Tag «Historical Fiction»

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: The Devils of Dover by Kelly Bowen

Series Review: The Devils of Dover by Kelly Bowen

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for A Duke in the Night (from Goodreads):

Duke. Scoundrel. Titan of business. August Faulkner is a man of many talents, not the least of which is enticing women into his bedchamber. He’s known-and reviled-for buying and selling companies, accumulating scads of money, and breaking hearts. It’s a reputation he wears like a badge of honor, and one he intends to keep.

Clara Hayward, the headmistress of the Haverhall School for Young Ladies, on the other hand, is above reproach. Yet when she’s reunited with August all she can think of is the way she felt in his arms as they danced a scandalous waltz ten long years ago. Even though her head knows that he is only back in her life to take over her family’s business, her heart can’t help but open to the very duke who could destroy it for good.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Must Read Author
Series: The Devils of Dover
Author: Kelly Bowen
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a novella: #3.5 Night of the Scoundrel

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: February 2018 – May 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (#1 & #2); eBook (#3)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I fell in love with Kelly Bowen’s work after reading her Season for Scandal Series. She reminds me of my favourite historical fiction author Tessa Dare only that Kelly has a slightly darker approach to her characters and their pasts. She’s also Canadian and I love to support my fellow Canucks so she easily became a must-read author for me. I couldn’t wait to try another series by her.

The Concept:

One of the biggest reasons I’m drawn to Historical Fiction is the fact that our female leads usually defy the societal norms of the time. They challenge the prejudices and roles of their time by being their authentic selves. So the whole concept of a school that teaches women subjects like art and medicine in times when those were perceived as simply hobbies or something that challenged their delicate constitution was a great aspect to the story.

The Plot:

My only other experience with Bowen’s work is A Season for Scandal which follows a group of people who were the Olivia Pope (Scandal) Fixers of their day (just not as crazy as that group). So there were an edge of danger and suspense to those novels that I expected to be here but really wasn’t given the setting. (Book #3, A Rogue by Night falls back into that mold though which is probably why it was my favourite of the series). I try not to compare series to other series but I did have to curb my expectations a bit to get into the story.

But once I got acquainted with everyone and what the plot was, I enjoyed the drama that we do get.

The Characters:

Writing great, solid characters is a talent and it’s one Bowen excels at. Everyone is just so rounded as a character. They all have their flaws and strengths and that allows them to grow as the story evolves. And everyone just has great chemistry together. I really loved the family dynamic of the Hayward clan.

The Romance:

All these couples had really fabulous chemistry together. And I loved how they all challenged their partners to become better people. In my books, I like the idea that you have to “work on ‘me’ before we become ‘we'” and that’s what we get here. I really saw the connections and draws for each couple…and I definitely swooned a few times.

My Audiobook Experience (#1 & #2):

I would have loved to have read the entire series in audio but I was at the whims of my library for this one. Great narration throughout.

Series Rating: 4/5

A Duke in the Night 3/5 | Last Night With the Earl 4/5 | A Rogue by Night 5/5 | [Night of the Scoundrel N/A]

overall

A solid series about a family that defies convention–all the while falling in love with their perfect match!

Read if You Like: regency reads, romance
Avoid if You: want more erotica

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DNF Series Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

DNF Series Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

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

book4

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Beautiful (from Goodreads):

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

breakdown

Series: The Beautiful
Author: Renée Ahdieh
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First & Third Person
Publication Dates: October 2019 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m 50/50 for Renée’s book series so far. I loved The Wrath and The Dawn (so much that I bought the hardcovers which I rarely do) but was left a little underwhelmed by The Flame in the Mist. So this series was going to be the tiebreaker. And boy, was I excited to try it! I miss the YA paranormal (ie vampire) reads of my younger days and this seemed like the perfect gothic read to remind me why that genre was such a trend 10 years ago.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

I’ve never been to New Orleans and this book just made me want to go there right away. The gothic setting is so lush and captivating. Renée writes great worlds without dumping so much info on you. I wish we spent more time in it though.

–The Mysterious Narrator–

I really loved the mystery of who this second narrator (the murderer) was. That mystery kept me going honestly. It kept the story moving and my mind racing with theories when I would zone out from Celine’s narration.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Celine–

I had flashbacks to Bella Swan with this lead–and that isn’t a compliment. She was so, so dry and dull. I got so bored of her lamenting about this “dangerous” side lurking inside of her (which wasn’t all that dangerous if you ask me. Perhaps it was just a strong case of curiosity?). Honestly, as I write this I struggle to write anything about her because she was so forgettable to me.

–Nothing Happens–

A lot of this book felt like filler to me. As in some chapters contributed nothing to the plot and could be omitted without alarm. The last few chapters when everything comes into place were exciting but I was so over this story by then (I just wanted to find out who the narrator was!) I didn’t bring myself to care.

–The Romance–

The chemistry between Bastain and Celine was non-existent for me. I didn’t get where on Earth those deep feelings came from. I think they talked maybe 3 times before they are declaring love?

I think some people might disagree with this part but I thought Celine had much stronger chemistry with the police detective Mathew. At least she interacted with him enough times that I could believe they would develop romantic feelings.

My Audiobook Experience:

I enjoyed the audio production. The accents were great and I never struggled with listening to it…it was the writing that I had a hard time with.

Will I Finish It?

No. Despite an intriguing ending I really don’t care about Celine enough to pick up the sequels. Especially when I learned it was going to be a 4 book series. No thanks!

My Series Rating: DNF

The Beautiful 2/5 | The Damned N/A | The Righteous N/A
|Book 4 N/A

overall

For those who really love gothic settings with a slow building plot line, this might be a good one for you. But if you want something faster paced, look elsewhere!

Read if You Like: gothic reads, slow story building
Avoid if You: dislike vampires, dislike paranormal

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Series Review: Girl Meets Duke by Tessa Dare

Series Review: Girl Meets Duke by Tessa Dare

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 Duchess Deal (from Goodreads):

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Girl Meets Duke
Author: Tessa Dare
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Book 4 to be released in February 2021
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: August 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was in a historical romance phase, I discovered Tessa Dare and I’ve never looked back. Even though I don’t go out of my way to read much of the genre anymore (there are a few exceptions like Anna Harrington and Kelly Bowen), I make it a point to read anything Tessa Dare writes.

The Plot:

I’d read 14 other books by Tessa Dare by the time I started this series and you know what is shocking to me? That all her series and novels feel fresh and unique. Certainly, there are aspects to her novels that are her trademark–like the unconventional-to-society heroine or a scared hero or the way she can convey humour throughout–but I never truly feel like I’m reading a regurgitation of her previous novels or that they follow a set, formula.

I had a blast meeting all these new characters and watching all the hi-jinx they get into as they fall in love and challenge societal norms.

The Characters:

I immediately fell in love with ALL our leads in The Duchess Deal. When our heroine meets the future heroines in the series, I was so excited to see who was getting their story next that I definitely peeked at the synopsis for the rest of the series.

Everyone is just delightful. And I love how their individual struggles and growth are highlighted in their novels through the plot and romance.

The Romance:

The tension is so delicious in each novel! I couldn’t get enough of our couples–it made the books so addicting to read! But I really loved how the romances had a bit of a slow burn to them where they take their time to truly fall in love with the person and not just because they have insane physical chemistry.

My Audiobook Experience:

Humour doesn’t always come across in written novels for me–though that has never been a problem with Tessa’s novels–so audiobooks are a great way for me to get the humour because you hear the tone the author wants the dialogue to be delivered in. Now that I’ve started listening to her books in audio, I think that’s the only way I can enjoy them! They are just so easy and fun to listen to!

Series Rating: 5/5

The Duchess Deal 5/5 | The Governess Game 5/5 | The Wallflower Wager 4/5 | The Bride Bet TBD

overall

Honestly, this series reminded me why Tessa Dare has become an automatic must read author for me. She never fails to disappoint when it comes to characters, romance, plot and humour!

Read if You Like: historical fiction
Avoid if You: dislike historical fiction romances

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Series Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Series Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

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 Dread Nation (from Goodreads):

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

breakdown

Series: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Alternative History, Zombies, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2018 – February 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember if I learned about this series via other blogs or simply from browsing my library catelogue. I’m going to go with the latter because I didn’t mark it down as a blog find.

Anyways, I love horror/fantasy spins on historical events and this sounded like it would be a kick butt novel!

What I Liked:

–The Concept–

Like I said, any twist on a historical event automatically gets bonus points in my eyes. I loved the idea of zombies in the Civil War era. But what I loved even more was how it was used to highlight racial tensions throughout the novel. It just emphasized even more the ideals that brought about the war and why it was so divisive to the United States.

–Girl Power–

I always love it when girls can fend for themselves and Jane is a strong heroine to get behind. She doesn’t need anyone to save her yet she isn’t afraid to get help along the way.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Very Slow Start–

I think I wanted to jump right into the action and get to slaying the zombies sooner than later. I found the first third of the novel to be very slow. But once the plot went in a direction I wasn’t anticipating, my attention was piqued once again…until I felt like it mellowed out. There just didn’t seem to be a lot happening all the time and I could feel my attention waning.

–Some of the Twists Felt Like An Afterthought–

I don’t like when plot twists are purposely misleading. There are some great mysteries to uncover about Jane’s past and the like, and slowly we get to learn them. Until you get to the end and realize everything you’ve been told has been a flat out lie. I don’t like it when a narrator you believed to be reliable suddenly isn’t. I would have much preferred that Jane had played the oblivious card and just not have said anything about the situation in her inner monologue until it was the right time to spring the truth.

It just made certain twists seem like an afterthought. Like an editor reading the book went “hey, you know what would be great?” and instead of reworking the little bits earlier in the novel, it’s just thrown out there near the end and you just have to take it as a reader.

Spoiler

I’m talking about Jane killing her father. That whole twist just didn’t seem cohesive to me when she had told us earlier in the book one version of the story.

[collapse]

My Audiobook Experience:

I love Bahni Turpin as a narrator for any novel. Her narration of The Hate U Give is award worthy. But having only really listened to her for modern/contemporary novels, her narration of Jane almost seemed too modern for my tastes. To be fair: that could simply be the actual writing of the novel and not necessarily her performance. But if I didn’t necessarily know the setting, I’d think it was a contemporary novel.

Will I Finish It?

While I’m curious to know what happens next, I also just don’t care. I felt like things ended in a way that I’m ok with stopping here and never knowing how this series wraps up.

Series Rating: DNF

Dread Nation 3/5 | Deathless Divide N/A | Book 3

overall

I think different readers will find different things to like about this series. I know that the concept itself will draw people in but I wonder if it acts as a bit of a blinder in the sense that you get so into the idea of what this novel means that you don’t realize it isn’t the strongest when it comes to actual plot since not much truly happens.

Read if You Like: fantasy spins on historic events
Avoid if You: want more action

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DNF Series Review: Lady Helen by Alison Goodman

DNF Series Review: Lady Helen by Alison Goodman

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 6: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Dark Days Club (from Goodreads):

London, April 1812.

On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

breakdown

Series: Lady Helen
Author: Alison Goodman
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Supernatural
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: December 2015 – November 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

**Disclaimer: I stopped reading The Dark Days Club at 32% (start of Chapter 11) and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This was one of those series that always caught my eye when I was browsing my library’s collection. And when I read the synopsis, I was intrigued. I adore historical fiction and I don’t get to it often enough in the YA genre. Add to it the supernatural element and I was totally onboard to add it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for the year 2015.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

I love historical novels with a supernatural twist. There’s just something about the bizarre as it meets the lush society that I find endlessly fascinating.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Way too Dry–

It just felt like this book was taking forever to get somewhere. I was pretty far in and nothing had really evolved besides Helen learning that maybe her mother wasn’t a traitor…which is so obvious it’s painful to anyone who has read a book before.

–Lack of Chemistry–

I was hoping the promise of romance might save this one but no such luck. I didn’t find the banter as engaging as I wanted.

–Helen is Rather Dull–

I get it: she’s lived a life constrained by boundaries outside her control but I wish she had more to her personality. She’s a bit of a “special snowflake” but one you’ve encountered numerous times before.

Will I Continue With the Series?:

No. I’ve read reviews for the sequels to see if this slower start is worth it but they weren’t overly positive so I am stopping here.

Series Rating: DNF

The Dark Days Club DNF | The Dark Days Pact N/A | The Dark Days Deceit N/A

overall

There was nothing to get me excited about this series despite the promising inklings.

Read if You Like: slower stories, historical fiction
Avoid if You: want something with lots of action

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

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DNF Series Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

DNF Series Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 2: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Born of Illusion (from Goodreads):

Anna Van Housen has a secret.

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

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

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

breakdown

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

There is a novella: #1.5 Born of Corruption

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

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–Basic Approach–

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

–Recycling the Same Sentiments–

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

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

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

Will I Finish It?

Nope.

My Rating: DNF

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

overall

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

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

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

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Single Sundays: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Single Sundays: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

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

Synopsis for The Game of Love and Death (from Goodreads):

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

breakdown

Author: Martha Brockenbrough
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Historical Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (via Hoopla)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was browsing audiobook selections at my local library, the cover of this title immediately drew my attention in. I had never heard of the book before, but I liked the premise a lot when I read it. So, I added it to my TBR and actually added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for 2019 as a pick for the year 2015.

The Concept / The World:

I love the idea of fate or some greater beings controlling our everyday lives. It’s a cool premise to explore in a story and one that is done flawlessly here. Death and Love are compelling characters and their motives reflect that.

I love historical fiction set in this era; it’s so culturally rich and the issues people face are so basic and genuine. It adds this layer to the story that would be lost if it didn’t take place in this time-frame.

The Plot:

I think what I liked best about this story is that despite the larger premise (a game controlled by Love and Death), it’s a human story without all the over the top theatrics. It’s achingly real and heartfelt. The essence is a timeless story, though it is enhanced by the setting.

I’ll admit that the resolution of the game was a little lost on me. Well, one aspect was at least. The flashbacks (not that there are too many) also had me a little lost because I was listening to the audio and am not the best at remembering dates when they are said aloud.

The Characters:

I really enjoyed all the characters stories–Love, Death, Flora, Henry, Ethan–just intriguing characters and stories. They truly are the heart and soul of this story. I loved getting all the different POVs and I was never overwhelmed by them either.

The Romance:

You aren’t getting copious scenes of stolen moments or kisses but it’s a romance at its core. It’s like a slow burn romance with an edge of suspense with the “will they or won’t they” vibes the story entices.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobook production is beautiful. The choice to actually sing the songs just brings everything to life and perfectly captures the emotion of the songs.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

It’s not your everyday story or romance but there is something compelling about this story. I highly recommend the audiobook version!

Read if You Like: thought provoking novels, classic romances
Avoid if You: dislike historical fiction, want a contemporary romance

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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.

breakdown

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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