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Series Review: Surrender by Lauren Smith

Series Review: Surrender by Lauren Smith

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

book5 book6

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Gilded Cuff (from Goodreads):

Every passion has its price . . .

Journalist Sophie Ryder has been following Emery Lockwood’s story since she was a little girl. There has always been something in his haunted eyes that she couldn’t resist and now, when she’s certain he holds the key to solving a string of kidnappings, she’ll do anything to speak to him. Even if it means venturing deep into the seductive world of the Gilded Cuff, a luxurious BDSM club on Long Island’s Gold Coast and Emery’s personal playground.

From the moment Sophie enters his shadowy, sensual domain, Emery Lockwood knows this tantalizing new little sub was meant to belong to him. However, Sophie wants more from Emery than just pleasure . . . she wants his past. And that is something he isn’t willing to give—no matter who is asking. But every moment he spends with Sophie, Emery feels his control slipping and he knows it’s only a matter of time before he surrenders to her heart, body, and soul.

breakdown

Series: Surrender
Author: Lauren Smith
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected but Chronological Events
Complete? 2 more books are planned
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Erotica, Suspense
Heat Rating: hot (BDSM: high, Kink: mild)
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: Februrary 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC; Newsletter Freebie (#4)

ARCs Received for Books #1-3 only

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read and LOVED Lauren Smith’s Her British Stepbrother Series last year. She writes addicting romances and I couldn’t wait to see what she could do with a full length trilogy.

I’m slowly getting into the world of romantic suspense but haven’t been overly successful. Either you get a thriller that is more thrills than romance or the complete opposite, with an erotica that only has a dash of a plot. So trying to find that perfect series was seeming like a fruitless effort but this one seemed more than promising…

The Concept:

I don’t overly enjoy BDSM novels. Alpha males are something that–obviously–come with the territory and they more often than not irk me. However, BDSM novels are the ones that have the exciting and dangerous plotlines that I adore so I pick them up and hope for the best.

This one had the right balance between sexy times and suspenseful ones. I’d say the first 20% is dedicated to the sexual tension, the next 50% is a mix of plot and romantic developments and the last 30% is the suspense. It has that little bit of everything to satisfy the various audiences that will be drawn to this title.

The Plot:

The first two novels have an overarching plotlines so it was exciting to watch it develop. Whereas the third has its own suspenseful plotline though I didn’t find it as dangerous as the previous two.

Regardless, as I said before, all the books had the right balance between romantic developments and dramatic ones. I found these books to be really addicting and I enjoyed them immensely.

The Characters:

I really liked all of these characters–even the alpha males. They all have their flaws and their strengths and that just made them all seem genuine to me. I also liked that they were all unique. I didn’t feel like I was reading carbon copies of the previous leads–they all have their own personalities and thought processes so I never got bored with them.

The Romance:

While these romances are based on insta-connections, I really didn’t mind them as much as I usually do when I come across insta-love stories. All these pairs just work together and I think knowing the characters’ histories as you do really helps to establish these romances. Sure, I would have liked the characters to have known each other more than a few days before they are professing their love for each other, but their fast feelings made sense to me.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m really hoping a certain character will be getting his own story sometime soon!

updates

–September 28, 2019– Book #4: The Darkest Hour

I was super excited when this book popped up as a freebie on one of the email Romance Clubs I subscribe to. I had been waiting for Royce’s story so when I needed another sequel book to read that was on the short side, this fit the bill.

Unfortunately, I think I would have enjoyed this more if I had read it closer to the other novels. I often get this series mixed up with Lauren’s Her British Stepbrother Series–even though they are completely different. But that’s what time away from a series does to my brain.

Regardless, I did enjoy the novel. I thought some of the plot points didn’t seem necessary and were only added for the romance–but they didn’t need to be.

Series Rating: 4/5

The Gilded Cuff 4/5 | The Gilded Cage 4/5 | The Gilded Chain 3.5/5 | The Darkest Hour 3/5

overall

I finally found a contemporary romantic suspense novel that strikes the right balance between romance and plot line!

Read if You Like: romantic suspense
Avoid if You: dislike BDSM based novels
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Series Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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

Three Dark Crowns Series

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Three Dark Crowns (from Goodreads):

When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

breakdown

Series: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)

There are 3 prequel novellas.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 4 will be published in 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: September 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve had Anna Dressed in Blood on my TBR for YEARS but have never managed to pick it up. But when I saw this book on Stephanie @ In Wonderland‘s Make Me Read It Readathon options, I was more than intrigued.

The simple cover and that dangerous synopsis sounded AMAZING! I love stories with a darker edge to them and what is more sinister than 3 sisters having to duke it out to become queen? The answer: nothing. Well, maybe brothers having to battle it out.

What I Liked:

–The World–

I really liked the world we got here. It was easy to follow but is pretty complex and interesting. I never got lost in how the world or political system operated which was nice. The girls have such unique powers–it isn’t just straight magic and differing abilities in that respect–so that was really refreshing for me as a reader.

–The Strong Female Characters–

I’m not just talking about the sisters here; I’m talking about the world as a whole. One of the really cool aspects of this series is the matriarchal society. Women are the rulers and decision makers for the entire populace. It isn’t young women being carted off to the potential King to get married: it’s the young men to the potential Queen. It isn’t the men who decide what the triplets will do, it’s the women.

–Game of Thrones Political Vibe–

Essentially, this story is about 3 different groups competing to be the ruler of the entire world. Sound familiar? It’s basically the premise of every “kill to get the throne” novel but it really reminded me of Game of Thrones. All these people are trying to propel who they think deserves to be the Queen by whatever means necessary. There really is no holding back here and I enjoyed that a lot. I hate books that can’t take those risks.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It’s a really, really slow start when you expected something else–

I went into this novel thinking I was going to be getting action right away. Not the case. At all.

Instead, we get long chapters establishing the 3 girls in their current homes and communities. And yes, it was nice to establish the setting and all the players involved in the game, but I wanted action and I wanted it ASAP.

In fact, I feel a little let down by the synopsis. It made me think this battle for power was going to be the main plot point. When in fact, what we get is the building up to that moment when the girls will have to fight it out. In other words, we wait a long time for “the night the sisters turn sixteen”.

But once I got over the fact that the plot I thought we were getting wasn’t actually the plot, I started to enjoy the novel more for what is truly was.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

This book ended with a bang which made the struggle at the start worth it. I feel like what I expected this novel to be, is what One Dark Throne will be. So I am very excited to read what happens next.

updates

–October 22, 2017– Book #2: One Dark Throne

THIS is what I thought the first book would be! It was nonstop in action and intrigue and kept my full attention. I loved all the turns the plot took; it always kept me guessing and eager to see what would happen next. This series was originally supposed to be a duology but you would never know that based on how this novel is crafted. There are a lot of places this plot could still go.

The only thing holding me back from a 5/5 is that there wasn’t a big “wow” moment for me. It’s a solid novel–a fantastic book 2–but it didn’t amaze me.

–October 2, 2018– Book #3: Two Dark Reigns

The vast majority of this felt like filler to me but I could see that it was building. And what an ending!? I can’t wait to see how this all wrapped up given the various twists and revelations at the end. What a ride!

 

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My Rating: 4/5

Three Dark Crowns 4/5 | One Dark Throne 4/5 | Two Dark Reigns 4/5

overall

If you know what to expect going into this, you’ll probably enjoy yourself a lot more than I did at the start. But if you want a strong world with a promising story, you’ll love this!

Read if You Like: slower stories, world-building, alternate dimensions
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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  • Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong (Age of Legends Trilogy #1)
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas (Throne of Glass Series #1)

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Series Review: Broken Tides by Catherine Jones Payne

Series Review: Broken Tides by Catherine Jones Payne

Synopsis for Breakwater (from Goodreads):

A red tide is rising.

As the daughter of one of the mer-king’s trusted advisors, seventeen-year-old Jade has great responsibilities. When her fiancé murders a naiad, plunging the underwater city of Thessalonike into uproar, tensions surge between the mer and the naiads. Jade learns too late that the choices she makes ripple further than she’d ever imagined. And as she fights against the tide of anger in a city that lives for scandal, she discovers danger lurking in every canal, imperiling her family and shattering the ocean’s fragile peace.

Can the city’s divisions be mended before the upwelling of hate rips apart everything Jade loves?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love
Series: Breakwater, Broken Tides
Author: Catherine Jones Payne
# of Books: 3 (Full Series Order Here)

There are prequel novellas.


Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mermaids
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 30, 2017 – December 2018
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC (#1); Public Library–Audiobook (#2); Own–Kindle (#0.5)

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon  /  Barnes & Noble  /  Kobo

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Review copy only provided for #1, Breakwater

thoughts

**This post was originally published as a Blog Tour Stop review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been going through a bit of a mermaid withdrawal since I finished Jennifer Donnelly’s Waterfire Saga last year. I particularly liked that series because it had strong female characters and the world was fantastic. So I was eager to find another story to get lost in and this one looked promising!

The World:

One of my favourite aspects of an underwater world is when the author uses our everyday expressions and “water-ize” them. It’s the little things like “What the Depths!” (instead of “What the Hell!”) or “I’m not going to float here all day” that get you integrated into the world as a reader. It also shows all the effort the author puts into creating their world by looking at those “tiny” details. This one does this flawlessly and I loved watching it come to life as I read.

The Plot:

This book definitely has a slower plot line to it than I was anticipating and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

This story is all about doing the right thing even when other’s tell you not to. It’s more talking and reasoning than physically kicking bum, like so many other stories out there that have the clash between races/social hierarchy as their main plot. Most of the time, those stories require actually fighting back to make a change. So I found it really refreshing here that Jade tries to create a positive impact by speaking the truth and fighting for ideals through actions.

As a reader, you get caught up in the flow of the novel and it is easy to read even if it isn’t your typical action packed fantasy novel.

The Characters:

Jade lives in a bubble at the start of the book so it was nice when it burst and she got a dose of the real world. Once that bubble burst, she’s able to grow as a character…but not as much as I wanted. See, the problem is that Jade is a classic case of “Lead Heroine Sacrifice Syndrome“–meaning she thinks she alone can save the world by sacrificing herself. Like I said above, I can appreciate her efforts to change her world but I can’t believe how dense she is to the situation at hand. Her naivety (which is understandable given the fact that she is treated special by practically everyone) is a little tiring to read.

The Romance:

While I liked that this wasn’t a huge part of the story, I can’t help but think that it was bit of a missed opportunity. You are kind of told that there is this connection  instead of being shown it. So I didn’t really get behind the romance as much as I had hoped.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

The last 15% of this book does a lot to set up a sequel and I’m eager to see what is in store.

When to Read #0.5 A Gathering Tempest:

You can definitely read this book before you start the series since it does chronologically take place before the events of the first book. It doesn’t give anything away that you don’t learn within the first few chapters of Breakwater anyways. I read it in the middle of reading Crosscurrent since I didn’t have my audiobook player on hand. I actually liked this because it gave me more insight into Alexander’s character and helped me understand his motives of the first novel a little better. So I would almost recommend reading it after you finish book #1.

When to Read the Other Broken Tide Stories:

The only other novella story I read besides the prequel was Daughter of the Rivers. But all of these novellas basically enhance the worldbuilding of the main series. So you can truly read them at any time.

updates

–June 20, 2019– Book #2: Crosscurrent

When I saw that my library had recently acquired the audiobook version of book 2, I was pretty excited. I was curious about this series and what would happen next but I never found the time to go out and get the sequel.

This was a great follow-up to the first novel. Everything I wished would happen did to some capacity. I really enjoy the diplomacy of this series and how most of it is done through talking and debate. It isn’t about a special snowflake warrior fighting battles but a girl who is slowly realizing that there is more to life outside of her bubble. I also loved how Jade realized she suffers from being a martyr when the time comes. I was really impressed with her character development in this novel.

As for the audiobook itself, I thought the delivery was a little stiff at times but is was still a super easy, enjoyable listen.

–February 16, 2020– Book #3: Maelstrom

I had been holding out for the hopes that my library would get the audiobook for this installment but no luck. Thankfully, I noticed this series is available on Kindle Unlimited so I made sure it was a priority.

Perhaps I waited too long to read this because I struggled a bit to get into it. I think the start was slower than I’d have liked. But everything I like about this series is here again. I love that it’s more political strategy through words than battle. And I like how we see that there is no clear solution, just the lesser of two evils so to speak. So it was refreshing, even if it felt slower at times.

My Rating: 3/5

[A Gathering Tempest 3/5] | Breakwater 3/5 | Crosscurrent 4/5 | Maelstorm 3/5

overall
If you want a fantasy novel that isn’t action based, this is a great one for you! Especially if you love mermaids.

Read if You Like: mermaids, slower stories
Avoid if You: want more physical action

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Catherine Jones Payne
Author Links: Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

 

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Series Review: White Trash by Teresa Mummert

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 White Trash Beautiful (from Goodreads):
A word-of-mouth bestseller that’s captivating readers with its honesty, grit, and headstrong heroine, White Trash Beautiful is a story for anyone who has ever felt trapped in life, cheated by love—and longed for something more . . .

Cass Daniels isn’t waiting for her knight in shining armor. She knows that girls like her don’t get a happily ever after. Not if you live in a trailer with your mom, work at a greasy spoon diner, and get leered at by old men. Maybe that’s why she puts up with Jackson—her poor excuse for a boyfriend, who treats her like dirt. Cass has learned to accept her lot in life. That is, until he walks into her diner. . . .

His name is Tucker White, and he’s different from any man Cass has ever known. Tall, tattooed, and bad-ass gorgeous, he’s the lead singer of the rock band Damaged. From the moment they meet, Tucker sees something in Cass he just can’t shake. Something beautiful. Something haunted. Something special. And he’s determined to find out what it is—if only he can get her to open up and let him in. . . .

breakdown

Series: White Trash Trilogy
Author: Teresa Mummert
# of Books: 3 (White Trash Beautiful, White Trash Damaged, White Trash Love Song)
Book Order: Chronological; Connected (Love Song)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Rockstar, Music
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: July 2013 – April 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook; Audiobook (Damaged & Song)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember how this series crossed my radar. It might have been because my library added the eBook version but I’m not sure. I read a lot of rockstar NA reads so I’m sure I saw it on a list somewhere.

Anyways, I love rockstar romances and I was really interested to see what would happen with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks.

What I Liked:

–Made me Believe in Soul Mates–

While their romance is a little “insta-love” connection, it was obvious to why these two were drawn to each other. They compliment each other so well even if that isn’t always elaborated on.

–Cass’ Character Development–

I find the romance takes a bit of a back seat here at times to focus on Cass and her growth.

Through her romance with Tucker, she is able to become independent. I hate when girls get caught up in their romantic interest and become dependent upon their man. It happens a lot in rock-star based romances because the girl gets caught up in the celebrity of it all. But here, I loved how Tucker lets Cass grow on her own. He is the catalyst for change but he doesn’t force her to be anything and she doesn’t rely on him to do that. She learns on her own that she is worth something on her own and not to let anyone else define her.

–Wasn’t too Focused on the “Rockstar”–

Like I said, Cass is really the star of this and I liked how the story kept her as the focus. It didn’t feel like every other rockstar romance novel out there.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Lopsidedness to the Plot–

The exposition here was a little too long. While I appreciated the time taken to explore this relationship and the characters, it did need that touch of drama to give the story some oomph.

And we do get that oomph, just near the end of the story. That’s when all the dramatic twists come about; which makes the story feel rushed and underdeveloped. I would have liked to have seen those issues fleshed out a little more earlier on and watch the characters grow from that.

Will I Finish It?

Honestly, the only reason I didn’t pick up the sequels was because I’m too cheap to spend the money on them. If my library gets the sequels, I’ll pick them up!

updates

–October 19, 2018– Book #2 & #3: White Trash Damaged & White Trash Love Song

I randomly stumbled upon these sequels as audiobooks through one of the additional services my library provides so I was happy to finally give this series a proper closure.

And…maybe I should have just left this series at book one.

I had two chief complaints about both sequels. 1) They spend the vast majority of the first half rehashing the same sentiments again and again. Seriously, it was like it was on repeat. 2) Nothing worthwhile gets expanded upon. I have so many unanswered questions from some of the plot developments that were thrown out there but never mentioned again.

It’s a shame because the last 25% of these books were great. We get some solid character development (even with the various plot holes we simply glaze over) and if that was brought out a littler earlier, my ratings for both novels would be higher.

Series Rating: 2/5

White Trash Beautiful 4/5 | White Trash Damaged 2/5 | White Trash Love Song 2/5

overall

Despite a strong start, this sequels to this series lacked the strengths of the first novel and get caught up in the cliches and petty drama.

Read if You Like: rockstar romances, character development
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romances

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Series Review: Bad Nanny by C M Stunich

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

Bad Nanny Trilogy

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Bad Nanny (from Goodreads):

Holy sweet baby Jesus.

I don’t know anything about taking care of kids.
I pierce nipples, navels, and noses for a living.
I’ve never even held a baby before. Not once. Never changed a diaper or cleaned up a skinned knee. Hell, I don’t even want kids. I’m more of a drifter, a once in a lifetime lover, and then I move on.
Family? Commitment? Nuh uh, no way.

Tough shit, though, because my brother and his kids need me. Desperately.
I never thought to wonder if I might need them, too.
That I might need her, this strange woman I met at a playground.
Brooke Overland.
She doesn’t know I’m not a professional nanny, but what am I supposed to do now?

She hired me; I took care of her sister’s kids for her; I fucked her.
My life is so screwed up.

breakdown

Series: Bad Nanny
Author: C M Stunich
# of Books: 3 (Bad Nanny, Good Boyfriend, Great Husband)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Good Boyfriend, is TBA
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC

thoughts

**This post was originally published as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to reflect my conclusion to DNF this series. It will not be further updated.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I like unconventional romances (I read a lot and so I like fresh takes on your everyday tropes) and this was pretty unconventional. I mean, how often does a tattooed body piercer become a nanny? Not often.

So with this one, I was looking forward to a fun and sexy read that wasn’t something I have read before.

What I Liked:

–The Quirky Characters–

Zayden wasn’t what I expected at all. Given the description, I thought he was going to be some badass alpha male and that was not the case. At all. He is the quirky, nerdy guy who is very different from your typical “erotica” hero. I liked his “march to the beat of his own drum” mentality. It was rather refreshing. He’s a big softy and doesn’t really try to hide it.

Brooke was the perfect balance for him. She is her own brand of quirky but perhaps more grounded? It becomes easy to root for her given her situation. I thought she had great character development.

–It’s Insta-Love, But it Works–

This book takes place within a 2 week span so everything happens fast. I’m not a fan of insta-love but with these two, I could see how it would work. They are great partners and this story takes the time to show that. While there are plenty of steamy moments, there are scenes where these two just talk and learn more about each other. I appreciated that a lot.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Story Dragged a Bit–

This book is over 300 pages and sometimes it felt like that. There isn’t much plot besides pooping babies, sexy times and the occasional heart to heart. I just needed a little bit more to the drama of the plot.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m on the fence about picking up the next one. It all depends on the description honestly. I’m happy with the way this one wrapped up and I’m not sure what else the future holds.

I’ve opted not to pick up the sequels due to distance from the series.

My Rating: DNF

Bad Nanny 3/5 | Good Boyfriend TBP | Great Husband TBP

overall

If you like unconventional romances that are light, flirty and fun, this is a great one to try!

Read if You Like: tattooed heroes/bad boys, light reads
Avoid if You: dislike steamy scenes

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Series Review: Constellation by Claudia Gray

Series Review: Constellation by Claudia Gray

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 Defy the Stars (from Goodreads):

She’s a soldier.

Noemi Vidal is a seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine.

Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

breakdown

Series: Constellation, Defy the Stars
Author: Claudia Gray
# of Books: 3 (Full Series Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Action
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 4 2017 – April 2, 2019
Source & Format: NetGalley–eBook (#1); Public Library–Audiobook (#2, #3)

A review copy was only provided for Book #1, Defy the Stars

thoughts

**This post was originally published as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was lucky enough to snag one of 500 Read Now copies of Defy the Stars thanks to Lilly @ Lair of Books back in February. I’ve read (and enjoyed) all of Claudia Gray’s YA series in the past so I was excited to see what she could do with her own Science Fiction series (I’ll admit I’ve never read her Star Wars novels).

What I Liked:

–Abel & Noemi–

Noemi is such a strong heroine that you can’t help but love her as she evolves to see the bigger picture of the universe and herself. Abel won me over from the start as well. His character development is probably my favourite part of this novel. Together they make a fabulous team that compliments each other supremely well.

–The World Building–

The universe this story is set in is fabulous; it’s complex and layered but easy to follow at the same time. I never found that aspect to be lacking the entire time I was reading. You don’t have to be overly familiar with technology or other science fiction works to understand the plot.

–Romance Wasn’t the Focus–

Far too often the romance becomes the sole focus of the story. And while I am a huge romance fan, I really liked that it didn’t play a huge role in the novel. It’s a very slow burn type of love and when it is there, it contributes to the story in a positive way instead of a distractor from the main plot-line.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It was so Slow!–

For me, the plot was far too slow. It reads more like an adventure book where you get little hiccups of excitement (often only a chapter or two long) along the way. A chapter would end on an awesome note and we would either switch POVs or it would resolve by the end of the next chapter. Then the story would continue at a slower pace until it happens again.

Eventually, you reach a climax at the end where all the threads weave together. The last 25% of the book was fantastic and I can’t help but wish the excitement happened earlier in the novel to keep me interested.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

This book felt like a very extended prologue laying down the foundations for more exciting sequels and I’m curious to see where it goes from here.

updates

–October 21, 2019– Book #2: Defy the Worlds

I’d go through phases where I really enjoyed this novel but then I’d go through others where my interest waned. Perhaps it was my choice to listen to the audiobook? Sometimes I think that medium allows me to zone out every once and awhile.

But I like where this is going and it surprised me in a lot of ways so it was a solid bridging sequel when all is said and done.

–January 8, 2020– Book #3: Defy the Fates

Again, I struggled to get into this one as much as I wanted to. This read more like a space adventure where you go through the motions instead of constant action and suspense like I had wanted. The end really picked up though and captured my attention, it just took a slower approach than I wanted to get to that point.

My Rating: 3/5

Defy the Stars 3/5 | Defy the Worlds 3/5 | Defy the Fates 3/5

overall

This is perfect for fans of the adventure story. I actually think this is the perfect bridging book for those who want to break out of dystopian novels and try science fiction.

Read if You Like: science fiction, world-building, adventure stories
Avoid if You: want lots of action

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Series Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

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

The Crown’s Game Duology

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Crown’s Game (from Goodreads):

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

breakdown

Series: The Crown’s Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
# of Books: 2 (The Crown’s Game, The Crown’s Fate)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2016 – May 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book EVERYWHERE last year, and so the hype (and curiosity) was inevitable. But it was also on my radar because it is set in Imperial Russia–the kryptonite of book settings for me. I LOVE that setting and I try and read any book that uses this time period.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

Like I said, Imperial Russia is one of my favourite book settings and this one was pretty perfect. You could tell that Evelyn Skye had done her research before writing this book. She really brought this setting to life in nearly every aspect: clothing, royalty, perception of magic. It hit all the marks.

–Multiple POV–

I LOVE having multiple POVs in my novels. It just gives you a full-circle view of the world I think and adds dimension to the plot and world. This one succeeds in that. It kept the story moving, added suspense to the plot and just gave you more insight into the characters.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Hard Time Picturing Magic Scenes–

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t in the best headspace to start reading this book. I was studying for my licensing exams and was a little pre-occupied in my brain. So maybe take the next two paragraphs with a grain of salt and read another review to get another perspective.

For a third person POV, this book flowed wonderfully. It’s easy to get lost in the 3rd person narration when pronouns are used liberally; but I never found that to be the case here.

What I did struggle with is the scenes where magic is described. I had a hard time visualizing it. I think I missed the part about the purpose of the Enchanter and how the Game works so I didn’t get why these two were doing what they were doing when it was their turn. Again, I think I just wasn’t in the right place to read this.

–The Romance–

While I don’t enjoy the aspect of a love triangle in any book, that isn’t my sole issue here. My issue: the insta-love. I can forgive Vika and Nikola’s insta-connection because of the magic. That makes sense. But love? Stretching it a little. And Pasha hardly interacts with Vika before he is swooning at her feet. I just wanted a stronger romance here or at the very least, pick a team to root for and I never did.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

There was a rush of things that happened at the end and so I’m excited to see what will happen next. There’s so much potential moving forward.

updates

–June 25, 2017– Book #2: The Crown’s Fate

I think I might be in the minority but I fully believe that this book was better than the first one. I found the plot to be much more engaging and interesting than it was in The Crown’s Game. Despite some slight monotony in the middle of the book with one plot aspect, I found that this story always kept moving and developing in a way that was rather addicting to read. I was flying through the pages.

The character development was also great. When you have essentially 3 key players to keep tabs on, one or more will inevitable fall to the wayside in terms of growth. But I felt like everyone had a great story to tell and I’m glad we got to see them all.

This series is still missing that something to make me give it a 5/5 though.  And truthfully, I was leaning more towards a 3.5/5 rating for this particular book because I did find the middle of the novel to be a little stale. But I really liked how everything was brought together in the latter half of the novel and I did feel like this was a much stronger showing on Evelyn Skye’s part. I think she has a very bright future ahead of her in terms of her writing and I’ll be keeping an eye on what she writes next!

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Crown’s Game 3.5/5 | The Crown’s Fate 4/5

overall

I enjoyed myself while reading this novel, I just wasn’t blown away. (Maybe the hype monster killed this one for me?) It’s a solid series and definitely worth a read if you love alternate history with a dash of magic!

Read if You Like: fantasy, Imperial Russia, alternate history
Avoid if You: dislike magic, want more romance
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Series Review: Lover’s Dance by Deanna Roy

Synopsis for Forbidden Dance (from Goodreads):

She was hidden from the world. Then he arrived.
An emotional new novel from six-time USA Today bestselling author Deanna Roy

For four years, I’ve lived in almost total seclusion. Homeschooled, forbidden from social media, seeing no one other than the dancers at Dreamcatcher Academy, where I teach ballet to little girls in wheelchairs.

Then Blitz arrives.

He’s the disgraced host of Dance Blitz, a bawdy reality show where Blitz sleeps with as many dancers as possible while looking for his perfect partner.

At least he was. A few weeks ago, he got kicked off his own show.

He’s at my academy for a publicity stunt, and my wheelchair ballerinas are his ticket back into the public’s good graces.

I intend to hate him and stay as far away as possible. But when he looks at me, I can’t resist. Before I realize what’s happened, we’re sneaking into back rooms, dancing, kissing, planning dates away from the cameras and the wrath of my family.

But I’m afraid. I have a secret at the academy, a small, wonderful, terrible secret, and if I stay with Blitz, the world will find out.

Other books in the series:
book3 book book

breakdown

Series: Lover’s Dance
Author: Deanna Roy
# of Books: 5 (Full List Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Tender Dance, will be published May 2017
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Dancer
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 31, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon // B&N // Kobo // iBooks

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thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Blog Tour review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ll admit that at first, I picked this one thinking that our lead, Livia, was in a wheelchair because she teaches ballet to girls who are. Turns out, that isn’t the case (The Feeling of Forever by Jamie Howard does have this though) but the concept was still intriguing. I love when regular people fall in love with celebrities! And a romantic player from a reality TV show? I’m there.

What I Liked:

–The Mystery of Livia’s Past–

Even though you learn Livia’s secret within the first few chapters, there was still so much suspense to it! I found her past to be really intriguing. Why is she so sheltered? Who are the key players involved? And what does it mean for the future? And when do we find out? This is a past that will be revealed over the next few installments.

–Livia’s Character Growth–

Unlike other heroines who exude innocence, I found it really easy to be sympathetic to her character. You know there is more to her nativity than just the trope of innocence meets a sexy player. Her past is complicated because of her upbringing and it shows.

Because Livia is so sheltered, it provides the perfect opportunity for character development. I really enjoyed watching her become her own person as she discovers she does have control over her own life and destiny if she chooses to.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Insta-Love–

If you’ve read any of my romance reviews in the past, insta-love is something that I am not a fan of. While this one seems to have a slow burn vibe to it, it’s definitely an insta-love kinda story. Don’t get me wrong, these two have great chemistry and it shows in their dancing and interactions, I just found that there wasn’t too much to their “getting to know you”. They dive head first based on their physical chemistry–which is fine–it’s just that I hope we can see the more emotional side of everything in the next installments.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I still have a lot of unanswered questions that need to be answered, so I’m looking forward to Wounded Dance.

updates

–April 20, 2017– Book #2: Wounded Dance

I was super excited when I read the synopsis for Wounded Dance because I was finally going to be getting some answers about Livia’s past. And boy did we ever.

I had a lot of ideas about Livia’s past but I was definitely wrong–in a great way. The reasoning really did surprise me! It was nice to delve into her past and learn the reason behind her parent’s protectiveness. It also helped to establish her character and why she is the way she is during the start of Forbidden Dance.

However, I did find the ending to be a little rushed. I wanted it teased out a bit more; everything seemed to wrap up a little too nicely for my liking. Maybe some of those things will be at play in the next novel, Wicked Dance. It’s hard to say because these novels are pitched as ones you can read as standalones so I get why everything is wrapped up before the end. Either way, I’m curious to see what will happen next!

–May 13, 2017– Book #3: Wicked Dance

When I first read in the synopsis for Forbidden Dance that Blitz was a reality TV star, I was so excited to see that element in the narrative. Unfortunately, the reality TV portion takes a back seat in the first two novels but it comes out full swing here–and it is so much fun!

I’m a huge fan of the TV series unREAL and this felt like I was reading an episode of it instead of just a romance novel (not that is is your everyday type of romance anyways). I was thoroughly entertained by the antics the show was throwing at them–even if the whole idea was a little silly. BUT, I think it goes to show Deanna Roy’s talent that I truthfully had no idea how this novel was going to end. It was a very addicting read.

The only reason I held back from a 5 star review was simply because I felt the character development was a little stagnant here. While Livia does evolve in some way in each novel, I’m still waiting for her truly break that mold and find her independence. She’s so close and I think the next novel, Tender Dance, is going to give that to me from what I get from the synopsis. I also liked that we saw a bit of a different side to Blitz as well but I can’t help but want a little more from his character as well.

 

My Rating: 3.5/5

Forbidden Dance 3.5/5 | Wounded Dance 4/5 | Wicked Dance 4/5 | Tender Dance TBR | Final Dance TBR

overall
Intriguing characters and a passionate romance make this an great read for romance lovers who like overarching romance stories. As the series continues, you get more and more invested in Livia’s story.

Read if You Like: stories about dancers
Avoid if You: dislike insta-connections
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Deanna Roy

Deanna Roy is the six-time USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction.

She is a passionate advocate for women who have lost babies. She has several books on the subject, including her bestseller FOREVER INNOCENT, a romance about a couple whose baby is taken off life support at seven days old.

She has run the website PregnancyLoss.Info for fifteen years, including many large spin-off support groups both online and in person.

To learn about new releases, sign up for her subscriber list at http://deannaroy.com/news. She has regular giveaways in conjunction with major pregnancy loss events.

Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon // B&N // Kobo // iBooks

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Series Review: Playboys in Love by Gina L Maxwell

Series Review: Playboys in Love by Gina L Maxwell

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

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Shameless (from Goodreads):

People say I’m shameless. They’re right.

I like my sex dirty. It takes a hell of a lot to tilt my moral compass, and I always follow when it’s pointing at something I want. That goes double when it points straight at the one girl in all of Chicago who’s not dying for a piece of me.

She’s all I can think about, and that’s a problem, because she wants nothing to do with me. But I’ve seen her deepest secrets, her darkest fantasies, and they match mine to a fucking T.

I want her. Bad.

Now I need to show her how good it can feel…to be shameless.

breakdown

Series: Playboys in Love
Author: Gina L Maxwell
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Unsure
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Erotica
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: mild | BDSM: light)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: May 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Publisher–eARC; Owned–Kindle (#3)

Copies provided for Shameless (#1) and Ruthless (#2)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had actually never heard of this series until I was asked if I wanted to review book 2, Ruthless. I’m not a huge erotica fan per say but I do like to read adult contemporary romances from time to time. This series sounded like it was the perfect in between, bordering on the New Adult spectrum but with an adult erotica spin.

The Concept:

It’s not mentioned in the synopsis, but this series follows a bunch of male strippers who strip for fun (aka they have other day jobs) and how they meet their match in some special girl. The concept is a lot of fun, it reminded me of the movie Magic Mike but focusing on individuals and not the whole troop. It also reminded me of the Walk of Shame Series that shares a similar idea but this series isn’t as overly dramatic though it shares the kink factor.

Which brings me to the kink factor. It isn’t as extreme as say, a Maya Banks series, but it is definitely present and provides for lots of sexy times. I think if someone is looking for a nice bridge into the erotica genre, this is a nice gateway. It’s well done.

The Plot:

I would say that this series is more focused on the romance and the sexy times than it is with high dramatic antics. Which I really appreciated because I hate when the drama is soap opera-esque. Of course you have some typical tropes thrown in there but otherwise, you get a pretty linear plot.

I will say that the plot had a much better balance in book 2, Ruthless. It actually had more substance to it than sexy times and worked on the character and romance development.

The Characters:

All these characters are very likeable. The females are strong and independent. I never found them losing themselves in their relationships or conforming to be something other than more self-confident.

I also liked the guys. Even though I’m not a huge alpha hero fan, I definitely liked these male leads. They (like the ladies) have great character development throughout the story.

The Romance:

I found the romance to be much stronger in Ruthless (#2) than in Shameless (#1). For me, the romance in Shameless was more insta-love because things move so fast and all seems rooted in instinct rather than emotional connection. I like my romances to spell things out for me when it comes to the romances and it just didn’t work in Shameless for me even though I could see, in theory, how they would work.

Which is why I enjoyed the romance in Ruthless so much more. Thanks to the balanced plot, we actually get to see these two interact in moments other than sex scenes. You see the emotional connection form and you can’t help but root for them.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I definitely know what characters I want to see get their own story next. We get just enough of a taste of each of the male leads to get you excited to see what their story is going to be!

updates

–May 15, 2019– Book #3: Merciless

The great thing about a series like this is that you can jump back in at anytime. While I don’t think the leads here were the exact leads I wanted to read about, I still enjoyed their story.

Like the other books in the series, this story had a great balance between the sexy times and the plot. There is substance to this story and not just the needed context to get to the sexy times. I think I could have used a little more development from the romance but there was enough to satisfy me for this quicker read.

Series Rating: 4/5

Shameless 3.5/5 | Ruthless 4/5 | Merciless 3/5

overall

If you like books with plenty of sexy times and just a dash of kink, this is a great one for you to read! The perfect series to bridge the NA and Adult erotica gap.

Read if You Like: erotica, books with kink, quick reads
Avoid if You: dislike erotica

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Series Review: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Series Review: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

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 Carve the Mark (from Goodreads):

On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.

Fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in internationally bestselling author Veronica Roth’s stunning new science-fiction fantasy series.

breakdown

Series: Carve the Mark
Author: Veronica Roth
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronolgical
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First & Third Person
Publication Date: January 2017 – April 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover (#1); Audiobook (#2)

thoughts

**This post was originally published as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been waiting for Roth’s next series since the end of the Divergent Trilogy years ago. While the rest of that series paled in comparison to the first book, (something I only learned in hindsight), I was eager to see what she would come up with next.

Not only was the cover for this beautiful, but it sounded like something I would no doubt enjoy. Enemies become lovers? My ultimate trope.

The Concerns Surrounding this Book

I know that there is a lot of controversy out there about this book, especially on Twitter and Goodreads. One of the problems with Twitter is the 140 character limit, so I’ll admit, I didn’t fully know the issues people were bringing up before I started to read it. I only ever caught bits of it here and there; not enough for me to fully understand what the bigger problem(s) was(were).

But at the same time, I also didn’t want to read too much into the issues either. Not that I’m ignorant of the issues, just that I wanted to be able to form my own opinion and investigate further once I finished. I didn’t want any preconceived notions before I started to read (because it is easy to find things once they are pointed out to you). Plus, I like having a full understanding of the source material prior to reading the criticisms to understand the arguments.

What I Liked:

–The Galaxy Setting–

I really enjoy science fiction stories that take place in another galaxy. I love exploring new planets and their unique attributes. I especially like that there is no place called Earth. That this is a completely different entity in terms of its world. (Could have used a little more world-building but that’s an issue for down below).

–Cyra’s Development–

I’m sure people may disagree with me on this one, but I thought Cyra had a solid character evolution from start to finish. It isn’t the greatest development ever but you could tell by the end of the novel that she gained confidence in herself and that’s all I really want from my characters.

–Concept of Hiding in Plain Sight–

Ok, I got a few little Red Rising allusions here when Akos essentially conforms to the Shotet way of life in order to get revenge and get his brother back. It provides some anticipation for when the big betrayal is going to happen and kept my attention.

What I Didn’t Like:

–First and Third Person Narration–

There are times and genres for third person narration but for the most part, I prefer first person POV. It’s just a little easier to follow and I find it easier to connect with the characters.

In this novel, Cyra’s POV is first person and Akos’ is third person…and I’m not sure why it was that way. Obviously, I felt it easier to read Cyra’s chapters and connect more with her character. Akos just seemed so distant to me and I felt like I never knew his character the way I should have. His POV should have been first person in my opinion.

(An example of a series that does first and third person narration well is The Pledge Trilogy where our lead heroine is told in first person but multiple other characters gets POVs told in third person. The differing POVs help establish the narrative and the world as a whole I think).

–Easy to Get Lost in the Writing–

I’m not sure what it was about the writing, but I found myself missing tiny things in the narration which had big impacts on my understanding of the story.

Like a significant time change in the narration (that’s mentioned like once in the opening paragraph of a chapter); or understanding exactly WHAT the various current gifts are. As I said above, the world-building could have been stronger. Yes, we do get a glossary but it really only highlighted the “bigger” things and not the inner workings of the world.

–Very Slow Plot–

At the halfway point of the novel, I could count the number of important “events” that moved the story forward on one hand. It wasn’t a lot. You could have easily cut this books size in half and had a much stronger, fuller story.

Because we do get some exciting twists within the last few chapters of the novel that set up for the sequel beautifully. I just think a lot of people will lose interest wayyy before than.

My Final Thoughts on Issues Raised by Other Readers:

After reading the novel, I read arguments from “both sides” and I understand what both are saying.

I’m a firm believer that we should let fiction be fiction. Fiction is a medium used to explore things we can’t always explore in reality. But my favourite aspect about it is its ability to start a conversation; as this novel obviously has.

I know that for some people, the ideas present here are their reality; and I know that for others, they won’t see that reality because it doesn’t pertain to their life. Reading is such a personal experience that everyone reads (and interprets) something differently. And it’s ok that we do; so long as we can have healthy conversations and respect those differences of opinion in a civil way. Debate is healthy, it’s how change comes about. I’m glad this novel is bring conversations about diversity to the surface and I hope we can learn from it.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m curious to see how the next novel will unfold. I think there were enough things introduced in the final chapters to keep my interest in picking up the sequel.

updates

–January 16, 2020– Book #2: The Fates Divide

Because it had been so long since I read the inaugural book, I decided to try the audiobook for this finale. And I think know that might have impacted my overall enjoyment for this book but I don’t believe my review would be any higher than it currently is if I had stuck with the hardcover.

Basically, my issues with the first novel came back to bite me. I struggled with the narration between first and third person this time again–and it didn’t help we had two additional POVs told in first person to keep track of. I was getting so lost–which didn’t help the fact that I found Roth’s writing style to still be hard to understand at times.

But I think my biggest disappointment was the underwhelming plot. I think this book tried to take on too much on a “meta” level and the drama got pushed to the side as a result. Not a lot is happening except characters lamenting the past. There were a few good twists but they were too far between to have an impact on my enjoyment.

My Rating: 3/5

Carve the Mark 3/5 | The Fates Divide 2/5

overall

I was hoping for a Divergent type of read; instead, we got Allegiant. A lot of talking and not as much action. And when it came to the finale, it just couldn’t hold my attention.

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

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