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Spin-off Saturdays: The Maddox Brothers by Jamie McGuire

Spin-off Saturdays: The Maddox Brothers by Jamie McGuire

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:

The Maddox Brothers Series is a spin-off of the Beautiful Series

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love
Series: The Maddox Brothers

This is a spinoff of the Beautiful Series.

Author: Jamie McGuire
# of Books: 5 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: toasty
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: July 2014 – August 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (Beautiful Oblivion)

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

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read the first book of the series, Beautiful Oblivion, and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…

My Expectations?

It had been a long time since I read Beautiful Disaster but I remembered being very excited for the spin-off series when it was announced. Given my review of that book, I went into this series expecting some slightly over the top drama but with a cute, swoon-worthy romance nonetheless.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

Beautiful Oblivion kinda felt like the slightly more grown-up version of the original series (though I’m not necessarily talking about character maturity). They chemistry between Cami and Trenton is off the charts and I was totally in love with their love story.

And when I compare the dramatics here to the original series, they seem more convoluted and messier. The stakes just seem higher for our leads and I love the tension that brought about…until I didn’t.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

Well, the love triangle in Beautiful Oblivion (Book #1) really killed that book for me. The whole situation was overly cryptic and though I can see why with some of the developments, it still was a little much for me. I guess I didn’t understand the struggle or what the big deal was.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really loved the audiobook so I was a little bummed that my library didn’t have the read of the books as audio.

Why I Won’t Be Continuing the Series:

I actually planned on reading the sequels once I finished Beautiful Oblivion. While certain things irked me, I felt like I knew what to expect for the sequels so I was willing to give them a chance. But as time passed, I really only remembered the things that drove me nuts about the book and so I’ve decided to just let this series go…well, into oblivion.

Series Rating: DNF

Beautiful Oblivion 3/5 | Beautiful Redemption N/A| Beautiful Sacrifice N/A | Beautiful Burn N/A |Beautiful Funeral N/A

overall

If you are into melodrama and have enjoyed McGuire’s other titles, this will be right up your alley.

Read if You Like: romances around family, melodramatics
Avoid if You: dislike love triangles

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Beautiful Oblivion (from Goodreads):

Fiercely independent Camille “Cami” Camlin gladly moved on from her childhood before it was over. She has held down a job since before she could drive, and moved into her own apartment after her freshman year of college. Now tending bar at The Red Door, Cami doesn’t have time for much else besides work and classes, until a trip to see her boyfriend is cancelled, leaving her with a first weekend off in almost a year.

Trenton Maddox was the king of Eastern State University, dating co-eds before he even graduated high school. His friends wanted to be him, and women wanted to tame him, but after a tragic accident turned his world upside down, Trenton leaves campus to come to grips with the crushing guilt.

Eighteen months later, Trenton is living at home with his widower father, and works full-time at a local tattoo parlor to help with the bills. Just when he thinks his life is returning to normal, he notices Cami sitting alone at a table at The Red.

As the baby sister of four rowdy brothers, Cami believes she’ll have no problem keeping her new friendship with Trenton Maddox strictly platonic. But when a Maddox boy falls in love, he loves forever—even if she is the only reason their already broken family could fall apart.

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Series Review: The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang

Series Review: The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang

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 What’s Left of Me (from Goodreads):

I should not exist. But I do.

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

breakdown

Series: The Hybrid Chronicles
Author: Kat Zhang
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2012 – September 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think I’ve moved this series on and off of my TBR numerous times over the years. But the faces on the covers stare back at me every time I browse my library’s eBooks, enticing me to have another peek. It wasn’t until I was looking at available audiobooks that I decided to revisit the series. I loved the idea of the story (the scientist in me thought “neato!”) and it has been such a long time since I read a straight up dystopian novel that I immediately checked it out.

The Concept / The World:

The whole idea that there are two people within one body just fascinates me.  And I love the layer it brings to the character development. I think in any other novel or plot-hook, Eva would be a slightly boring character. But her struggle to find her independence while maintaining her relationship with Addie–all while sharing a body–makes her character development unique and more complex than other heroines in some dystopian stories.

The Plot:

What’s Left of Me (#1) is pretty formulaic for anyone who has ever read a dystopian novel before. And because I’ve been around the block a time or too, nothing is overly shocking or overly eventful. But again, the concept is what kept me hooked.

I felt that way throughout the series truthfully. There weren’t any big twists or revelations that had me going “WOW”. But there is a bit of an unreliable narrator thing going on with Eva so it kept my attention.

The Characters:

Like I said above, the hybrid concept amplifies the characters in a way. Eva goes through a different identity crisis than any other dystopian heroine I’ve ever encountered. It was super interesting to watch her grow and come into her own. In the same breath, she wasn’t anything overly new either but she worked for the story.

The Romance:

It was pretty refreshing that this is a subtle aspect to the plot. I think it enhances the dilemma of the concept though in some ways I wish it was utilized a little more.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m glad I opted for the audio version. I think it just amplified the emotions of the characters more than me reading  the text would.

Series Rating: 3/5

What’s Left of Me 3/5 | Once We Were 3/5 | Echoes of Us 3/5

overall

If you’ve read many dystopian novels before, you might find this a little underwhelming. But I think the concept is fresh and that will keep readers invested.

Read if You Like: dystopian novels
Avoid if You: want more complex plot

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Series Review: Boomerang by Noelle August

Series Review: Boomerang by Noelle August

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 Boomerang (from Goodreads):

Welcome to Boomerang.com, the dating site for the millennial gen with its no-fuss, no-commitments matchups, and where work is steamier than any random hook-up

Mia Galliano is an aspiring filmmaker. Ethan Vance has just played his last game as a collegiate soccer star. They’re sharp, hungry for success, and they share a secret.

Last night, Ethan and Mia met at a bar, and, well . . . one thing led to another, which led to them waking up the next morning—together. Things turned awkward in a hurry when they found themselves sharing a post hookup taxi . . . to the same place: Boomerang headquarters.

What began as a powerful connection between them is treated to a cold shower courtesy of two major complications. First, Boomerang has a strict policy against co-worker dating. And second, they’re now competitors for only one job at the end of summer.

As their internships come to an end, will they manage to keep their eyes on the future and their hands off each other, or will the pull of attraction put them right back where they started?

breakdown

Series: Boomerang
Author: Noelle August (aka Lorin Overweger & Veronica Rossi)
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: June 2014 – August 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This series pops up from time to time in the blogosphere but it was a tweet from Sarah @ The YA Book Traveler that convinced me to read this series. A lot of the NA reads I pick up are darker but this seemed like a lighter read a la Christina Lauren and I was excited to listen to the audiobook.

The Plot:

Workplace romances can be a lot of fun and this was no exception. The plot in Boomerang was always moving and developing. In Rebound I thought the stakes were a little higher and amplified by the many secrets between our leads. And in Bounce, the theme seemed to be more about becoming confident in yourself and learning to deserve love. All in all, I thought each book had its own unique plot and story.

The Characters:

I think often times when I see a “lighter read”, I assume that we will get so-so character development. But that’s not the case here. These characters are fleshed out from the start and it was great to watch them grow as the plot progressed.

The one lead for Rebound was an interesting choice (since they weren’t cast in a great light in Boomerang) but I like when authors can change my mind about a character through some great character development and they definitely succeeded in that front.

The Romance:

I was in a bit of a romance reading funk when I picked up Boomerang and it was great to be reminded of what fantastic chemistry between two leads can do to a story. I loved the sexual tension and it kept me wanting more.

All of these romances have a touch of the forbidden to them and I think that helps keep the tension hot between the leads. And while they each start with a bang of intense chemistry, they almost have a slow burn approach to the romance for the rest of the series that helps develop the relationship by spending the time to get to know each lead.

My Audiobook Experience:

Highly recommend the audiobook. It was a fantastic listen throughout the series!

Series Rating: 4/5

Boomerang 4/5 | Rebound 4/5 | Bounce 4/5

overall

If you want a New Adult romance that reads a little more like a light adult contemporary romance, this is a great one to try!

Read if You Like: workplace romances, light contemporary
Avoid if You: want erotica, want darker romance
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DNF Series Review: The Outlands Pentalogy by Rebecca Crunden

DNF Series Review: The Outlands Pentalogy by Rebecca Crunden

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 A Touch of Death (from Goodreads):

A thousand years in the future, the last of humanity live inside the walls of the totalitarian Kingdom of Cutta. The rich live in Anais, the capital city of Cutta, sheltered from the famine and disease which ravage the rest of the Kingdom. Yet riches and power only go so far, and even Anaitians can be executed. It is only by the will of the King that Nate Anteros, son of the King’s favourite, is spared from the gallows after openly dissenting. But when he’s released from prison, Nate disappears.

A stark contrast, Catherine Taenia has spent her entire life comfortable and content. The daughter of the King’s Hangman and in love with Thom, Nate’s younger brother, her life has always been easy, ordered and comfortable. That is, where it doesn’t concern Nate. His actions sullied not only his future, but theirs. And unlike Thom, Catherine has never forgiven him.

Two years pass without a word, and then one night Nate returns. But things with Nate are never simple, and when one wrong move turns their lives upside down, the only thing left to do is run where the King’s guards cannot find them – the Outlands. Those wild, untamed lands which stretch around the great walls of the Kingdom, filled with mutants and rabids.

breakdown

Series: Outlands Pentalogy
Author: Rebecca Crunden
# of Books: 5 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: February 2017 – July 2019
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading A Touch of Death (#1) at 21%. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When Rebecca reached out and asked if I would be interested in reviewing her series, I was definitely interested. I love a good dystopian novel and after reading the synopsis, I was intrigued by the many layers it promised.

What I Liked:

–The Action Starts Immediately–

We literally hit the ground running with two characters and are thrust into the crux of issue: the need to escape to the Outlands.

And I think some readers with find it suspenseful that we get into the thick of things quickly without much preamble, but for me…

What I Didn’t Like:

–I Felt Like I Started 5 Chapters In–

The problem I had with the fast start is that I felt like I was immediately behind. In the prologue, we see Nate in jail and then at the start of the first “chapter” (there aren’t really chapters), he’s running with Catherine through the fields.

What? Why? Who are these people?!

It was almost like the synopsis served as the exposition for this series and that in order to understand the background, you need to read it first. And I don’t like that in my books. I want a little more foreplay before we get into the crux of the issues.

In some ways, it felt like the worldbuilding wasn’t there at all and then other times, I felt like I was getting dumped on with info. It was just overwhelming for me.

Will I Finish It?

Unfortunately, this just wasn’t for me so I will be finishing my time with this series here.

My Rating: DNF

overall

As a reader who needs that foundation and worldbuilding early on, this just didn’t work for me. But others who like long worded prose and the suspense of slowly putting the pieces together might enjoy this.

Read if You Like: dystopian, fast-paced plots
Avoid if You: need strong worldbuilding from the start

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Spin-off Saturdays: Lorien Legacies Reborn Series by Pittacus Lore

Spin-off Saturdays: Lorien Legacies Reborn Series by Pittacus Lore

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:

Lorien Legacies Reborn Series is a spin-off of the Lorien Legacies Series

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: 2019 Fave
Series: The Lorien Legacies Reborn

This is a spinoff of the Lorien Legacies Series.

Author: Pittacus Lore
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Action
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 2017 – June 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

I’m always happy to return the world of Lorien so when this spin-off series was announced, I was stoked. I couldn’t wait to see old friends and maybe get some of those lingering questions answered.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

You can read all about my experience with the first book of the original series, I am Number Four, here — but the short version is that the first book didn’t impress me all that much. It was slow and not as action packed as I wanted but by the end, I could see the bigger picture and I was willing to give the sequel a shot. And I’m so glad I did!

This spin-off series doesn’t start slow at all. It dives into the action and sets the stakes high pretty quickly. Perhaps that’s because most readers are going in already knowing how the world works and what state it is in since they read the original series. You don’t have to spend so much time establishing everything; I’m not sure what it would be like if you’ve never read the original series but I feel like there is enough world-building that you’d get up to speed quickly.

But this had everything you like in a solid spin-off. A new set of characters that captivate you; the return of old favourites; action; romance; and the resolutions to some of those open-ended questions from the original series.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

Truthfully, the final book (Return to Zero) in the series wasn’t my favourite. The book spent so much time building up that the climax seemed a little lacklustre given how it resolves itself. And while I appreciate the extended epilogues, I found myself wanting a little more than I got. I could have used a fourth book.

My Audiobook Experience:

While the original series was one of the first novels I ever read as an eBook, I wanted to try the audiobook version this time around.

It was a great choice! Despite only having one narrator for a multiple POV story, everyone had their own distinct voice. I also think it allowed me to get a deeper understanding of the new cast of characters because of how their reactions and emotions were conveyed through voice. The series has great character growth despite the numerous new characters we are introduced to in such a short span (3 novels compared to the original series’ 7) and I think the audio version helped me connect with them better.

Series Rating: 4.5/5

Generation One 5/5 | Fugitive Six 4.5/5 | Return to Zero 4/5

overall

It was great to return to one of my all-time favourite worlds. This was a solid spin-off that had its own voice all the while echoing and honouring its source material perfectly.

Read if You Like: world-building, aliens, YA Science Fiction
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike science fiction

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Generation One (from Goodreads):

The first book in a pulse-pounding new series that’s set in the world of the #1 New York Times bestselling I Am Number Four series. The war may be over—but for the next generation, the battle has just begun!

It has been over a year since the invasion of Earth was thwarted in Pittacus Lore’s United as One. But in order to win, our alien allies known as the Garde unleashed their Loric energy that spread throughout the globe. Now human teenagers have begun to develop incredible powers of their own, known as Legacies.

To help these incredible and potentially dangerous individuals—and put the world at ease—the Garde have created an academy where they can train this new generation to control their powers and hopefully one day help mankind. But not everyone thinks that’s the best use of their talents. And the teens may need to use their Legacies sooner than they ever imagined.

Perfect for fans of Marvel’s X-Men and Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave, this epic new series follows a diverse cast of teens as they struggle to hone their abilities and decide what, if anything, they should do with them. As a spin-off of the bestselling I Am Number Four series, those familiar with the original books and newcomers alike will devour this fast-paced, action-packed sci-fi adventure.

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Series Review: Monsters of Verity by Victoria Schwab

Series Review: Monsters of Verity by Victoria Schwab

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 This Savage Song (from Goodreads):

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

breakdown

Series: Monsters of Verity
Author: Victoria Schwab
# of Books: 2 (This Savage Song, Our Dark Duet)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: July 2016 – June 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I opted not to pick up the finale, Our Dark Duet. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I felt like you couldn’t escape this series when it first came out in 2016. Schwab is one of those highly toted authors in the blogging community and after reading A Darker Shade of Magic, I understand why. She creates really cool worlds and intriguing stories. But I didn’t have a stellar experience with A Gathering of Shadows (I found it to be dreadfully slow until the last half of the book) so I wasn’t sure about this series.

When I saw my library had the audiobook copies of both books, I decided to make it the next series I read via audio. I was looking forward to it but I was also hesitant after reading some mediocre reviews from some trusted bloggers I follow. But I went in with an open mind and hoped the outcome would be positive.

The Concept / The World:

Alright, the concept here is super duper cool. The idea that these actual monsters have come to life because of people’s actions is really neat. It’s such a unique world and gives this series an interesting spin.

But I felt a little lost in it as well. I mean, I got the politics of the world. That was easy to figure out. What I struggled with was the various monster types. Now this might have been a result of listening to it via audio–I often struggle with remembering terms when I don’t physically see them–but it’s hard to say.

The Plot:

Given my experience with 2 other Schwab novels, I knew that this story was going to take a while to build up. I’ve always noted how slow it takes to get to whatever has been listed in the synopsis with her novels.

In this case, I was at the 56% (approximately) mark when the “failed assassination attempt” occurs. Now, perhaps I just read the synopsis wrong, emphasizing the wrong aspect. But for me, when something is listed in the synopsis, I expect it to happen well before the 50%–usually closer to the 20% because that’s what I expect the novel to be about. So to say I was a little disappointed in the plot for this story is a bit of an understatement.

As a result, the pacing for this just seemed off to me. When I was a quarter of the way through, I contemplated DNFing it because it wasn’t holding my attention. I felt like nothing was happening. But I stuck with it, figuring my crappy mood was to blame. And things did pick up a bit after that but never to the levels I was expecting.

Once the plot got to its climax, I did find everything to be interesting. However, I thought the twist was terribly predictable. I had figured out what was going to happen before we even reached the assassination attempt that sets everything into motion. It just seemed so obvious to me. So in that respect, I found it to be very disappointing.

The Characters:

I think the hype people give these two dampened my potential to love August and Kate. To me, they were almost cliche in their delivery. I get why they are presented as they are: it’s the whole dynamic of the story that’s listed in the first two lines of the synopsis. So it works for the story.

It’s just that I never fell in love with them. They never become real to me in the way that I expected them to after reading how people just adored everything they did. And it surprised me because I find when I listen to audiobooks, I find it much easier to empathize and connect with characters because I am hearing their voices and emotion aloud.

The Romance:

I did find it nice that the romance isn’t the focus of this story. It’s hard to find an urban fantasy or a YA paranormal story that doesn’t become consumed by the romance between the leads.

Why I Won’t Be Picking Up Our Dark Duet:

Because I wasn’t overly impressed with the first novel, I didn’t want to read the second. Things wrap-up enough here that I am satisfied with leaving the story as is and moving on to other novels.

My Audiobook Experience:

As I said above, perhaps the audiobook dampened my world-building experience. It’s hard to say. But I did enjoy the audiobook production. For only having one narrator and a female one at that for a dual POV, it’s great. I think it worked well that I listened to this instead of reading it because I probably would have lost interest in the text a lot earlier.

Series Rating: DNF

This Savage Song 2/5 | Our Dark Duet N/A

overall

Get a second opinion on this one. I think fans of Schwab’s writing style (slowly building, often wordy prose) will love this. But if you’re looking for a quick YA urban fantasy that doesn’t focus on romance, look elsewhere because it takes a while to reach its peak.

Read if You Like: long books, slow building
Avoid if You: dislike urban fantasy, want lots of action

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Serial Saturdays: ‘Til Death by Bella Jewel

Serial Saturdays: ‘Til Death by Bella Jewel

Serial Saturdays: On the occasional Saturday, I review a serialized series (a series that is released in parts that would normally make up a whole novel) to see if the series is worth keeping up with or worth buying all its parts. Here is this week’s offering:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for ‘Til Death: Volume 1 (from Goodreads):

They say there’s a fine line between love and hate.

There is.

I married a douchebag.

I didn’t know it at the time.

He came in like a handsome stranger and blew me off my feet.

I fell madly in love, like the naive girl I am.

Then he left me high and dry.

Turns out, I was nothing more than a business plan for billionaire playboy, Marcus Tandem.

He needed to be married in order to obtain his grandfathers business, and I was the poor victim in his path.

I believed in what we had, until the truth reared its ugly head.

I never meant anything to Marcus. Not a damned thing.

With my world spinning on its axis, the girl I once was has long since died.

Instead he left me as this empty, emotionless shell.

I may have made a vow before God to love and cherish him ‘Til Death do we part, but it’s time for me to give back to Marcus, exactly what he gave me.

He has to pay.

And pay he will.

breakdown

Series: ‘Til Death

This crosses over with The MC Riders Series

Author: Bella Jewel
# of Parts: 2
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Dark, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Smokin’
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 2014 – January 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve had this series for a long time on my Kobo but I have no idea how it crossed my radar. But when I needed a quick read to get me back into the groove of reading, this one seemed like the perfect choice. Lots of drama, one of my favourite romance tropes and a smaller page count, I was ready!

The Plot:

Volume One was so addicting for me because it alternated between the past and the present. I love plots told like that because it brings out the need to fill in the holes. Overall, I think we had a touch too many steamy scenes and not enough development but I still enjoyed my reading experience.

But that wasn’t the case in Volume Two. While direction of the plot was surprising, it felt overly predictable and rushed. It was a bummer way to wrap up the series.

The Characters:

One of the greatest struggles with novella serials is developing the characters because of the limited page count. But I felt like I knew enough about each character to drive the story.

And it’s a special treat for fans of Bella Jewel’s MC novels as many of those characters make an appearance.

The Romance:

It’s dark and a little twisted but it’s very underdeveloped. Besides a physical attraction, I craved more of a connection between these two.

Series Rating: 2.5/5

overall

I think if you don’t read too much into it and take this series as a quick, passionate, dramatic read, you’ll enjoy this series.

Read if You Like: dark romances, melodrama
Avoid if You: want more development

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Series Review: Ballers and Babes by Lauren Blakely

Series Review: Ballers and Babes by Lauren Blakely

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 Most Valuable Playboy (from Goodreads):

Hands down, my favorite thing in the world is to score. Touchdowns.

Don’t let the fact that I’m the leading pick in the Most Valuable Playboy charity auction fool you. These days, I’m only a player on the field. I’ve kept my pants zipped all season long — and it has been long — because nothing’s more important than leading my team to victory every week. Except maybe escaping from the team owner’s recently-widowed and handsy-as-hell sister who’s dead set on winning more than a date with me.

Enter Violet and a well-placed Hail Mary.

She’s my best friend’s sister with a smile as sweet as cherry pie and a mind that runs quicker than the 40-yard-dash. After Violet saves the day with the highest bid, I don’t even give her a two-minute warning before I kiss her in front of the whole crowd and then announce that she’s my girlfriend. Which would be fine except my agent tells me we’ve got to keep up the act while he’s negotiating my contract.

What happens next when faking it starts to feel all too real?

breakdown

Series: Ballers and Babes
Author: Lauren Blakely
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Most Irresistible Guy

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Sports, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Single (#0.5-#1); Alternating (#2)
Publication Dates: September 2017 – January 2018
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Kobo)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve really enjoyed Lauren Blakely‘s other adult contemporary series. They’re on the lighter side of things but they never fail to entertain me. And I love sports romances (they usually employ my fave tropes like fake relationships, etc) so I was super excited to start this series—hence the reason it was on my 2019 5 Year 5 Book Challenge as a 2017 TBR item.

When to Read the Novella, #0.5 Most Irresistible Guy:

I read this before I read the first book in the series and that is the way to do it. Because we don’t get Violet’s POV in the full novel, this is where you get her insight instead. And chronologically, where the novella ends is where the novel picks up. Of course, you could read it after but I think reading it first will set the stage.

Why Most Valuable Playboy (#1) Was a Disappointment:

I LOVED the novella! It got me super excited for Violet and Cooper’s story because you could feel the underlying tension between them. It finished on such a high note for me.

But I almost DNF’d MVP within the first two chapters because Cooper’s POV was definitely not what I perceived it to be after reading the novella. He came across as this immature tool and not the sweet guy Violet had painted a picture of in her POV. And it definitely didn’t help that we only got his POV in the novel. His head wasn’t an enjoyable place for me to read from and irked me to no end.

As I got further into the novel, things improved or maybe I just got used to his POV. But the plot didn’t impress me and I really thought the romance scenes were severely lacking. Not what you want in a romance novel for those who like a little more substance.

Why Most Likely to Score was also a Disappointment:

When I was drafting this review, I was so confident that I would love Book #2 that I actually had titled this section “Why Most Likely to Score was a Homerun”…only it wasn’t.

I love slow burn romances but this was just a little too slow for me. These two have great chemistry, yet I felt like most of it had been established before the book. It just made things seem anti-climatic and especially rushed near the end. I also thought the “drama” keeping them apart was a bit of a stretch in one (Jones’) respect.

Series Rating: 2/5

Most Valuable Playboy 2/5 | Most Likely to Score 2/5

overall

There are a lot of aspects to like about this series but the execution left me wanting more. But if you want quick reads that aren’t overly complicated, this is a short series to dive into.

Read if You Like: light romance, sport romances, male only POV
Avoid if You: want more romance scenes

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Series Review: New Camelot by Sierra Simone

Series Review: New Camelot by Sierra Simone

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 American Queen (from Goodreads):

Warned as a girl to keep her kisses to herself, Greer Galloway disobeys twice–once on her sixteenth birthday as she’s kneeling in a pool of broken glass, and another time after a charming stranger named Embry Moore whisks her into the dazzling Chicago night. Both times she falls in love, and both times her heart is broken beyond repair. And so as an adult, she vows never to kiss–or to love again.

That’s until the Vice President of the United States shows up at the university where she teaches, and asks for one thing: for her to meet with the hero-turned-President Maxen Colchester. Maxen, the soldier who was her first kiss in that pool of broken glass.

And the other complication? The Vice President is none other than charming Embry Moore himself.

Soon, Greer finds herself caught between past and present, pleasure and pain–and two men who long for each other as much as they long for her. And as war and betrayal press ever closer, they tumble headlong into a passionate love affair that will change the world…

From the USA Today bestselling author of Priest comes a contemporary reimagining of the legend of King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot–elegant, carnal, and unforgettable.

breakdown

Series: New Camelot Trilogy
Author: Sierra Simone
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)

There are 2 novellas.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Erotica
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (BDSM: high | Kink: major)
Point of View: First Person, Single (#1); Multiple (#2-3)
Publication Dates: October 2016 – October 2017
Source & Format: Own–eBook (#1); Public Library–Audiobook (#1-3)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for anything with an Arthurian Legend twist (I even took the literature class in university) and when I saw that Sierra Simone–who co-wrote one of my favourite contemporary romances, Porn Star— was the author, I was very curious to see what modern spin she would put on arguably the most famous love triangle in history.

The Concept:

If you don’t enjoy non-vanilla romances, I’d avoid this one. It’s full of BDSM moments and kinky sex scenes. And while there is substance to the romance (as in it’s not just sex scene after sex scene though I’d say 70% of the books are dedicated to the deed), the sex scenes are quite detailed when they do appear and I just think it would make you uncomfortable.

But I mean, how great of an idea is it to make the classic love triangle a menage? It’s one of those true love triangle situations I rarely encounter in a novel/series and I was definitely on board for seeing how it would all work out.

As for the Arthurian Legend aspect, it’s one of those little hidden eggs you find along the way. And I don’t think most of it becomes apparent until you complete the trilogy and see the bigger picture. But I appreciated the modern spin (President instead of King, etc) though I wasn’t a fan of the creative license employed by the end.

The Plot:

I kept waiting for something to happen in American Queen; it just took a little too long to build for me. While I liked the flashbacks, I almost wonder if it would have been better to have all the past events thrown out at once and then jump to the present. (Perhaps have each book dedicated to a different time instead of a different character).

American Prince definitely amps up the suspense when it comes to the dramatic plot. And at times, I wished that would remain the focus. While I loved having a new perspective (Embry’s) I did get a little tired of all the passionate sex. I just found the scenes to be distracting and I’d often forget what important drama/twist/secret had just happened. It became especially hard since I was listening to the audiobook and we do jump a lot between the past and present. The situation was the same in the finale (American King) as well and I found myself getting pulled away from the plot.

The Characters:

I usually don’t enjoy the “Guinevere” character (only exception has ever been from the TV Series Merlin) and Greer was just ok for me. She’s a little wish-washy and part of that translates to her romances with the boys She’s just so non-confident in her everyday life but as soon as you dim the lights, she’s a confident submissive and they just didn’t seem to go hand and hand for me. Yes, all the power to her for owning her sexuality but I struggled to reconcile the two versions we see of her.

Embry and Ash served their roles well. It was nice for them to each get their own books to heighten their development. Otherwise, I would have wondered what the big deal was.

The Romance:

I was disappointed in this because everything seemed to instalove to me (with the exception of Ash and Embry’s relationship). But Greer’s love for the boys just seemed like some fixated school girl fantasy that she has lived in for so long that it comes across as superficial when she actually begins a relationship with the boys. I didn’t see this all-consuming, soul-deep connection they seemed to go on about.

I really adored Ash and Embry together though. I could see the passionate draw they had between them and that only strengthens as the series progresses. I could have just read a book about those two honestly and have been satisfied.

My Audiobook Experience:

Emotions are always more apparent to me when I listen to audiobooks and I think that helped bring these characters to life for me in a way that could understand their dilemmas and struggles.

That being said, I wish we had a second male narrator for Ash in book 3. It was weird to have the same voice for both Embry and Ash and when you stop suddenly in a chapter, it was hard to recognize who the POV was.

When to Read the Novellas:

I have yet to read them but both seem to be recommended for reading after you have finished the entire trilogy.

Series Rating: 3/5

American Queen 3/5 | American Prince 3/5 | American King 3/5

overall

If you are searching for a romance novel that works around a “true” love triangle and don’t mind the steamy scenes, pick this series up. But I think those who don’t enjoy erotica should stay far away, even if the Arthurian draw is there.

Read if You Like: erotica, menage romance, contemporary retellings
Avoid if You: dislike erotica, dislike BDSM

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DNF Series Review: Rise of the Empress by Julie C Dao

DNF Series Review: Rise of the Empress by Julie C Dao

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 13: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (from Goodreads):

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

breakdown

Series: Rise of the Empress
Author: Julie C Dao
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Companion
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Politics
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2017 – November 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (#1) at 52% (Chapter 22) and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I actually tried to read this book earlier last year as an eBook but knew immediately that I wasn’t in the right mind frame to start it. That’s why I made it a selection for my 2019 5 Year 5 Book Reading Challenge. I’m obsessed with Asian folklore and I find very few books seem to have it (though more and more do lately!) so when I do find it, I’m so on-board. This one I stumbled upon randomly at my library but I was looking forward to it once I read the synopsis!

What I Liked:

–The Idea of the Prophecy–

When I first started reading this story, I actually thought Xifeng was Snow White and her aunt was the Evil Queen. But that’s not the case at all. I really loved the idea of a prophecy as the driving motivation for Xifeng and the questions it stirs up. Are all these things really happening because it is her destiny? Or are they happening because she makes them happen in order to fulfill her destiny? It made me think about things in a grand scheme and I love when a book can do that.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Character Driven–

Normally I wouldn’t complain about a Character Driven story. In fact, it was kinda nice to have a heroine who isn’t physically strong and who has to rely on her wit and cunning in order to accomplish things. It was refreshing to read a fantasy novel that isn’t plagued with battle scenes.

But I just didn’t like Xifeng at all and that makes it hard to follow a story that is just about her and her life.

It’s a tough line I think because she is going to become a villain. Now I don’t need a villain with redeemable qualities; I like them evil. But Xifeng is simply boring. I guess that’s part of her charm that she rises from nothing to be something but it was a dull journey to get there. I thought once she got to court the politics of the kingdom would draw me in but it was far too mundane (and cliche) for my enjoyment.

My Audiobook Experience:

I think I got further into this book because I listened to the audiobook. The narrator has a great voice that makes the minutes roll by, even if it is a third person narration. I had the same problem with Red Winter when I listened to it as an audiobook and that was the traditional names. To my untrained ear, a lot of the terms and names sound super similar so I sometimes got characters mixed up.

Will I Finish It?

If I wasn’t reading the audiobook, I probably would have toughed out the last half of the novel by skimming it. But since the audiobook had 5 hours left and I felt myself zoning out, I decided to leave it there.

I read the reviews for the read of the series and people who had a similar experience to me in book one had it repeated in the sequels. So I’m happy with my decision not to continue.

My Rating: DNF

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns DNF | Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix N/A | Song of the Crimson Flower N/A

overall

If you are looking for a fantasy novel that isn’t brimming with battle scenes and you like watching the underdog achieve greatness, no matter the expense, you might enjoy this retelling.

Read if You Like: Asian folklore, fairy tale re imaginings, villains
Avoid if You: dislike character driven stories, want action

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Have you read this? Should I return to this series? Leave a comment!

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