Tag «audiobook»

Single Sundays: Glitter by Abbi Glines

Single Sundays: Glitter by Abbi Glines

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Glitter (from Goodreads):
Lies, Deceit, Vengeance, Desire, and Hate…
wrapped up in a façade of all that sparkles and shines.

​A pretty face, a fetching smile, a fabulous gown, a flutter of lashes at just the right moment – Miriam had been taught she must do all these things to land a wealthy husband. Much preferring the company of books to people, the only thing that stopped Miriam from fleeing to the countryside was her younger sister – who was counting on Miriam to make a match that would ensure she could care for her mother and sister properly.

​He knew his duty to his title and he would do as was necessary.

​Although Hugh Compton, Earl of Ashington, hadn’t wanted his father’s title at the age of nine and twenty, he gained it two years ago when his father died unexpectedly. The only good that had come of that was Hugh had been able to move his father’s wife to the dowager house.

​Now it was time to marry.

Many disliked the arrogant Earl of Ashington but none so much as his brother.

After his mother was sent off as if she were trash to be disposed of, Nathaniel swore he’d even the score. With the intent of charming the boring Lydia Ramsbury right out of his brother’s arms, Nathaniel discovered it was a new face that had captured his brother’s attention – a one Miss Miriam Bathurst.

Vengeance had never looked so sweet.

breakdown

Author: Abbi Glines
Genre: New Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 21, 2021
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s been a long time since I read an Abbi Glines novel. She actually used to be one of my most read authors when Goodreads used to keep track of that sort of thing. (Maybe that’s because the Rosemary Beach series had over 10 books…)

Anyways, normally, I would stay far away from a book that hinted at a love triangle. However, Abbi Glines has written some that I have loved and some that I have hated (The Vincent Boys). But I was curious to see what she would do with a historical romance novel when she primarily writes contemporary romance and so I downloaded the audiobook from my library and dove in!

The Plot:

So, I actually liked the love triangle aspect for this story. The Prologue sets the stage with Miriam declaring she is about to marry a man but he isn’t who she truly loves — so, which brother is which in that scenario?! It added this suspense to the novel that I really enjoyed and kept me reading.

I got a lot of classic Jane Austen romance vibes with this story but there is also a modern edge to it as well — it’s that unique touch to Abbi Glines’ work that keeps me hooked in her stories.

I do wish the ending was flushed out more. I think this story lags a little in the middle and there is a lot going on plot wise that could have been resolved earlier to keep things moving.

The Characters:

Lots of historical romances write in the third person POV so it was interesting to get first person POVs for all three characters. I had hoped that this would mean that the characters would be a little more dynamic but they felt a little one-dimensional to me. I liked them all but I felt like they weren’t anything I hadn’t read before.

Miriam is the bookish heroine stereotype that many historical romances use. She’s likeable but she is designed to be by using that bookish, beautiful wallflower trope often found in historical romances. I also thought the brothers’ relationship could have been expanded upon as well.

I did love Miriam’s aunt though! She was an absolute hoot!

The Romance:

This felt very Jane Austen to me in its approach (not a bad thing!) and it has this slow burn to it that I enjoyed. Plus, the mystery of which brother Miriam falls in love with reminded me that love triangles can be a good plot device when done right.

My Audiobook Experience:

There is a female narrator that does all 3 of the characters–including the brothers. She does a good job giving each character a unique voice but I think having 2 different men to read the parts of the brothers would have been better.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

Call me a fan! I enjoyed Abbi Glines’ fresh take on the historical romance novel!

Read if You Like: love triangles, historical romances
Avoid if You: dislike first person POVs
similarreads

  • Victoria and the Rogue by Meg Cabot
  • The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn (Bridgertons Series #2)
  • Hold the Forevers by K A Linde (Coastal Chronicles #1)

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Spin-off Saturdays: Once Upon a Broken Heart (#1) by Stephanie Garber

Spin-off Saturdays: Once Upon a Broken Heart (#1) by Stephanie Garber

Spin-off Saturdays: On Saturdays, I will review a series that is a spin-off series. It is recommended that you read the original series first in order to get the most out of the spin-off series. Here is this week’s offering:

Once Upon a Broken Heart Series is a spin-off of the Caraval Series

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: To-Watch Author
Series: Once Upon a Broken Heart

This is a spinoff of the Caraval Series.

Author: Stephanie Garber
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: September 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library—Audiobook

warning
WARNING: If you have not finished the original series, this review may have spoilers!

thoughts

My Expectations?

Well, I knew that there was going to be a spin-off of Caraval eventually but I kinda forgot that fact when I picked up this book. It didn’t take long for me to clue in and I was excited to dive back into this fascinating world Stephanie Garber has created…and see a few old friends along the way!

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Twisty Though Not as Suspenseful–

I had a hard time putting down Caraval when I read it and while this story was engaging, it didn’t have the same thrill level for me. There are plenty of twists along the way to be sure but I felt like everything moved at a gradual incline to the big finale. That made the last third of the book super engaging but I wasn’t as WOWed as I could have been.

–Sister Dynamic–

At the core of Caraval is the love between two sisters and the lengths they will go to save each other. Here, we see a different side to the sister dynamic and I really enjoyed watching that play out. It was very reminiscent of the original series but entirely unique at the same time.

–Jacks–

I’ll admit that the finer details of the Prince of Hearts is lost to me but I do know that I enjoyed his character immensely in both series. He’s still the enigma of a Fate but I feel like we might be seeing his true side come to the surface.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Slow Start–

As I said above, it took me a will to get into this. I think in Caraval we get thrown into the game right away but Evie is still trying to figure out her role so it takes her a bit to realize she is a player.

–Craved More Romance–

Perhaps I read too much into the gift of “three kisses” but for a story with the title “broken heart” I did crave more romance and sexual tension.

My Audiobook Experience:

I read the original series but decided to try the audiobook this time around and I really enjoyed it. It was easy to follow along and, as I often do with audiobooks, enjoyed the hearing the emotions of the characters brought to life. Even with it being a third person POV, I easily connected with Evie’s emotions.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m very, very curious to see how this all plays out now that the players are making their moves!

Series Rating: 4/5

Once Upon a Broken Heart 4/5 | The Ballad of Never Ever TBP

overall

With a gradual crescendo, fans of the Caraval Series will appreciate the return to the magical world; and those new to the world will enjoy this story of devious Fates.

Read if You Like: high fantasy, omnipresent beings, riddles
Avoid if You: want more romance

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Once Upon a Broken Heart (from Goodreads):

How far would you go for happily ever after?

For as long as she can remember, Evangeline Fox has believed in true love and happy endings…until she learns that the love of her life will marry another.

Desperate to stop the wedding and to heal her wounded heart, Evangeline strikes a deal with the charismatic but wicked Prince of Hearts. In exchange for his help, he asks for three kisses, to be given at the time and place of his choosing.

But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that bargaining with an immortal is a dangerous game—and that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’d pledged. He has plans for Evangeline, plans that will either end in the greatest happily ever after or the most exquisite tragedy….

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Series Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Series Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for These Violent Delights (from Goodreads):

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

breakdown

Series: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Historical Fiction, Romance, Drama, Action, Suspense
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: November 2020 – November 2021
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was drawn to this series for a few reasons: the cover never failed to catch my eye when I was browsing library titles and I love the title. I’m a huge Shakespeare nut so anything Shakespeare related and I am so there. But when I read that this book would be set in the 1920s in Shanghai–I was completely sold!

The Concept / The World:

I think Romeo and Juliet gets a bad rap when it comes to the general public. Everyone knows about the doomed, naïve lovers and I think they get a lot of flack for that in popular culture. But when you study the play or even see it acted out, it really is a much richer story than people give it credit for. Which makes it the perfect foundation for this particular series and the world it takes place in.

I thought the setting of 1926 Shanghai was so great! You’ve got the gang wars and the lack of our modern conveniences. But more importantly, you have the cultural inspiration of China and what it means to be loyal to your family and country. It just adds another rich layer to this retelling that stays true to the original work but shows how the play could have very easily taken place somewhere other than Italy.

The Plot:

I will admit to being a little disappointed in the first book because it wasn’t what I totally expected. There’s a lot of information to take in from the rival gangs, to the politics of the city to the various characters we meet. And perhaps listening to the audio version wasn’t the best choice because I might have missed some important details and not have noticed. However, I did find it suspenseful with the Science Fiction aspect of the “madness” and overall, it does do a great job of setting up the foundation for the sequel.

The sequel was great! I found it was nonstop in the action and plot twists. I also think the allusions to Romeo and Juliet are a little more obvious; though I like the unique takes we get on those elements. It isn’t a carbon copy of the original text by any means.

The Characters:

Juliette isn’t the naïve girl from the play. Sure, she has her weaknesses, but she can hold her own in a fight if she needed to with her cunning wit and her fighting skills. I enjoyed watching her character overcoming obstacles and growing from the past.

Roma is a little more of an enigma but again, another strong character who had some great growth.

I really enjoyed the side characters we met as well. I had a hard time in the first book keeping everyone straight but everyone was well developed.

The Romance:

I felt like the passionate romance was missing a bit in the first book. Perhaps that’s because Juliette and Roma spend more time apart then together. Other than the passing mentions of their previous love affair, I wasn’t entirely sold that their connection was this amazing thing that would have them contemplating betraying their families.

Things definitely improved in the final book though in that respect and I was very happy to see how it comes together there.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed the audio production. While I think it might have stopped me from fully grasping what was happening all the time, it is well done. My only complaint is that when the narrator does Roma’s voice, the pitch can be super hard to hear so I found I was constantly adjusting the volume as I listened.

concSLOW

Series Rating: 3.5/5

These Violent Delights 3/5 | Our Violent Ends 4/5

overall

Overall, an original take on the classic Romeo and Juliet trope that will keep readers on their toes with its blending of Science Fiction and Historical Fiction.

Read if You Like: Romeo and Juliet retellings, forbidden love
Avoid if You: dislike Shakespeare retellings

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Fresh Fridays: Defy the Night (#1) by Brigid Kemmerer

Fresh Fridays: Defy the Night (#1) by Brigid Kemmerer

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:

Defy the Night Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Defy the Night (from Goodreads):

A fantasy series about a kingdom divided by corruption, the prince desperately holding it together, and the girl who will risk everything to bring it crashing down.

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.

breakdown

Series: Defy the Night
Author: Brigid Kremmerer
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

A few years ago now, I read Kemmerer’s Elemental Series and really enjoyed it. Despite that, I never picked up another title by her and I honestly have no good reason to explain why I haven’t. But when I read Kait @ Katie’s Book Blog‘s review, I decided to get my hands on my library’s audiobook.

I love a good fantasy novel and this one sounded great! I definitely forgot about the Robin Hood inspiration when I read this book, but that was one of the reasons I decided to add it to my TBR.

I had just finished reading the audio version of Realm Breaker–which I didn’t enjoy–so I wasn’t sure if reading another fantasy audiobook immediately after that flop was a good idea. But, my library loan was going to expire and I was optimistic I would enjoy this one!

What I Liked:

–The Pacing–

I felt like this story was always moving. Yes, it definitely helps that we have two POVs that we flip between but I found both Corrick’s and Tessa’s stories to be equally intriguing. Plus, I couldn’t wait to see how they would cross paths.

–Kept Me Guessing–

I liked that nothing was overly predictable with the plot. While I certainly had some theories that turned out to be true, they certainly got tested along the way and had me second guessing.

–Tessa–

While Corrick has great character development and layers, I really enjoyed Tessa’s character. She’s passionate and compassionate. She’s certainly stubborn but I appreciated that she could see when she was wrong. There’s three sides to every story (yours, mine and the truth) and as Tessa starts to learn more about the kingdom, she discovers that maybe her views aren’t necessarily the right or the only ones.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It Was Just Missing that Next Level–

While I really enjoyed this book, there was just something missing here to take it to that next level. Perhaps it was the fact that I was reading about a medical epidemic in a kingdom during the global COVID-19 pandemic that stopped me from getting totally into it. I also think that some of the other side characters could have been developed a little more, like King Harristan.

My Audiobook Experience:

I thought the audiobook production was great. I was very happy with my decision to listen to this story. It’s easy to follow along and the narrators were fabulous.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Now that there have been some great character and plot developments, I’m excited to see where this will go next!

My Rating: 4.5/5

Defy the Night 4.5/5 | Defend the Dawn TBP

overall

With a dash of romance and a dash of Robin Hood inspiration thrown in, this fantasy book makes for an engaging read.

Read if You Like: Robin Hood, fantasy, slow burn romance
Avoid if You: dislike fantasy
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Fresh Fridays: This Woven Kingdom (#1) by Tahereh Mafi

Fresh Fridays: This Woven Kingdom (#1) by Tahereh Mafi

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:

This Woven Kingdom Trilogy

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for This Woven Kingdom (from Goodreads):

Clashing empires, forbidden romance, and a long-forgotten queen destined to save her people—bestselling author Tahereh Mafi’s first in an epic, romantic trilogy inspired by Persian mythology.

To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight.

The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom—and the world.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: This Woven Kingdom
Author: Tahereh Mafi
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2022 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I promised myself I wouldn’t start a new series by an author if I already had one started but I couldn’t resist trying Tahereh Mafi’s newest series despite not finishing the newest books in the Shatter Me Series. I was on a high fantasy kick when my audiobook came in for this one and I was eager to dive in!

What I Liked:

–The World Building–

We take some quality time to set up this world and its characters. I became so captivated by their stories as we progressed through the novel. So while not a lot was happening drama wise, I was still motivated to keep reading to learn more.

–Alizeh–

I love a strong heroine, especially one that grows into her independence and abilities. I really enjoyed watching her character’s story unfold.

–Alizeh & Kamran Banter–

GIVE IT ALL TO ME! I loved any scene these two shared. I think I listened with a small smile on my face anytime these two start their verbal sparring.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slower Start–

I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the slower start. Great world and character building helps you interested in reading but I could have used some more action a little earlier on.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I am so excited to see where this series will go next!

My Audiobook Experience:

This was super easy to listen to and follow along with as an audiobook.

concSLOW

My Rating: 4/5

This Woven Kingdom 4/5 | These Infinite Threads TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

It takes its time to set up the world and its characters but it is well worth the investment!
Read if You Like: slower stories, world-building, high fantasy
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance
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Series Review: The Royals by Kim Karr

Series Review: The Royals by Kim Karr

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 Washed Up Royal (from Goodreads):

A simple notification turns my world upside down…

The tabloids are reporting,
I’ve taken the crown and run. (Not entirely true)

As you might have guessed,
I’m not an ordinary girl and I don’t lead an ordinary life,
But that doesn’t mean I always follow the rules.

This time, though, I feel compelled to obey.
Which means I have to find a king,
To sit alongside my throne,
Or lose it all.

With only the clothes on my back,
I head to the land of majestic playboys,
Where a royal rebel strides right into my life.

With his sultry eyes and sinful lips,
He turns my world right-side up.

The press is calling him washed up. (I think he’s anything but)

Gorgeous, sexy, irresistible,
And utterly charming,
He’s exactly what I’m looking for.

Everything is almost too perfect,
Too easy.

Until I discover,
This hot-blooded royal has a reason for being here.
And it’s more than just me.

That thing I said about easy,
Turns out…
Nothing ever is.

My royal rebel has a name,
It’s Prince Adrien Laurent.
My name is Princess Victoria Blanchette.
And this is our story.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: The Royals
Author: Kim Karr
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Smokin’
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: February 2019 – March 2020
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

In recent years, I’ve become a fan of Kim Karr’s contemporary romances. Her stories just have a great blend between romance, character development and plot — they’re simply entertaining! So when I needed a new audiobook series to read for my commute to work, this fit the bill perfectly.

The Concept / The World:

This is a modern day royal romance series but the kingdoms aren’t countries you are already familiar with (ie real places). There are some overarching plot themes throughout the series so there is some world-building to keep up with. I feel like we get the best overview of the royal system and the kingdoms at the start of Book #3, Wannabe Heir, which was a little too late for me to keep up with everything but I did find it helpful.

The Plot:

I liked that all these books had a few tropes at play and how they kept the plot moving. At times I was reminded of the TV show, The Royals, (oh, how I miss it!) where there is a great blend of family secrets, monarchies, danger and romance.

The Royals GIFs | Tenor

I felt like all the books had a fresh take on modern royal romances with the blending of social media, reality TV, tabloids and expectations for royalty.

The Characters:

These books are substantial enough to allow for some solid character growth. I really liked all our leads and I enjoyed watching them evolve as characters individually. Life might not always go to plan so sometimes you adapt and pivot, and I thought these characters all did that very well. They were easy to connect with, even if I don’t live as royalty.

The Romance:

Things happen quickly in some of the stories but thanks to the character development and the scenes we do get, it was easy to like all the couples. Plenty of steam to compliment the great sexual tension and chemistry!

My Audiobook Experience:

I struggled a bit keeping straight all the kingdoms and the secondary antagonist characters but the productions themselves were great!

I will say that in Book #2, Would Be King, I thought that the character accents were inconsistent. Like our hero spoke with an accent in his dialogue but when his brother from the same place spoke, there was no accent. And the inner monologues would or wouldn’t have accents and then the dialogue would. It just threw me off a bit.

Series Rating: 4/5

Washed Up Royal 4/5 | Would Be King 4/5 | Wannabe Heir 4/5 | The Pretend Prince 4/5

overall

One of the more consistent modern royalty romance series I’ve read in recent years. It’s packed with lots of sexual tension and drama with solid characters; making it a great series to binge read!

Read if You Like: modern royal romances
Avoid if You: want full-blown erotica

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Fresh Fridays: Realm Breaker (#1) by Victoria Aveyard

Fresh Fridays: Realm Breaker (#1) by Victoria Aveyard

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:

Realm Breaker Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Realm Breaker (from Goodreads):

A strange darkness grows in Allward.

Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.

She soon discovers the truth: She is the last of an ancient lineage—and the last hope to save the world from destruction. But she won’t be alone. Even as darkness falls, she is joined by a band of unlikely companions:

A squire, forced to choose between home and honor.
An immortal, avenging a broken promise.
An assassin, exiled and bloodthirsty.
An ancient sorceress, whose riddles hide an eerie foresight.
A forger with a secret past.
A bounty hunter with a score to settle.

Together they stand against a vicious opponent, invincible and determined to burn all kingdoms to ash, and an army unlike anything the realm has ever witnessed.

breakdown

Series: Realm Breaker
Author: Victoria Aveyard
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I LOVED The Red Queen when I read it…and was completely disappointed in its sequel. I couldn’t finish it for the life of me. I might try it as an audiobook sometime in the near future though.

I wanted to go into this series with some optimism. I did like The Red Queen after all and the politics of the world. This world sounded super cool (pirates, assassins, immortals) and it had multiple POVs which I love so I was excited when my hold came in for the audiobook.

What I Liked:

–Lack of Romance–

This is a double-edged sword for me because I LOVE a good romance in my books. I will be the first to say that often times it can distract from the plot but sometimes I need that in a book to keep me interested (which you will see is the case here).

However, I can appreciate that there really isn’t any romance at all in the book. There are definitely sparks and some inklings that maybe in future books love will be in the air. So a possible slow burn keeps things going a bit.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Lack of Romance–

As I said above, I can appreciate that it didn’t distract from the plot but the fact of the matter is: I needed something to distract me from the plot!

–Long Prologue–

I struggled to get through the prologue. Like, at one point I went, “it’s still going?” I should have taken that as a sign to stop reading but I wanted to give this book a fair shot because I really wanted to enjoy this book.

I think the prologue really helps explain how Spindles work and how the world operates a little more. And because I zoned out during the prologue, I spent the rest of the book a little lost in what was actually happening.

–Bland Characters–

Normally I love multiple POV books because I can usually find a character or two whose plotlines I enjoy and that motivates me to keep going. Here, I thought everyone was as exciting as watching paint dry on a wall. Even our villain was lackluster to me. They just seemed like every other character from every other high fantasy novel I’ve read. Perhaps it was due to the fact the chapters are excessively long so you get tired of the monotony of the person after a while.

My Audiobook Experience:

Perhaps I should have read an actual text copy so I could flip back to refresh the world-building when needed. But I usually have great success with fantasy books as audio series. The production itself is fine though there is only one narrator. (Which works for a third person POV title but it does add to the monotony).

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Honestly, I don’t even remember how this ends and I just finished it the other day. That’s how not into it I was. I don’t have any expectations really because I won’t be continuing.

My Rating: 2/5

Realm Breaker 2/5 | Blade Breaker TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

This was just a miss for me. With its promising elements I ended up feeling disconnected and disinterested in this new series and I won’t be continuing on.

Read if You Like: slower stories, fantasy, dislike long & wordy books
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Series Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Series Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

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 Testing (from Goodreads):

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one and the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honoured to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies—trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every gruelling (and deadly) day of the Testing.

To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

breakdown

Series: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 The Testing Guide

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Post Apocalyptic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 2013 – June 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I actually think The Testing (#1) is the first book I added to my TBR by Charbonneau; I saw it as a freebie on Amazon one day and downloaded it. But I ended up reading (and enjoying) her Dividing Eden Series first. When my library added the audiobooks for this trilogy last year, I was excited to give this series a try! It has been a long time since I read a dystopian novel and I couldn’t wait to dive in!

The Concept / The World:

If the Hunger Games and Divergent had a baby, I feel like it would be this book. It reminded me a little of the construction of the Red Queen where it is a mash-up of everything you expect in the genre (only the Red Queen is high fantasy). Yet at the same time, everything here felt unique and refreshing in a way. It’s a really cool world to explore and it has so many layers to it–but you don’t realize that is the case right away either which I think is a lot of fun.

The Plot:

At the start of The Testing (#1), this book felt really “young teen” or middle age dystopian to me. I think I got that impression thanks to the naïve vibes I was getting from our heroine, Cia. Of course, she’s naïve because society wants her to be that way, not because she is unintelligent. (More on that below!)

Once the true nature of the testing is revealed and the more sinister edge to this world takes center stage. This series doesn’t have a lot of physical action compared to others in the genre. Yes, parts of the testing has physically dangerous elements but I found everything was rooted more in logic and thinking and testing the characters that way. It almost reads like Divergent, only if you focused more on the politics of the world than the physical battle for it.

However, I felt a little let down in how everything progresses. I kept waiting for a big reveal to take things to the next level. And while there are some great twists that I really didn’t see until they were just about to be revealed, they were just a little underwhelming for me.

The Characters:

Perhaps I am in the minority for this: but I loved how Cia’s character evolved as the series progressed. One thing that I thought was interesting about her character is that she really isn’t emotionally driven like some heroines we meet in this genre, but more moral based. Although she has a strong moral compass, she definitely isn’t devoid of feelings. She’s an intelligent, logical girl who really tackles everything that comes her way by thinking things through. I appreciated that she was always thinking 3 steps ahead when she made decisions and could see the bigger picture.

To a certain extent, Cia is a bit of a special snowflake heroine and I know that irks others who have read this series. For some reason she is singled out during the Testing when really, there isn’t anything extremely remarkable about her. But I think she works really hard to apply herself when challenges are brought her way rather than things just falling into place for her.

The Romance:

I liked that this kept me guessing a bit. It’s an interesting element to the story, particularly in the first book during the Testing. It isn’t a huge driving element to the story but another factor to consider as the plot moves on. Could it have been played upon more?–Definitely. I really thought there was a missed opportunity to have this element take things to the next level and add a more dramatic flare to Cia’s life than the dull flare it brings.

My Audiobook Experience:

It took me a bit to get into but once I got into the story, the audiobook was addicting to listen to throughout the series. I thought the narrator did a good job bringing Cia’s character to life.

When to Read The Testing Guide (#0.5):

I didn’t read this prequel but you can likely read it at any time since the events take place years before the trilogy. If you want to read it in chronological order, then read it before The Testing (#1).

Series Rating: 3/5

[The Testing Guide N/A| The Testing 3.5/5 | Independent Study 3.5/5 | Graduation Day 3/5

overall

Fans of dystopian YA fiction will see a lot of similarities to other books but I enjoyed the weaving of classic dystopian elements. However, I kept waiting for something amazing to happen so the conclusion felt a little lackluster to me. And I when I finished, I kinda struggled with “what was the purpose of this whole series” which isn’t the best way to end a series if you ask me.

Read if You Like: dystopian fiction, books dealing with politics
Avoid if You: want more physical action

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Series Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Series Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

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 A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (from Goodreads):

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav of 2020
Series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Author: Holly Jackson
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella called: Kill Joy

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Crime
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: May 2019 – September 2021
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think it was the title that drew me into reading the synopsis for this book. I had noticed it as an audiobook addition at my library and once I read the synopsis, I immediately put a hold on it. I love a good murder mystery and we don’t often encounter them a lot in the YA genre (I suppose that’s a good thing) so that always catches my attention. And while I don’t listen to podcasts, they seem to be all the rage–especially true crime–so I was interested to see how it would all play out.

The Concept:

I really loved how this series was formatted! It’s a blend of notes, interviews and reports from Pip’s projects interspersed with a narrated story. I’ve only read a few novels that use this approach of documents–The Illuminae Files being the most notable for me–but it works so well with a mystery novel. You almost feel like you are building the case yourself as all these pieces of evidence come in. It just gives this great suspense to the story.

The Plot:

The key to any good mystery is making it not too obvious but still making it within the realm of possibility. I took a detective fiction course in university so I really judge mystery novels hard because I’ve studied the bones of the genre. This series had enough red herrings along the way to keep you guessing but the solutions were always within reason.

At times, I feel like Books #1 & #2 wane a little bit in the middle; but I had such a blast listening to the audiobooks (thanks to the different mediums the information is delivered in) I didn’t notice all that much.

I did struggle with the direction of As Good As Dead (#3) however. This book has a completely different tone to it thanks to the outcomes of the first two books. There were a lot of options to reach the same conclusion and I think some readers won’t like the options that were chosen. I know I didn’t love a lot of the choices. However, when I take a step back and see how this book fits in with the overall series, I understand why things unfold the way they do.

The Characters:

I liked Pippa a lot. Not every “detective” is Sherlock Holmes (though he is fab) with their aloof intelligence. Pippa is kinda like the everyday girl, and I think that appeals to a reader: because if she can solve the mystery, surely you can as well.

Like any good mystery in a small town, you get to know all the other characters (or suspects?) throughout the series. It’s a solid cast of characters.

The Romance:

It’s not a huge part of the story but the little inklings warmed my heart. It brings home the fact that Pip is a regular girl in the midst of her own coming of age story and grounds the story when she gets those romantic moments throughout the series.

My Audiobook Experience:

Honestly, I think this is the whole reason why I rated this series so high: I LOVED the audio versions. Having a whole cast to bring the interview scenes to life and all the other documents (complete with sound effects) just gave me so much joy as I listened. It isn’t often I just lay around listening to an audiobook (usually I’m driving/walking or doing chores) but I was so addicted to this, I made time to listen. I guess I get the appeal now of true crime podcasts!

When to Read the Novella:

I didn’t read the prequel novella Kill Joy. My library didn’t have a copy and I wasn’t interested enough in it to buy it for myself. However, my research shows that you can read it at any time as it takes place before the first book but doesn’t spoil anything.

Series Rating: 4/5

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder 5/5 | Good Girl, Bad Blood 4/5 | As Good As Dead 3.5/5

overall

A thrilling, suspenseful murder mystery that keeps things grounded in reality. A fabulous series–and one I highly recommend you listen to as an audiobook!

Read if You Like: true crime podcasts, thrillers, mysteries
Avoid if You: want a romance-based story

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Fresh Fridays: My Contrary Mary (Mary #1) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

Fresh Fridays: My Contrary Mary (Mary #1) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

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:

Mary Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for My Contrary Mary (from Goodreads):

Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens?⠀

Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she’s a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It’s a secret that could cost her a head – or a tail.⠀

Luckily, Mary has a confidant in her betrothed, Francis. But after the king meets a suspicious end, things at the gilded court take a treacherous turn. Thrust onto the throne, Mary and Francis are forced to navigate a viper’s nest of conspiracies, traps, and treason. And if Mary’s secret is revealed, heads are bound to roll.⠀

breakdown

Series: Mary

This is a spinoff of the My Lady Janies Series.

Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Standalone Retellings
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Humour, Parody, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I have a bit of a so-so relationship with the My Lady Janies Series. I didn’t *love* it but I enjoyed the idea of spinning well known history and there were some moments of brilliance interspersed with moments of silliness. I wasn’t sure if I was going to pick up this series but when I read that the first book was about Mary Queen of Scots–a historical figure I knew a decent amount about–I was willing to give them a shot.

What I Liked:

–I Was Familiar with the History–

Part of my struggle with the Jane Series was that I wasn’t overly familiar with all the history of our lead characters. So certain scenes and how they unfold were a little lost on me. I couldn’t see the intelligent spin the authors put on the historical moments.

But I do know the history of Mary Queen of Scots because I researched her story after I started watchin the TV Series Reign. As I often do with series that are based on history, I read the history and learn what history says happened, not the creative license TV shows or movies sometimes take.

So I think I got a little more out of this story because I could see how the Eðian (shapeshifting) aspects puts a spin on notable history events.

–Witty–

I laughed a lot thanks to the audiobook. I learned with the Jane Series that the audiobooks were the way to go for me to get the most out of the humour. But there is a lot of play on words and other aspects that made me appreciate the efforts the authors put into weaving this tale.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Sometimes It Gets Silly–

I have a bit of a love-hate thing with the Eðian aspect. It’s a fun idea and helps explain some of the prejudices of the time. But sometimes, I think it gets a little silly and distracts from the realism of these historical events. Having read the Jane series, I knew what to expect when it comes to these twists but I’m still torn on how much I actually like them in the books.

My Audiobook Experience:

I learned my lesson with the last series that the humour and dry wit comes across better when I listen to these books as audiobooks so that’s what I did for this series. I definitely enjoyed the audiobook production and I do think it contributes positively to my reading experience.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m a little undecided about continuing on with this series. I’m not a huge Mary Shelley fan and the synopsis for the second book doesn’t overly excite me. I like Fae stories though….we will see. Right now I’ve marked it as a pass on Goodreads.

My Rating: 3/5

My Contrary Mary 3/5 | My Imaginary Mary TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

Fans of the original Jane series will be excited for another round of historical hijinks! And new fans will appreciate the clever weaving of fantasy and history — so long as you know what you are getting into before you pick it up.

Read if You Like: historical retellings with fantasy spins, parodies
Avoid if You: dislike satires/parodies

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