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

Series Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Series Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

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

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Stalking Jack the Ripper (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

breakdown

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
# of Books: 4 (Full List Here)
Book Order: Chronoglogical
Complete?: No, Book 4 will be released September 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Mystery, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2016 – September 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first saw Stalking Jack the Ripper a few months before its release while visiting Stephanie @ In Wonderland’s Make Me Read It Readathon voting page. I loved the cover and so I checked out the synopsis and immediately added it to my TBR.

I love murder mystery crime shows though it’s a genre I don’t often explore in my books. I also have this somewhat inexplicable, never-ending interest in the Jack the Ripper case; so I was curious to see how it would be woven into a fictional story. But the biggest expectation I had was Audrey herself. As a scientist myself, I couldn’t wait to read about a heroine who seems to shatter every expectation society has for her by pursuing her scientific passions.

The Concept:

All these novels feature famous crime and/or folklore stories in one way or another. And it’s very obvious when you read them that Kerri Maniscalco has done her research. Everything is rich and seamlessly woven together; it makes it a pure joy to explore as a reader.

In particular, the use of scientific and forensic methods really impressed me. It’s very accurate to the time-frame and it makes you appreciate how far we have come in terms of scientific advancements when it comes to solving crimes. It reminded me a lot of the use of forensic sciences in Sherlock Holmes stories.

The Plot:

It’s hard to write a good mystery story but these ones are super well done. You get enough clues (and red herrings) along the way to keep you interested and engaged in the story. But there is also a good percentage of time dedicated to character development–which is always really important in a series that follows the same characters.

I will say though that I thought the mystery for Stalking Jack the Ripper was very obvious so that impacted my reading experience. However, the mystery of Hunting Prince Dracula was much stronger and had a solution I hadn’t guessed at right away. And the same could be said for Escaping From Houdini.

The Characters:

I really loved Audrey and Thomas in all the books. Audrey is a strong lead heroine. Not only is she very intelligent but she also has this passionate drive that keeps her pushing through even when times get tough. But she also has her flaws and I loved how she took those one and constantly challenged herself to be better.

Thomas–oh boy do I love Thomas! He is everything I love in a charming jerk of a genius. He’s got that Sherlock Holmes’ “I’m better than everyone” attitude that is so hard to resist.

But together, these two are unstoppable. They have this great banter–like every good partnership should have–and they really bring each other to the next level. All their scenes together truly amplifies this series.

The Romance:

It isn’t a huge aspect of the story but you get just enough to keep you wanting more but not overly disappointed that you aren’t getting more because the plotline is so engaging. But I mean, I wouldn’t have been disappointed to get a few more scenes 😛

My Audiobook Experience:

I really went back and forth on whether of not to read the audiobook or the eBook but I’m really glad I opted for the audiobook in the end. I loved the posh accents–it really reminded me that we were in London or wherever else the adventure takes us. But, like I say with all audiobooks, I get a much better read on the emotions of it all and I love that. It truly brought the characters to life in a way that I might have missed out on if I read a printed version.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I can’t wait for the next adventure and to see how this series will wrap up!

 

Series Rating: 4/5

Stalking Jack the Ripper 3.5/5 | Hunting Prince Dracula 4/5 | Escaping from Houdini 4.5/5 | Book 4 TBP

overall

With a rich setting and utterly charming characters, this murder mystery series will hook you in!

Read if You Like: historical, mysteries, partnerships
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike murder mysteries

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Fresh Fridays: These Rebel Waves (Steam Raiders) by Sara Raasch

Fresh Fridays: These Rebel Waves (Steam Raiders) by Sara Raasch

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:

Steam Raiders Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for These Rebel Waves (from Goodreads):

Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.

Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.

Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre.

As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.

breakdown

Series: Steam Raiders
Author: Sarah Raasch
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, These Divided Shores to be published August 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: August 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been looking forward to Sara Raasch’s next work ever since I finished the Snow Like Ashes Trilogy. And this new series sounded like something I would love. Pirates, magic, deception, a kickass heroine? Those were just many of the reasons why I added this series as a pick for my 2019 5 Year 5 Book Reading Challenge.

What I Liked:

–Lu and Vex’s Chemistry–

I loved the tension between these two from the moment they meet. Both deny any true feelings but there is something palpable whenever they are together. In a lot of ways, they reminded me of June and Day from the Legend Series where the odds against them to ever meet but when they do, something magical happens. Their banter was top-notch!

–Magic, Science and Religion–

I enjoyed the concept of this series a lot when it comes to the magic properties of plants. It’s a cool fantasy spin on real world concepts like the clashing of science and religion.

–The Politics–

I loved the political dilemma of this series and how all our leads are stuck in the middle of it all. It added a great air of tension.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Lagged a Little in the Middle–

I was really invested for the first half of the story (though a lot of info is thrown at you) and then just past the middle, the excitement died for me a little. I’m not sure what it was that made it seem that way. Perhaps the physical action just simmered out a bit.

We do get some great twists at the end (though one I thought was super obvious) that have me eager to see how it’ll all wrap up.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audio version was very engaging considering it is told in third person. I often struggle with third person audio stories but not here. It was very well done!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Very excited to see how things will come together in the finale now that some major truths have been uncovered!

My Rating: 3/5

These Rebel Waves 3/5 | These Divided Shores TBP

overall

I’m waiting to see how things will wrap up because there are some great leads to build the sequel on!

Read if You Like: following multiple leads, fantasy with politics
Avoid if You: want lots of action, want more romance

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Single Sundays: Ask Me Anything by Molly E Lee

Single Sundays: Ask Me Anything by Molly E Lee

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 Ask Me Anything (from Goodreads):

I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

But Wilmont Academy’s been living in the Dark Ages when it comes to sex ed, and someone had to take matters into her own hands. Well, I’m a kick-ass coder, so I created a totally anonymous, totally untraceable blog where teens can come to get real, honest, nothing-is-off-limits sex advice.

And holy hell, the site went viral—and we’re talking way beyond Wilmont—overnight. Who knew this town was so hard up?

Except now the school administration is trying to shut me down, and they’ve forced Dean—my coding crush, aka the hottest guy in school—to try to uncover who I am. If he discovers my secret, I’ll lose him forever. And thousands of teens who need real advice won’t have anyone to turn to.

Ask me anything…except how to make things right.

breakdown

Author: Molly E Lee
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thanks Entangled Teen!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not usually one for YA contemporaries but Molly E Lee is a notable exception. And the premise of the novel? FANTASTIC!

The Concept / The World:

It would have been great if the novel focused more on what the blog was about but I don’t think that was this story’s intended purpose. It’s more a coming of age story in modern times (ie the internet and social media) emphasizing the disconnect between generations when it comes to sexuality and sexual education.

Sexual education in the school curriculum is a hot topic where I live right now and I liked the real world conflict the blog highlighted.

The Plot:

After reading the synopsis, I definitely thought the flow of the plot would be different. I thought we’d have more of a cat and mouse game with Amber and Dean but that isn’t the case. It’s more like her keeping something from him while they evolve their own personal relationship. So once I got over that, I could appreciate the plot here.

I do think the first half was slower. The last quarter was great, lots of development. And we got more into the blog (and what it is trying to accomplish) than the coming of age aspect. (Which is great, don’t get me wrong!).

The Characters:

I liked our leads a lot. Amber is a great heroine. I loved her vulnerability as that allowed for some fabulous character growth. Dean’s a sweetie who says some charming things. His growth wasn’t as strong but he is a solid character. At times, I thought his storyline was a little melodramatic but it grounds itself near the end.

The Romance:

I went in thinking their romance was going to be perhaps more antagonistic than it was but I really did love the sweeter romance that we got. Molly E Lee writes the cutest book boyfriends and Dean is no exception.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

If you’re looking for a YA novel that has drama, a dose of reality, a charming romance and intriguing characters, look no further!

Read if You Like: coming of age, contemporaries
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary
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Series Review: Red Winter by Annette Marie

Series Review: Red Winter by Annette Marie

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Red Winter (from Goodreads):

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

What I Liked:

–The World–

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

–Emi’s Character Growth–

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

–Shiro–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slow Start–

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

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

–Simple Plot–

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

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

My Audiobook Experience:

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

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

Will I Finish It?

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

Series Rating: DNF

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

overall

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

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

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Blog Tour: The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis for The Hummingbird Dagger (from Goodreads):
1833. After young Lord James Ellerby witnesses a near-fatal carriage accident on the outskirts of his estate, he doesn’t think twice about bringing the young woman injured in the wreck to his family’s manor to recuperate. But then she finally regains consciousness only to find that she has no memory of who she is or where she belongs.

Beth, as she takes to calling herself, is an enigma even to herself. She has the rough hands of a servant, but the bearing and apparent education of a lady. Her only clue to her identity is a gruesome recurring nightmare about a hummingbird dripping blood from its steel beak.

With the help of James and his sister, Caroline, Beth slowly begins to unravel the mystery behind her identity and the sinister circumstances that brought her to their door. But the dangerous secrets they discover in doing so could have deadly ramifications reaching the highest tiers of London society.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author, Canadian Author
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Heat Rating: Cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge Cindy Anstey fan! I love her historical YA titles for their playfulness and charm. So a ride on the darker side with a murder mystery? I couldn’t wait to uncover it!

The Plot:

This story is very reminiscent of Victorian era murder mysteries. It’s a lot of dialogue at times but I enjoyed the banter between the characters and found it to be engaging. The story really starts with a bang and then you slowly rebuild everything to the climax. I liked that it wasn’t predictable and it had some layers to it because it made the reading experience richer.

The Characters:

While this story lacked the playfulness of Anstey’s other works, it didn’t lack the charm she brings to her characters. We have a full cast of them to follow her and I liked that we have the various POVs. It helped to develop the individual characters while giving a fullness to the plot.

That being said, there could have been a little more to the character development. But that can be hard to do in a mystery where the lead has amnesia. And I liked that the focus remained on uncovering the plot and Beth’s past.

The Romance:

This is really a minor aspect to the story so it isn’t super fleshed out. But that worked for me because it was exactly the type of romance I expected for this genre.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
If you enjoy a mystery story with a classic vibe to it and charming characters, check this out!

Read if You Like: historical fiction, mystery, amnesia storylines
Avoid if You: want a lighter read, want more romance

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Cindy Anstey

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.

Author Links: Website // Goodreads // Facebook // Twitter

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Series Review: Riders by Veronica Rossi

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 Riders (from Goodreads):

Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

While recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen—Conquest, Famine, and Death—are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now—bound, bloodied, and drugged—Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for—not to mention all of humankind—he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Riders Duology
Author: Veronica Rossi
# of Books: 2 (Riders, Seeker)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single (Riders), Alternating (Seeker)
Publication Dates: February 2016 – May 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After finishing the Under the Never Sky Trilogy nearly three years ago, I’ve been missing a little Veronica Rossi in my life. She’s a fantastic storyteller and I was STOKED to see what she would do next with this series.

I knew Riders had some mixed reviews but I was optimistic. It took me awhile to get into Under the Never Sky but once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the world Rossi weaved.

The Concept / The World:

I have a few Horsemen of the Apocalypse novels on my TBR but this is the first one I’ve read off of it–and it didn’t disappoint! It’s such a cool concept and Rossi does a great job developing it. The plot is straightforward but it does have those added layers that become more intricate as the story evolves. It captured my full attention from the start.

The Plot:

For me, Riders had an odd pacing. First, I loved the format of the novel. Having Gideon essentially describe past events in an interrogation room gives the novel a fantastic level of suspense. How does he get to that point? What happened to the others? I loved the anticipation of the big reveal! Learning how the horsemen were brought together captured my attention from the start.

But once the horsemen are assembled, the plot reaches a plateau. And it feels a little stale. I didn’t like waiting around for something to happen, especially when the first half of the novel had such a great pace to it. The good news is that it does pick up and the last few chapters were fabulous.

Yet Seeker–despite Riders ending on such a high point–takes its time to reach the same momentum. The romance gets a little more lot of airtime and it seems to be awhile before the action happens. Which is a little unfortunate because I think the romance is the weakest feature of this novel. There is no need to dedicate HALF THE BOOK to it when there are so many other plot points to wrap up. And when the focus does shift again to the actual plot, I wasn’t as into as I wanted to. If this had been the first book, I would have DNF’d it well before the 40% mark because it was so boring.

The Characters:

Gideon is the lead for Riders and he is the perfect choice. I loved his witty and sarcastic narration. He was a very entertaining narrator. But he is also a great leader for this essentially rag-tag team of horsemen.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between the 4 guys. Sure, it starts a little rocky but it was cool seeing them evolve as a team and come together.

And I liked that the villains are villains. I always enjoy having someone to root against.

The Romance:

Honestly, this is why my rating for this series is lower than I wanted it to be. I was not feeling this romance in the slightest. It’s such a shame because I know Rossi can write such great romantic pairings as evident in Under the Never the Sky. Here, it just seemed rushed and perhaps a little forced? I think if you removed it from the story, it wouldn’t negatively affect the plot but would enhance it–especially in Seeker where it becomes too much of the focus.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really loved the audiobook and I’m glad I decided to read this series as an audio one. Like I said above, Gideon has a sarcastic tone to a lot of his narration and I’m not sure if I would have grasped all of it in the book copy. And with Riders being written like Gideon is describing the events to his interrogator, it just seemed natural to listen to it as an audiobook.

Having the narration shift to an alternating one in Seeker worked. I’m not sure how else you could tell this story without it and both voice actors do a great job delivering the content.

Series Rating: 3/5

Riders 3.5/5 | Seeker 2/5

overall

It breaks my heart a bit that I’m giving this series this review. Riders was a great base for a strong sequel but Seeker just couldn’t keep the momentum going. I won’t be recommending this one anytime soon.

Read if You Like: adventure, mythology, action
Avoid if You: dislike romance focused sequels
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Single Sundays: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

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 From Twinkle, With Love (from Goodreads):

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Standalone 2018
Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had an absolute blast listening to the audio version of When Dimple Met Rishi so I knew that for Menon’s next book, I wanted to listen to the audiobook instead of picking up the regular book.

The Concept:

This story is told through journal entries Twinkle writes to her favourite female film makers which is really neat. In a time where female representation in the entertainment industry is a huge focus, this book seemed timely in that regard. But it’s a great way to tell this story because you get to see the vulnerable side of Twinkle she only feels comfortable to write about in a secret diary.

The Plot:

It’s hard not to compare this story to When Dimple Met Rishi (WDMR) but they do share a lot of common elements. Cue the cute romance, fantastic character development and entertaining plot. To me, WDMR seemed to integrate the Indian culture more into its narrative than FTWL does. The cultural expectations Twinkle feels are definitely present but not to the extent that it was in WDMR.

I also thought the pacing was much better in this novel than in WDMR. I never felt like the plot was lagging or repetitive. It just moved at a solid pace and I honestly couldn’t get enough of it.

The Characters:

One thing that really impressed me about this story though was the realism. I thought Twinkle’s journey and coming of age was realistic and humbling. Yes, she makes some frustrating mistakes along the way but you always knew it was part of her development. She’s an easy heroine to root for because I think we’ve all felt like her at one point in our lives.

The Romance:

I absolutely, positively adored Sahil. Gah, he won me over very quickly. He’s just adorable and the perfect match for Twinkle in every way. I loved watching them fall for each other.

My Audiobook Experience:

You might think that this would be weird to listen to as an audiobook since it is told through letters/journal entries but there were no issues here. Actually, it was a really cool way to listen to the audiobook because you feel (in a weird way) that you are the journal Twinkle is writing to. But the audiobook is fabulous and I would highly recommend it to anyone!

My Rating: 5/5

overall

The perfect feel-good coming of age story that will keep you entertained from start to finish!

Read if You Like: coming of age, diverse reads
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary

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Series Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

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 Wolf by Wolf (from Goodreads):

Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav 2017
Series: Wolf by Wolf Duology
Author: Ryan Graudin
# of Books: 2 (Wolf by Wolf, Blood for Blood)

There are two novellas: #1.5 Iron to Iron and #1.6 Storm After Storm

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Alternate History, Adventure, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: October 2015 – November 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook & eBook (Iron to Iron)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first learned about this series on Twitter when promotions for the sequel were happening. I had never heard of it prior to that but my interest was piqued when I read the synopsis. Add to that the rave reviews everyone seemed to have for Wolf by Wolf and I was intrigued! I love stories about alternate history and this one featured a period of time I had actually studied in school so I was excited to see what would happen.

I’ve read one book by Graudin prior to this: All That Glows. It’s actually one of the first reviews I ever wrote for my blog. The book itself was entertaining but it was lacking for me in the grand scheme. So I was curious to see how an author would make the jump from faerie romance to an alternate history about WWII.

The Concept / The World:

Alternate history usually explores the possibility of “what if this didn’t happen?” and I like seeing the ideas that authors construct to tell their story. This series is a great example of what a well researched and thought-out alternate history novel is. The building of the world and the situations the characters find themselves in automatically deserves a 5/5 in my mind. It’s simply fabulous.

What I did struggle with was the fantasy element to this story. Truthfully, I didn’t know there was one when I picked the book up and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t realize it until well after the 50% mark on the audiobook. What I’m talking about is in the spoiler box below (and it really isn’t a spoiler but it’s not in the synopsis so I like to keep that hidden). But it is a fantasy twist that had me going, “why would you do that” until I read the Author’s Note in Wolf by Wolf and it made sense. I’m not sure if this book would be better or worse without that element, it’s hard to say. But I do appreciate how it adds to the overall themes of the novel and I completely understand why it is done this way.

Fantasy Element in Wolf by Wolf

It’s embarassing but I didn’t know Yael could literally transform into other people. I think I totally missed the sentence where this is described when I was listening to the audiobook or I just didn’t understand the subtext when I was listening (as opposed to reading the words).

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The Plot:

The whole idea of the race is an interesting plot device. I liked how it was used as a way to highlight Yael’s journey of self-discovery as she completes her mission. It emphasizes the high risk of what she is trying to do while simultaneously building this alternate world.

However, I also found that this dragged the plot a bit in Wolf by Wolf. I don’t enjoy adventure stories and this reads like one in Wolf by Wolf. And while lots of things happen along they way, I found myself wanting to be at the climax sooner because I wanted to see what the fallout would be and what would happen next.

In comparison, I was much more engaged in the plot for Blood For Blood. It just seemed like a more well-rounded novel. You get moments of character history & growth, a little dash of romance and the plot always seemed to be moving. I never found that it lulled and it had me eager (but dreading because I’d really grown to like these characters) the ending.

The Characters:

Yael is a great lead for this story. She’s a girl bent on revenge but she’s also a girl with a conscience and I loved how she often struggles with what she has been tasked to do. It makes her human and keeps her from becoming this detached heroine. Being a total kickass character doesn’t mean you can’t show emotions or empathy and I liked that Yael–while completely driven by her mission–has these moments of reflection and vulnerability.

Wolf by Wolf definitely focuses more on Yael which is why I enjoyed the moments we get in Blood for Blood more where we learn more about the other characters. Getting those backgrounds really helps you understand the motives of everyone involved. I truly grew attached to these characters by the time Blood for Blood wrapped up.

The Romance:

I’m glad that the romance never overshadows the bigger plot of this story. It compliments the story well and is used as a solid plot device when the time arises.

When to Read the Novellas:

Both novellas should be read after Wolf by Wolf but they aren’t necessary for the sequel either.

I only read Iron to Iron and I am SO glad that I did. Luka was one of those characters I didn’t entirely appreciate as a reader in Wolf by Wolf but I completely fell in love with him after reading the novella. It was great to get that context about what happened in the past and what motivates him to do what he does. I enjoyed Blood for Blood a lot more because I truly understood his character more after reading the novella.

My Audiobook Experience:

I listened to both novels as an audiobook and I’m really glad that I did. The narration was fabulous! The accents were great and everyone had a unique voice. I love audiobooks because they convey so much emotion and the wit often shines a little more and that was totally the case here.

Series Rating: 5/5

Wolf by Wolf  4.5/5| [Iron to Iron  5/5] | [Storm After Storm  N/A] | Blood for Blood  5/5

overall

I can see why this book series gets all the hype it does. Without a doubt, this is probably the best alternate history series I’ve encountered. It’s so layered and complex in its message and delivery that as a reader you can’t help but appreciate it. Highly recommend!

Read if You Like: alternate history, stories set around WWII
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike alternate history

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Blog Tour: Between the Sea and Stars (Lena #1) by Chantal Gadoury

Synopsis for Between the Sea and Stars (from Goodreads):

A Legend,
A Magical Shell
A Girl Who Dreamed Of Something More…

Lena, a Merrow girl, lives in the Skagerrak sea with her father, Carrick and her brother, Javelin who tells her of the legend of the Merrow Queen murdered by her human lover when greed takes over. But what’s worth spilling the queen’s blood? Gifted from Poseidon, himself, a magic shell gives any human the ability to control both land and sea.

When Javelin is called to join a clan of Merrow soldiers bent on protecting their waters from human invasion, Lena resists Merrow law and ventures to the shore with no choice but to swim to land.

With newfound legs, Lena is whisked away on a new adventure with new friends and new trouble. Everyone seems to want something from her as intrigue lurks around every corner.

Trying her best to hide who she is and remain safe from the dangers of the human world, will Lena finally find where she belongs, or will she be swept into a strong and stormy current by lust, greed, and jealousy?

Other books in the series:

breakdown

Series: Lena
Author: Chantal Gadoury
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 to be released
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Coming of Age, Romance
Heat Rating: Cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: June 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Audiobookworm–Audiobook via Audible (6hrs & 53mins)

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon / Audible

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read Chantal’s novel The Songs in Our Hearts a few years ago and really enjoyed it (it was super cute!). So when I saw that there was an opportunity to read a non-contemporary (MERMAIDS!!!!) novel by her, I couldn’t wait to see what she could do in a different genre.

What I Liked:

–The Romance–

This surprised me in a really good way. I thought I had a good idea of where the romance would be going early on but I was so dead wrong. I love when that happens!

It isn’t a huge focus but it’s there enough to keep the story going when it needs too.

–Lena’s Character Growth–

Lena’s character story is literally one of “fish out of the water” but it provides an interesting backdrop to her character growth and development. This is very much a coming of age story for her except she has the added complications of being a mermaid now on land. I enjoyed her evolution from naive mermaid to independent young lady.

What I Didn’t Like:

–More Drama–

Like most coming of age stories, I find you kinda go through the everyday motions of life so it can become a little monotonous. But let me be clear that I never got bored with this story! It has a great flow to it and you get these little inklings of the bigger story to come along the way so it builds as you read. What I’m trying to say is that I wish the “whoa!” moment came a touch earlier so we could get into it a little more…but I guess that’s what sequels are for 😉

My Audiobook Experience:

This was such a fabulous audio listen! Right when it started to play I was fully immersed into the story and the characters. The narrator here is Dollcie Webb and she does a great job of giving all the characters their own voices so it is super easy to follow along. She has the perfect cadence for an audiobook narrator–seriously, it was such a nice read to listen to that I was finished the novel before I knew it!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

This book had a few surprises at that end that has me eager to see what will happen next!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Between the Sea and Stars 3.5/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall
If you love mermaids or want a different twist to your usual coming of age stories, pick this up!

Read if You Like: mermaids, coming of age
Avoid if You: want action

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Chantal Gadoury

Amazon Bestselling Author, Chantal Gadoury, is a 2011 graduate from Susquehanna University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. Since graduation, she has published The Songs in Our Hearts, and The Songs We Remember, with 48Fourteen Publishing. Allerleirauh, Between the Sea and Stars, Blinding Night and WinterDream with the Parliament House Press. Chantal first started writing stories at the age of seven and continues with that love of writing today. For Chantal, writing novels has become a lifelong dream come true! When she’s not typing away at her next project, she enjoys painting, drinking lots of Iced Coffee, and watching Disney Classics. Chantal lives in Muncy, Pennsylvania with her Mom, sister and furry-‘brother’ Taran.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Instagram | Pintrest

 

Dollcie Webb (Narrator)

“Daydreams and whimsy with with a touch of pixie charm.”

A long-time daydreamer, Dollcie Webb has always carried a special fondness for Young Adult Fantasy literature. The poetic imagery and enticing otherworldliness call to her sense of curiosity, satisfying a deep desire to explore the world around her. A graduate of Michigan Technological University with a Bachelor’s in Theatre and Electronic Media Performance, she’s taken her experience in audio and theatrical performance and has melded the two into a career as an audiobook producer and narrator.

Narrator Links: Website | Facebook | Instagram

 

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Single Sundays: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

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 Without Merit (from Goodreads):

Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: cool **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I adore Colleen Hoover’s works. She writes really unique and emotionally captivating novels. Novels that make me think and make me swoon. I’m definitely a die-hard fan when it comes to her works.

But I had no idea what to expect when I read the synopsis for Without Merit. What I did know was that I needed to be in an emotionally ready state to read the novel (for anyone who has read It Ends With Us you know what I am talking about) and so I mentally prepared myself and dove in.

The Concept / The Plot:

Like most Hoover novels, there is an overarching theme or message that she wants to convey. The message for this one wasn’t completely obvious to me until the last few chapters when everything started to come together.

I had a hard time deciding on my feelings after finishing this book. On one hand, I loved the message and what Hoover is trying to convey. But on the other, it all felt a little messy to me. I almost think too many things were at play and it took me a long time to figure out what was happening.

I’m going to do a little bit of a rant with spoilers below because it’s hard to articulate what I mean without referencing certain things.

My Spoiler Explanation

This book is all about perspectives and Merit assuming things to only be a certain way. There’s a lot she doesn’t know because there is so much going on with the character’s in this book. Just look at the letter she writes with her family’s many secrets. I think that there were almost too many problems to handle. Sagan’s story in particular just seemed to add to an already full glass.

Why I’m torn is due to the fact that life isn’t straight-forward and linear. It’s complicated and messy like it is for the Voss family–even if most families don’t have the same problems that they do. So in one respect, I appreciate that they are a complicated family but in the other, I think it almost overwhelms the story and its message.

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There isn’t much to the plot besides Merit living her everyday life, burdened by her secrets. It sounds a little boring but that’s where the characters come in. I know I found Merit’s narration intriguing because she has such a unique outlook on life. So I was drawn into Merit’s experience and the need to uncover what was happening in this family.

The Characters:

I enjoyed Merit as the lead. She’s intriguing and unlike any character I’ve ever encountered. She had me chuckling at some of her observations. I’m not sure if everyone would enjoy her but I know I did.

The rest of the cast is equally as interesting. Everyone has their little quirks and secrets so I found myself drawn in to know more.

The Romance:

Definitely not my favourite of Hoover’s that I’ve encountered. It doesn’t play a huge role in this story but it is a key factor of Merit’s story. I almost wonder if the story would have been stronger without it and things remained platonic…

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

While I appreciate and understand what Hoover was trying to showcase in this story, I think some readers will get lost in the eccentrics of the characters and the fact that there is a little too much happening along the way to get that message across.

Read if You Like: quirky characters, contemporary
Avoid if You: realistic fiction of a darker nature, eccentric characters

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