Tag «audiobook»

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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Series Review: Vampire Royals by Leigh Walker

Series Review: Vampire Royals by Leigh Walker

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 Pageant (from Goodreads):

Who’s the fairest of them all?
Young women from every settlement in the land are being handpicked to enter The Pageant, a beauty contest reminiscent of Miss Universe from the old days. Gwyneth West’s social-climbing mother wants her to compete, by Gwyn isn’t so sure…
The Pageant is government-sponsored. If you’re lucky enough to be chosen, participation is mandatory. Aggressive competition is allowed, even encouraged.

And then there’s the prize…
The winner of The Pageant gets a marriage proposal from Dallas Black, otherwise known as The Dark Prince. Dallas is the son of King Black, who won the last world war and now governs the new settlements. The Royal Family is mysterious. Rumor has it they don’t sleep. Rumor has it they eschew the sun.
Rumor has it they’re immortal.
When Gwyn is thrust into The Pageant, she fights to survive the competitive nature of the other contestants.
But even if wins…can she survive a vampire fiancé?

breakdown

Series: Vampire Royals

Books #6-8 are a part of the Shifter Royals Series

Author: Leigh Walker
# of Books: 9 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological but Connected
Complete?: No
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2018 – ongoing

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

So I actually picked up The Pageant (#1) because the cover drew me in when I was browsing audiobooks to borrow on my library’s Hoopla. The bold colours and the haunting background of the cover called to me every time I scrolled by. And once I read the synopsis, I thought it would be a great new audiobook series for me to read!

The Concept / The World:

I think the best way to describe this series is as the perfect hybrid baby between The Selection (girls competing for the prince’s love from different social classes) and Twilight (the vampires and werewolves). Basically, it’s all about human girls finding love with dangerous paranormal creatures who capture their hearts despite the many obstacles in their way.

The Reading Order:

In terms of Chronological Events, it’s best to read everything as it is listed on Goodreads for the Vampire Royals Series. The book number corresponds to the order of events.

But, not all the books follow the same heroine. Books #1-3 follow Gwen; Books #4-5 follow another girl from the competition; Books #6-8 follow another girl (and they are often grouped under the Shifter Royals Trilogy); Book #9 follows a third girl from the original competition of Books #1-3.

The Plot:

For Books #1-3, the overall feel is very much like the TV show The Bachelor — if you had teenagers competing for a vampire bachelor since that’s what the drama stays focused on. You have girls trash-talking each other; interfering parents and dates.

Yes, there is a subplot of the humans vs vampires but it really takes a backseat to the drama of Dallas finding a bride…at least I felt like that was the case for those 3 books–and I was OK with that. However, when I compare the “rebellion” subplot featured in The Selection Series, this one is much better executed.  In the Selection, I felt like the rebellion plotline came from nowhere but with this paranormal series, we get it in the right doses so that you never forget that it is actually happening outside the competition.

Books #4-5 have a different approach where they lack that reality competition aspect and I really missed that. I didn’t think the politics of the world and the rebellion were strong enough to carry the two books without the Bachelor-esque storyline.

Read my review of Books #6 to #8 here as a part of my review of the Shifter Royals Series!

The Characters:

If you take Katniss (The Hunger Games), America (The Selection) and Bella (Twilight) you’d probably get Gwen. She seems to have some of the best and worst traits of all these heroines–though she wasn’t the worst heroine I’ve endured. She was likeable in a lot of ways. She worries for her family and she knows how to play the royalty game. Of course, she is a little all over the place with her feelings for Dallas but given the nature of the competition, I can understand how she would be put in that position.

I liked a lot of the side characters (who end up being future leads) which is something I always enjoy in my book series. It’s great to see some characters redeem themselves…or get their just desserts.

The Romance:

It’s really cute and sweet. There isn’t much else to it besides attraction and some stolen moments, but I liked how the couples communicated with each other. These books are very clean in terms of sexual content (really, it’s a lot of hand-holding and kissing) so I find that refreshing in a paranormal read. Adult paranormal or supernatural series can get a little smutty (Black Dagger Brotherhood for example) so it was nice to read something that kept things PG.

My Audiobook Experience (Books #1-#3):

I really enjoyed the audiobooks! They were quick and addicting to listen to. It made it feel like I was watching a TV show. I could only find audiobooks for the first 3 novels, so I read the others that way though I would have loved to have continued with the audio versions.

The Shifter Royals Spin-Off:

Read my review of that series here!

Series Rating: 3/5

The Pageant 3/5 | The Gala 3/5 | The Finale 3/5 | The North 3/5 | The Siege 3/5 | Shifter Royals Series | The Rebel TBP

overall

If you are looking for an uncomplicated paranormal romance that reads more like a reality TV show, this is a fun series for you to pick up!

Read if You Like: vampires, love competitions
Avoid if You: want more action
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Series Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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 Inheritance Games (from Goodreads):

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

breakdown

Series: The Inheritance Games
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Despite a not so great experience with Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Raised by Wolves Series, I have enjoyed her other releases lately. This series sounded right up my alley and my coworker mentioned it to me as well. I love a good family mystery/thriller novel and this sounded like the perfect recipe for an exciting series.

The Concept / The World:

I kinda got Knives Out vibes from this series in some ways. The feeling you get from a house full of people you don’t know if you can trust, stuck together while a will is contested? It just sets the scene for a thrilling series.

The Plot:

I know I craved a lot of big twists in Book #1, The Inheritance Games, and while we get some great reveals, I also finished it feeling a little underwhelmed. I had to remind myself that this is a trilogy and that was only the first book. And it succeeds as the first book in a trilogy, setting the scene for even more chaos to come by introducing all the cast and their deadly secrets.

I definitely found Book #2, The Hawthorne Legacy, to be more of what I expected the first book to be. This book was constantly putting my off-kilter with reveals and drama. I stayed on the edge of my seat for that one!

The Characters:

Avery is a great heroine to follow. She’s strong, smart and independent but she also has a vulnerability to her that makes her an intriguing character to follow. I also find that characters that share a similar backstory tend to be very morose and Avery wasn’t like that at all. She wasn’t uber depressing to listen to, I appreciated her attitude towards everything. And the fact of the matter is, the games won’t let her do it alone so it was fun to watch her interact with the other characters.

The Hawthorne Brothers were a fun group. They’re all quirky and have such a great depth to their characters. It was fun to see their characters to evolve.

The Romance:

It isn’t a huge focus but it does add a suspenseful element to the plot at times. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of it but that remains to be seen.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed the audiobook productions. They were all super easy to listen to and follow along with.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I thought Book #2, The Hawthorne Legacy, would have ended on more of a cliffhanger honestly. There are still a ton of unanswered questions but nothing that made me go “give me the next book now!”

Series Rating: 4/5

The Inheritance Games 4/5 | The Hawthorne Legacy 4.5/5 | The Final Gambit TBP

overall

This is a suspenseful YA family mystery with lots of twists and turns, an eclectic cast of characters and a strong heroine who keeps you on your toes.

Read if You Like: family mysteries; riddles/scavenger hunts
Avoid if You: dislike mystery or suspense novels; dislike books with murder

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Series Review: The Rite of the Vampire Saga by Juliana Haygert

Series Review: The Rite of the Vampire Saga by Juliana Haygert

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 Vampire Heir (from Goodreads):

A young woman with a secret. A man with a death sentence. And a terrible fate that threatens to destroy them both …
When I was invited to the secretive castle DuMoir, I knew I’d end up dead. The guests might be excited by the exclusive tour around the estate, and the ending ball that concludes it, but I know better.

The castle’s inhabitants are vampires. And they want our blood.

I must find a way to survive their feast, because I’m not here as a clueless visitor. I’m here for a reason. Undercover work can be hard, but I’ve been through worse. That is until I unwillingly become a blood slave to Drake, a mysterious, brooding vampire prince.

Tragedy strikes the castle and chaos arise. Despite the new dangers surrounding us, I soon find out there’s more to Drake than he lets on, and feelings I’m not supposed to have stir in my chest.

But I can’t afford any distractions or everything will be lost. After all, I’m hiding a secret-a dark secret that might save us all … or doom us forever.

breakdown

Series: Rite of the Vampire Saga

Part of the Rite World collection

Author: Juliana Haygert
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Non-Contemporary
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March – May 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Non-contemporary New Adult reads are hard to find — or maybe I just look for them in the wrong places? Regardless, ever since I binged Blood Type and Vampire Royals last year, I’ve kept my eye out for anything remotely similar. That’s how I stumbled upon Rite of the Vampire when browsing my library’s audiobook collection.

I had read Haygert’s Playing Pretend years ago and enjoyed the straightforward story. The synopsis for The Vampire Heir was intriguing and the audiobook time was just over 5 hours so it seemed like it would be worth a shot!

The Concept / The World:

At first I thought this story was going to be strictly vampires but we meet Drake, our hero, after he returns from a battle with a werewolf pact. I thought the world here was a cool blend of all paranormal creatures. It kind of reminded my of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld Series for its blending of modern and paranormal.

The series itself is set in a universe that has other books published within it. So each series follows a specific set of leads but they all intermingle and crossover since it is set in the same world. That’s always fun, especially if you like to read series like I do. It’s nice to return sometimes to a familiar world and after completing this series, I’m really interested in the next one, The Rite of the Warlock!

The Plot:

Given the many paranormal creatures and the various hierarchies within their groups, I thought this story would be harder to follow but it wasn’t. However, I think it’s important for readers to know that it isn’t going to be a straightforward, only vampires story. Look elsewhere if you only want to read about vampires.

The Rite of the Vampire (#1) is pretty mellow, focusing more on the suspense for the first 3/4 of the book and then things change. It has a very different vibe than the rest of the series which is more action packed and lots of twists and turns. The overarching series plot is simple to follow but nevertheless entertaining.

The Characters:

I found both Thea and Drake to be super dry at the start of the series. They just seemed like cookie-cutter molds of lead characters but I think that was intentional given the setup of the first book and it’s suspenseful, mystery approach. As the series progresses, their characters evolve a bit more and break away from those stiff shells.

I also enjoyed the rest of the cast as well. Despite the many characters we meet, it was easy to remember everyone and get attached to some and hate others.

The Romance:

So I didn’t really like the romance in the first book; well, I should say that I didn’t like the way it materialized. It would have liked a little more tension, more “I hate you but I’m attracted to you” chemistry between Drake and Thea. It just seemed like they never interacted and then BAM, love. I just craved a little more from it especially when it’s a “I shouldn’t love you” type of relationship.

However, I did enjoy the romance as the series progressed. I thought there was a good balance between it, the plot and the character development we get from it.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobooks were a lot of fun. I liked that the annoying characters that you weren’t supposed to like had nasally voices and tones that suited their delivery. It was an easy series to listen to and I think I finished them super quickly because they weren’t very long. I felt like I was listening to a TV show which is always fun.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Vampire Heir 3/5 | The Witch Queen 3/5 | The Immortal Vow 3/5

overall

If you are looking for a quick but satisfying non-contemporary romance in the new adult genre, this is a great one for you to pick up!

Read if You Like: blending of paranormal creatures, non-contemporary new adult
Avoid if You: dislike paranormal
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Series Review: All-Stars by Katie McCoy

Series Review: All-Stars by Katie McCoy

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 Royal Player (from Goodreads):

Charlie Davenport is the bad boy of British sports – and third in line to the throne. He’s a beast on the courts, and a wild animal in bed (according to all the tabloids). Girls are lining up for chance at his crown jewels, and when I stumble into the wrong Wimbledon dressing room and catch a glimpse of his game, set, AND match, I can see why.

So what’s a little good luck kiss between f̶r̶i̶e̶n̶d̶s̶ strangers?

I know better than to get involved with a bad boy like Charlie. But now he’s on a winning streak, he thinks I’m his lucky charm – and you know what’s luckier than a kiss?

Everything.

Suddenly, I’ve got paparazzi on my trail, exes coming out of the woodwork — and you don’t know ‘cutthroat’ until you’ve seen a pack of hungry socialites set loose near the Royal Family.

I’m in way over my head, and even worse – I’m falling in love. Can this American girl win her Prince Charming? Or will we both crash out of the championships in flames?

breakdown

Series: All-Stars
Author: Katie McCoy
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: April 2017 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read a few of Katie’s earlier novels and really enjoyed them. I did start her Rascals Series but the first book didn’t do much for me. So when I saw that my library had the audiobook version of her All-Stars Series, I thought I would given them a try.

The Plot:

If you like romances that read like Romantic-Comedy movies or you love the trope of an every-day girl falling for a hottie celebrity, this is the series for you! These books are simple in their execution, where we don’t delve too deep into the characters’ pasts but instead focus on the chemistry between the leads. It read like a Hallmark movie: fast romance and soapy drama.

The Characters:

Like I said, we don’t delve too deep into the character pasts. We just get enough surface to keep the story moving and to prove that even celebrity heroes have some baggage.

The Romance:

I liked all the pairings. You could see the chemistry even if the romances occurred only over a couple of weeks.

My Audiobook Experience:

I did NOT enough the male narrator for Royal Player at all. He just made everything Uber cheesy. I think they were going for a Westley from Princess Bride approach with his style but it didn’t work for me.
The rest of the series had great audio productions though.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Royal Player 3/5 | Hot Bachelor 4/5 | Heartthrob 3/5 | Sex God 4/5

overall

If you want quick, rom-com reads, this is a great series to pick up!

Read if You Like: rom-coms, contemporary romance, celebrity romances
Avoid if You: want deeper character development

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Series Review: The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn

Series Review: The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn

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 Duke and I (from Goodreads):

In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable… but not too amiable.

Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.

The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…

breakdown

Series: The Bridgertons

There is a prequel Series: The Rokesbys & a series of Lady Whistledown Stories

Author: Julia Quinn
# of Books: 8 (Full Reading Order Here)

There are also 2nd epilogue novellas for each novel.

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Regency, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2000 – June 2006
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Although I am a huge regency romance fan, I had never read the Bridgerton Series. Truthfully, like many people, it never crossed my radar until Netflix made the TV series. I nearly binged all the episodes in one sitting but controlled myself (and finished it within a reasonable 2 days). I loved watching these siblings on the TV series and just couldn’t get enough! And thanks to its massive popularity, my library soon got all the audiobooks and I quickly found my next audio series to read. Plus, I was impatient to see where these character stories would go.

How it Compares to the TV Series:

I’m sure most people who will be reading this series are doing so because of the Netflix TV Series. Since the first season is based on the first book, The Duke and I, I was a little worried the book would be a regurgitation of the TV show.

And while some scenes are very similar, they’ve also added a lot more plotlines to the TV show (like the whole meeting the Queen bit and anything to do with the Queen really) to make it, well, a show. But I’d say the TV series has captured the essence of the books and that’s all you can ask for really. Time will tell what the second season will be like but I think they did a great job with the adaption so far.

The Plot:

The first 3 books are your classic Regency reads, with a few loose retellings of some classic tales like The Taming of the Shrew (Book #2) and Cinderella (Book #3), thrown in for inspiration. They’re a little lighter and have a few laughs along the way. Lady Whistledown’s character (and her anonymity) helps to keep that dramatic flare of the ton alive while also maintaining an overarching plot line to thread the individual books together. I just thought they were a lot of fun to read.

I think Book #4, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, is the book that the entire series has been leading up to. We’re on the cusp of revealing who Lady Whistledown is and I think the romance that everyone (or maybe just me) has been anticipating since the first novel/episode is the focus. It’s probably my favourite of the series.

But once the identity of Lady Whistledown is revealed, I find the remaining books in the series lose that lighter side to them. To Sir Philip, With Love (#5) has a darker, somber edge to it. And while it is a touching book to read, I missed the rest of the meddling Bridgerton Brood and the always watching Lady Whistledown. I also think this was the book where my experience with the TV show dampened my reading experience. I find Eloise’s character to be very different between the two mediums, so I think I was expecting a different type of story here.

That somber tone continues on in When He Was Wicked (#6) and I felt like that was when my interest in the series started to wane. I really struggled with this story for a few reason. One: is that timeline jumps around a bit between books #4 and #5 so I got a little lost there. Two: is that the lead is a Bridgerton we don’t really know much about other than a few key pieces (so I didn’t really know what to expect). Three–and perhaps the biggest reason–is that I really struggled with the romance. I just found it to be a little off-putting because it is a complicated situation and I didn’t really enjoy that aspect (more below). It also has that somber tone to it that I don’t enjoy but on Goodreads, people seem to adore this book so maybe I’m just a minority here.

The last two books in the series I enjoyed a little more, but again, I think I wanted slightly different stories. I actually think the plots should be switched for the last two novels in some ways.

The Characters:

I love all the Bridgertons. I just think they are so much fun and I love how much they love their family. It’s touching to see. You really get invested in all their lives.

The Romance:

I would say most of these books have a slow burn romance. These characters really take their time to fall in love and fight the inevitable. But I thought all the pairs were great matches.

However, I did struggle with the romance in When He was Wicked (#5). For those who don’t know who the lead is in this book I’ve put my thoughts in as spoilers:

When He was Wicked (Book #5) Spoilers

I honestly was excited for Francesca’s story because she is the enigma of the Bridgertons. All we know is that she was a young widow. I’m not one of those people who believes you can’t find love after the death of a beloved spouse/partner so I was looking forward to her finding love again. However, while I liked Michael objectively as a character, I didn’t like the idea that he has always been in love with Frannie. And I felt like Frannie was having an emotional affair with Michael while she was married to John by asking him about all his wicked encounters with women–I dunno, the whole thing just felt icky to me. Maybe if they both fell in love after John’s death I wouldn’t have struggled with that as much.

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The Second Epilogues:

What a fun treat these were! They were great ways to wrap up each character arc and gives a glimpse into the very far future in some instances. I love a good, wrapped up conclusion!

My Audiobook Experience:

We have the same narrator throughout the series and I thought she did a great job. She has a great way of injecting humour and emotion into her reading. She really brought the characters to life for me.

Series Rating: 4/5

The Duke and I 4/5 | The Viscount Who Loved Me 5/5 | An Offer from a Gentleman 5/5  | Romancing Mr. Bridgerton 5/5  | To Sir Philip, With Love 4/5  | When He Was Wicked 2/5  | It’s in His Kiss 3/5  | On the Way to the Wedding 3/5 

overall

Fans of the show will like spending extra time with their favourite family. Fans of regency reads will enjoy this classic delivery. I do think the series loses some of its original charm as it concludes but all the stories are entertaining nonetheless.

Read if You Like: historical romances, books featuring siblings
Avoid if You: dislike historical romances

similarreads

  • The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare (Girl Meets Duke Series #1)
  • Slightly Married by Mary Balogh (Bedwyn Saga #1)
  • A Duke in the Night by Kelly Bowen (The Devils of Dover Series #1)
  • Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks (The Montgomerys and The Armstrongs Series #1)

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Series Review: The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

Series Review: The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

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 Smoke Thieves (from Goodreads):

A princess, a traitor, a hunter and a thief. Four teenagers with the fate of the world in their hands. Four nations destined for conflict. End is cliffhanger.

In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a loveless political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father. In Calidor, downtrodden servant March seeks revenge on the prince who betrayed his people. In Pitoria, feckless Edyon steals cheap baubles for cheaper thrills as he drifts from town to town. And in the barren northern territories, thirteen-year-old Tash is running for her life as she plays bait for the gruff demon hunter Gravell.

As alliances shift and shatter, and old certainties are overturned, our four heroes find their past lives transformed and their futures inextricably linked by the unpredictable tides of magic and war. Who will rise and who will fall? And who will claim the ultimate prize?

breakdown

Series: The Smoke Thieves
Author: Sally Green
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance, LGBTQ
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2018 – August 2020
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (#1); Hardcover (#2-#3)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was browsing audiobooks at my library, I stumbled upon The Smoke Thieves and loved the cover immediately. Once I read the synopsis, I knew I had to give this book a shot. I love fantasy novels with multiple POVs and even more so when they are in audiobook format so I put myself on the holds list.

I’ve never read a book by Sally Green. I had heard good things about the Half Bad Trilogy and only took it off my TBR because I never got around to it. So I was excited to finally read something by her.

The Concept / The World:

The best way to describe this world is a toned down version of Game of Thrones: involving a less families, a lot less sex, more teenagers and the underbelly of smoke-trading (which is like a drug). But the intricacies of the politics and the struggle for power really reminded me of GOT.

I liked that the smoke was what gave people power and not other elements like innate magic. It made for an interesting spin on the fantasy novels I usually read.

The world itself is easy to follow and if you pick up the paper or ebook copies of the book, there is a glossary of people at the end to keep everything straight.

The Plot:

In The Smoke Thieves (#1), I liked that you really didn’t know how everything was all connected until the very end. And then once you see the bigger picture, it makes the next two books flow at a great pace. I never really knew how things were going to go and I liked that it kept me on my toes.

I do have mixed feelings about how one plot aspect was wrapped up at the end. It just felt like a cop-out of sorts or perhaps I am simply missing the bigger picture. Regardless, it didn’t overshadow too much of the journey it took to get there.

The Characters:

I think part of the reason I didn’t rate this series higher is that I don’t really *love* any of the characters. I like all of them enough that I don’t dread anyone’s POV chapters when they come along. But there really wasn’t anyone whose chapters I was dying to read.

I don’t love Catherine but I do enjoy her character development; Ambrose I could take or leave; Edyon and March I like the most; and Tash is intriguing but I often forget about her. However, overall, I can appreciate the development of all the characters.

The Romance:

The romance isn’t a huge focus here though it does serve as an important aspect in a few characters’ stories.

My Audiobook Experience (The Smoke Thieves #1):

I really wanted to keep reading this series as audiobook versions because each character had a different narrator and I love audiobooks with a full cast. But my library only had the first book in that form so I read the hardcovers of the last two books so I could finish the series before I forgot all the plot points.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

The Smoke Thieves 3.5/5 | The Demon World 3.5/5 | The Burning Kingdom 3/5

overall

While I wouldn’t list this as my favourite YA fantasy series, I definitely think it is worth a read for fans of the genre.

Read if You Like: YA fantasy, politics, less romance
Avoid if You: want less character-focused stories, dislike multiple POV

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