Category «Series Reviews»

Fresh Fridays: Easy Love (Modern Love #1) by Piper Lawson

Fresh Fridays: Easy Love (Modern Love #1) by Piper Lawson

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:

Modern Love Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Easy Love (from Goodreads):

How 20-Somethings Find Love in New York:
1. Meet for tapas.
2. Pretend you care more about his day than your career circling the drain.
3. Stumble to your place. Kick him out before he trips on dirty laundry. (Literal or figurative.)

It’s easy. That’s how I like it.

Before you crown me the least romantic person in Manhattan, meet my competition.

Dr. Wesley Robinson.

Keen blue eyes and fell-out-of-bed hair. Unhealthy obsession with 80s movies. Drier than a gin martini. Drive that makes Tony Robbins look like a slacker.

Yep. The hot genius I’m helping sell his DNA dating app has a plan:

Scale the highest peak of Mount Nerd. Then ride off with his genetic Cinderella.

I shouldn’t fall for him.

Even if Wes kisses like there’s something dirty under that pressed shirt.

Even if he opens me up like no man has.

Even if guarding my heart’s getting harder each day.

Because New York isn’t Wes’s mountain. I’m not his princess…

And nothing this easy can last.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author, Canadian Author
Series: Modern Love

Set in the same universe as the Wicked Trilogy

Author: Piper Lawson
# of Books: 1+ (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, more books to be published in the series
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 10, 2019 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Piper Lawson

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Piper Lawson writes some of my favourite New Adult romances out there. She just has this great ability to write strong characters (especially her heroines) that also have vulnerability. I just find her stories are so genuine and realistic even if there is some drama along the way.

What I Liked:

–Realistic Slow Burn Romance–

I loved how this romance built and took its time. Yes, these two have instant chemistry but those deeper feelings grow as the characters spend more time with each other and get to know each other. It was easy to see why they would fall for each other…even if they didn’t think so. Their banter and interacts are a highlight of the novel. It was nice to see characters sorta date and fall in love; lots of books just dive in head first!

–Everyday Obstacles–

I think the thing I loved most about this story was the reliability of our two leads. The problems they encounter at work and in their personal lives with connect with the reader. And it really allows for some stellar character growth from start to finish.

What I Didn’t Like:

–A Little Rushed at the End–

I would have liked some of the stuff at the end to be teased out a little. It made the character development seem a little lopsided because so much happens in the last few chapters.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m not sure what or who the next novel will be about but you bet I’m sticking around to find out!

My Rating: 4/5

Easy Love 4/5 | Book 2 TBP 

overall

With a great flow, genuine characters you can’t help but like and a realistic, modern approach to romance, this is a MUST for contemporary romance fans!

Read if You Like: contemporary romances, slow burn
Avoid if You: want erotica, dislike contemporary romances

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Series Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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 Anna and the French Kiss (from Goodreads):
Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

breakdown

Series: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: December 2010 – August 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I saw Anna and the French Kiss years ago at my local library but I never got around to picking it up (I think it was the hint at a love triangle). I actually thought it was related to Lauren Henderson’s Flirting in Italian Series (which I put on my TBR YEARS ago!). I never gave this book a second thought until I started following more blogs and noticed everyone seemed to love this book. So call me intrigued…I put this book on hold and waited to dig in.

I’m not a huge fan of stories where the object of affection is in another relationship. In general, I don’t enjoy books with cheating or love triangles; and while I didn’t think Anna and the French Kiss was going to be a book dripping in cheating escapades, it didn’t appeal to me too much. (Nor did its sequel that had a similar situation). But who can refuse a literary trip to Paris?

The Plot:

These books are your typical contemporary Young Adult fare. When I was just a few chapters into Anna and the French Kiss I already had a good idea of what one major plot twist was going to be; however, there definitely was one I never saw coming. It wasn’t that way with the sequels though. I had the story figured out for the most part and so that dulled my enjoyment moving forward.

Also, perhaps it is just due to the age of the characters but somethings just seemed needless overdramatic. This was especially the case in Lola and the Boy Next Door. Maybe I’m just used to reading older contemporary romances now but I kept thinking “that’s all that drove you two apart?”–I guess I was anticipating a larger falling out considering how reactive Lola was to his return.

I ended up DNFing Isla and the Happily Ever After around the 21% mark because the pacing was just off. It also didn’t seem to have a plot either other than Isla obsessing after the object of her affection.

The Characters:

I was a little hit or miss with the characters here and I think that has to do with everyone’s quirkiness. Every one has their own larger than life personality (especially Lola) and that may clash you with you. I know that was the case in Book #2 (Lola) where I wasn’t a fan of Lola but I enjoyed Cricket’s character.

One thing I will say is that even if you don’t directly relate to the character, you likely have experienced a similar situation when it comes to relationships with family and friends. We’ve all had those strained times between others and I think that is especially true when you are a teenager and are trying to find yourself.

The Romance:

I’m really torn over the romance of the novels. In all of the novels, I really loved the pairings. I thought everyone was a great match and the whole “find someone who loves you for you” motto really rings true.

However, I don’t really enjoy love triangles–especially ones where someone is already in a relationship. Emotional cheating (having romantic feelings for someone else) isn’t something I like to read about. I don’t like the revelations that the “perfect” partner isn’t so perfect anymore because you can find flaws in anyone.

Why both Books #1 (Anna) and #2 (Lola) needed that angle is beyond me because I think both stories would have been great without that particular trope.

My Audiobook Experience (Lola and Isla):

I enjoyed the audio productions. Most of my dissatisfaction comes from the actual story and not the audiobook. Perhaps if I had read the novel (which would have taken me a fraction of the time the audiobook did) may have allowed me to enjoy the story itself but I’m not entirely sure that would have been the case.

My Rating: DNF

Anna and the French Kiss 4/5  |  Lola and the Boy Next Door 2/5 |  Isla and the Happily Ever After DNF

overall

Perfect for YA contemporary fans who enjoy quirky characters and don’t need an overly complicated plot.

Read if You Like: YA contemporaries; lighter stories
Avoid if You: dislike drama, dislike love triangles
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Series Review: Riders by Veronica Rossi

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 Riders (from Goodreads):

Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

While recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen—Conquest, Famine, and Death—are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now—bound, bloodied, and drugged—Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for—not to mention all of humankind—he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Riders Duology
Author: Veronica Rossi
# of Books: 2 (Riders, Seeker)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single (Riders), Alternating (Seeker)
Publication Dates: February 2016 – May 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After finishing the Under the Never Sky Trilogy nearly three years ago, I’ve been missing a little Veronica Rossi in my life. She’s a fantastic storyteller and I was STOKED to see what she would do next with this series.

I knew Riders had some mixed reviews but I was optimistic. It took me awhile to get into Under the Never Sky but once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the world Rossi weaved.

The Concept / The World:

I have a few Horsemen of the Apocalypse novels on my TBR but this is the first one I’ve read off of it–and it didn’t disappoint! It’s such a cool concept and Rossi does a great job developing it. The plot is straightforward but it does have those added layers that become more intricate as the story evolves. It captured my full attention from the start.

The Plot:

For me, Riders had an odd pacing. First, I loved the format of the novel. Having Gideon essentially describe past events in an interrogation room gives the novel a fantastic level of suspense. How does he get to that point? What happened to the others? I loved the anticipation of the big reveal! Learning how the horsemen were brought together captured my attention from the start.

But once the horsemen are assembled, the plot reaches a plateau. And it feels a little stale. I didn’t like waiting around for something to happen, especially when the first half of the novel had such a great pace to it. The good news is that it does pick up and the last few chapters were fabulous.

Yet Seeker–despite Riders ending on such a high point–takes its time to reach the same momentum. The romance gets a little more lot of airtime and it seems to be awhile before the action happens. Which is a little unfortunate because I think the romance is the weakest feature of this novel. There is no need to dedicate HALF THE BOOK to it when there are so many other plot points to wrap up. And when the focus does shift again to the actual plot, I wasn’t as into as I wanted to. If this had been the first book, I would have DNF’d it well before the 40% mark because it was so boring.

The Characters:

Gideon is the lead for Riders and he is the perfect choice. I loved his witty and sarcastic narration. He was a very entertaining narrator. But he is also a great leader for this essentially rag-tag team of horsemen.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between the 4 guys. Sure, it starts a little rocky but it was cool seeing them evolve as a team and come together.

And I liked that the villains are villains. I always enjoy having someone to root against.

The Romance:

Honestly, this is why my rating for this series is lower than I wanted it to be. I was not feeling this romance in the slightest. It’s such a shame because I know Rossi can write such great romantic pairings as evident in Under the Never the Sky. Here, it just seemed rushed and perhaps a little forced? I think if you removed it from the story, it wouldn’t negatively affect the plot but would enhance it–especially in Seeker where it becomes too much of the focus.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really loved the audiobook and I’m glad I decided to read this series as an audio one. Like I said above, Gideon has a sarcastic tone to a lot of his narration and I’m not sure if I would have grasped all of it in the book copy. And with Riders being written like Gideon is describing the events to his interrogator, it just seemed natural to listen to it as an audiobook.

Having the narration shift to an alternating one in Seeker worked. I’m not sure how else you could tell this story without it and both voice actors do a great job delivering the content.

Series Rating: 3/5

Riders 3.5/5 | Seeker 2/5

overall

It breaks my heart a bit that I’m giving this series this review. Riders was a great base for a strong sequel but Seeker just couldn’t keep the momentum going. I won’t be recommending this one anytime soon.

Read if You Like: adventure, mythology, action
Avoid if You: dislike romance focused sequels
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Series Review: Truth or Lies by Ella Miles

Fresh Fridays: Taken by Lies (Truth or Lies #1) by Ella Miles

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

book2 book3 book4 book5 book6

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Taken by Lies (from Goodreads):

At 16 I was taken.
Kidnapped by a boy I thought I could love.
Then he sold me as if I were property.
For three years I endured.
Beatings.
Torture.
Pain.
I never broke.
I was strong, determined, resilient.
But then one day it happened…I broke.
Setting me free.
I should have run away, found a new life, and started over.
Instead, I returned.
To find the man who sold me.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author, 2019 Fave
Series: Truth or Lies
Author: Ella Miles
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: New Adult, Dark, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot (BDSM: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: March 2019 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Ella Miles!

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:

Ella Miles is my go-to author for dark contemporary romances. She just writes thrilling, steamy and more often than not twisted romance; and she never fails to surprise me with her great plots. So when I saw this New Adult series was her next project, I was super excited!

What I Liked:

–Great Chemistry Between the Leads–

I already adored the relationship between Kie and Enzo thanks to the novella (more about that below) but I loved every interaction these two had. There’s so much tension and unspoken feelings between them that I lived for their scenes together!

–The Slow Reveal of the Past–

I don’t want to give much away but if you’ve ever read Ella Miles before you know that she leaves little tidbits throughout her novels as you reach the climax. If I wasn’t already hooked on the romance, I was totally invested in learning more about what happened between the events of Lured by Lies and Taken by Lies.

–Enzo–

Don’t get me wrong, Kie is also great but I want to give a special shout out to Enzo. I’m not one who enjoys overly alpha heroes–even in dark romances–but Enzo is quickly becoming a favourite of mine! Yes, he has alpha tendencies but he also has this great vulnerability that we get from time to time that had me totally gone for his character.

What I Didn’t Like:

I have to wait for the sequels! I just want to binge this series!

When to Read the Novella: Lured by Lies (#0.5):

One thing I love about Ella Miles is that she often writes prequel novellas for her stories so you can get a little taste of what is to come. Lured by Lies provides that little bit of context for the history between the two characters who are our leads. It just brings an edge of anticipation for what’s to come next and I think it immensely increased my enjoyment of Taken by Lies since I had already fallen for the characters.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

So excited for what’s to come!

updates

–May 2, 2019– Book #2: Betrayed by Truths

Gah!!!! I’m so in love with this series so far!

I love the tension between Kai and Enzo! Their attraction to each other just leaps off the pages. Enzo makes me swoon whenever he looks at her. I adore his character so much. He is unlike any alpha hero I’ve ever read. And I love how Kai is his match in every way. They are easily one of my favourite romance couples of all time.

And the drama! So addicting. There have been so many great twists along the way that I couldn’t put this book down!

Bingeworthy!

My Rating: 4.5/5

[Lured by Lies 4/5] |Taken by Lies 5/5 | Betrayed by Truths 5/5 | Book 3 TBP

overall

One of Ella Miles’ best dark contemporary stories! It’s deliciously dark and addicting!

Read if You Like: dark romances
Avoid if You: dislike dark romances, dislike alpha males, dislike mature subject matter
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Series Review: Broke and Beautiful by Tessa Bailey

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 Chase Me (from Goodreads):

College drop-out, Roxy Cumberland, moved to New York with dreams of becoming an actress, but her dwindling bank account is quickly putting the kibosh on that fantasy. To make some quick cash, she signs up to perform singing telegrams. Her first customer is a gorgeous, cocky Manhattan trust-funder if she ever laid eyes on one. And what could be more humiliating than singing an ode to his junk, courtesy of his last one night stand? Maybe the fact that she’s dressed in a giant, pink bunny costume…

After a night out to celebrate winning his last case, lawyer Louis McNally II isn’t prepared for the pounding in his head or the rabbit serenading him from the front door. But the sassy wit and sexy voice of the girl behind the mask intrigues him, and one look at her stunning face—followed by a mind-blowing kiss against his doorjamb—leaves Louis wanting more.

Roxy doesn’t need a spoiled rich boy who’s had everything in life handed to him on a Tiffany platter. But there’s more to Louis than his sexy surface and he’s determined to make Roxy see it…even if it means chasing her all over NYC.

breakdown

Series: Broke and Beautiful
Author: Tessa Bailey
# of Books: 3 (Chase Me, Need Me, Make Me)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Humour
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: mild in Need Me and Make Me)
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March 2015 – August 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had Chase Me marked on my library wishlist for a long time and when my library card was expiring, I decided that this was one of the “new” series I was going to binge read before I lost access. The premise seemed fun and I’m always up for a lighter New Adult read.

The Plot:

The plot in these books is all about the chase (pun intended?) and the obstacles these couples face as they try to make their seemingly impossible relationship(s) work. Sometimes these books get a little too caught up in the back-and-forth of it all (Make Me #3 for example) but I still enjoyed the story. They get into a lot of hi-jinks along the way thanks to their unique personalities and circumstances so I always found each book was a refreshing story to me.

The Characters:

I really liked all the characters. As I said above, they were each unique and not carbon copies of each other.

I will say that I didn’t like our hero in Make Me as much as I had anticipated. It’s not that I didn’t like him, I just didn’t expect one of his character traits and that threw me off a bit. I actually read Make Me (#3) before Need Me (#2) as was the order I got them from the library. Had I read Need Me first, I probably would have known what to expect a little more but I still really liked him as a hero when it’s all said and done.

The Romance:

While all these couples had great romantic tension and chemistry, I feel like we only scratched the surface of their relationship. The stories are kept light, fun and flirty so we don’t get more than your necessary amount of soul baring from each character. So while I could see the basis of their relationships forming, they fall quick and hard solely based on a few interactions and not much else.

Series Rating: 4/5

Chase Me 4/5 | Need Me 4/5 | Make Me 3.5/5

overall

This series is perfect for fans who want some lighter New Adult romances with plenty of laughs and steam!

Read if You Like: new adult romances, humours contemporary
Avoid if You: want deeper characters

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Fresh Fridays: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Fresh Fridays: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

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:

Rule Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Rule (from Goodreads):

Three Dark Crowns meets Pretty Little Liars in this sensational and striking new fantasy from debut author Ellen Goodlett.

Three girls. Three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.

The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos.

Or rather, three unexpected options.

Zofi has spent her entire life trekking through the outer Reaches with her band of Travelers. She would do anything to protect the band, her family. But no one can ever find out how far she’s already gone.

Akeylah was raised in the Eastern Reach, surrounded by whispers of rebellion and abused by her father. Desperate to escape, she makes a decision that threatens the whole kingdom.

Ren grew up in Kolonya, serving as a lady’s maid and scheming her way out of the servants’ chambers. But one such plot could get her hung for treason if anyone ever discovers what she’s done.

When the king summons the girls, they arrive expecting arrest or even execution. Instead they learn the truth: they are his illegitimate daughters, and one must become his new heir. But someone in Kolonya knows their secrets, and that someone will stop at nothing to keep the sisters from their destiny… to rule.

Magic, mystery, and blackmail abound in the first book of this sensational and striking fantasy duology.

breakdown

Series: Rule
Author: Ellen Goodlet
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Rise, to be released June 2019
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Magic, Politics
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: September 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I won’t lie, it was the cover that drew me into this read. I was browsing my library’s new additions when I scrolled across this one. I actually checked out the hardcover from my library but never got around to it. But the premise was promising. I love the drama and secrets of Pretty Little Liars (well, the TV show at least; I never read the books) and Three Dark Crowns won me over with its sequel so I was optomistic I would enjoy this one.

What I Liked:

–Multiple POVs–

I love books that follow multiple characters. I find it gives the novel a 360-degree view of everything that is happening and keeps the story moving. Even if you don’t enjoy one POV, at least you have some others to look forward to.

–Diverse Cast–

When books mimic real life (especially by highlighting prejudices and the like) I’m always invested. This book has quite the group of characters. All the girls come from different family styles, races and castes (travelers, maids, etc). You’ve also got characters that are LGBTQ (in a very normalised, not token kind of way). So in that respect, I truly found this book to deliever on diversity without it feeling like it was simply checking all the marks off.

–The Magic–

I liked how straight-forward the tithe system seemed to be. Not only is everything magic-wise easily explained but it also has limitations. One of my biggest peeves about magic is the almost unlimited power it can have but the magic here makes sense.

–The Blackmail–

I think this is where the Pretty Little Liars comparisons come in because there is someone taunting these girls with their secrets. And the secrets are pretty juicy–and contribute to the plot in a rather strong way. These aren’t petty “I know about your secret relationship” type of secrets; they run much deeper (and more complex) than that.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It Seems Needlessly Drawn Out–

Perhaps starting this book the week I was working nights wasn’t the best idea–my concentration is pretty crappy. However, I found the chapters used a lot of words to deliver very little in the grand scheme of things. I would get lost in text at times. But I will say that each chapter ended in a way that had me eager for the next one so I was a fan of that.

–Blending of the Characters–

While I praised this book for its diversity earlier on, sometimes I couldn’t tell Zofi apart from Ren from Akeylah. The “problem” is the third person narration. It isn’t very personal as it lacks the depths a first person POV can provide (ie the inner character monologue). As a result, I often had to reread the synopsis just to remember that Zofi was from “A” and her secret was “B” so I wouldn’t get the girls mixed up.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really started to enjoy how the various plots were starting to weave together so I am very curious to see how everything with wrap up (or unravel) in the finale.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Rule 3.5/5 | Rise TBP

overall

While nothing immediately stands out about this fantasy novel, fans of the genre will enjoy this solid and diverse story.

Read if You Like: multiple POV, wordy stories
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Series Review: Stolen Empire by Sherry D Ficklin

Series Review: Stolen Empire by Sherry D Ficklin

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 Queen of Someday (from Goodreads):

Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia—at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family—and herself—Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.

In a battle for the soul of a nation, will love or destiny reign supreme?

breakdown

Series: Stolen Empire Trilogy
Author: Sherry Ficklin (or Sherry D Ficklin)
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2014 – November 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Kindle)

thoughts

Disclaimer: I’ve opted not to pick up Books #2 and #3. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I LOVE stories set in Imperial Russia. I just adore the setting; the politics; the forbidden romances; the folklore–everything about it sucks me in as a reader. So I was super excited to read this series and managed to snag the boxset when it was on sale (though I had already grabbed Queen of Someday as a freebie prior).

It has been awhile since I read a book set in Imperial Russia so I made sure to add this series as a pick for my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge as a selection for the year 2014. I also added it to my 2018 #MakeMeRead It Readathon where it tied for 1st place for the greatest number of votes.

What I Liked:

–It’s Inspired by Catherine the Great–

I will admit that I missed that part when I actually started reading but once that became apparent to me, I was definitely intrigued. I even had to do some research on Catherine to see what her story was about. I love books that make me dig a little deeper.

–Video Bonuses at the End of Chapters–

You can tell that Sherry Ficklin has put a lot of research into this series in terms of history, characters and setting. So it was a neat treat to get video bonuses at the end of some chapters where she explains her inspiration or what she was attempting to do in that chapter.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Couldn’t Get a Read on Sophie’s Character–

I was definitely a Sophie fan in the first few chapters. She isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and that shows in the opening scene when her carriage is attacked. She came across as strong and independent and I liked that a lot.

But then something happened where it seemed like her character almost had two different personalities. I get it, she’s 15 years old and has the pressure of the Empress and her mother on her back so I don’t expect her to make flawless decisions at all times. Yet, I craved some consistency in her character. One moment she’s this docile thing falling into love within moments of talking to a man and in the next she’s this bold and cunning heroine laying down threats like she owns the place. It was just a weird disconnect for me and I almost felt like I was reading about two different characters in one body.

–The Romances–

Yes, that’s a plural and no, I’m not talking about different characters. I’m talking about the numerous romances Sophie finds herself entangled in. Thanks to my research, I know that Catherine the Great was a lady who liked her male company so that isn’t overly surprising that in her youth she’d be the same. What irked me was how fast Sophie fell for these guys. They share one conversation and she’s willing to risk anything to be with them.

Again, she’s 15 and I get how fickle the heart can be. But add to that my issues with her character and I quickly lost interest in her romantic relationships–which do take up the vast majority of the book.

–Peter–

You can’t label some as “sadistic” in the synopsis and then not show that side of him until the last quarter of the novel. I had to reread the synopsis multiple times to make sure that it was Peter who was supposed to be the cruel one because for the most part, he was just an immature royal who toyed with Sophie’s feelings like any 16 year old boy would.

Will I Finish It?

Nope! I read the real Catherine the Great’s biography and I have a good sense of how her story ended and what was to come in the future books so I’m good with leaving this series here.

My Rating: DNF

Queen of Someday 2/5 | Queen of Tomorrow N/A | Queen of Always N/A

overall

If you like teenaged historical fiction and don’t mind love at first sight triangles and drama, you’ll likely enjoy this.

Read if You Like: Imperial Russia, teen soap operas
Avoid if You: want a more mature story

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ARC Review: Friends with Benefits (Beta Brothers #2) by Hazel Kelly

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

Other Books in the Series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Friends with Benefits (from Goodreads):

Carter’s been crazy about Nina since the first time he saw her emerald eyes, but his fratastic reputation landed him in the friend zone before he even had a chance to say, “How you doin’?”

So when Nina suggests they become friends with benefits, he can’t believe his luck.

After all, once he’s gotten in her pants, winning her heart should be easy… right?

breakdown

Series: Beta Brothers
Author: Hazel Kelly
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Unsure
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: June 2018 – August 2018
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Disclaimer: I have not read the first book in the series, My Best Friend’s Ex. This is only a review of Friends with Benefits.

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for a friends with benefits type of situation in books. The main reason is the palpable sexual tension because love is almost always inevitable. So while I hadn’t read the first book in the series, when Hazel asked me to read Friends with Benefits (which you can totally read as a standalone!)I leapt at the chance!

The Plot:

For the most part, the plot focuses on these two fighting their feelings for each other while keeping their relationship secret from their friends. We don’t delve too deep into their character stories or backgrounds, which does give this story a lighter feel to it. With the exception of one particular scene, we shy away from the petty and over the top drama that often accompanies these books so I found that to be rather refreshing.

The Characters:

It took me a few chapters to get used to our leads. They’re a little on the quirkier side of things so the humour wasn’t overly apparent to me (but I struggle with comedy in novels I read vs listen to). But once I got a feel for them, I started to enjoy their comments and styles. They do make for a fun pair to follow.

I also thought they lacked some maturity at the start of the novel but they matured as the story (and their relationship) progressed which made me happy.

As I said above, the character development could have been stronger by elaborating more on their backstories. However, I think the primary goal of this novel is to focus on the lighter side of love and looking to the future so I didn’t mind. I saw growth in their maturity and that worked for me.

The Romance:

These two have great chemistry from the start. I liked the fact that it was Nina who set all the rules for the relationship and not Carter (like it often is in books). It was nice to get that reversal on the usual approach to this trope.

concSLOW

Series Rating: 3.5/5

My Best Friend’s Ex N/A | Friends with Benefits 3.5/5

overall

Once I got a feel for the story and characters, I enjoyed this lighter rom-com and it was the perfect way to destress after a long day at work!

Read if You Like: lighter romances, new adult romance, friends with benefits
Avoid if You: want deeper backstories

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  • Cross Stroke by AUTHOR (One The Edge Series #1)
  • Wicked Sexy Liar by Christina Lauren (Wild Seasons Series #3)

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Series Review: Outer Banks Tennis Academy by Jennifer Iacopelli

Series Review: Outer Banks Tennis Academy by Jennifer Iacopelli

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 Game. Set. Match. (from Goodreads):

Nestled along the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks Tennis Academy is the world’s most elite training facility. In this pressure-cooker environment, futures are forged in blood and sweat, and dreams are shattered in an instant.

Penny Harrison, a rising female star, is determined to win the French Open and beat her archrival, Zina Lutrova. But when her coach imports British bad boy Alex Russell as her new training partner, will Penny be able to keep her laser-like focus?

Tennis is all Jasmine Randazzo has ever known. The daughter of two Grand Slam champions, she’s hell-bent on extending her family’s legacy and writing her own happily-ever-after…until her chosen Prince Charming gives her the just-friends speech, right before the biggest junior tournament of the year, the Outer Banks Classic.

With a powerful serve and killer forehand, newcomer Indiana Gaffney is turning heads. She’s thrilled by all of the attention, especially from Jack Harrison, Penny’s agent and hot older brother, except he keeps backing off every time things start heating up.

With so much at stake, dreams—and hearts—are bound to break.

breakdown

Series: Outer Banks Tennis Academy
Author: Jennifer Iacopelli
# of Books: 3 (Full Series Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Sports, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: warm *spicy YA*
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2013 – ongoing
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was a tween, there was this Canadian TV drama called 15/Love that was set at a tennis academy and followed teenage tennis up-and-comers. It wasn’t the greatest show ever (in terms of acting) but I did get addicted to the drama of relationships and athletics.

I’m not entirely sure how this one crossed my radar but I liked the athletic approach. I also liked that it would be told by multiple leads because I find I enjoy contemporaries more when told that way.

The Concept / The World:

I’ll be the first to say that I’m not overly familiar with the tennis world. While I understand the game of tennis, I’m pretty clueless about how one becomes a professional tennis star. I was a little worried that I would get lost in that aspect of the story but that was never the case. Everything is kept to the basics or explained in a way that the reader will immediately understand so don’t let that deter you.

The Plot:

The synopsis gives the impression that this series is all about the romances but there is a strong focus on character development as well once you start reading. I thought there was a great balance in this respect and was pleasantly surprised that the character growth is so prevalent. More on that below.

Add to that some drama and some high stake situations and I was completely addicted to the story. It moves at a great pace and you can’t help but want to keep reading!

The Characters:

Usually I am a fan of multiple POVs because it pretty much guarantees that I will enjoy at least one character’s POV. (This does fail sometimes: City Love is a great example). HOWEVER, that wasn’t the case here at all!

That doesn’t mean I immediately loved all the leads though. This is where character development and growth truly enhanced the reading experience. As you learned more about the girls and their pasts, you are able to understand why they act the way they do. I don’t mind angsty characters so long as it is “justified” (meaning explained) to me while I read. Even better is that you get to see them change as a result and I really enjoyed that aspect. This is very much a character driven series.

The Romance:

Definitely a highlight for me! I really liked all the pairings for the girls and the resulting drama and character growth that comes from these relationships!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really hope the third book gets published. While things are wrapped up at the end of Losing Love, it didn’t feel complete to me at all. So I’m eager to get the closing chapters on these girls’ stories.

Series Rating: 4/5

Game. Set. Match. 4/5 | Losing at Love 4/5 | Book 3 TBA

overall

This is a great contemporary sports read for those who want a somewhat lighter tone to their read but still has solid character growth and swoon worthy romance.

Read if You Like: sport stories, tennis, contemporary
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POVs
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  • For Everly by Raine Thomas
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Series Review: The Cage by Megan Shepherd

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Cage (from Goodreads):

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures, all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer appears—a handsome young guard called Cassian—they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

breakdown

Series: The Cage
Author: Megan Shepherd
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella (#0.5) called The Caretaker

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2015 – May 2017
Source & Format: ARC Paperback (The Cage); Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I actually got a paperback copy of the ARC of The Cage from Lola @ Hit Or Miss Books as a part of her giveaway three years ago. I loved the concept so I was very interested in reading it but never managed to actually get to it. Which is why I picked it as a 5 Year 5 Book Challenge 2018 pick for the year 2015; especially since the series was now complete!

The Concept / The World:

I love stories where an unlikely group of people find themselves together in a dire situation. Will they band together or will they tear each other apart? Will their secrets be exposed? It just adds to the suspense of the novel and keeps you wondering what will happen next.

When it comes to The Cage (#1), this was one of those books where I loved the concept more than the actual execution. The overall idea of why these characters find themselves in this weirdly crafted world kept my attention but the stuff in between (like romance) caused it to wane. This definitely changed in the sequel novels where I found the attention stayed on the overall plot (ie why they have been captured by the alien species and what they are going to do about it).

As for the world itself, it’s easy to grasp and definitely intriguing in its own way.

The Plot:

The plot of The Cage was very slow for me. I found the mystery of why these 6 were being kept in a cage pushed me to keep reading. But at the same time, I thought some of the other elements were repetitive. Cora in particular seems to cycle through the same plot line (attempt escape, talk to the Caretaker, repeat) and she is the character we follow for a majority of the novel. The other characters get their own POVs which was a refreshing change; however, we know all the other characters secrets early on so their POVs weren’t overly enthralling. There are some good twists near the end though.

And I thought the sequels did a good job of building on that momentum at the end of the first book. The narrative of the novels shifts away from the romances and the petty stuff and instead hones in on the bigger plot of the story: saving humanity. I really enjoyed the pacing of The Hunt and the various twists we got along the way. The Gauntlet has the same great pacing; my only reason for a slightly lower rating is my dislike of some of the plot resolutions (or at least how they are resolved).

The Characters:

I really struggled to like the characters in The Cage (#1). They all seemed a little bland to me. I wasn’t a Cora fan in the slightest though I understood her desire to escape. But I never really got the logic behind the other characters’ motivations (except Rolf) and actions. We also don’t spend a lot of time getting to know them because Cora’s chapters outweigh them, so I never really grew attached.

So in the sequel novels I found them to be the right pieces to move the story forward but I never really “connected” to any of them.

The Romance:

I did NOT see the attraction between Cassian and Cora whatsoever. Well, I guess I get Cassian’s fascination in a way but not Cora’s. The love triangle that ensues is painful to watch. Thankfully it gets toned down in the sequel novels so it isn’t a huge part of the plot moving forward.

The rest of the romances served their purposes. There was one couple in particular I was rooting to see happen so I liked that.

My Audiobook Experience (The Hunt [#2] & The Gauntlet [#3]):

I LOVED the audio version–it almost makes me wish I read the first book as an audio. The narrator does a great job giving everyone a unique voice with unique tones and accents. It was just a blast to listen to!

When to Read the Novella, The Caretaker?

I read it after I completed the series mostly because I forgot it existed 😛 You can read it for free here and I would definitely read it AFTER you’ve read The Cage because it definitely gives away some of the plot twists (plus, it’ll will give you more context if you already know the scenes).

concSLOW

Series Rating: 3.5/5

The Cage 3/5| The Hunt 4/5 | The Gauntlet 3.5/5

overall

Despite a really rough start with The Cage, I truly to end up enjoying this series. Once we move away from the petty character moments, we do get an intriguing and unique fast-paced story about humanity’s survival in the later two sequels.

Read if You Like: dystopian science fiction, romance
Avoid if You: need fast paced plot ASAP

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