Tag «romance»

DNF Series Review: Prisoners of Peace by Erin Bow

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 1: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Scorpion Rules (from Goodreads):

The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.

Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.

As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Cover Love
Series: Prisoners of Peace; The Scorpion Rules
Author: Erin Bow
# of Books: 2 (The Scorpion Rules, The Swan Riders)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2015 – September 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

There was a lot that drew me to this series. It’s written by a Canadian. It has political intrigue. Its unique concept. The cover. I quick marked it as an anticipated read upon its release in 2015 but let it slip away after I read some mixed reviews.

Despite that though, I was eager to read it and that was why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for 2018.

What I Liked about The Scorpion Rules:

–The Concept–

The whole setting of this novel is really intriguing. Children of political leaders are used as pawns in the hopes that forfeiting their lives in order to go to war will prevent the battle from even taking place–because who would sacrifice their own child?

Like many political things, this one is convoluted and that does result in some info dumping moments. I found the whole idea straight forward though I will admit I struggled with the AI portions of the information.

What I Didn’t Like The Scorpion Rules:

–All the Characters Seem to do is Farm–

I’ve got nothing against farming (where I live is predominately farms) but I didn’t pick up this book to read about Greta and company milking goats or making cheese.

I wanted back stabbing and conspiracy theories. I wanted a little more action and drama.

Instead, I got polite teenagers doing chores. Yawn.

My Audiobook Experience with The Scorpion Rules:

I do think part of the reason I DNF’d this so quick was the audio version (though truthfully, I would have found it boring either way). While I appreciate that each of the Children of Peace had their own accents, I found everyone seemed to have a slow drawl that proved to be distracting. When we would get those info dumping moments (usually when the teens are answering something in class or talking to each other), I just couldn’t concentrate on their words or the importance of what they were saying. I also thought the that narrator sounded to old to be Greta’s age so that was off-putting as well.

Will I Finish The Series?

Nope. I read the synopsis for Book 2 and I don’t think much really happened to get to that point.

Series Rating: DNF

The Scorpion Rules DNF | The Swan Riders N/A

overall

If you like slower books that take their time or want a book that is completely unlike any other out there, check this out.

Read if You Like: LBGTQ characters, slow novels, lots of detail about the world
Avoid if You: want action, want conspiracy theories

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

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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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DNF Series Review: Aligned by Ella Miles

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Aligned (from Goodreads):

He’s an arrogant complication.

I don’t care if Landon Davis has sold millions of records. I don’t care that his damn crooked grin makes my panties wet.

I can’t want him.

I should be mourning, but I can’t. I just need him gone. Then I can align the chaos floating in my head.

——

She has a f*cking boyfriend.

I’ve seen the picture of them together. But Alex Blakely still wants me. And who am I not to oblige when her body is begging for me?

I need one night to own her body.

I should be focused on getting my career out of the gutter. I’ll take one night first. Then I’ll be gone.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Aligned
Author: Ella Miles
# of Parts: 4 (1+2 are novellas; 3+4 are novels)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Suspense
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 2015 – June 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read Aligned Volumes 1 + 2 and never picked up Volumes 3 + 4. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m an Ella Miles fan without a doubt. Her stories always surprise me with the direction they take and they keep me on my toes. I actually grabbed this series after I read my first Ella Miles’ read, Maybe but didn’t actually read it until I had a few more Ella Miles’ titles under my belt.

What I Liked:

–The Rebuilding of Alex’s Past–

I really enjoyed the first volume thanks to the suspense of Alex’s missing past. Watching her try to establish her new life while completely oblivious to her old one was intriguing. It kept me curious trying to figure out what would happen next.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Landon–

I just couldn’t get myself to like him. I think he suffers a little bit from underdevelopment in the first volume since we spend more time with Alex and her situation. He starts to get more interesting in Volume 2 when his secrets are alluded to more but by then I just didn’t care.

–Not Enough in Volumes 1+2 to Keep Me Hooked–

I enjoyed Volume 1, probably because I knew it was just the start and that more things would come given the foundations it had set. But Volume 2 just felt like filler to me with not a whole lot else happening. I know that the full novels are jammed pack with twist after twist thanks to other reviews I read while contemplating my DNF decision, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care and it felt like a chore to try and get there.

Will I Finish It?

No. I read the spoilers for Volumes 3 & 4 and I definitely missed out on some interesting developments to say the least. In some ways I do regret not sticking it out but I just didn’t like the characters enough to try.

Series Rating: DNF

overall

This one just wasn’t for me. But if you like stories with crazy twists that build and build, you will love this!

Read if You Like: dramatic stories, lots of twists, crazy characters
Avoid if You: want a more traditional romance read

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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: Irresistible by Stella Rhys

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 Sweet Spot (from Goodreads):

I’ll be the first to admit that I live at extremes. After going ten years locked in what felt like a dysfunctional marriage, I’m now decidedly boy-free. In nearly three years I’ve had no boyfriends, no flings, no dates and no sex. For the sake of my dream career, the sacrifice has been easy.

At least it was.

Until he came along.

Lukas Hendricks. He’s rude, gorgeous, arrogant – a stone-carved wall of muscle and distraction. He’s everything I know to avoid but there’s no avoiding your next-door neighbor. Oh yeah. The man now lives three steps from me and to make matters worse, he crashed into my life while I was relaxed in the tub – mortifying to say the least and it went something like this: I was exposed. He looked. He laughed.

And then I locked myself out.

In short, Lukas Hendricks was trouble from the start. And me?

I was – for the first time in years – about to be screwed.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Watch Author 2018
Series: Irresistible
Author: Stella Rhys
# of Books: 4 (Sweet Spot, Bad Boss, Dirty Deeds, Hothead)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March 2017 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook; Hidden Gems–eARC (Hothead only)

Copy provided: Hothead (Book #4)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I actually read this series a little out of order by picking up Book #4, Hothead as a review copy. Little did I know that I had already marked Books 1 & 2 on my library’s audiobook collection to read so it was a happy coincidence. I ended up loving Hothead so I couldn’t wait to see this series from the beginning!

The Plot:

After loving Hothead (Book #4) for its great blend of romantic chemistry and drama, I have to say I was a little disappointed in Sweet Spot (Book #1) when I got around to reading it. It just seemed like every contemporary romance novel I’ve read with a similar premise (in love with the neighbour). But, it did a great job introducing the rest of the cast so I was excited for the remaining sequels.

I find each book gets stronger with plots as the series grows. We start getting more original stories and better balance between character development, romance and drama. There were definitely things I could have done without in some of the books (like obvious communication assumptions, etc) but for the most part, I was able to overlook them and I found they got less and less as the series progressed.

The Characters:

With the exception of Lucas and Leah in Sweet Spot (#1), I loved all the characters in this series. It wasn’t that I had something against those two, I just felt like they are the most underdeveloped in the series. Everyone else has great backstories and has some great growth as a result in their individual stories.

But everyone as an ensemble has fantastic chemistry so it was fun to see them interwoven through everyone’s story.

The Romance:

I felt like the sexual chemistry between the characters improved in the sequels as well. Again, I think that goes hand-in-hand with strong character development and allowing the reader to get to know the characters to their core. Everyone was a great match for each other and it showed throughout the many obstacles they faced.

My Audiobook Experience (Books #1-3):

The audiobooks started a little rough for me with Sweet Spot (#1). I found the female narrator had a choppiness to her voice that irritated me but went away when I increased the speed. So I was a little nervous when I saw it was the same narrating duo for the other two novels. But I found that they changed up their presentation in the subsequent novels so it wasn’t a reoccurring issue.

Series Rating: 4/5

Sweet Spot 3/5 | Bad Boss 4/5 | Dirty Deeds 5/5 | Hothead 5/5

overall

This was a series that only improved as we spent longer with this ensemble cast of characters. If you enjoy sexy romances with great pairings and drama, you’ll definitely enjoy this! Stella Rhys has made it onto my “authors to watch” list thanks to this fun series!

Read if You Like: contemporary romance, sexual tension
Avoid if You: dislike 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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Single Sundays: American Panda by Gloria Chao

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 American Panda (from Goodreads):

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite YA Contemporary 2018
Author: Gloria Chao
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance, Family
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Source & Format: Own–Audiobook via Kobo

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

A lot of the blogs I follow reviewed this book around its release date and had nothing but praise for it.

I will admit I was a little scared to read because of said hype but also because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to relate to our lead, Mei. I’m not of Asian decent (though I’m familiar with some of the cultural aspects thanks to close friends) and we don’t have a similar family background, so I was worried some of the humour and situations might be a little lost on me.

But I’ve been proven wrong before and I’ve had a great track-record with listening to the audiobooks of similar stories so I decided to use one of my Kobo Audiobook credits to get the audio version.

Review Spoiler Alert: One of the best decisions I made all year 😉

The Concept:

As I said above, I wasn’t sure how well I would understand Mei’s various situations. I’m not Asian and my parents aren’t immigrants to my country either; I’m a smorgasbord of cultures so I just identify as Canadian. I’ve never felt torn between two cultures like Mei does. And my parents never were nothing but supportive of my educational and professional goals.

But that being said, I still related to Mei on many levels once I started to listen to her story; in particular with her views on family. Regardless of culture, age and the like, I feel like there is a universal feeling that you never want to disappoint your parents or your family. I know I felt that way when I decided in my final year of university that I didn’t want to pursue my original professional school. And I’ve also found myself in situations where it feels like it’s me and my brother vs our parents. So while I might not have a similar situation to Mei and its extremes, I do understand the heart of her inner conflict and that’s what drew me to her story.

The Plot:

Simply put, this is a coming of age story about a girl deciding what she wants out of life. But I never got bored. So many things happen along the way and there’s this great balance between everything. You get a dash of romance, a dash of friendship and a dash of family—everything that makes up great story.

The Characters:

Mei’s a fabulous lead. I loved watching her transform as the story progressed. She has some great character development and you can’t help but root for her as she finds her way. She’s also hilarious with her somewhat awkward ways and personality quirks. Frankly, she’s nothing but adorable and the type of lead who makes a novel amazing.

Also, special shoutout to Mei’s mom. She was a fantastic character and her voicemails to Mei left me in stitches!

The Romance:

Darren made me want to go back to university just to see if I could find someone like him for myself 😛

In all seriousness, the romance was really cute but also an important aspect to the story. Like a romance should in a great coming of age story, it should enhance the story and never distract from it. And I feel like that was what was done here. Her relationship with Darren is key in highlighting Mei’s struggles but I never felt like it became the main focus of her story and I greatly appreciated that.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m SO SO SO glad I listened to this as an audiobook! Emily Zoo Weller did a great job bringing Mei to life. Her accents were great, all the characters sounded different, and her expressions were awesome. I always consider it a plus when an audiobook can make me cry when a character does and this did that quite a few times. I also laughed hysterically throughout–people driving by probably thought I was crazy as I drove to work.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

One of the best coming of age stories I have read in a long time. I also highly recommend the audiobook!

Read if You Like: coming of age, stories about culture, diverse leads
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike coming of age

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Fresh Fridays: I, Guinevere (Mythic Maids #1) by C K Brooke

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:

Mythic Maidens Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for I, Guinevere (from Goodreads):

If you think you know the story of King Arthur and his mythical sword, think again. Your legends have it wrong. Here’s the truth: I was never married to Arthur, and he wasn’t a king. Because Arthur never pulled that sword out of the stone. I did.
I, Guinevere.

On the winter solstice, a mysterious sword in a stone appears in the churchyard. Not even the mightiest of the village men can remove it, until fifteen-year-old Guinevere gives it a try. The sword heeds the unsuspecting maiden, proclaiming the unthinkable: she is the blood of Pendrakon, heir to the vacant throne of Camylot.

Guinevere never dreamed she was born royalty. Now, between apprenticing the eccentric wizard, Merlyn; swordplay lessons with an abrasive—albeit, attractive—boy named Lance; and clandestine, magical meetings with the formidable High Priestess of Avalon, Guinevere is swept up in a whirlwind of training and preparation for her monumental new role as future queen. But invasions by the barbarous Saxyns and visitations from mysterious dark forces continually warn that she may be in over her head. Can Guinevere defend the kingdom from the darkness and deception that threaten to seize it? Despite her doubts and the sinister forces working against her, can she harness the power to wield Exkalibur and rule the realm? Or is Camylot already destined to fall?

From the unstoppable pen of C.K. Brooke comes a fresh and unforgettable new retelling seeped in Arthurian mythology. Queen Guinevere has her own tale to share, and it’s nothing like what you thought! Experience the magic and myth of Camylot, Avalon, Merlyn, and Exkalibur like never before as, in the vein of Brooke’s award-winning SECRETS OF ARTEMIS, this legendary maiden of lore recounts her side of the story.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Mythic Maidens
Author: C K Brooke
# of Books: 1+ (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Standalone
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 14, 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Over the last few years, I’ve really become a fan of C K Brooke’s work. She writes some really intriguing, entertaining stories that I’ve had a hard time putting down. So when I was asked to read her new Arthurian Legend based novella, I was so there! I love anything and everything to do with King Arthur (I’ve seen the musical Camelot at least 3 times) so I couldn’t wait to see what unique spin she’d give Guinevere.

What I Liked:

–I Saw Guinevere in a New Light–

Guinevere is one of those legendary characters that we all have a preconceived notion of–and I know for me, I have a not so favourable one. (Unless we are talking about Gwen from the TV show Merlin–she’s the best!).

I feel like she is one of those characters that is often defined by the men she is involved with but that really wasn’t the case here at all. It was nice to read about her in a more positive, independent light and based on the merits of her own character. In the author’s note, Brooke explains her main goal for writing this story was to allow readers to see Guinevere in a different way and she most definitely succeeds in doing that.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Pacing was Slightly Off–

While I enjoyed this story and the blending of classic Arthurian elements, there was just something about the pacing that caused this book to lose the momentum for me. I felt like nothing happened for the vast majority of the pages and everything was rushed together at the end. The twists (both in the plot and the character roles) were great but I almost feel like they happened too late to truly allow me to appreciate them.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I got a little hint about who the next book will be about and I CANNOT WAIT! I love the concept of this series so much and I’m excited to see what will happen to our next heroine!

My Rating: 3/5

I, Guinevere 3/5| Book 2 TBP

overall

It’s an enjoyable read and C K Brooke never fails to deliver fresh, entertaining YA reads so fans of her work will no doubt enjoy this!

Read if You Like: Arthurian Legend, novellas, retellings
Avoid if You: dislike fantasy/magic, want more romance

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Blog Tour: Illusions by Madeline J Reynolds

Synopsis for Illusions (from Entangled Teen):

Dear Thomas,

I know you’re angry. It’s true, I was sent to expose your mentor as a fraud illusionist, and instead I have put your secret in jeopardy. I fear I have even put your life in jeopardy. For that I can only beg your forgiveness. I’ve fallen for you. You know I have. And I never wanted to create a rift between us, but if it means protecting you from those who wish you dead—I’ll do it. I’ll do anything to keep you safe, whatever the sacrifice. Please forgive me for all I’ve done and what I’m about to do next. I promise, it’s one magic trick no one will ever see coming.

Love,
Saverio

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Author: Madeline J Reynolds
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, LGBT, Magic
Heat Rating: cool **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon / Kobo

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was drawn to this title for a number of reasons. The first is its historical setting–I love a good Victorian Era YA novel. The second is the gay romance between the leads–I haven’t read too many books set in this era with that romance. And the third is the premise itself–who doesn’t love some good magician sabotage?

The Plot:

This book took me awhile to get into probably because it is told through (primarily) journal entries and that delivers the story in a different way. You focus more on the characters, their feelings and daily events more so than the setting or interactions with other characters. In a sense, you are getting the story secondhand story because they are describing what has happened without you experiencing it first hand. But once I got into the groove of the POV format, the story was easy to read.

I, personally, would have enjoyed a more amped up rivalry between the two master magicians; with more sabotage. Instead, the focus remains on the two apprentices creating a very character driven story that is still very enjoyable to read because there is some great character growth (in addition to the very sweet romance).

The Characters:

It was amazing to watch these two transform before my eyes as the story progressed. The Thomas and Saverio we get at the start of the novel definitely aren’t the same boys we end the story with. I just loved the personal growth we see in these characters. I think the journal entries provided that touch of intimacy into these characters’ emotions and inner thoughts that really adds to the characters’ many layers.

The Romance:

These two were simply adorable together! I always enjoy romances that don’t start out with the nicest intentions, yet twist into something real and strong. When the plot isn’t focusing on them as individuals, I like how it concentrated on how they navigate their relationship given the various circumstances (their rivalry, the nature of their relationship in society, etc.). I also appreciated how it took the time to tackle them realistically; nothing ever felt rushed in that sense (and that isn’t always the case).

My Rating: 3/5

overall
Despite a slower start, this is a great read for fans of character driven historical YA reads!

Read if You Like: historical, stories told through journal entries
Avoid if You: want more than romance

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Madeline J Reynolds

Madeline J. Reynolds is a YA fantasy author living in Chicago. Originally from Minneapolis, she has a background in journalism and has always loved storytelling in its various forms. When not writing, she can be found exploring the city, eating Thai food, or lost in an epic Lord of the Rings marathon.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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