Tag «has novellas»

Series Review: The Royals by Erin Watt

Series Review: The Royals by Erin Watt

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 Paper Princess (from Goodreads):

From strip clubs and truck stops to southern coast mansions and prep schools, one girl tries to stay true to herself.

These Royals will ruin you…

Ella Harper is a survivor—a pragmatic optimist. She’s spent her whole life moving from town to town with her flighty mother, struggling to make ends meet and believing that someday she’ll climb out of the gutter. After her mother’s death, Ella is truly alone.

Until Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. Each Royal boy is more magnetic than the last, but none as captivating as Reed Royal, the boy who is determined to send her back to the slums she came from.

Reed doesn’t want her. He says she doesn’t belong with the Royals.

He might be right.

Wealth. Excess. Deception. It’s like nothing Ella has ever experienced, and if she’s going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she’ll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: The Royals
Author: Erin Watt (aka Jen Frederick and Elle Kennedy)
# of Books: 5 (Full Reading Order)

There is a novella: #3.5 Tarnished Crown

Book Order: Chronological (#1-3) and Connected Sequels (#4-5)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Warm **spicy YA**
Point of View: First Person, Single; First Person, Alternating (#2 onwards)
Publication Dates: April 2016 – March 2018
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Kobo)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had Paper Princess on my radar for a long time but the potential soapy-ness of it all scared me a little. But after I read (and adored) Erin Watt’s When It’s Real, I immediately made plans to bump this up on my TBR. And once I discovered that this was an author duo whose individuals works I’ve enjoyed in the past, it seemed like a no-brainer to pick it up. That’s why it was a 2019 5 Year 5 Book Reading Challenge pick for the year 2016.

The Concept / Genre Classification:

While this does take place in high school (which I classify as YA), it definitely has more New Adult undertones to it; especially when it comes to the sexual content.

The first 3 books focus on Reed and Ella but the 4th and 5th books focus on Easton. However, they all follow a chronological order of events so it is best to read them in the order they are listed as on Goodreads.

The Plot:

These books definitely read like your favourite teenage soap opera drama. You’ve got mean girls; hook-ups; backstabbing; angst; sexual tension and secrets–and not just from the teenagers, the parents are just as bad 😉

But that makes for an addicting read in many ways. Yes, some of the moments were a little too overdramatic for my tastes (the antics that Ella finds herself in especially) but it worked within the context of the story. Or at least I thought that was the case with the first three books; not so much with the last two novels.

I think some people would classify it as a “guilty pleasure” read if they don’t read many contemporaries novels.

The Characters:

Ella is a fighter and I appreciated her blunt honesty at times; she’s not ashamed of herself or her past and that was refreshing. At times, she is perhaps a little melodramatic but I understood her actions.

As for the Royals, they are all as captivating and intriguing as you want them to be. Each brother is unique and has their own air of mystery around them. It was fun to watch their antics as well as see that deeper side to their characters.

The Romance:

In Paper Princess (#1), I wasn’t totally sold on the romance between Ella and Reed. I could definitely feel the lust but I thought the “deeper” connection they kept feeling wasn’t really elaborated on. That changed in Broken Prince (#2) though; it became more apparent to me why they were drawn together and how great they could be together.

However, that wasn’t the case with Easton’s two novels. I was really disappointed in the romance there. I just didn’t see it at all.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

There are no further books planned featuring the brothers–BUT, I wouldn’t be opposed to the twins getting their own novel(s) one day 😉

Series Rating: 4/5

Paper Princess 4/5 | Broken Prince 4/5 | Twisted Palace 3/5 | [Tarnished Crown 4/5] | Fallen Heir 3/5 | Cracked Kingdom 3/5

overall

If you love drama and teenaged angst in your reads, this is the series for you!

Read if You Like: angst, drama, older YA reads
Avoid if You: dislike contemporaries

similarreads

  • The Heir by M J Prince (Dynasty Series #1)
  • Bully by Penelope Douglas (Fall Away Series #1)
  • Last to Know by Micalea Smeltzer (Willow Creek Series #1)

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Single Sundays: Sincerely Carter by Whitney G

Single Sundays: Sincerely Carter by Whitney G

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 Sincerely, Carter (from Goodreads):

Just friends.
We’re just friends.
No, really. She’s just my best friend…

Arizona Turner has been my best friend since fourth grade, even when we “hated” each other. We’ve been there for one another through first kisses, first “times,” and we’ve been each other’s constant when good relationships turned bad. (We even went to colleges that were minutes away from each other…)

Throughout the years, and despite what anyone says, we’ve never crossed the line.

Never thought about it.
Never wanted to.

Until one night changed everything.
At least, it should’ve …

Just friends.
We’re just friends.
I’m only saying this until I figure out if she’s still “just” my best friend…

breakdown

Author: Whitney G
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve read Whitney G’s Reasonable Doubt series and really enjoyed it. But her Sincerely, Carter novel is always on New Adult lists and its popularity always scared me away from picking it up. Which is why I put it on my 2019 5 Year 5 Book Challenge so that I could finally get this title under my belt.

The Plot:

At the core, I really enjoyed the plot of this novel. It establishes the great friendship and really highlighted the issues friends who become more struggle with in a fairly realistic way.

But in the same breath, there was just something about the pacing that threw me off. It was like a snap of the fingers and BAM! Lovers who have been in a serious relationship for years. And, of course there is a comfort there since they are good friends but I just struggled with the quick progression and how quickly they fell into that routine.

The Characters:

I loved the little flashbacks to the past. It helped to solidify this great friendship between these two. But it also helped to shape them as characters. They both are likeable even if they did some silly things along the way.

The Romance:

In the last year, I’ve read a lot of duds when it comes to friends to more romances and this on reminded me how great they can be. These two are such great friends that they miss the obvious that they’d be the perfect romantic partners. But in the same breath, I still wish that they maybe stayed friends because I love books that highlight platonic relationships between opposite sexes.

The Extended Epilogue–Sincerely, Arizona:

Goodreads lists this as a series but Sincerely, Arizona is really just an extended epilogue. Meaning you should read it after you finish Sincerely, Carter because it wraps things up a little nicer. It’s a freebie on most eBook retailers.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

If you want a quick read with plenty of sweet and steamy moments, this is a great NA read for you!

Read if You Like: friends to lovers, standalones
Avoid if You: are seeking a little more polished plot
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Spin-off Saturdays: Rivals by Piper Lawson

Spin-off Saturdays: A Song for Liars (Rivals #1) by Piper Lawson

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:

Rivals Series is a spin-off of the Wicked Series

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author, Canadian Author
Series: Rivals

This is a spinoff of the Wicked Series.

Author: Piper Lawson
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Love Notes

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Music
Heat Rating: warm *Spicy YA*
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 29, 2020 – July 9, 2020
Source & Format: Author–eARC

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

thoughts

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

My Expectations?

I’m a sucker for Rockstar romances and Piper Lawson’s Wicked Series was one I have never really encountered before. It was like the perfect mashup of other series yet entirely unique in its own way. And two of the characters that stood out to me the most were Annie and Tyler…and I prayed we would get to see their story one day!

How Does It Compare To The Original?

Wicked was more of a New Adult read while this new series straddles the line between YA and NA — which gives it its own unique flare.

But all the angst from the original series is here and perhaps it is present more so. These two have a lot of things going on in their personal and romantic lives and it shows. I loved the drama it brought around.

And I think the romance is stronger here. These two have a past friendship and connection to build up. Plus they have so much in common–even if they don’t always think so. You can’t help but root for them!

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–I Didn’t Understand All the Angst–

I’m also not entirely sure why Annie was so angry at Tyler at the start of the book. I think it’s explained a little better in the prequel novella from what I remember but I wanted that fleshed out a little more. Maybe some insight into why Tyler did what he did.

–Tyler As the “Prince of the School” Is a Bit of a Stretch–

I think Annie was the only one who really thought that. Yes, people like him (and Annie has some rivals for interest) but he wasn’t really in the popular crowd.

When to Read the Novella, #0.5 Love Notes:

I read this first and I think that’s probably the best way to do it. If you read the original series, it serves as a good appetizer for what’s to come. And for those who haven’t read the series, it fills in some of the little gaps about their history.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

OH what an ending!!! I’m super duper excited to see where things go from here!

updates

–May 16, 2020– Book #2: A Love Song for Rebels

This book was a step up for me from the last one. Gone are their high school days and it shows. Annie and Tyler have grown and matured so they start to talk more about their feelings and wants instead of just holding a silent, angsty grudge against each other. And I liked the conversations and developments that happened as a result. They’re coming into themselves, figuring out what is important and what they want. And most important of all: they are fighting for those dreams and wants.

Piper has a great knack for writing dramatics that are entertaining but grounded in some realism and I find as a reader, you really get sucked into the characters’ lives and their emotions. I really appreciated the struggles and the successes all the more because I feel like I know these characters so well.

–July 6, 2020– Book #3: A Love Song for Dreamers

The evolution of this story is so refreshing to me. We don’t often get trilogies following one couple anymore in the romance world and Piper has reminded me how good they could be. Watching these two grow into the people they’ve become has been such a treat; especially for fans who met them as kids in the Wicked Series.

I love the bittersweet realism infused into this story. Life doesn’t always go to plans and not everything works out like it does in the movies. So seeing these two struggle to find their footings in life and in their relationship kept me enthralled. As I said before, their growth has been amazing to watch as a reader. I feel like I’m closing a bit of a chapter on my life as they close theirs.

This was missing that little je ne said quoi to take it to that next level though. Perhaps it needed one good twist or dramatic element? Regardless, it was a fantastic ending for a series that has had me hooked from the start!

Series Rating: 4/5

[Love Notes 4/5] | A Love Song for Liars 4/5 | A Love Song for Rebels 5/5 | A Love Song for Dreamers 4/5

overall

If you love angsty romances that straddle the line between YA and NA — this is the series you need to start now!

Read if You Like: angst, music, first loves
Avoid if You: dislike romances spread out over multiple books

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for A Love Song for Liars (from Goodreads):

I fell for Tyler Adams when he had nothing but a guitar.
He was my rebel prince, my handsome muse, my twisted friend.
We were worlds apart in every way that mattered:
He was poor, I was rich.
He was beautiful, I was plain.
He honed his talent in private, while I ached for the spotlight.
When Tyler moved in with us, Oakwood Prep fell on its knees to worship at his altar.
He traded my friendship for their crown.
I will never forgive his betrayal.
But some nights…
He makes me want to.

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Serial Saturdays: Royal Heartbreaker by Renna Peak & Ember Casey

Serial Saturdays: Royal Heartbreaker by Renna Peak & Ember Casey

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 Leopold: Part 1 (from Goodreads):

Prince Charming? More like a ROYAL mistake!

When I accidentally wished for my own Prince Charming, I never expected him to actually show up. Not here in South America–not at the crappy charity clinic where I work.

But life never is as simple as making a wish—and while Prince Leopold is definitely charming, he’s also cocky. And arrogant. And a huge playboy. He’s everything I’ve promised myself I’d stay away from.

So why can’t I seem to resist him?

There’s no way Prince Leo is actually interested in a normal girl like me. No way he’ll ever be able to overcome his womanizing ways to be the prince of my dreams. And the more time I spend with him, it’s clear he has almost as many secrets as me.

I’m only sure of one thing—if I give him what he wants, he’s going to break my heart.

breakdown

Series: Royal Heartbreaker

There are two other spin-off series: Royal Mistake & Royal Arrangement

Author: Renna Peak Ember Casey
# of Parts: 6

There are some novellas as well.

Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: July 2016 – October 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Leopold: Part Two at 40% (start of Chapter 6). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love everything to do with Royal Families–in real life and in fiction. This series always crosses my radar when Kobo has a boxset sale on and it always peaks my interest. I ended up buying it for my Kindle though because it was only $1 so why not?

What I Liked:

–That Each Character Has Their Own Secrets–

What can I say, I like when both of my leads have flaws and both have secrets. It keeps things interesting. It gets tiring when one lead is “perfect” and it trying to save the other. So I was intrigued that both leads had their own stuff to figure out and unpack.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Lack of Chemistry–

When it’s a novella, you really have to sell me on the romance. I’m talking palpable passion and heat. I never really got the attraction between these two, not even the physical really. I get that it was a bit of a hate-to-like-you in Part One but I never felt the underlying tension between them.

–Lack of Plot Direction–

While I didn’t love Part One, I was optimistic given all the little breadcrumbs we got. Elle and Leo are starting to give in a little more; we both know they are hiding things; and like all good serials, it ends on a cliffhanger of sorts. But Part Two took WAYYYY too long to build on that momentum. I was 6 chapters in and nothing significant had really happened. I didn’t have anything motivating me to keep reading.

Will I Finish It?

No, I want my serials to be fast and enticing and this just wasn’t it.

My Rating: DNF

overall

I think if you like serial novellas that take their time and you like the idea of spinoffs with other characters, you might want to take your time investing in this.

Read if You Like: novella serials, royals
Avoid if You: want faster pace, lots of drama
similarreads

  • The Marriage Pact by Winter Renshaw
  • Cross the Stars by Venessa Kimball (Crossing the Stars #1)

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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: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

DNF Series Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 2: 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 Born of Illusion (from Goodreads):

Anna Van Housen has a secret.

A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums, and mentalists in 1920’s New York. As the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini—or so Marguerite claims—sleight of hand illusions have never been a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her opportunistic mother. Because while Marguerite’s own powers may be a sham, Anna possesses a true ability to sense people’s feelings and foretell the future.

But as Anna’s powers intensify, she begins to experience frightening visions of her mother in peril, which leads her to explore the powers she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, she is forced to confront her past and rethink everything she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusion? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite’s tricks?

From Teri Brown comes a world bursting with magic, with romance, and the temptations of Jazz Age New York—and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny.

breakdown

Series: Born of Illusion
Author: Teri Brown
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a novella: #1.5 Born of Corruption

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 2013 – June 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

**Disclaimer: I stopped reading Born of Illusion at 41% (start of Chapter 14) and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I kinda forgot I had this series on my TBR to be honest. It wasn’t listed on my Goodreads one but I had marked it for my library Wishlist and when I needed another 2013 pick for my 2018 5 Year 5 Book Reading Challenge, this seemed like the perfect fit.

I’ve been dying for another great Flapper read since I read The Flappers. And add to this the idea of magic and Houdini? I’m so there!

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

There is just something so addicting to me about the 1920s era of history. You’ve got the clash of mystisicim and industry/science; the lavish lifestyles and the hidden ones. It’s just a rich setting that immediately draws me in.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Basic Approach–

There isn’t anything WOW about this book. Yes, Anna’s powers and situation with her mother are interesting but if you strip that away it isn’t anything new. I was 41% of the way in and we had repeated the same stuff over and over and it just frankly wasn’t interesting.

–Recycling the Same Sentiments–

And if we weren’t redoing the same plot, we were rehashing the same feelings.

This mostly has to do with the romance and the setup for a love triangle. While I understand why she might be drawn to the two boys, I didn’t need to be reminded of the same three things again and again.

The same thing goes with her relationship with her mother. I get that it’s a tough one (her mom is certainly no peach), but like move on? Or shift the focus slightly because I get the idea that things are rough between them already.

Will I Finish It?

Nope.

My Rating: DNF

Born of Illusion DNF | [Born of Corruption N/A] | Born of Deception N/A

overall

Even the Great Houdini couldn’t make me enjoy this one!

Read if You Like: 1920s setting, magic
Avoid if You: want a more complex plot

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

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DNF Series Review: Insignia by S J Kincaid

DNF Series Review: Insignia by S J Kincaid

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 Insignia (from Goodreads):

The earth is in the middle of WWIII in Insignia, the first entry in S. J. Kincaid’s fast-paced sci-fi adventure trilogy perfect for fans of Ender’s Game.

The planet’s natural resources are almost gone, and war is being fought to control the assets of the solar system. The enemy is winning. The salvation may be Tom Raines. Tom doesn’t seem like a hero. He’s a short fourteen-year-old with bad skin. But he has the virtual-reality gaming skills that make him a phenom behind the controls of the battle drones.

As a new member of the Intrasolar Forces, Tom’s life completely changes. Suddenly, he’s someone important. He has new opportunities, friends, and a shot at having a girlfriend. But there’s a price to pay. . .

breakdown

Series: Insignia
Author: S J Kincaid
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a novella, #1.5, Allies

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Teen, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: July 2012 – October 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Insignia (#1) at 51% (middle of Chapter 14). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After I read (and simply ADORED) Kincaid’s The Diabolic in the summer of 2018, I was eager to check out her other works. This was the other series my library had and they had it available in audio (which is how I read The Diabolic) so it seemed like a good sign!

The synopsis doesn’t give much away but it sounded interesting enough and so I dove in immediately after DNFing another SciFi novel that just wasn’t working for me.

What I Liked:

–The Concept–

I really loved the entire concept of this story. Society is so advanced that we don’t use humans to physically fight wars; instead, they use machines to do it remotely. When I went through my anime phase in high school, Gundam SEED was my first and favourite show and they used mechas to fight; so the concept here gave me some great nostalgia.

And the simulations the kids do for training were creative and entertaining to read about.

–Despite the War and Premise, It Had a Lighter Tone–

I find most of my YA novels have a darker tone to them lately. I think part of that goes hand in hand with me growing up and where my interests lie when it comes to book. However, I enjoyed the lighter tone this novel had. Sure, Tom’s life isn’t easy and he is being recruited to fight in a war. But there isn’t murder behind every chapter or villains who will do anything at any cost. (I hope that makes sense). It’s got a more upbeat tone to it as Tom tries to navigate his new life and undergoes most challenges a 14 year old boy does in a futuristic setting.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Lack of an Overarching Plot–

I should clarify that there are some overarching plots in this story. You’ve got Tom’s rivalry with Medusa and breached files for example. But I just kept waiting for this “big” reveal to get the plot really started. See I was halfway through and in some ways I felt like we just kept rehashing the same things over and over. I needed a little more to the plot besides Tom navigating school.

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of the first Divergent book where you watch Tris train and find her way in her new faction. But where that book succeeds is in the inklings letting you know that something bigger is happening and as that gets revealed, you get more invested in the story. I didn’t get that sense that that would be the case here.

–I Felt a Little Old Reading This–

I’m a firm believer that you can read any book of any genre at any age; that YA and middle grade novels are not just for the targeted marketing audience. However, I do believe that there are some books you just might not enjoy if you read them when you are not  a part of the intended audience. That’s the case here.

I firmly believe if I read this book when I was in high school (ie when it first came out), this review would be completely different (namely, I would have finished the book). But as it stands now in my life, I didn’t really care for (what is petty to me now) issues that were plaguing Tom’s life like popularity and physical appearance. I crave something a little more cerebral than that when reading.

My Audiobook Experience:

Other than the wickedly long length of the audio version (it’s like 15.5 hours!) it’s a very well done production. I thought the narrator did a great job with the story.

Will I Finish It?

I don’t think so. Perhaps the text version would be quicker for me to read but the sequel’s synopsis didn’t really interest me.

My Rating: DNF

Insignia  DNF | [Allies N/A] | Vortex N/A | Catalyst N/A

overall

Perfect for fans of books in the Teen or younger YA genres! I’ve never read the Ender’s Game but what I do know makes me think this recommendation holds true.

Read if You Like: science fiction, dystopian
Avoid if You: like older (age-wise) YA titles

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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: Fenbrook Academy by Helena Newbury

Series Review: Fenbrook Academy by Helena Newbury

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 Dance for Me (from Goodreads):

Natasha is one of the most promising ballet dancers at the prestigious Fenbrook Academy of Performing Arts and she’s just landed a life-changing audition. But no one knows the guilt she carries…or the damage it makes her inflict on herself when she’s alone.

Darrell is a multi-millionaire designer at 25. But past traumas have pushed him into isolation and the intense pressure of his work has brought him to the edge of burnout. Seeking inspiration, he sees Natasha dance and hires her as his muse.

As she dances for him, the two become entwined in a passionate but troubled relationship. He starts to see the pain inside her and helps her gradually lower her defenses…but Darrell has demons of his own. Can two broken people save each other? Or will the darkness they’re hiding consume them both?

This New Adult Romance is recommended for 17+ due to mature themes, sexual situations and language.

breakdown

Series: Fenbrook Academy
Author: Helena Newbury
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)

There is a novella: #1.5 Losing My Balance

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty (Kink: mild in Losing my Balance)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: June 2013 – January 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook; Kindle Unlimited (Acting Brave)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not entirely certain how this series crossed my radar; probably when I browsing NA reads that were a little darker. I know that I liked the idea of the series taking place at an academy for performing arts. It’s very Fame-esque (the old TV show that they rebooted in a so-so movie a few years ago).

The Concept / The World:

Each novel focuses on a girl who attends the school but for a different art. One’s a dancer, one’s a musician and the other is an actress. They also have different familiar situations and pasts so I found each story had its own unique spin and plot. There isn’t a linear overall plot but you get a taste of what is going to happen in the sequels in the previous novel; and you still see the previous leads in the sequel novels as well. However, you could read each one as a standalone if you desired.

The Plot:

Because our three heroines differ, the plots for their respective novels are also very different.

Dance for Me (#1) definitely has a darker, twisted edge to it; one I wasn’t entirely expecting so in that respect it was refreshing. But because of those vibes, everything seemed rushed to me and I wasn’t a huge fan of that.

Whereas In Harmony (#2) was lighter and more of a coming of age type of story. Unfortunately, it suffered from some logic holes with the plot near the end but I really enjoyed it! It was definitely my favorite of the series.

And the final novel, Acting Brave had its own feel to it. There was a dash of suspense but it seemed to focus more on a slow burn romance. Or maybe it only felt slow because it is such a long novel! The pacing was a little off for me on this one and while it was my most anticipated of the stories, I ended up a touch disappointed.

The Characters:

There are many layers to these characters and I liked how this book explored them. A good new adult romance novel should have a fantastic romance but it should also have strong character growth and I felt like these books had that latter aspect. Of course, not every reader can relate to all the situations the characters face but I think we can all identity with the need to find your own identity and fight the possible demons from our past.

The Romance:

With the exception of In Harmony (#2), I thought all of the romances happened really fast. What I mean by that, it that they get very intense really quickly (like “I love you” is thrown out pretty early within the couples even meeting each other). I’m ok with that but a lot of the times, I felt like the characters were more in love with the idea of their partner than the partner themselves. My opinion did change further into the stories when we learn more about the characters but it was a little off-putting how quickly these people were falling in love with each other.

When to Read the Novella, #1.5 Losing My Balance:

I read this after I had finished the novels in the series but you can safely read this following book #1. And I would actually recommend that you do read this right after Book #1 when you still remember the tension and how the scenes from it are integrated in the first novel.

Series Rating: 3/5

Dance for Me 3/5 | [Losing my Balance 3/5] | In Harmony 4/5 | Acting Brave 3/5

overall

If you are looking for a different type of New Adult Series–and don’t mind a copious amount of pages–this will be a great series for you to pick up.

Read if You Like: darker new adult stories; long novels
Avoid if You: want better pacing; dislike long novels

similarreads

  • The Mad Tatter by J M Darhower
  • Chasing River by K A Tucker (Burying Water #3)
  • She Laughs in Pink by Jessica Calla (Sheridan Hall Series #1)

 

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Single Sundays: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Single Sundays: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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 Forbidden Wish (from Goodreads):

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world…

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.

breakdown

Author: Jessica Khoury

There is a prequel novella on Wattpad: #0.5 The Jinni

Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 2013
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

My all time favourite Disney movie is Aladdin. The music is great, the animation is superb, the Genie is one of a kind, Jasmine is kickass and Aladdin is a street rat who grows up along the way. So I was very excited for a retellling where things were a little different than that.

The Concept / The World:

So before I start any retelling of a story that has been done by Disney I try my best to clear all my preconceived notions. It’s easy to forget that the Disney version isn’t always the “true” version because it usually the most well known. Disney has taken some artistic licence to great a story to appeal to its audience and that’s what authors do too.

I liked this world we get here a lot. It’s rich in politics and turmoil. You’ve got some villains and magic so that gives a bit of a darker edge to the story. Jessica Khoury’s writing prose is lush and has a great flow (honestly, if you like Renee Ahdied’s writing you’ll love hers!) so it’s a pleasure to read (or in my case, listen to).

I really enjoyed the rich history of the Jinni and the everyday people. And Zahra’s backstory was also great.

The Plot:

I’ll admit I probably wasn’t in the best headspace when I started this book so I might have just missed some key sentences while listening to the audiobook. BUT, some of the logic for the dramatic events escaped me so I had a hard time fully understanding what was happening and why.

I will say that all of the events that I thought would be “big deals” didn’t have as large of an impact as I expected but perhaps my focus was on the wrong devices.

The Characters:

While I enjoyed Zahra’s lush history as a Jinni, I found her to be kinda bland as a character. I know why–she’s been trapped in her lamp for centuries, lamenting over past mistakes–but I still wanted a larger than life character.

Aladdin was about as thrilling as a wet blanket and had the personality of one too. I found him to be super underdeveloped and shallow. Not the charming clever street rat I wanted him to be.

Caspida really stole the show for me. I could have easily read a whole book about her, she was fascinating!

The Romance:

People (other readers) rave about this but I was seriously underwhelmed. Besides a physical attraction and being within a certain radius of each other (seriously, while Aladdin had her lamp, Zahra couldn’t be a specific distance away from him) I didn’t get the love between these two at all! Not even the forbidden nature of a jinni and a human could get me interested.

When to Read The Novella?

I didn’t read the novella but it is noted that there are some minor spoilers in it if you do decide to read it first. So perhaps, read it second.

My Rating: 2/5

overall

Leave your ideas at the door and go in with a fresh mind.

Read if You Like: retellings, magic
Avoid if You: want a stronger romance
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