Tag «Shakespeare»

Series Review: Starcrossed by Leisa Rayven

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:

Bad Romeo by Leisa Rayven | Starcrossed Series

Other books in the series:
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SERIESous’ Top Book Series: Fav Read 2015, Must Read Author, Fav Read 2016
Series: Starcrossed
Author: Leisa Rayven
# of Books: 3 (Bad Romeo, Broken Juliet, Wicked Heart)

There are a few short stories. See the full reading list here.

Book Order: Chronological; Wicked Heart is Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Drama, Second Chances, New Adult, Humour
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: December 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–hardcover, eBook; Wicked Hearts – NetGalley eARC

Thoughts:

This review was original published as a Fresh Friday feature and has seen been updated to a full Series Review.

I read anything with a hint of Shakespeare so it’s no surprise I picked up this book given its title. I can’t remember how I learned of its existence but when I did, I added it to my hold-list at the library. However, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book–I’m not the biggest fan of second chance romances–but when I actually had it in my hands and saw that 3 of my favourite authors had given it high praise, I was really excited to read it.

When I was reading this book, I had to read another book at the same time so I budgeted to read this book over a few days, just a little bit at a time. That was hard to stick to because I really got into this story (as well as the other book I was reading!)! I love enemy-to-lover storylines and it has been so long since I read one that I instantly fell for this one. It also doesn’t hurt that Cassie is a funny heroine and Ethan is a suave jackass (my favourite hero characteristic). That made reading this book so easy and fun!

I think my favourite part about this book is that it has two congruent storylines: Cassie and Ethan’s past plus Cassie and Ethan’s present. It was almost like reading two stories at once, one that is a contemporary adult romance (the present) and a new adult romance (the past). When you read the present, you are trying to figure out what exactly Ethan did to break Cassie’s heart and you hate him a bit for making her feel that way. BUT at the same time, you watch them fall in love in the past and you can’t help but root for them in the present. It really kept me on my toes trying to get to the bottom of their “torrid” affair and I enjoyed every minute of it!

What I loved about the romance was all the sexual tension. I adore sexual tension in my novels and Bad Romeo had it in buckets. It’s far from erotica–meaning there aren’t copious amounts of sex scenes–but there are a lot of foreplay (that’s the best word I can come up with besides “heavy make out scenes”) scenes which I thought was really great because you actually got to see their emotional relationship together and not just their physical attraction.

As for the Shakespeare element, it isn’t overly in your face besides them acting in the play. I’m sure there are some parallel connections but it isn’t a retelling of Romeo and Juliet in anyway–so if that was turning you off of reading this, please think about reading it again!

I was kinda hoping Broken Juliet was going to be an alternate POV retelling when I picked up Bad Romeo but it is a continuation of the story. I’m glad it is the conclusion because I would hate to see this story dragged out! I’m really looking forward to getting some closure with these two and seeing what is in store for them in the next novel.

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–August 5, 2015– Book 2: Broken Juliet

I simply could not put down this book! It  was intense, romantic and had such a great pacing to it! I loved the focus on the relationship and how it promoted healthy relationships and communication in those relationships. I really thought I would get bored and feel like the story was dragged out considering this is a sequel in a second chance romance. SO NOT THE CASE!

Leisa Rayven has done a superb job writing this novel! If this book had been written with the past in one whole book and the present in the sequel, this series would have lost me. But because we get these two stories simultaneously, it just hooks you in! You root for these characters, you want to slap these characters and you fall in love with this characters. I was just as engrossed in their present story as I was their past and that is what gives makes it a 5 star read for me!

I’m soooooooooooooooooo stoked for the new book in the series, Wicked Heart! I thought this series was going to be a duology (which it is in terms for Ethan and Cassie’s story) but I can’t wait to read Elissa’s story! Gah!

–April 16, 2016– Book 3: Wicked Heart

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You have no idea how excited I was when Wicked Heart was uploaded to NetGalley–and you can’t even imagine how ecstatic I was when my wish was granted to read it! I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time and I had high expectations and guess what:

This book was AMAZING!

I was really looking forward to Elissa’s story and I was not disappointed! It was funny, amazingly sweet, had tons of palpable sexual tension with just the right amount of angst and it was very, very addicting. I easily could have finished this book in one sitting but ya know, I had to study for exams.

I’m not normally a fan of second chance romances but Leisa Rayven writes ones that make me a believer and a fan. This book follows a similar set-up to the previous books but definitely has its own unique charms and features to set itself apart. It had me laughing one minute, crying the next and squealing in delight. I was easily won over by Elissa and Liam.

In short: this book was contemporary romance perfection and a must read!

Series Rating: 5/5

Bad Romeo 4.5/5 | Broken Juliet 5/5 | Wicked Heart 5/5

overall

If you like books with a dash of humour and loads of sexual tension, this IS the series for you! It reads like a Christina Lauren novel but with less emphasis on sex and more on the connection and relationship between the two leads (though there are definitely enough romantic scenes 😉 ). Even if you don’t like Shakespeare but love contemporary romances, this is great! One of my all-time favourites!

Read if You Like: relationship-focused romances, passion, second chance romances
Avoid if You: don’t like flashbacks, want more than a relationship focused plot

similarreads

Synopsis for Bad Romeo (from Goodreads):
When Cassie Taylor met Ethan Holt at acting school, sparks flew. She was the good girl actress. He was the bad boy about campus. But one fated casting choice for Romeo and Juliet changed it all. Like the characters they were playing, Cassie and Ethan’s romance seemed destined. Until he broke her heart and betrayed her trust. Now the A-list heartthrob is back in her life and turning her world around. One touch at a time.

Cast as romantic leads once again, they’re forced to confront raw memories of the heartbreaking lows and pulse-pounding highs of their secret college affair. But they’ll also discover that people who rub each other the wrong way often make the best sparks.

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Series Review: Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

Series: Juliet Immortal
Author: Stacey Jay
# of Books: 2 (Juliet Immortal, Romeo Redeemed)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Supernatural, Shakespeare, Immortals
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person

Thoughts:

I’m a sucker for anything Shakespeare so when I see books that are retellings of Shakespeare or involve his stories in some way, I am so there. So it’s no surprise I would pick this book up as soon as it was released.

I enjoyed Juliet Immortal but not as much as I hoped. It was good and had a cool spin on the whole story but I found the spin was a little confusing at time. I didn’t totally understand the immortal part of the books so I found that a little frustrating. I’m not sure if I just read it too fast causing me to not understand it or if it was the way it was written. Either way, I felt a little in the dark at times. I also didn’t totally love Juliet as a character. She had her moments where I really liked her and then moments where I didn’t. I also found it hard to reconcile the fact that Romeo and Juliet were “enemies” and not love-struck fools.

I actually enjoyed Romeo Redeemed a lot more. Again, it was a cool spin and I found it easier to follow along with it. I also like the message of the story a lot more and the characters. The romance was better in this story I thought which made me like it more.

Conclusion:

An interesting and refreshing spin on the classic tale that Shakespeare and supernatural fans will enjoy.

Rating: 4/5

Similar Reads: Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Synopsis for Juliet Immortal (from Goodreads):
The most tragic love story in history . . .

Juliet Capulet didn’t take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn’t anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she’s fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she’s forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.

“These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume.”
—Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Single Sundays: Juliet by Anne Fortier

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):
Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.

This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?

Review:

I read this book a long time ago after a co-worker recommended it to me. I got my hands on a local library copy and I ended up loving the book so much that I went out and bought it for my own personal collection.

As you may or may not know, I am a huge Shakespeare nut. Any fiction involving Shakespeare and I am there! I recently went to see Romeo and Juliet at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, Canada (if you ever get the chance to attend, do! They put on amazing productions ever year!). Amazing play and this production was awesome! So awesome it made me think about this book and I hope to reread it very soon!

But, back to the book 😉

This book is basically two stories in one. One follows the present day Juliet while the other follows the “original” Juliet. You can tell Ms. Fortier has done her research because the story that takes place in 1340 is rich in detail about the time and about the play Romeo and Juliet. My mom–who I made read this book–made the comment after the play about a gold statue saying she forgot it was in the play when she read about it in the book. Fortier does a fabulous job with tying the two worlds together and this makes the book super enjoyable to read.

Another bonus was the mystery and suspense. I find with some books that have regular “flashbacks” to the past, I tend to enjoy one story more than the other so I dread the respective POV. That was not the case here. I was equally addicted to both and that made this book super hard to put down. While I had suspicions about how the book was going to play–no pun intended–out (I mean, we all know how Romeo and Juliet ends, right?) I found it wasn’t predictable which always makes me happy. The plot was a little DaVinci Code-esque in its delivery but with Shakespeare which I thought was cool.

I really liked the characters and Juliet–either of them–didn’t annoy me (unlike the Juliet in Shakespeare’s play) so win!

Conclusion:

You don’t have to like Shakespeare to like this book. If you enjoy mysteries, books with suspense and a dash of romance, you will enjoy this one! I highly recommend it!

Rating: 5/5

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Mystery, History, Romance
Recommended for: 17+
SERIESous’ Top Book Series: #2
Similar Reads: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Series Review: Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

SERIESous’ Top Book Series: #7 of Favourite Series List
Series: Wondrous Strange Trilogy

The spin-off series is called Starling that takes place after these novels

Author: Lesley Livingston
# of Books: 3 (Wondrous Strange, Darklight, Tempestuous)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Faeries, Shakespeare, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool

Thoughts:

This series is one that I could reread again and again–I actually borrowed all the books from the library and then decided to buy them all because I enjoyed them so much. It was with this series that Lesley Livingston became a must-read author for me.

If you have read some of my other reviews, you know that I am a Shakespeare nut. Anything with his name and I am there; so to pick up this book was a no brainer. I also enjoy books with Faeries (ie. The Wicked Lovely Series which is another personal favourite series) so I was intrigued to how Faeries would be portrayed in this book (as they tend to vary in series). It seemed like an awesome combo so I was excited to begin.

Obviously, I am happy to say that this series did not disappoint! It has everything I enjoy in a series, like action, romance, plot twists and great characters. Each book in the series has a great, solid story. Unlike some series that have weaker books in order to progress, I found that these books built upon each other to reach a final climax. I was never bored with the series because there is enough going on to grab your attention.

I really liked Kelley as the heroine. She was strong, independent and most importantly intelligent. She wasn’t catty or whiney and if she didn’t like something she made ever effort to change it herself. Sonny was fantastic too. A totally swoon worthy hero and I liked the relationship that develops between them. Both characters were consistent in their delivery throughout the series (ie. they didn’t do a 180 in the second book to become a different character) which is a huge bonus for me.

Although Shakespeare plays a big role in the background information of the story, it isn’t necessary to know A Midsummer Night’s Dream by heart to get a feel for the book or understand what is going on. Livingston weaves all her story elements together so well that it’s easy to follow. I really appreciate her ability to weave and create worlds and it’s what makes her work so enjoyable in my opinion.

Conclusion:

A great paranormal young adult read for those who like unpredictable stories. Romance isn’t the primary focus of this novel but neither is Shakespeare. It is mostly a book about Faeries and the Otherworld. I highly recommend getting all three books at once when you plan to read as there is details in earlier books that it is nice to remember when you read the next one.

Rating: 5/5

Similar Reads: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (The Wicked Lovely Series) and The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (The Iron Fey Saga) and Starling by Lesley Livingston

Synopsis for Wondrous Strange (from Goodreads):
17 year-old Kelley Winslow doesn’t believe in Faeries. Not unless they’re the kind that you find in a theatre, spouting Shakespeare—the kind that Kelley so desperately wishes she could be: onstage, under lights, with a pair of sparkly wings strapped to her shoulders. But as the understudy in a two-bit, hopelessly off-off-Broadway production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, wishing is probably the closest she’s going to get to becoming a Faerie Queen. At least, that’s what she thinks… In this fun, urban fantasy, Kelley’s off-stage life suddenly becomes as complicated as one of Shakespeare’s plot twists when a nighttime trip to Central Park holds more than meets the mortal eye.

Single Sundays: Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Single Sundays: On Sundays, I review a stand-alone book that is not a part of a series. Here is this week’s offering:

Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):
Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood: she hopes one day to become a Shakespearean actor like her famous parents. At least, she does until her disastrous performance in her school’s staging of The Taming of the Shrew. Humiliated, Miranda skips the opening-night party. All she wants to do is hide.

Fellow cast member, Stephen Langford, has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks if she’d like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he’s a total nutcase. But before she can object, Stephen whisks her back to 16th century England—the world Stephen’s really from. He wants Miranda to use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world will lost its greatest playwright.

Miranda isn’t convinced she’s the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Reluctantly, she agrees to help, knowing that it’s her only chance of getting back to the present and her “real” life. What Miranda doesn’t bargain for is finding true love . . . with no acting required.

Review:

I am a huge Shakespeare nut. In university, I took an introduction to Shakespeare course as my elective and every year I see at least 2 of his plays. So needless to say, if I see a book that is based on a Shakespeare story or has Shakespeare in the title/plot summary–I am there.  So I am happy to say that I very much enjoyed this book!

One thing I really enjoyed about this was the history within it. Mingle’s writing makes me feel like I am living in that exact moment of history. Especially with respect to the history of Catholic and Protestant religions in Britain. I had studied that in school and I felt that she captured that history incredibly well. She is descriptive enough to allow you to create the world in your head but not so descriptive that you are skimming the paragraph to get on with the story. It is the perfect balance which makes this book so enjoyable to read.

You don’t have to be a Shakespeare nut to like this book. It has very little to do with his plays and focuses more on what his life was like back in his time. There is a bit of mystery and suspense, and of course, romance but it mostly focuses on the history.

That might be why people don’t like this book. If you don’t enjoy history focused novels, you might want to avoid this one. You might not like the heroine either. I didn’t particularly love Miranda–she wasn’t as annoying to me as some other heroines but I didn’t find anything that I particularly liked about her.

The book ended pretty suddenly in my opinion (it might have been because I was tired when I finished it though :P). I also like a little bit more closure in my books so I wouldn’t hate the idea of a sequel but it really isn’t necessary.

Conclusion:

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the history of it all but that history might not appeal to everyone so be warned!

Rating: 3.5/5

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Young Adult, Time Travel, Shakespeare
Recommended for: 16+
Similar Books: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly; Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier (Ruby Red Trilogy) and Juliet by Anne Fortier

Book Review: The Taming by Teresa Toten

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):
Katie likes to believe she’s invisible. It seems much safer than being exposed as she is–shy, poor, awkward. So getting up on stage in the school production of The Taming of the Shrew should be complete torture. But as Katie tells it, something totally unexpected happened when she stepped on stage: “My head exploded. I loved it. Acting hit me like a sucker punch and I loved, loved, loved it! . . . Invisible Katie became visible Katharina.”

Evan Cooper is, as they say, another story. He knows just what it takes to get noticed, and he uses every one of the skills he’s honed after years of being the new kid. Like tossing the keys to his father’s high-end Audi to a kid he’s never met, first day of school. “I have insurance for car theft,” he explains to a shocked Danny. “And there’s a full tank.” An abuse of the power that comes with privilege and money? Sure.

But more dangerously, is his romance with Katie another version of the same thing? Or is it the real thing?

Review:

This book wasn’t what I thought it was going to be after reading the description from Goodreads. I was expecting a lighter story; a typical “rich boy goes after shy girl” type of romance story. Maybe I just didn’t read the summary too carefully but the description on the back of the book was more accurate to what the story actually is.

The themes in it the were darker as it deals with various forms of abuse but it was done in a way that is completely realistic and believable.

The parallels to The Taming of the Shrew in the modern world really add to the story. Maybe because I am a Shakespeare-nut and am familiar with the story that I can see what the author was doing and can appreciate it. Those who may not be too familiar with the story may not get it right away but the major plot ideas from The Taming of the Shrew are explained in the book so you won’t be completely lost.

I also liked the fact that the story was told in part by Evan. While I feel that Shakespeare’s play focuses on the abuse of women, Evan’s presence in the book shows the affect abuse can have on males and children living in abusive homes.

My only complaint about the book was the way it ended. I would have liked an epilogue or some sort of wrap-up because I really want to know how these characters grow from this.

Conclusion:

In short, if you enjoy books that aren’t filled with the typical “high school soap opera drama” and are comfortable reading about abuse in family and romantic relationships then this book is worth a read.

Rating: 4/5

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Young Adult; High School; Shakespeare; Abuse
Recommended for: 16+
Similar Books: nothing immediately comes to mind