich setting to the intriguing characters, there’s a lot to like about this retelling!

Read if You Like: feudal Japan, world-building, Mulan
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action

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Fresh Fridays: Zero Repeat Forever (The Nahx Invasions #1) by Gabrielle Prendergast

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:

The Nahx Invasions Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Zero Repeat Forever (from Goodreads):

He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind.

Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.

His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting.

Until a human kills her…

Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance.

Shelter in place.

Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have?

Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend.

Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes to depend on trusting each other…

breakdown

Series: The Nahx Invasions
Author: Gabrielle Prendergast
# of Books: 1+ (Zero Repeat Forever)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2, is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Aliens, Post-Apocalypse
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: August 29, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Simon & Schuster Books Canada!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found out about this novel thanks to a Netgalley email and immediately requested it. I’ve only read a few novels about an alien invasion so it’s a genre I want to explore more.

What I Liked:

–It’s Set in Canada!–

I don’t read enough books set in my home country so I was really excited that it explored someplace I’m familiar with. I mean, it sucked to see it being invaded and subsequently destroyed but I guess it was nice to have a setting that isn’t the norm for the genre.

–The Getting to Know You’re Enemy Aspect–

I always enjoy stories when enemies become something more. Whether it’s a relationship that becomes platonic or romantic, I like seeing characters evolve and learn from interactions with people they normally wouldn’t. It provides such a great opportunity for character development and this one definitely had those moments

–The Diversity of the Cast–

This story hits all the marks in terms of diversity. You’ve got characters of various ethnicities, races and sexual orientation and it feels natural. It doesn’t feel like Prendergast is checking off boxes simply to meet the mark. It adds to the story in a way very positive way.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Very Slow Plot–

One reason I haven’t read many alien invasion/post-apocalypse is that I find the plots to be terribly slow. These characters are just going through the motions, trying to survive and understand what is happening. The focus is almost too much on establishing the setting and not enough on the action.

This novel did have its moments of action–Raven and company have to evade the Nahx at various points but they seemed tiny in comparison to the grand scheme of things.

Also, Raven and Eighth don’t meet well into the 50% mark. I wanted that interaction earlier in the novel.

Some intrigue with regards to why the Nahx were invading or who they were–besides learning how to kill them–would have gone a long way to keep me interested.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

The last 20 pages or so were very interesting and set up nicely for a sequel. I’m on the fence about whether or not I will pick it up; it really just depends on what the synopsis for the next one is.

My Rating: 2/5

Zero Repeat Forever 2/5| Book 2 TBP

overall

The best way I can describe this novel is the like movie Arrival (2016). It has this slower, mundane pacing to it where the characters go through the motions but not a whole lot is happening at one time. Readers who like the gradual build and don’t mind the slower pace will enjoy this. Action seekers should look elsewhere

Read if You Like: slower stories, invasion stories
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance
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Series Review: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

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 Raven Boys (from Goodreads):

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

breakdown

Series: The Raven Boys

There is a companion series in the works.

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
# of Books: 4 (The Raven Boys; The Dream Thieves; Blue Lily, Lily Blue; The Raven King)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: September 2012 – April 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover & eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Dream Thieves (Book 2) at 32%. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Ok, I couldn’t escape this series if I tried. It’s consistently raved about in the blogosphere and I just had to add it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge even though I didn’t love Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls Series. But the concept was intriguing (perhaps a replacement for the void the Beautiful Creatures Series has left all these years) and all the talk had me eager to see what the hype was for.

What I Liked:

–The Mystery of the World–

The mystery of the world had me intrigued from the start of The Raven Boys. It kept me reading trying to figure out what is actually at play in this world. That intrigue reminded me a lot of the rich world of the Beautiful Creatures and definitely made me a fan of this new world.

However, will say that I did struggle with the magic/supernatural elements of the world at times. Part of the reason I was so interesting in reading was that I wanted to better understand what was actually happening! I think this is just a me thing (I was reading The Raven Boys on a road trip so I was easily distracted).

–The Friendship of the Boys–

Unlike The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series, I actually liked all of the leads here!

First, the brotherhood of the boys is fantastic! It’s nice to see such strong male relationships be the focus of the story as opposed to the romantic relationship between a boy and girl. They are all so interesting and unique and they truly make this story.

Blue is also a strong character as well. Again, I was never irritated by her or her actions so it made it easy to read her story.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Plot is so Slow!–

While the mystery of the world kept me reading, I found the plot itself to be rather slow. The beginning and end had a lot of great twists and developments but I found everything just stayed stagnant in the middle. Especially in The Dream Thieves (#2). I quickly lost interest in the nonexistent plot developments; my mind wasn’t stimulated to keep reading (even reading the complete recap on Recaptains bored me).

–Slightly Misleading Synopsis in terms of Romance–

I thought the synopsis for The Raven Boys was grossly misleading with respect to the romance. It made it seem (to me) that that story was going to be focused on Gansey and Blue fighting an inevitable love and that is far from the case.

The romance is such a minor, minor aspect to the plot (at least in the first book) so don’t expect a page consuming romance here…or at least right away. (Given the spoilers I read, I guess there are some major developments near the end of the series that will appease people).

Will I Finish It?

I don’t think so. I was actually reminded of my experience reading The Darkest Minds where I toughed it out because the twists near the end grabbed my attention but then I struggled through the rest of the series. I don’t want to do that again, so I am going to leave it all here and walk away.

Series Rating: DNF

The Raven Boys 3.5/5 | The Dream Thieves DNF | Blue Lily, Lily Blue N/A | The Raven King N/A

overall

I’m definitely in the minority here but this series was just not for me. It’s a slower novel that focuses more on the characters progressing through their lives as they navigate the mysterious world around them.

Read if You Like: slower stories, magic, psychics
Avoid if You: want more romance
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Fresh Fridays: Royal Replicas (#1) by Michael Pierce

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

Royal Replicas Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Royal Replicas (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

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

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

What I Liked:

–The Mystery of the Competition–

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

–The World–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Choppy Romance–

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

–It Played Things Too Safe–

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

The Novella, Royal Reset:

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

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

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

My Rating: 3/5

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

overall

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

Read if You Like: dystopian, courtly intrigue, mysterious plots
Avoid if You: hate love triangles
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Series Review: Existence by Abbi Glines

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 Existence (from Goodreads):

What happens when you’re stalked by Death? You fall in love with him, of course.

Pagan Moore doesn’t cheat Death, but instead, falls in love with him.

Seventeen year old Pagan Moore has seen souls her entire life. Once she realized the strangers she often saw walking through walls were not visible to anyone else, she started ignoring them. If she didn’t let them know she could see them, then they left her alone. Until she stepped out of her car the first day of school and saw an incredibly sexy guy lounging on a picnic table, watching her with an amused smirk on his face. Problem is, she knows he’s dead.

Not only does he not go away when she ignores him, but he does something none of the others have ever done. He speaks. Pagan is fascinated by the soul. What she doesn’t realize is that her appointed time to die is drawing near and the wickedly beautiful soul she is falling in love with is not a soul at all.

He is Death and he’s about to break all the rules.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author, Most Read Author
Series: Existence Trilogy
Author: Abbi Glines
# of Books: 3 (Existence, Predestined, Ceaseless)

There is a novella #2.5 called Leif

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single (Existence); Alternating (Predestined onwards)
Publication Dates: December 2011 – September 2012
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I never read Ceaseless (Book 3). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I bought this series within the first year of me getting my Kobo…and it took me 4 years to get around to. Oops!

In those 4 years though, Abbi Glines has become one of my most read authors on Goodreads. I’ve devoured her New Adult series in days and absolutely love her works. But I never got around to this series until I had to set some priority reads for my Rock my TBR 2016 Challenge.

It has been a long time since I read a YA paranormal series (I mostly read fantasies or dystopian novels) but the concept sounded unique and I love Glines’ ability to write addicting romances so I was excited to start this.

The Concept:

I feel like the synopsis does a bit of a disservice to the story because you really don’t know Death is “Death” until you are past the halfway mark. I think I would have liked not knowing what type of paranormal creature he was until later. Seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity but Glines does throw some other twists in there to give you some surprises.

The Plot:

I kinda forgot what it was like to read a YA paranormal romance until I picked this up. You know, little plot besides the heroine mooning after some mysterious hero who she inexplicably feels drawn to. It was very Twilight-y to say the least.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I did find myself easily drawn into Pagan’s world and there is a bit of a mystery to uncover which made it exciting to read. But as I found myself nearing the end of Existence (say the 80%) when the real plot started to unravel, I realized that nothing really happened for the first 80% of the book. Predestined had a lot more going on in it, but I just didn’t care enough…

The Characters:

Pagan is a bit on the dull side if you ask me. I also didn’t like her character progression once she meets death. She’s one of those heroines who loses who she is when she meets her love interest and that annoyed me.

I felt like more could have been done with these characters. They are pretty surface level in terms of their development.

The Romance:

This was a little lacking for me. Why does Death become obsessed fall in love with Pagan? Why does Pagan fall for Death? I didn’t get the connection at all. It’s a little too insta-love for my preferences.

Oh! Did I forget to mention the love triangle? To be fair, it wasn’t that bad and actually contributes positively to the plot at times.

When to Read the Novella, Leif:

Read this after book 2, Predestined. But it’s really just some deleted scenes from another character’s POV from the first two novels.

Will I Finish It?

I wasn’t very attached to these characters, so I’m happy with not continuing. I read enough reviews of Ceaseless to know what goes down.

Series Rating: DNF

Existence 3/5 | Predestined 2/5 | [Leif] N/A | Ceaseless N/A

overall

If I read this when I was a teenager when my preference was for YA paranormal, I would have LOVED this series. Glines has a solid plot for a series of this type but unfortunately, at this point in my reading life, I need that little bit more to keep me interested.

Read if You Like: YA paranormal, Twilight
Avoid if You: dislike dull heroines
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