Tag «cover love»

Series Review: The Storymakers by Betsy Schow

Series Review: The Storymakers by Betsy Schow

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 Spelled (from Goodreads):

Somewhere over the rainbow, all spell is about to break loose…

Fairy Tale Survival Rule No. 32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the charming brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

breakdown

Series: The Storymakers
Author: Betsy Schow
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 2015 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I actually think I first saw Spelled on Netgalley but even if I didn’t, it was those shoes on the cover that called to me. I have an obsession with shoes–it’s probably unhealthy. But besides that: I really enjoy fairy tale based stories and this own sounded like a lot of fun.

Of course, it sat on my library Wishlist for a long time, but when I saw that my library had all the audiobooks available, I decided it was time to give this series a shot!

The Concept / The World:

I’ve read a few retellings of the Wizard of Oz over the years as well as the classic Fairy Tales and Classic Myths, but it was cool to have everything weaved together into one story and world.

I loved all the little details Betsy Schow threw in along the way. The chapters all have a fun take on classic fairy tale elements and stories. Like quotes from fake autobiographies on classic fairy tale characters. Even the curse words were puns on fairy tales! I just had a blast getting to know this world and how everything fits together.

The Plot:

One thing I loved about the plots of the respective books is that they were always moving. There’s a lot of action in these books and I liked that. Things were always evolving and twisting as you progressed through all the obstacles. It made things less predictable as well which is always a treat.

I will admit though that I did get a little lost in what was happening from Book #2 Wanted onwards. There’s a lot of jumping around and that impacted the flow of the story for me. I really struggled to keep everything straight and my interest started to wane at times.

The Characters:

I would say that this story is more for the younger YA fans. Some of the dilemmas the characters face seem juvenile compared to some of the other YA characters out there. Though I’m not sure if they would be able to follow the way the plot jumps around…

But what I will say is this: although the leads we meet might not be the most likeable characters at the start of their stories, they are redeemable. It was great to see them grow a bit as they conquered the various obstacles and saw more of the world than just their own individual story.

The Romance:

It’s easy for fairy tale retellings to get caught up in the romance but that’s not the case here. It plays an important role for sure but it isn’t the main focus which is refreshing.

My Audiobook Experience:

All the books were great audio productions. No complaints here!

Series Rating: 3/5

Spelled 4/5 | Wanted 3/5 | Banished 3/5

overall

This is a super creative world and I loved the weaving of stories…even if I did get a lost sometimes. But out of the many fairy tale retellings I’ve read, this is one stands out as being super unique!

Read if You Like: fairy tale retellings, Shrek, Ella Enchanted
Avoid if You: want a darker read

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Fresh Fridays: You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria

Fresh Fridays: You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria

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:

TBA Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for You Had Me At Hola (from Goodreads):

RITA® Award Winning author Alexis Daria brings readers an unforgettable, hilarious rom-com set in the drama-filled world of telenovelas—perfect for fans of Jane the Virgin and The Kiss Quotient.

Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez.

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy.

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had.

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: TBA
Author: Alexis Daria
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, more book(s) are planned
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: August 4, 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Harper Collins!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Ever since I read (and loved) Alexis’ Dance Off Series, I’ve been keeping an eye out for her other releases. When she announced this title on her eNewsletter I was SO EXCITED! I LOVE the TV shows Jane the Virgin and Ugly Betty so anything that is recommended to fans of them, that’s me!

What I Liked:

–It Reads Like a TV Show–

It felt like I was binge-watching a TV show–which is exactly what I wanted out of this.

It is easy to see how this series is inspired by telenovelas and shows like Jane the Virgin. You’ve got the focus on family roots; highlighting the prejudices Latin Americans face; and those highly entertaining moments of comedy laced throughout a story about love and all the drama it brings about.

–Slow Burn Romance–

The steady slow burn romance between Ashton and Jasmine that sucked me in. They take their time to get comfortable with each other. And I really thought their love scenes together were refreshing in the sense that they communicate about what they need intimately from a partner by talking and seeking consent. It isn’t just hot and heavy immediately; rather it is sensual and romantic.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slightly Off-Pace for the Romance–

I think Ashton was maybe a little too aloof at the start? I wish that they had a few more interactions to really cement that deeper bond at the start by simply talking to each other.  While the attraction is slow burn, those deeper feelings just seemed to happen pretty quickly once these two give into the attraction and I wasn’t entirely sure the intensity was warranted.

–The Episode Scenes As Chapters–

I wouldn’t say that I disliked this approach–I thought it was neat and did add to the story overall. I just think some formatting needed to be done to distinguish the characters’ feelings from the actors’. It was a little hard to separate the inner monologue. I’m hoping that is just a formatting issue in the ARCs.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m really excited to explore this cast of characters a little more. I know from Alexis’ newsletter who the next book will be about so I’m curious to see what will happen next!

My Rating: 4.5/5

You Had Me At Hola 4.5/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This reads like a great rom-com movie and it’s perfect for fans of contemporary romance looking for diverse, well written reads.

Read if You Like: telenovelas, diverse reads, rom-coms
Avoid if You: want erotica, dislike rom-coms

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Single Sundays: The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

Single Sundays: The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

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

Synopsis for The Sound of Stars (from Goodreads):

Can a girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves forbidden pop music work together to save humanity?

Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.

Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.

Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.

Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.

breakdown

Author: Alecia Dow
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person & Third Person
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

So you see that cover right? That’s why I clicked on the title when I was browsing my audiobook collection at my library. But the synopsis reminded me of a hybrid between Defy the Fates and Alienated with a darker edge, so I was curious to find out what this book was all about.

The Concept / The World:

If you are a fan of books and/or music, you will love how that is all woven into this text. It’s reminds me why these mediums are so important to society and how it connects people in times of struggles.

And it you are in the search for books that feature minority characters (whether that be people of colour and/or LGBTQ leads), look no further. The representation here is top-notch.

The Plot:

Like I thought, this book has a darker edge to it. In some ways, the plot reminded me of The Darkest Minds where people are pushed into situations of tentative trust in order to survive.

And then the plot takes a turn I never anticipated and that was a huge highlight for me. It alludes to something bigger than what this story is and I really liked that.

The Characters:

I liked both of our characters well enough. It was hard to get a good read on Morris because his POV is third person. Ellie is understandably a little sombre about everything so she isn’t the most exciting person to listen to. They weren’t overly memorable to me though.

The Romance:

The romance really dampened the whole experience for me because I just didn’t see those non-platonic feelings between them at all. Part of the issue is perhaps that Morris is an alien so emotions are hard to convey. But I also didn’t get Ellie’s draw to him besides physical attraction and close proximity. Yes, they have things in common but it just wasn’t enough for me to be convinced they were this epic, forbidden love story.

My Audiobook Experience:

A great listen. They did a really good job bringing this story to life.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

When you are trying to sell me on this epic forbidden romance, you really need to sell it and I felt like it didn’t. Which is a shame because I feel like it is the crucial piece in making this story epic.

Read if You Like: science fiction, alien invasions
Avoid if You: want an action novel
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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: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Series Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

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 Something Strange and Deadly (from Goodreads):

There’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.

Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper:

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

breakdown

Series: Something Strange and Deadly Trilogy
Author: Susan Dennard
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 A Dawn Most Wicked

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Zombies, Romance, Science Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: July 2012 – July 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook, Audiobook (Darkness)

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Book #2) at 18%. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not sure how this series initially crossed me radar. I think the covers drew me in as did the titles. I had it marked to read for a very long time which is why I selected it for my 2017 5 Year 5 Book Challenge as an entry for 2012.

I really enjoy historical paranormal reads in the YA genre so I was hoping this series would be another to add to my list of favourites. I had read Dennard’s Truthwitch prior to picking up Something Strange and Deadly so I knew to expect a great world but perhaps one that didn’t have the best worldbuilding (ie easy to understand). But I do enjoy the flow her writing has so I was optimistic I would enjoy this one.

The Concept / The World:

For me, the world building was lacking in some ways. (Not surprising given my previous Dennard experience). I would have liked more background on why the dead are suddenly rising. Now, I’ll admit, I probably wasn’t in the best head-space when I picked up Book 1 so maybe it is explained well and I just missed it. I’ve had that happen before… -.-

However, in terms of understanding how to fight the dead and the various roles of the Spirit-Hunters, that’s explained well enough. I found the concepts that relate directly to the plot and character actions were well established and easy to follow.

Is it Steampunk?

I wouldn’t say so. It has steampunk elements but it’s more of a paranormal read. Scientific technologies do play a role but they don’t have enough of one to make me classify this as steampunk. I actually didn’t think people did until I saw the tags on Goodreads and saw people calling this steampunk. Hence my need to bring it up.

Where This Series Excels:

I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of A Darkness Strange and Deadly. Trying to figure out how everything was connected (if it even was) kept me intrigued and pushing forward. You get that suspense in the sequel as well after everything plays out and that aspect is intriguing.

Where This Series Declines:

I liked Eleanor enough but there was something that stopped me from loving her outright. She wasn’t overly impressive to me despite her good heart and her “I can do it” attitude.

I also despised the romance. It felt very forced to me in A Darkness Strange and Deadly. I seemed like it developed out of nothing and that stopped me from getting fully on board. I actually thought she had better chemistry with another character than the one she’s supposed to…never a good thing!

Why I Stopped Reading #2, A Darkness Strange and Lovely:

I think I’ve just been too far removed from this series (it’s been about a year since I read the first one) and I just can’t motivate myself to care about this story. I don’t really remember things and even the rehash doesn’t bring me to care.

Series Rating: DNF

A Darkness Strange and Deadly  3.5/5| A Darkness Strange and Lovely DNF | Strange Ever After N/A

overall

If I read this the year it came out, I probably would have adored it. It has the right materials but they just didn’t get used well enough to impress me.

Read if You Like: zombies, historical YA
Avoid if You: want a purely steampunk novel

similarreads

  • The Gathering Storm by Robin Brydes (Katerina Trilogy #1)
  • The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (The Steampunk Chronicles #1)

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Series Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

Series Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra

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 Tiny Pretty Things (from Goodreads):

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet-star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.

When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav Audiobook Read 2018, Cover Love
Series: Tiny Pretty Things
Author: Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Drama, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2016 – July 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

While the cover captured my attention when it was first released, it was actually a review by Cristina @ Girl in the Pages that convinced me to read this. Like many items on my TBR, I didn’t get to it until two years later but that worked out in my favour because I could binge the entire series as an audio one 😉

The Concept / The World:

When I think about ballet, my mind immediately goes to the movie The Black Swan and to Fame (more so the movie than the show). Fame highlights some of the stresses performing artists highlight but keeps its tone pretty light and basic. The Black Swan shows the grittier side of ballet but more so the psychological side? I’m not sure since I only watched the movie shortly after its theatre release…

Thanks to Cristina’s review, I knew that this series is much darker and not as petty as the YA label would have you fear. Yes, some of their issues are petty (they are in high school after all) but some of the pranks and thought processes aren’t. These girls and guys take it to that darker, intense level I wanted. The sabotage and intrigue in this series had me hooked from the start! It was so addicting!

The Plot:

I really loved the delivery of this series. Part of it is character driven–I’ll explain more about the cast below–as we watch these ballerinas carve their way in the company. But there is also this aura of mystery as well because there are many acts of sabotage. Sometimes we know the culprit; sometimes we don’t find out for a long time. But I’ll just say I had many theories about what was happening and I was proven wrong quite a few times. I loved that suspense and the drive to find out exactly who and what was happening.

The Characters:

This cast of characters is quite diverse and not just because of race or ethnicity (though there is that). Each of our three leads also has their personal struggles–and some that we don’t often see in books. At a glance, I wondered if these characters had too much going on; if they were perhaps too layered given the drama of this novel. You know, the idea that less is sometimes more. But I think all their “issues” really highlighted the setting and tone of the novel. What happens when characters are pushed to their breaking points? What happens to characters who’ve been kept inside this one bubble their whole lives and the real world comes crashing in? It was fascinating to watch.

The Romance:

There is a little dash of romance thrown in but I’d classify it as a small factor that contributes to the overall story. You aren’t getting chapters dedicated to romance unless it relates back to the characters.

Series Rating: 5/5

Tiny Pretty Things 5/5 | Shiny Broken Pieces 5/5

overall

This series had me hooked from start to end! I loved the diverse cast; I loved the intrigue and I loved the setting! It was every dark, addicting thing I wanted it to be.

Read if You Like: ballet, diverse casts, suspense
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POV, dislike darker YA
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DNF Series Review: The Hundredth Queen by Emily R King

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 Hundredth Queen (from Goodreads):

He wanted a warrior queen. He got a revolutionary.

As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Cover Love
Series: The Hundredth Queen
Author: Emily R King
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: Unsure
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 1, 2017 – August 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Paperback

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading The Hundredth Queen (#1) at 20% (start of Chapter 8). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

On the surface, this series checked a lot of my boxes. Canadian Author. Fantasy. Kick-butt Girls. That’s why it was one of my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge 2018 Selections for the year 2017. I couldn’t wait to dive into a new fantasy world that seemed like it would have a lot of layers and surprises!

What I Liked:

–The Concept–

While it is only briefly explained, I did love the idea of this book and the women competing to be the rajah’s bride. It’s a unique concept to be sure.

What I Didn’t Like:

–World Building Was Lacking–

As I said above, I thought the world building left something to be desired. Things are only briefly explained and then it’s assumed you remember or know. I could have used a little more or at least not all in one big info-dump session.

–Insta-Love–

I swear, Deven is the first guy she sees and she falls immediately into love with him. I wasn’t ‘shipping this relationship at all. I didn’t think they had very good chemistry (their banter was “meh”)  together so I found myself bored by the forbidden romance. I think it would have been stronger if it had happened a little later in the novel.

–Stiff Narration–

I thought Kalinda talked almost robotically when delivering her narration. It was choppy at times and I know that sometimes that is the style used to convey the dire circumstances but it just didn’t flow nicely for me.

Will I Finish It?

Nope. I just couldn’t get myself into this story at all. It helps too that my library doesn’t have the sequels so I don’t feel obligated to keep reading.

My Rating: DNF

The Hundredth Queen DNF | The Fire Queen N/A | The Rogue Queen N/A | The Warrior Queen N/A

overall

I think those looking for a shorter fantasy novel that isn’t overly heavy on the world building will enjoy this.

Read if You Like: fantasy, action
Avoid if You: dislike insta-love

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Series Review: The Folk of the Air by Holly Black

Series Review: The Folk of the Air by Holly Black

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 Cruel Prince (from Goodreads):

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Top Pick 2018
Series: The Folk of the Air
Author: Holly Black
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)

There is a novella: #1.5 The Lost Sisters

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Faeries, Action, Politics, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: January 2018 – November 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I honestly thought I wrote a review for The Cruel Prince when I read it last year…but I guess not! The hype was so big for this book that I just had to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve always heard great things about Holly Black but none of her stories in the past have interested me. But FAERIES?! They are my favourite fantasy creature of all time. I love their backstabbing and tricks and uniqueness. So this was a no brainer for me.

The Concept / The World:

I ADORE anything with faeries and this world certainly set the bar. I haven’t read such a rich faerie world since I finished Wicked Lovely years ago. I loved the Courts; I loved the different type of faeries; but most of all, I loved the deviousness of the faerie world. I love how you never know who to trust or what the deals truly mean. And even knowing that deception is around every corner, I still found myself shocked by the events that unfold.

The Plot:

I was fully enthralled by the plot from the very start of The Cruel Prince. It was a weird addiction though because I really didn’t think much was happening drama-wise for the longest time. But there is just something so compelling about Jude’s drive to make her mark in the Court.

But when it came to The Cruel King: non-stop developments from start to finish. If it wasn’t one thing brewing it was another and I couldn’t get enough! Jude’s story is exactly what I crave from a Faerie story.

The Characters:

I really love Jude as a lead. She is exactly what I want my human protagonist to be in a world of Faerie. She’s cunning and strong–definitely able to hold her own–but she also has this vulnerability to her that makes her endearing…and human, much to her dismay. At times, The Cruel Prince read like a coming of age story because she has some great character growth.

And Cardan! Le SIGH! He is the ideal faerie prince for me. I love how I can never get a read on him. He’s mysterious and swoon-worthy; endlessly frustrating but charming. I positively adored his scenes with Jude.

The Romance:

When I started The Cruel Prince, I really thought it was going to be more of a romance focus (I don’t know why but most faerie stories are) but I’m glad it’s only a small component of the story. It does a great job of enriching the story without distracting for the various dramatic plotlines.

When to Read the Novella, #1.5 The Lost Sisters:

How cool is it that this is in an audiobook! I was going to read the eBook when I saw my library had the audio version. Rarely are novellas in audiobooks.

I read this after I finished Book #2–mostly because I forgot this existed. I’m glad I did though. Not that it gives away anything but I kinda liked having this person’s motives unknown to me.

My Audiobook Experience:

I LOVED the audiobooks. Caitlin Kelly does an amazing job bringing Jude to life and I think it definitely impacted my reading experience in a super positive way.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I cannot wait to see how all of this wraps up!

updates

–February 13, 2019– Book #3: The Queen of Nothing

One thing I loved about this series (and usually all other faerie novels) is the unpredictability. I adore the deceptions, the play on words, the literal meanings that come with fairies as the focus. It was so easy to get sucked back into Jude’s world and watcher her navigate her current situation.

This novel never stops moving and twisting as it weaves its final tale. Just a great ending to a superb series.

Series Rating: 5/5

The Cruel Prince 4.5/5 | [The Lost Sisters 4/5] | The Cruel Prince 5/5 | The Queen of Nothing 5/5

overall

If you love the dark world of faeries (or want to dive in head first), there is a reason people can’t stop talking about this series!

Read if You Like: faeries, lots of twists, drama
Avoid if You: want more romance focused

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Series Review: Red Winter by Annette Marie

Series Review: Red Winter by Annette Marie

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 Red Winter (from Goodreads):

Emi is the kamigakari. In a few short months, her life as a mortal will end and her new existence as the human host of a goddess will begin. Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess-and not once has she doubted her chosen fate. Shiro is a yokai, a spirit of the earth, an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can’t match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command-whether she wants him or not. On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate-but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope… and hope is all she has left.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love, Canadian Author
Series: Red Winter Trilogy
Author: Annette Marie
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Teen, Urban Fantasy, Mythology, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2016 – April 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I finished Book 1: Red Winter but have opted not to pick up the sequels at this time. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was browsing audiobooks at my library, the covers for this series immediately grabbed my attention. They are positively gorgeous! And then I read the synopsis and knew I had to read this series!

I was obsessed with anime when I was in high school and that in turn lead to an interest in Japanese culture and mythology. Red Winter looked like it would have a great world and I hoped for lots of action and so I was excited to get started!

What I Liked:

–The World–

The world building here is great! Everything described in this story came to mind so easily for me. I felt like I was watching an anime. I loved the various creatures and the hierarchy of the deities. It’s a very thought out, rich world for the setting.

–Emi’s Character Growth–

Emi is very naive when the novel starts and understandably so. She’s been told her destiny for so long that she has accepted that as her fate. So she seems a little dull at the start, but when she starts to question everything she knows, she begins to evolve as a character. The Emi we end with in Red Winter is not the one we started with and I love to see that evolution in my books.

–Shiro–

When I think of a kitsune (fox) shapeshifter, Shiro is exactly what I picture. His confidence and swagger was a lot of fun to read about. His interactions with the sheltered Emi at the start were funny and charming. He always brought a smile to my face when he was in a scene.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slow Start–

I found the first 25% of this book to be pretty dry. It’s mostly Emi reflecting on her new life at the shrine and how a past event still affects her. I started to contemplate DNFing it at around this time but a review I read on Goodreads mentioned that the first quarter is slower. So I pressed on hoping for the best.

It does pick up around the 35% mark when some new info comes to light and Emi gets a bit of motivation to learn more about her destiny. But then my issue was:

–Simple Plot–

I like a lot happening in my fantasy novels. I like plots happening in the background while characters fight the main issue. I like lots of physical action or political intrigue to keep me interested.

For the most part, this book had a pretty linear progression. It would tackle one issue at a time. As we got closer to the end, the little tidbits of future plotlines started to be laid out and I got a better idea of where the sequels were going to go. So the last quarter of the book was great! But up until that point, my interest had waned.

My Audiobook Experience:

I think my mistake with this novel was picking up the audiobook version. Now, that isn’t to say that the audiobook is bad. Far from it! The narration is wonderful. All the characters had distinct voices and there was so much emotion and expression in the delivery. I did struggle with the “whispering”/quieter characters. The main narrator had such a strong voice but then would drop the volume for a quieter character and I constantly had to adjust the volume back and forth.

My mistake was choosing that as the format to read this story. I’m a visual learner and I do better seeing various terms than hearing them. To me, they all sound the same after awhile. I found myself getting lost in the various creatures/roles of people because I couldn’t remember what they all were. I know the physical versions of these novels have a glossary (something that obviously is lacking in the audiobook) and I would have benefited greatly from that I think.

Will I Finish It?

I’ve been going back and forth on this one. I really love the idea of this story and I adore the world. I know that I don’t want to listen to the audiobooks for the sequels but I noticed the Kindle editions are on Kindle Unlimited so when I do my KU binge, I might throw these novels in to see how this series wraps up! But for now:

Series Rating: DNF

Red Winter 3/5 | Dark Tempest N/A | Immortal Fire N/A

overall

This series gets a lot of glowing reviews on Goodreads so be sure to read some of them if this sounds like something you would enjoy. For me, I think this would have been more enjoyable if I had read the physical book (though the audio production is fantastic!) and made use of the glossary for terms. I also just needed a little more from the plot even though I loved the world and enjoyed its characters.

Read if You Like: urban fantasy, Japanese mythology/culture
Avoid if You: are impatient for action, don’t like slower starts

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Series Review: The Cage by Megan Shepherd

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Cage (from Goodreads):

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

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

breakdown

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

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

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

The Concept / The World:

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

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

The Characters:

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

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

The Romance:

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

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

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

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

When to Read the Novella, The Caretaker?

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

concSLOW

Series Rating: 3.5/5

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

overall

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

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

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