Tag «Heat: Cool»

Heat Rating – this is rating the sexual content of the book
Cold / Cool – maybe a chaste kiss; no descriptions
Warm – sexual references; a little description
Really Warm / Toastysexual references; described; no more than 3 scenes
Hot – a sexual scene is mentioned and described fully (4+)
Steamy/Smokin’ – sex scenes in all their glory and in numerous quantities
*Spicy YA* – the sexual content is more descriptive than your usual YA fare

Spin-Off Saturdays: Wallflower by Cookie O’Gorman

Spin-Off Saturdays: Wallflower by Cookie O’Gorman

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:

Wallflower is a spin-off of the book Adorkable

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author

This is a spinoff of Adorkable.

Author: Cookie O’Gorman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 25, 2021
Source & Format: Author–eARC

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

I wouldn’t call myself a fan of YA contemporary per say, but I am a fan of Cookie O’Gorman’s YA contemporaries. They are just SO FREAKING GOOD. They never fail to bring a smile to my face and the romances always give me butterflies. And Adorkable–Cookie’s debut–was the book that made me a fan of her work. This spin-off was the novel I didn’t know I needed but am oh-so-happy to get.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

Sweet As Can Be!

This book was just as sweet and adorable as its predecessor! I smiled my whole way through it. There are a few tropes at play so the story reads like a rom-com (which is great) but there is also a simplicity to it that reminds you that love doesn’t need to be laced in complex layers or traumatic pasts.

Swoon-Worthy Hero

Dare–what a charmer he is! He was just plain swoon-worthy. We don’t get his POV so I liked that he was a bit of a mystery.

Great Banter

These two are so much fun to watch! I loved their scenes together.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

Slight Disconnect

There was just something that stopped me from giving this a full 5/5. Maybe the pacing? I’m not even sure what it was honestly. Maybe I was just in a funk when I finished it?

Viola is an Only Child

I just want more books, that’s my only complaint…I would love to see more of Sally and Becks as parents.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

I you want a book you can get lost in and finish in one sitting, this is it! The flow of the writing will suck you as you read this sweet rom-com!

Read if You Like: sweet romances, YA contemporary
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary similarreads

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Wallflower (from Goodreads):

Wallflower (wohl-flou-erh): Identifier for someone who is shy and/or awkward. For reference, see Viola Kent.

Seventeen-year-old Viola Kent likes being invisible. Well, not literally, but she’s content being a loner, reading her books, and hanging out with the animals at the shelter. She just wants to keep her head down and get through her senior year at Durham High.

Driving Dare Frost to school every day wasn’t part of the plan.

And when Viola finds out her dad recruited Dare, his number one player, to be her friend?

Her inner Slytherin demands revenge.

The solution: Get Dare to be her fake boyfriend.

Convincing the star athlete to pretend is easier than she’d thought it would be. The hard part is protecting her heart. With every word, touch, and kiss, Viola’s feelings become more real.

The problem: Viola knows she’s falling for Dare—but he doesn’t believe in love.

This book features two sets of soulmates, one happy pooch named Hermione, so many sizzling kisses and answers the question:

Can a dork and a jock fake their way to true love?

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Single Sundays: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Single Sundays: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

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 Romanov (from Goodreads):

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are to either release the spell and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

breakdown

Author: Nadine Brandes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Romance, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

As someone who claims to love Imperial Russian History as much as I do, I really don’t know much about Anastasia Nikolaevna. I think most people know the gist of her family’s history and their subsequent exile. But I like books that explore alternate histories and play the “what-if” game so this was something I was eager to read!

The Concept / The World:

It’s hard to write a story–reimagining or not–that is based on history. I mean, most of us know how Anastasia’s (Nastya) story ends so it can be hard to surprise a reader. But at the same time, a good story teller should be able to weave together the historical moments we already know and give you a new perspective on it.

Here, that perspective is the idea that Nastya had magic. And I think that both helps and hurts the story at the same time. Could you have omitted it and still had a story? Probably.

The Plot:

Like I said above, you kinda already know how things are going to go for the Romanovs. This is a survival story and that can make it very depressing at times. As someone who loves the glitz of Imperial Russia, it was a good reminder for me that things weren’t always so opulent and a lot of people suffered during this time period.

But the pacing of the plot was just off for me and I found my mind wandering. Maybe if I knew more about Anastasia’s history, certain scenes would have popped out for me more.

The Characters:

One of my favourite aspects of this story is the Romanov family. The heart of this novel is about a family trying to survive while still being a family. Yes, they had incredible power and control, but when they lose it all, they are just a family. Their bonds and their sacrifices were heartwarming and heart-wrenching to watch unfold.

I also liked that things weren’t always black and white with some of our character interactions. There’s a lot of lessons about getting to know a person before you pass judgement and learning to forgive others for their past actions.

The Romance:

I think I’m in the minority for this one but I didn’t love the romance. I can appreciate the slow burn and the challenges they face but I was never fully convinced it was an amazing connection. Or maybe that is the point of it: that love can come from unlikely places and surprise you.

My Audiobook Experience:

It’s quite a lengthy audiobook and even though I listen to books at a faster playback speed, it did feel slow to me. Maybe that affected my overall feelings for the book. Though I think if I read it as an eBook/book, I might have put it down…

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This one just didn’t do much for me. I think fans of the Anastasia story and who know the history might get more out of this magic spin to her story.

Read if You Like: Imperial Russia, historical retellings, magic
Avoid if You: dislike survival or depressing stories

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Series Review: An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

Series Review: An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

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 An Uncertain Choice (from Goodreads):

Due to her parents’ promise at her birth, Lady Rosemarie has been prepared to become a nun on the day she turns eighteen. Then, a month before her birthday, a friend of her father’s enters the kingdom and proclaims her parents’ will left a second choice. If Rosemarie can marry before the eve of her eighteenth year, she will be exempt from the ancient vow.

Before long, Rosemarie is presented with the three most handsome and brave knights in the land. But when the competition for her heart seemingly results in a knight playing foul, she begins to wonder if the cloister is the best place after all. If only one of the knights the one who appears the most guilty had not already captured her heart.

breakdown

Series: An Uncertain Choice
Author: Jody Hedlund
# of Books: 5 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Teen, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March 2015 – September 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read the first 3 book of the series and have opted not to pick up the sequels (#4, #5).

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had had An Uncertain Choice on my library’s wishlist for a long time. I think it was a “judged by the cover” situation because I don’t recall hearing about it anyway. Fast forward a few years when I’m super into audiobooks and I decide that this would make a great series to read!

The Concept / The World:

All the stories are connected initially (Books #1 to #3) through a group of three boys who are training to be knights and the ladies they meet along the way who steal their hearts. The final two books focus on some side characters we meet throughout the series.

Some people bill this as a Christian Fiction; it isn’t the first label would slap on this series. Perhaps my unfamiliarity with the genre doesn’t have me fully convinced. There is nothing overtly religious about anything here (Book #3 is as close as it gets but I think you could argue historical events also explain its tone) so don’t let that turn you away. But the ideals of treating people with respect, helping others and chivalry are themes throughout. I also think the sweet and chaste romances perpetuate that idea as well.

The Plot:

Some of the books had a stronger plot than others. For example, Daring Sacrifice had a loose Robin Hood retelling to it that was fun. I found every book to be predictable but the stories flow well enough (despite some repetitive scenes) that I didn’t mind too much.

The Characters:

Most of the characters have a naivety and innocence to them that is somewhat charming. Their hearts are in the right place so I let some of their mistakes go by with a grain of salt.

And the boys are chivalrous but without being condescending! I thought these books were pretty “pro-girl-power” and it was nice to see these girls take charge when they had to.

The Romance:

The romances are sweet and very chaste to my normal reading choices. They happen a little quickly but it worked for the story.

My Audiobook Experience:

While I think the sole female narrator did a good job overall with two POVs, I really wish we had two narrators. I had the hardest time catching the change in POV throughout this series! There wasn’t much of a tone change between our female lead and our male lead–or at least not one that was noticeable immediately if you picked up where you left off. It was very frustrating.

Why I Stopped Reading After Book #3:

It’s simply because my library lacks the books and that I didn’t enjoy the series enough to purchase them for myself.

Series Rating: 3/5

An Uncertain Choice 3/5 | A Daring Sacrifice 3/5 | For Love and Honour 3/5 | A Loyal Heart N/A | A Worthy Rebel N/A

overall

If you like quick, sweet historical romances, this is great series for you to try.

Read if You Like: sweet romance, more teen oriented reads
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action

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Series Review: Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

Series Review: Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Dividing Eden (from Goodreads):

Twins Carys and Andreus were never destined to rule Eden. With their older brother next in line to inherit the throne, the future of the kingdom was secure.

But appearances—and rivals—can be deceiving. When Eden’s king and crown prince are killed by assassins, Eden desperately needs a monarch, but the line of succession is no longer clear. With a ruling council scheming to gain power, Carys and Andreus are faced with only one option—to take part in a Trial of Succession that will determine which one of them is worthy of ruling the kingdom.

As sister and brother, Carys and Andreus have always kept each other safe—from their secrets, from the court, and from the monsters lurking in the mountains beyond the kingdom’s wall. But the Trial of Succession will test the bonds of trust and family.

With their country and their hearts divided, Carys and Andreus will discover exactly what each will do to win the crown. How long before suspicion takes hold and the thirst for power leads to the ultimate betrayal?

breakdown

Series: Dividing Eden
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)

There are 2 novellas: #0.5 Into the Garden & #1.5 Forbidden Fruit

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Politics, Romance
Heat Rating: cool **suggestive content**
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: June 2017 – June 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I came across this series on another blog, YA Romantics just before Dividing Eden was released and it caught my attention because it focused on royalty. I love fantasy novels that focus on royalty, but there is a special place in my heart for royalty novels that seem to have a conspiracy theory of sorts happening. So this series seemed like a no brainer to pick up once I read the synopsis.

The Concept / The World:

I HATE when something that is described in the synopsis doesn’t happen until well past the 50% mark. It just makes everything seem trivial because you know A and B must happen to get the C (what was described in the synopsis). I was really looking forward to the Trial of Succession and I wish more of the book was dedicated to that in Dividing Eden…but the bits we did get of the trial were great!

As for the world itself, it’s a really unique one. I loved the idea of wind power and the dependency upon it. Add to it the curse and the monarchy and it’s a world that will suck you in without too much preamble.

The Plot:

Like I said, the plot takes a while to get to what I thought/wanted it to be. In the meantime though, I was definitely invested in the political intrigue and the like. I’m a sucker for some solid royal politics in my fantasy novels and this one had it. And while I loved the conspiracy theory that seemed to be brewing, I had a pretty solid idea of what was happening very early on. However, the last quarter of, Dividing Eden, had me on my toes because it went in a direction I never anticipated. And the sequel, Eden Conquered, had some extra twists to the aspect I had already figured ot.

The Characters:

I’ll be the first to say I wasn’t a Carys fan at the start of Dividing Eden. While I could appreciate her passion for protecting her twin brother, she was almost too much of a cliche for me. Yet somewhere along the way, she truly found her own character-ness and I was super impressed with her character development by the end of the novel. And the same can be said for Andreus as well; he really grew out of his shell of what he was first presented as. You can’t ask for anything more from your characters!

The Romance:

It isn’t really a big focus in Dividing Eden but it is there and does contribute to the story in a positive way. Andreus’ romance bored me to tears; I absolutely detested it. As for Carys’ I liked how it worked into her story and created this additional layer to factor in to everything.

The Novellas:

I never read the novellas solely because my library doesn’t have the copies. I think you can take them or leave them given what I’ve gathered from the synopsis.

My Audiobook Experience:

For this being third person narration, I had really great success with the audiobook. I waited a long time for my library to get the sequel in audio because I loved it so much.

concSLOW

Series Rating: 4/5

[Into the Garden N/A] | Dividing Eden 3.5/5 | [Forbidden Fruit N/A] | Eden Conquered 4/5

overall

If you like books that take their time to slowly weave the plot, this is the series for you. Or if you want a high fantasy series that doesn’t have copious amounts of terms and characters, this is a great option for you to read!

Read if You Like: high fantasy, politics, conspiracy theories, siblings battling
Avoid if You: want something slightly faster paced at the start

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Series Review: The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A Nielsen

Series Review: The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A Nielsen

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 Traitor’s Game (from Goodreads):

Nothing is as it seems in the kingdom of Antora. Kestra Dallisor has spent three years in exile in the Lava Fields, but that won’t stop her from being drawn back into her father’s palace politics. He’s the right hand man of the cruel king, Lord Endrick, which makes Kestra a valuable bargaining chip.

A group of rebels knows this all too well – and they snatch Kestra from her carriage as she reluctantly travels home. The kidnappers want her to retrieve the lost Olden Blade, the only object that can destroy the immortal king, but Kestra is not the obedient captive they expected.

Simon, one of her kidnappers, will have his hands full as Kestra tries to foil their plot, by force, cunning, or any means necessary. As motives shift and secrets emerge, both will have to decide what – and who – it is they’re fighting for.

breakdown

Series: The Traitor’s Game
Author: Jennifer A Nielson
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: February 2018 – March 2020
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This was a series I stumbled upon at the library when browsing audiobook titles. I loved the cover and once I read the synopsis (and saw that my library had all the audiobooks in the series), I put myself on the holds list. I love a good fantasy novel and this one seemed to be a solid blend of stories I had liked in the past yet had its own flare to it.

The Concept / The World:

The idea of magic is a touchy thing for me because it isn’t always the most logical (or can quickly have “exceptions” when it needs to) but I didn’t mind it here. There was a system to the magic and how it was used that I appreciated.

I also enjoyed how rich this was in the politics. I think there might have been a few too many groups involved to keep it all straight (it was hard as I was listening to the audiobook, trying to remember all the details as I read the books a few weeks apart).

The Plot:

Book 1, The Traitor’s Game, started like any other book in the genre. It seemed to follow the same generic formula and I found my mind starting to wander and not absorb as many details as I should have. And that is a real shame because there are some great twists near the end of that first book that were exciting and fresh.

That freshness continues on throughout the rest of the series. I loved the evolution of the plot. There are a lot of players involved and lots of aspects that contribute to the narrative. One thing that really impressed me was that nothing ever felt like “filler” content in the 2nd and 3rd books.

However, I do think the romance overshadowed a lot of stuff and because it was lacklustre for me, it dampened the reading experience quite a bit.

The Characters:

I’m going to admit that people started to blend together a bit for me. I blame the audiobook on that one and my crappy memory at trying to keep characters straight.

There are a lot of players in this game and they all do their job well.

The Romance:

I didn’t really feel Simon and Kestra as a romantic pair. I’m not really sure why because they have all the makings of a cute couple. I think it was just that there was a massive focus on their romance and how it drove so many of their decisions that just irritated me a bit. I never really felt invested in it like I should have been.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobook production itself is great. I just think as someone who has a crappy memory that this wasn’t the best format for trying to keep everything/one straight and clear.

concSLOW

Series Rating: 3/5

The Traitor’s Game 3/5 | The Deceiver’s Heart 3/5 | The Warrior’s Curse 3/5

overall

I think those who are on a high fantasy kick who will enjoy this. You have to give it some time to find its own footing but once it does, I think you’ll be impressed with its trajectory.

Read if You Like: high fantasy, politics, slow building stories
Avoid if You: dislike romance-focused stories

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  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (Snow Like Ashes Series #1)
  • The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty (The Traitor’s Circle Series #1)
  • Dance of Thieves by Mary E Pearson (Dance of Thieves Series #1)

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Series Review: The Keeper’s Chronicles by Becky Wallace

Series Review: The Keeper’s Chronicles by Becky Wallace

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 Storyspinner (from Goodreads):

Drama and danger abound in this “intricately woven” (Shannon Messenger, author of the Sky Fall series) fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

breakdown

Series: The Storyspinner; The Keepers’ Chronicles
Author: Becky Wallace
# of Books: 2 (Full Series Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: March 2015 – March 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook (#1); Scribd–eBook (#2)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When The Storyspinner first came out, it seemed to be everywhere. It was gracing lists and seemed to be a staple review post around the blogosphere. I love a good fantasy novel; especially one where the lead heroine is strong in perhaps unconventional ways and there are political maneuvers abound. So I had some high expectations for this.

The Concept / The World:

Like its title suggests, this story weaves together many character stories into one. I loved the multiple POV because it kept the story moving when the plot is somewhat dry. But it also provides a full-circle view of the world and drives the world building.

It might have been me and my somewhat of a rush to finish this book before I had to return it, but I wasn’t totally clear on the roles of Keepers. I’m going with “it’s a me thing”. I often struggle with magic premises…despite the fact that I adore fantasy.

The Plot:

In the grand scheme, I felt like not much happens in the first book. It felt like there was a larger focus on character development or maybe it just felt that way because we got multiple POV. I did enjoy the mystery of who is after Johanna–it wasn’t predictable–even if most other things about Johanna are.

The sequel follows much of the same flow but perhaps at a little faster pace because everything has been building up to this. I read the books too far apart to appreciate the finer details but it was easy to get back into the swing of things.

The Characters:

As I often am, I was drawn to the side characters. I like Jo enough and I liked her drive and intelligence. But I found the paths the other characters went down to be more intriguing. I was surprised by some of the evolving and harder paths the characters follow. It allowed for some great growth throughout the series.

The Romance:

I wasn’t totally sold on Johanna’s romance. I think in the sequel it improves but I was often drawn to the side characters’ relationships. But if you love romance in your novels, no doubt something will appease you here.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Storyspinner 3.5/5 | The Skylighter 3/5

overall

Perfect for fans of fantasy who prefer more character driven stories with a dash of romance!

Read if You Like: fantasy, not overly complicated plots
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POV

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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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Series Review: Anna by Kendare Blake

Series Review: Anna by Kendare Blake

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 Anna Dressed in Blood (from Goodreads):

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas’s life.

breakdown

Series: Anna, Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Supernatural, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2011 – August 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was in University when this book came out and I remember seeing some buzz for it on Goodreads (which I had just discovered) and put it on my list to read. I think it was one of the first eBooks my library had as well. Regardless, it was a popular read and even though it didn’t fit my usual genre, I wanted to give it a try.

Fast-foward nearly a decade later and I had moved the book from my TBR list to my Pass list a few times before finally opting to listen to the audiobook because I needed something new to read and I had been enjoying Blake’s Three Dark Crowns Series.

The Concept / The World:

Admittedly, I’m not the biggest ghost fan and around the time of this release, I had read a few other meh YA ghost reads and I think that contributed to my decision to not pick this up. But I thought the idea here was fresh take (reminded my of the Mediator Series by Meg Cabot a bit).

What I really loved is that the location! It’s not everyday I read a book set in Canada let alone Ontario so having this set in Thunder Bay was neat. Every town has their ghost stories and the setting here reminded me of my home town and the creepy house on the outskirts everyone swore was haunted.

The Plot:

It’s a fairly easy plot to follow in terms of the supernatural elements. Everything is explained well even with the various layers and aspects at play.

If you’re looking for straight-up horror, this isn’t it. It’s more about the backstories of Cas and Anna–why he hunts ghosts; why she is still a ghost. There are suspenseful moments and I enjoyed the mystery of their pasts.

I struggled to get into the second book though. One reason was the romance (explained below) the other was that I thought it jumped around a little too much and fell into even more cliches than the first novel did.

The Characters:

I liked Cas a lot actually. It isn’t often we get only male POVs in YA so that was rather refreshing. He’s blunt with his candour and I appreciated that. And he is rather complex.

The rest of the characters we meet though fall into cliches and stereotypes so I didn’t really form any great connections to them.

The Romance:

For the longest time I didn’t think there was a romance so it seemed rather sudden and random. It also felt like his feelings for her were of pity for her situation? I just didn’t see any chemistry between them and I think that really turned me off of the sequel.

My Audiobook Experience:

I think listening to the audiobook helped me to like Cas as our narrator. I think he would have come across as an asshole without listening to the tone of his delivery. It helped me appreciate his dry wit and candour. I also think it maybe turned me off of the idea of a romance with how the narrator does Anna’s voice.

Series Rating: 2/5

Anna Dressed in Blood 3/5 | Girl of Nightmares 2/5

overall

This one straddles that line between original yet cliche at the same time. There were aspects I liked but I really struggled to connect to any of the characters or story.

Read if You Like: ghost stories, duologies
Avoid if You: want less cliches, want a smoother story

similarreads

  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (Paranormalcy Series #1)
  • Hereafter by Tara Hudson (Hereafter Series #1)
  • The Hollow by Jessica Verday (The Hollow Series #1)

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Fresh Fridays: Shine (#1) by Jessica Jung

Fresh Fridays: Shine (#1) by Jessica Jung

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:

Shine Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Shine (from Goodreads):

Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl by way of Jenny Han in this knock-out debut about a Korean American teen who is thrust into the competitive, technicolor world of K-pop, from Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of one of the most influential K-pop girl groups of all time, Girls Generation.

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Get ready as Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Korea’s most famous girl group, Girls Generation, takes us inside the luxe, hyper-color world of K-pop, where the stakes are high, but for one girl, the cost of success—and love—might be even higher. It’s time for the world to see: this is what it takes to SHINE.

breakdown

Series: Shine
Author: Jessica Jung
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Bright, to be published October 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Music
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 29, 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not a regular listener of K-pop by any means but the entire world fascinates me. If you want to get a crash course on the world, I highly recommend the Netflix Series Explained and the 20 minute episode they do on the world of K-pop. If you think Disney manufactures stars, it really has nothing on the industry in South Korea!

I don’t really remember how I learned about the book but I Wishlisted it on Netgalley and was super excited when my wish to read an ARC of Shine was granted!

What I Liked:

–Cutthroat World of K-Pop–

The tagline that this book is like “Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl by way of Jenny Han” is very accurate. You’ve got all the drama, cultural clashes and joys of first love that all those books explore here in many ways.

While I hope that some of the ordeals Rachel has to endure are embellished for theatrics, I’m not entirely convinced they are. If you’ve read any of the headlines about K-pop stars and their struggles with the pressure and their mental health, you know that some of the scenarios Rachel experiences were likely inspired by real events and tactics. The author, Jessica Jung is a former K-pop star herself so I feel like she puts in some of her own experiences into this book to give it that authentic look behind the scenes.

–Rachel’s Struggle With Her Identity–

Added to the drama is Rachel’s coming of age story as an individual person. While she is a trainee in the world of K-pop in Korea, her identity as an American Korean girl creates this barrier that stops her from being fully embraced by her peers despite how hard she tries. Her struggle helps to shape her character and her reactions to the various things thrown her way. It’s quite the character evolution and I really enjoyed that aspect to the story because it helped to ground the sometimes melodramatics of the K-pop world.

–Treatment of Women vs Men in the Industry–

While I thought the introduction of the idea of a double-standard in the music industry came out of nowhere, I really liked the themes it explored once it became a little more ingrained in the story. It’s crazy that I have to write this in 2020 but there is still a major difference in how men and women are treated in many environments but I think it’s even more of a concern in the entertainment industry. So I liked that we get to see that at play here.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slightly Choppy Start with a Lag in the Middle–

I struggled at the start to keep Rachel’s worlds straight and everything that is happening in it. And I felt like the middle lagged just a touch. But I still really enjoyed reading it as a whole.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I loved how everything came together in the end and can’t wait to see what happens next!

My Rating: 4/5

Shine 4/5 | Bright TBP

overall

This was an entertaining read from start to finish. Perfect for K-pop fans or those who love stories about people trying to reach their dreams!

Read if You Like: K-pop, coming of age stories
Avoid if You: dislike YA, dislike books with drama

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Series Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

Series Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

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 Spindle Fire (from Goodreads):

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.

breakdown

Series: Spindle Fire
Author: Lexa Hillyer
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: April 2017 – April 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (#1), eBook (#2)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think I looked past Spindle Fire quite a few times at my library before I finally read the synopsis. Sleeping Beauty is a personal favourite of mine; especially when it comes to retellings. I don’t really know why. I mean the whole damsel in literally distress isn’t my cup of tea but, usually, the retellings don’t have that. And there are so many other elements to the story (magic, faeries, curses, etc) that you can spin (pun on a spindle, perhaps) into an intriguing retelling. So when I read the synopsis, I decided to give this a chance.

The Concept / The World:

This is a very loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty. It really only has the bare bones of the classic fairy tale (curses, sleeping heroine) so that made it refreshing and unique to read. And if you look hard enough, I think you will see some other pieces of other classic tales as well.

And I really liked how we follow the two sisters as they try to save themselves and their kingdom. As I said above, one of my biggest peeves with Sleeping Beauty is the perception of a damsel in distress who can’t save herself. So watching these two girls fight to save each other and their world had me screaming “YOU GO GIRLS!”

The Plot:

In theory, I loved all the pieces that made up this story. But I really struggled with following what was happening, particularly in Spindle Fire (see my comment about listening to the audiobook below), and putting all the elements together. Truthfully, I didn’t even realize Aurora had activated the curse for a few chapters after it happened until I reread the synopsis again and realized that she had been transported to another world. And Isabelle’s story for a little while just seemed to go off on a tangent that I really didn’t understand. Just seemed like filler to me and perhaps redundant?

Which brings me to my reaction at the end of Winter Glass. For the most part, I was enjoying Winter Glass a lot more than Spindle Fire at the start. The pacing was much better and I seemed to be following what was happening more. Until the last 10 Chapters (the last third) of the novel. That’s when things went off the rails for me.

Have you ever read a book and went what was the point of all those chapters? That’s what happened to me here. Basically, everything Isabelle had done was pointless. Literally pointless. Why? The information she gathered on her unnecessary travels had already been discovered by other characters. Sure, she found out one piece of information about the purpose of the slipper but even then I don’t feel the information was relevant to the story.

>> Read my Spoiler Discussion on the Series here!

The Characters:

Aurora I wasn’t a fan of. She was as exciting as wet paper to me. I truly felt like these books were about Isabelle.

Which is why I was so upset by the decisions that she made at the end of the series. The idea that she hadn’t completed her “own story” to me was ludicrous. What did I spent the better part reading if not the various travelling and obstacles you went through in order to save your sister and the kingdom. You are telling me you didn’t learn anything about yourself during all of that?

The Romance:

Aurora’s romance felt forced. Perhaps I missed something in my listening to the first book but I didn’t see that connection at all. It almost felt like a ploy to get bonus points with readers but maybe that was just my perception since it felt so out of left field for me.

Isabelle had the more interesting romantic life in my opinion. Which is why I was so upset at the vague epilogue that tried to wrap it up with flowery words that only left me going …. what?

My Audiobook Experience:

I only read the first book as audiobook since that was all my library had. But after I finished it, I probably still would have chosen the eBook for the sequel. It’s nothing against the audio production itself (it was a great listen), but rather the way this story is told. We get a lot of POVs in this story and the faeries have names that sound so alike that I was having a hard time distinguishing everyone and their attributes. For the first few chapters, I had to continually go back to the synopsis to figure out which sister was blind and who couldn’t speak. The inability to go back and reread is something I struggle with when I listen to audiobooks and my experience here just emphasized that for me.

Series Rating: 2.5/5

Spindle Fire 3/5 | Winter Glass  2/5

overall

This series reminded me (fittingly enough as I had just passed 7 years of blogging the day I finished the book) why I started writing book series reviews in the first place: to save people the grief of being uber disappointed.

Read if You Like: retellings, complex worlds, sisters
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POV

seriesousspoilers

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