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Spin-off Saturdays: Retribution Games by Ella Miles

Spin-off Saturdays: Retribution Games by Ella Miles

Spin-off Saturdays: On Saturdays, I will review a series that is a spin-off series. It is recommended that you read the original series first in order to get the most out of the spin-off series. Here is this week’s offering:

Retribution Series is a spin-off of the Truth or Lies Series

book4book5book6

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Retribution Games

This is a spinoff of the Truth or Lies Series.

Author: Ella Miles
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Adult, Dark, Contemporary, Action, Suspense, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: June 29, 20221 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author—eARC

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

The Truth or Lies Universe is one of my favourites of Ella Miles. She writes very dark contemporary romances but I found this universe of series finds the right balance between action, romance, shock and steam.

The original Truth or Lies Series is a hard one to live up to though I have enjoyed the other spin-off series: Sinful Truths & Lies. With those two series, the characters were ones who had been regularly featured from the inaugural series so I had a lot of preconceived notions and expectations. But this new series featured a hero, Beckett, that we had only encountered a few times throughout the other series. So I was curious to see how this would all go down.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Not Knowing Much About Our Leads–

As I said above, I didn’t know much about Beckett going into this and I think that was actually to this story’s advantage. With the other Truth or Lies spinoffs, I had expectations for each of the leads and I had to quickly re-evaluate those once we got into the story. But here, I really had no idea what type of story we were going to get and I loved that.

–Strong Heroine Fighting for Herself–

Ri reminds me a lot of Kai, our heroine from the Truth or Lies Series. She’s a kickass woman in a mainly male dominated world but she can hold her own. She doesn’t see her sex as a weakness and has no problem proving everyone wrong.

–Great Romantic Chemistry–

Beckett and Ri have this whole “will they or won’t they” vibe to them that I love to read about. There is this underlying tension between them as they fight what is so obvious to the reader: that they would be a great pair.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Inconsistencies With Plot–

The plot progression seemed a little messy to me at times and not in a great way. I’ve read enough Ella Miles novels to feel that sometimes she omits things for the sake of later twists or shock value, and those omissions challenge my logical brain. I’m of the belief that future twists should go undetected but should always be underlying if you were to ever go back and reread a book knowing what happens.

For example: there is a scene at the very end of Book #1, Mistaken Hero, that I think will have some people going “what?” and I agree. It wouldn’t be the way I would have tried to alleviate that particular bind; and the fallout from it in the other books is wish-washy at best.

And after reading Book #2, Forbidden Princess, I felt like this book lacked some consistency with past events of the previous book which stopped me from being fully immersed in this novel.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Things are starting to weave together now and I can’t wait to see how this ride will play out in the next few novels.

Series Rating: 4/5

Mistaken Hero 5/5 | Forbidden Princess 3.5/5 | Tempted Hero 4/5 | Fatal Princess TBA | Tortured Hero TBA | Dangerous Princess TBA

overall

Out of all the other spin-offs, this one feels the closed to Truth or Lies in its execution. With strong leads, undeniable chemistry between them and a criminal empire fighting for control, this is a wild ride of a series!

Read if You Like: dark romances, action, mafia reads
Avoid if You: dislike mafia stories, dislike soap operas

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Mistaken Hero (from Goodreads):

She’s a mafia princess.
I’m an anti-hero.
She’s running from her past.
I’ve put my dark past behind me.
Until she mistakes me for her hero.
I’m no hero.
And I’m definitely not hers.
I already found my happily ever after.
One she decided to ruin.
Now I want revenge.
Let the retribution games begin.

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Fresh Fridays: Kingdom of the Wicked (#1) by Kerri Maniscalco

Fresh Fridays: Kingdom of the Wicked (#1) by Kerri Maniscalco

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:

Kingdom of the Wicked Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Kingdom of the Wicked (from Goodreads):

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe—witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin… desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked Princes of Hell that she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Author to Watch
Series: Kingdom of the Wicked
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Witches, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 27, 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Ever since I finished the Stalking Jack the Ripper Series, I’ve been awaiting Kerri Maniscalco’s next series. And while I am normally not one to enjoy stories about witches, I loved her previous series so much that I knew it was worth the try.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

You couldn’t ask for a better setting than historical Italy! I’ve been to Italy before so it wasn’t hard to picture the setting in the book but it’s so easy to be transported there as you read the book. There is just something so eerie about the setting with the cobble stone streets and alleys. Add to that the clash between religion and supernatural magic and its a lush setting for a book like this.

–The Sinister Edge–

I got a lot of Caraval vibes when I read the synopsis thanks to the sister dynamic. But this book differs in many ways from that series. This one has a more sinister vibe to it; much darker thanks to the additions of witches, demons and magic. A much different foundation and approach that gives it a unique edge.

–Banter Between Wrath & Emilia–

Kerri Maniscalco knows how to write grant banter between her lead characters. I loved every scene these two shared and couldn’t wait for the next one!

What I Didn’t Like:

–Some Aspects are Predictable–

There were certain plot points that I thought were pretty easy to see coming but I had so much fun reading the journey to get there that I didn’t really care so much.

My Audiobook Experience:

I had read all of the Stalking Jack the Ripper Series as an audiobook so it was an obvious choice for this one. It’s a great production and it even has sound effects! I think it really added to the whole atmosphere and transported me right into Emilia’s world.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I can see that things are building for the rest of the series so I am super excited to see where this goes next!

My Rating: 4/5

Kingdom of the Wicked 4/5 | Kingdom of the Cursed TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

Perfect for fans of Caraval and/or Stalking Jack the Ripper! This story is fast-paced in a rich setting that will immediately suck you in. I highly recommend the audiobook version!

Read if You Like: slower stories, world-building, alternate dimensions
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Spin-Off Saturdays: The College Years by Monica Murphy

Spin-Off Saturdays: The College Years by Monica Murphy

Spin-off Saturdays: On Saturdays, I will review a series that is a spin-off series. It is recommended that you read the original series first in order to get the most out of the spin-off series. Here is this week’s offering:

The College Years Series is a spin-off of the The Callahans Series

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: The College Years

This is a spinoff of the The Callahans Series.

Author: Monica Murphy
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author—eARC

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

thoughts

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

My Expectations?

I was super excited when Monica Murphy announced a spin-off series of her The Callahans Series. While I loved all the Callahan children (because their parents are my fall time favourite), I really got invested in some of their friends throughout the series. I felt like there were a lot of unfinished stories to tell. And the fact that they were going to be New Adult–my favourite of the genres Monica Murphy writes–I was eagerly awaiting their release.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–More Realistic Approach–

I found The Callahans Series could be melodramatic at times. It’s also very angsty with the leads all being in high school. But there was an air of maturity to this new series that I liked. These stories are as grounded as they can be while still being dramatic. They explore a lot of everyday scenarios like “girl dating younger guy”, “high school romances in college” and “falling for your friend”.

I think part of my “disappointment” with The Freshman (#1) was that I kept waiting for the melodrama to come but it didn’t (there were some pacing issues with the plot as a whole I thought) and looking back, I can appreciate that approach more than I did when I was reading it.

–Focus On Friendship–

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about these characters is their loyalty to their friendships. Your high school relationships change when you go to college/university for a variety of reasons. These novels explore that a bit. But they also highlight what a support group your friends can be throughout your life. Again, it comes with the newfound maturity these characters have but we seem to have left the toxic soap opera friendships in high school and I am all for it.

–Slow Burn Romances–

For the most part, these romances have been a slow burn. Unlike the original series where things seemed to happen quickly (young love and all of that), these relationships take their time to develop and grow. And as a result, the characters evolve as well.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Plot Pacing–

As I mentioned above, I struggled with the plot pacing of The Freshman (#1). Part of that is a slightly misleading synopsis but also the fact that they story never really climaxed dramatically. The anticipation was more like an unexpected speed bump that makes you go “oh well” and you carry on. Not really the “forbidden” romance I was craving.

–Uneven Character Development–

I craved more insight into our hero in The Sophomore (#2). I felt he wasn’t as developed as he could have been and I found his character came across as wish-washy in his convictions and actions.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m very excited for the third book, The Junior. While I know who the hero is, I’m not sure how his story will go!

updates

–September 13, 2021– Book #3: The Junior

I’ll admit, this took a while for me to get into. I thought it would be a passionate affair right from the start but instead, like the other books in this series so far, we get a slow burn romance that brews.

And I really liked that because it made this story a little more grounded and made the romance believable. They say a leopard can’t change its spots; and the same can be said about the “player” bad boy who chases after girls constantly. You have to sell the transformation to the reader. These two really work at being friends first, resisting that simmering attraction and getting to know each other a little better. It helps that they are both super similar so it was easy to see why they would work together so well.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

The Freshman 3/5 | The Sophomore 4/5 | The Junior 3/5 | The Senior TBP

overall

With a more mature, grounded approach, fans of The Callahans Series will enjoy watching their favourite characters grow up into adults.

Read if You Like: new adult romances, books that focus on a group of friends
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romance

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Freshman (from Goodreads):

I started flirting with a guy while waiting for my car to be serviced. Now granted, he wasn’t just any guy. Tall. Dark. Hot. Mysterious. Can you blame me for wanting to talk to him? He’s in town visiting his parents. So am I. He goes to the same college as I do. Such a coincidence. Almost as if our meeting is destined…

But I shouldn’t believe in that sort of thing. I am single as a Pringle and always ready to mingle. Until I keep running into Mr. Tall, Dark and Mysterious everywhere I go. Tony Sorrento. Turns out he’s on the football team. I mean, I’m not one to chase after a sexy jock but, okay. I’m down. And did I mention he’s only a freshman?

Our fathers are business rivals, and they forbid us from dating. We need to keep this on the low. Can we remain friendly? Sure. Maybe turn our friendship into friends with benefits? Most definitely. Here’s the thing though. I didn’t plan on catching feelings for him so quickly. Seems like he’s falling pretty hard for me too.

Defying our fathers’ wishes is only asking for trouble, but is being with Tony worth the risk?

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Fresh Fridays: Comeback (NEON #1) by Lyn Ashwood & Rachel Rose

Fresh Fridays: Comeback (NEON #1) by Lyn Ashwood & Rachel Rose

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:

NEON Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Comeback (from Goodreads):

Emery Jung is living his dream. Known by his stage name M, he is loved by millions of fans around the world as a member of the rising K-pop group NEON, but all fame comes with a cost, especially when one slip up can have viral consequences.

Alana Kim is trying to forget. After a tragic loss sends her spiraling, she escapes to her family in Korea, abandoning her love of music along the way. However, her plans are derailed when she literally runs into M, the famous K-pop idol.

When their paths collide, Emery and Alana must work together to prevent a scandal from ruining NEON’s success, sparking a journey of friendship, love, and healing. Unfortunately, fame and love aren’t easily compatible, especially in the world of K-pop.

breakdown

Series: NEON
Author: Lyn Ashwood and Rachel Rose
# of Books: 1 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Unknown
Complete?: Unknown
Genre: New Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: June 2019 – ongoing
Source & Format: Authors–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I will be the first to admit that I don’t know much about K-Pop other than what I read in Shine and learned through a Netflix documentary. I’ll hum along to BTS songs on the radio and my one coworker follows K-Pop enough that I know the very basics. But the world intrigues me and when I read the synopsis for Comeback, I was excited to see how this story would play out in the demanding K-Pop world.

What I Liked:

–You Really Don’t Need to Know Much About K-Pop–

Rachel and Lyn do a fantastic job at teaching the reader about Korean culture and the world of K-Pop as you read. There is a glossary of Korean terms at the back of the book in case you forget but I thought they did a wonderful job bringing this world to life without getting overly technical or by having endless descriptions of things. Everything just flowed really nicely, making it an easy read and world to get sucked into as a reader.

–Coming of Age–

The best way to describe this book is as a New Adult coming-of-age novel. Emery and Alana are both a little lost in their lives when we meet them for various reasons. But both are trying their best to navigate family expectations and work pressures. We get to see them at their most vulnerable and I loved the character growth that came from them finding themselves and becoming confident in the decisions they have made, even when others cast their judgements on them.

–Sweet Romance–

The romance is super sweet. I liked how these two had a special moment years before the novel starts and that the finer details in that moment aren’t known to the reader right away. It builds up this anticipation and reignites that spark between them any time they share a scene together.

What I really appreciated is that the romance, while still a big part of this book, doesn’t take away from that great character development. This book is really about the leads as individuals and their independent challenges.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Not Enough Romance–

While I may not know much about the K-Pop world, I do know that public romances are a big no-no. So when I read the synopsis, I really wanted that forbidden romance to play out a little more. Emery and Alana have the basic chemistry together but I really wanted to see more of them together to really sell me that their relationship would be worth the risks if it ever got out to the public.

HOWEVER, as I said above, the romance really wasn’t the focus of this book. It’s about Alana and Emery as individuals. I think as a reader if you manage your expectations to know that this isn’t about a forbidden K-Pop romance but the story of 2 people who find themselves in that K-Pop world then I think you won’t miss the romance factor as much as I did.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really hope we see more of this world. I really loved watching the dynamic of the band NEON and how the boys supported each other. Even if a sequel focuses on Emery and Alana again, I wouldn’t mind! I just think there is a lot more to explore in this world and I can’t wait to do that!

My Rating: 4/5

Comeback 4/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

While the world of K-Pop can seem next level and untouchable, Comeback reminds you that there are real humans involved and grounds the world an characters by showing the not-so-glamourous side of being an Idol.

Read if You Like: coming of age, sweet romance, K-Pop
Avoid if You: dislike coming of age stories, want lots of drama
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Series Review: Twisted by Ana Huang

Series Review: Twisted by Ana Huang

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 Twisted Love (from Goodreads):

He has a heart of ice…but for her, he’d burn the world.

Alex Volkov is a devil blessed with the face of an angel and cursed with a past he can’t escape.

Driven by a tragedy that has haunted him for most of his life, his ruthless pursuits for success and vengeance leave little room for matters of the heart.

But when he’s forced to look after his best friend’s sister, he starts to feel something in his chest:

A crack.
A melt.
A fire that could end his world as he knew it.

***

Ava Chen is a free spirit trapped by nightmares of a childhood she can’t remember.

But despite her broken past, she’s never stopped seeing the beauty in the world…including the heart beneath the icy exterior of a man she shouldn’t want.

Her brother’s best friend.
Her neighbor.
Her savior and her downfall.

Theirs is a love that was never supposed to happen—but when it does, it unleashes secrets that could destroy them both…and everything they hold dear.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Twisted
Author: Ana Huang
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: April 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Last year, I discovered Ana Huang when I read her If Love Series and quickly became a fan. She writes the type of romances I love to read with great chemistry between her leads and addicting plots. I was never bored reading that series and I made sure to keep an eye out for any of her future works.

The Twisted Series was pitched to me as something a little darker than her previous series, but I love dark contemporary romances so I was totally on bored. I loved the premise and couldn’t wait to dive in!

The Plot:

Each book focuses on a different set of leads and their respective stories. I found that Twisted Love (#1) was much darker than Twisted Games (#2) thanks to the characters’ pasts. But both had an air of suspense to them when it came to the plotlines that made them addicting to read. And while I was able to see some plot twists coming, others I did not so I liked that I was kept on my toes.

There is a good balance between the drama of the characters and the romance; though sometimes the pacing felt choppy. However, I was so invested in these characters that I really didn’t mind that when it’s all said and done. The pacing definitely improves as the series progresses.

The Characters:

I love complex characters in my books because that usually means there will be great character development–and that’s the case here. The romance and the drama help contribute to the growth we see in our leads (and their friends as well!) and I couldn’t ask for more.

I thought that all these characters were fresh and unique. They aren’t perfect snowflakes but they also aren’t overly jaded and angsty either. Overall, everyone is just very well rounded and you can’t help but like them.

The Romance:

Both books so far have had a slow burn type of romance which I LOVE! Watching our leads slowly fall into love made the romance that much sweeter. Nothing better than watching two people who aren’t so fond of each other succumb to those deeper feelings!

All the pairs have great chemistry from the start. The underlying attraction is always bubbling up to the surface which makes this story addicting to read in itself. But I also liked how they challenged each other and how their characters grew as a result.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Gah! We always get a little taste of what is to come at the end of the previous book and I cannot wait for the next book!

Series Rating: 4.5/5

Twisted Love 4/5 | Twisted Games 5/5 | Twisted Hate TBP | Twisted Lies TBP

overall

If you enjoy a darker tone to your romances (without the BSDM or other kinkiness that is often associated with “darker” romances), this is the series you have been waiting for! A great blend of slow-burn romance and suspenseful drama to keep you addicted for more!

Read if You Like: dark romances, hate to love you romances
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romances, want a lighter read

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Series Review: Neverland by Gina L Maxwell

Series Review: Neverland by Gina L Maxwell

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 Pan (from Goodreads):

Once upon a time, in Neverland, North Carolina–I fell in love.

I was twelve when Peter first climbed up to my balcony.
Thirteen when I sneaked out to see him at the School for Lost Boys.
Seventeen when his touch made me fly,
And eighteen when his words made me cry.

We were magnetic, drawn to each other from that very first night, and what I thought would be forever. But when it came time for me to leave, he wouldn’t come with, so I left town with a map for my future and a shattered heart.

Ten years later, I’ve returned to Neverland, hoping to find a man in place of the boy.

Peter was partially right, growing up is no fun. After quitting my fancy career that sucked the magic out of life, I’m now organizing the fundraiser of the year. In a move that could make or break the event and my new company, I’ve hired Peter, master mechanic and owner of LB Automotive, to help me pull this off–trusting him to rebuild a classic car for the auction that could help hundreds of foster kids in need.

I thought I was prepared, but the boy who refused to leave is now a man hell-bent on getting me to stay, and as sparks fly between us, that undeniable fire flares back to life, deeper and hotter than ever.

But that ripped body doesn’t mean Peter’s matured enough to make us or this event work, and not everyone in Neverland is happy about my return.

Not every wound heals.
Not every heart can be fixed.
Not every boy grows up.

And after all this time, the love we found might be lost to us again…this time, forever.

breakdown

Series: Neverland
Author: Gina L Maxwell
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, Tink, is to be published
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Retelling, Dark
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (Kink: Mild | BDSM: Mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2019 – ongoing
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I really liked Maxwell’s Playboys in Love Series for its unique spin on a contemporary romance and when she announced this series, was so on board!

The Concept / The World:

I loved the idea of a modern Peter Pan and one that was grounded in realism, not fantasy. You can clearly see all the allusions to the classic story but with a contemporary spin. It’s angsty in a grown-up way that will appeal to readers.

The Plot:

While the world is Peter Pan, I liked that the plot wasn’t. Each novel focuses on a different standalone plotline, but it’s all woven together throughout the novels to keep you invested in these characters.

The Characters:

Wendy Darling in the original story is basically the gold standard for annoying Mary Sue characters. But not here! All the characters are layered with interesting pasts (which is highlighted with flashbacks) and I loved how they evolved from that past by the end of their respective novels.

That being said, these characters have the prototypes of Peter Pan and company but it isn’t as light as the source material. There is a lot of tragedy and I think some people will find their stories hard to read.

The Romance:

Passionate! I loved all the chemistry between the leads. And we get just enough of a taste of their prospective partners in the other books that you are super invested in their stories by the time their novels come around.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Very excited to see this love story unfold!

Series Rating: 4/5

Pan 4/5 | Hook 4/5 | Tink N/A

overall

If you are looking for a light and fluffy, modern Peter Pan retelling, you will have to look elsewhere. These characters have major baggage but that makes the romance worth a read because everyone wants a HEA!

Read if You Like: modern retellings, dark reads
Avoid if You: dislike tragic pasts
similarreads

  • Shameless by Gina L Maxwell (Playboys in Love Series #1)
  • Beauty of the Beast by Rachel L. Demeter (Fairy Tale Retellings Series #1)

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Series Review: Bad Motherpuckers by Lili Valente

Series Review: Bad Motherpuckers by Lili Valente

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 Hot as Puck (from Goodreads):

The NHL’s biggest bad boy is about to fall for the virgin next door…

I am the world’s biggest dating failure. We’re talking my last date went home with our waitress kind of failure.

But I have an ace in the back pocket of my mom jeans–my sexy-as-sin best friend, NHL superstar forward, Justin Cruise.

Justin owes me favors dating back to seventh grade, long before he became a hotshot with a world famous…stick. So in return for my undying platonic loyalty, all I want is an easy-peasy crash course on how to be a sex goddess.

How hard can it be?

***

I have never been so hard in my life.

The things I want to do to my sweet, kindergarten-teaching, mitten-crocheting best friend Libby Collins are ten different kinds of wrong. Maybe twenty.

But I’m a firm believer in teaching by example, and by the end of our first lesson, we’ve graduated to a hands on approach to her education: my hands all over her, her hands all over me, and her hot mouth melting beneath mine as I prove to her there isn’t a damned thing wrong with the way she kisses.

Give me a month, and I’ll transform Libby from wall flower to wall banger, and ensure she’s confident enough to seduce any guy she wants.

Problem is… the only guy I want her seducing is me.

breakdown

Series: Bad Motherpuckers
Author: Lili Valente
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?
: No, more books are reportedly planned
Genre:
Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Hockey
Heat Rating:
Hot
Point of View:
First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates:
April 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format:
Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love a good play on words and the titles of these books drew me in! I’m always on the hunt for new audiobook series as my library and when I saw that all the books were available for this series, I was in. I enjoy sports romances–they’re my go-to contemporary pick when I need a solid romance–and I wouldn’t be Canadian if I didn’t enjoy hockey ones at that.

The Plot:

These books are like rom-coms in book format. You’ve got these great meet-cutes to get the ball rolling and then hijinks ensues! I definitely did laugh along the way–which is an accomplishment because I can struggle with humour in novels. Things do feel rushed because everything happens within a quick time span but I was entertained so I can’t complain.

The Characters:

I really liked the cast. It helps that you kinda get an inkling for who the next book will be about in the current read so it builds up that anticipation. I did find that near the end of the series, the leads were starting to blend into each other though. Everyone seemed to have the same quirks and traits as other leads and that stopped the books from feeling as fresh as they once did.

The Romance:

If you can name a romance trope, chances are it is an aspect of one of the novels in the series. Every book had a different circumstance or trope for the leads so that was fun. I really liked how BDSM was tackled in Pucked Up Love (#5); it was just so refreshing to not have a completely dominate alpha calling the shots and where the BDSM stayed in the bedroom.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m so glad I picked the audio versions! They were a lot of fun to listen to! Lili Valente actually narrates a few herself so that was cool to listen to the author bring her characters to life.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I have a good idea who the next book could be about so I will be keeping an eye out to see if I am right!

Series Rating: 4/5

Hot as Puck  4/5 | Sexy Motherpucker 4/5 | Puck Aholic 4/5 | Puck Me Baby 3/5 | Pucked Up Love 3/5 | Puck Buddies 3/5

overall

If you want quick and somewhat quirky contemporary romance reads, this is the series for you!

Read if You Like: sports romances, contemporary romance
Avoid if You: dislike sports romances, want full out erotica

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Fresh Fridays: In the Penalty Box by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blout

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:

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for In the Penalty Box (from Goodreads):

The Cutting Edge meets Friday Night Lights in a sizzling new hockey romance from bestselling authors Kelly Anne Blount and Lynn Rush.

Willow
Figure skating was supposed to be my whole world. But one unlucky injury and now I’m down…but I’m definitely not out. I just need to rehab—a boatload of rehab—and who’d have thought I could do it on the boys’ hockey team?

Of course, the infuriatingly hot captain of the team seems to think I’m nothing but sequins and twirls. What’s a girl to do but put him in his place? Game on.

Brodie
Hockey is my whole world. I’ve worked my tail off getting my team in a position to win the championships—hopefully in front of major college scouts, too—so what’s a guy to do when a figure skater ends up as our new goalie?

Of course, the distractingly sexy skater thinks I’m nothing but a testosterone-laced competitive streak. And surely she’s only biding her time to heal, then she’s gone. Game over.

breakdown

Series: TBA
Author: Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount
# of Books: 1+ (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: TBA
Complete?: Unknown
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Sports
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: January 5, 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for YA sports reads and have had tremendous luck with them in the past. So when I read the synopsis about a figure skater trying to make it in the world of hockey AND a forbidden romance, I was so on board.

What I Liked:

–Gender Roles in Sports–

I grew up in small towns where there weren’t always enough players to have separate boys and girls teams and so girls would be on the “boys” hockey time all the time. I also know a lot of the Canadian Women’s Hockey players play in men’s leagues. But it is naïve to think that there aren’t barriers in place or assumed gender roles from those who play in the sports, even today.

So I really liked the added dimension of people pushing back against Willow playing with the boys. I thought it provided great material for her character development and highlighted the fact that preconceived notions can literally stop you from winning or being the best team you can be.

–Self-Discovery and Growth–

I think Willow had the most obvious character growth in the pair thanks to the challenges her injury presented her and her family life. But Brodie had a very heavy storyline as well. I think some of it could have been hashed out a littler earlier but I appreciated his struggles and how his reactions to everything were grounded in realism.

–Slow Burn Forbidden Romance–

While I would have loved a few more flirty interactions (and not just inner monologues about how good the other looked in workout gear); I really did love how these two bonded as friends and teammates before they gave into the chemistry.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Pacing–

It took me a while to get into this book. It is really slow at the start as Willow orients herself in her new town and with her new limitations. That’s why I think more flirting or tension filled moments between her and Brodie at the start would have kept the pacing up. It just made the latter half of the book feel rushed and top-heavy with drama and developments.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

There haven’t been any officially announcements about a sequel but I could see some tensions brewing between the best friends of our leads here.

My Rating: 3/5

In the Penalty Box 3/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

If you are looking for a sweet, clean teen read about navigating the challenges life throws at you in a sports world setting, this is the one for you!

Read if You Like: slower stories, sports romances
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, dislike sweet romance
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Series Review: Cyclone by Courtney Milan

Series Review: Cyclone by Courtney Milan

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 Trade Me (from Goodreads):

Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Technology. But when he makes an off-hand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.

To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.

But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart…but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.

breakdown

Series: Cyclone
Author: Courtney Milan
# of Books: 2+ (Full Reading Order Here)

There are multiple novellas — see Reading Order.

Book Order: Direct Sequels & Connected
Complete?: No, Find Me is to be released
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Owned & Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found Trade Me from a NA Recommendation Post by Sil at Dani Reviews Things. I was drawn to it for its premise of a fake romance but also because our heroine was Chinese and the emphasis on family.

I didn’t get around to it for years–which turned out to be an ok thing since Courtney Milan is notoriously known as a slow writer so the rest of the series has yet to be published–but I made it an addition to my Tackling the TBR Challenge for 2020.

The Reading Order:

Everything follows a chronological order of events so it is important to follow the publication order of the series even if some books focus on different people. Books #1, #2.5 and #3 focus on Tina and Blake with the other novels focusing on other characters we meet along the way.

What I Like:

–Character Diversity–

In December of 2019, there was a big uproar with the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Courtney Milan was at the centre of it. There is a great article about the controversy here by the New York Times for those who missed it. The gist is, Milan called out another author on Twitter for her “racist mess” of a novel and how it personally offended her as a woman of Chinese descent.

One of the things I loved the most about this series is its inclusivity. You’ve got a lead of Chinese decent in Trade Me and a trans woman lead in Hold Me. And the best part is, she makes it all seem so natural—BECAUSE IT IS! I never once felt like she was putting these character traits in for shock and awe. Everything about these stories felt so organic.

–Very Character Focused Stories–

Yes, there is a romance in these novels but I think the larger focus is on the characters and navigating their lives. All the characters we meet go through some drastic growing pains in these novels and who we start the novel with isn’t who we end up with. So if you love character-focused stories, this is a great series for you!

What I Didn’t Like:

Hold Me (Book #2)–

I was really excited to read Maria’s story in Hold Me but I ended up DNFing it at 30%. There was just too much “hate” in the hate-to-love you aspect that I didn’t see how these two would ever rectify their differences. And even as someone with a BSc, their science banter was way too hard to follow for me.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m actually super invested in Blake’s dad’s story (you’ll understand once you read the books–I promise!) and that’s the one I’m going to be keeping my eyes out for!

Series Rating: 3/5

Trade Me 3.5/5 | Hold Me DNF | [Year of the Crocodile 3/5] | Find Me TBR |[What Lies Between You and Me TBR] | Keep Me TBR | Show Me TBR

overall

If you like stories that take their time to evolve and you enjoy books featuring a diverse cast of characters, this is a great NA romance series for you to try!

Read if You Like: diverse characters
Avoid if You: more erotica based romance

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Series Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Series Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Belles (from Goodreads):

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control beauty, and beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite-the Belle chosen by the queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie-that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

breakdown

Series: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 3 to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’ t think you could really escape The Belles when it first came out. It seemed to be everywhere in the blogosphere and I could understand why. The concept was really neat and the cover is gorgeous.

My library had the audiobook version and so I marked it on my “wishlist” but it wasn’t until I read Clayton’s other cowritten novel, Tiny Pretty Things (and absolutely LOVED it!) that my interest in picking up this series spiked.

The Concept / The World:

Have you ever wondered what life was like for the people living in The Capitol of The Hunger Games? I feel like this book attempts to answer that question by highlighting the vanity of humanity and what we would do if we could alter our appearance with a single touch. The concept is fascinating and, like you often do in dystopian novels, taken to an extreme to highlight the flaws within.

There was a lot to like about the world itself. I like how layered the Belle system is. From the history of their role to how they are trained, you know that some serious thought was put into the process. The world has a cool modern vibe (like paparazzi, etc) but felt old at the same time with the way the kingdom is set up.

The Plot:

When I was reading The Belles, I felt like much didn’t happen in the first half. It was a lot of setting up for the future and going through the motions. We do get little clues here and there but nothing overly exciting happens. The latter half, when everything falls into place is much stronger and I’m really curious to see what happens next.

The Everlasting Rose builds on that momentum though and introduces a few more twists. However, I thought the ways things came together in the end was a little messy and rushed. The ending seemed a little lacklustre to me.

The Characters:

Honestly, I could take or leave Camellia as a lead. She doesn’t really standout to me as a lead and I thought she made some terrible decisions. To give her some credit, she does evolve in The Everlasting Rose somewhat. It was nice to see her assert some independence.

The other belles are very hard to read. Perhaps that is the by-product of them being raised to act and do certain things in society. Amber is a good example of that where she can’t seem to rebel against the ideals instilled within her from birth—and I totally get why that would be the case. But it also makes her seem sporadic in her actions and in turn, you can’t get a good read on her as a character.

But I liked how the villain was a true villain.

The Romance:

The romance in the first book gave me some unease right from the start so I was immediately thrown off. As things progress in the series, I think the reasons why become clear and the romance itself evolves for the better (and I really hope it stays that way but I doubt it).

My Audiobook Experience:

So for a story that takes place in “Orleans” I just assumed everything would be french-influenced, including the narration. It was a slightly off-putting to have a British accent for the narrator for Camellia. Otherwise, the narration was really well done!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Honestly, I don’t really know what to expect for the third book. I have ideas of what I want it to be given the way things wrap up at the end of Book #2 but I’m not sure.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Belles 3/5 | Everlasting Rose 3.5/5 | Book 3 TBA

overall

Great for fans of the classic YA dystopian novels though it does leave a little to be desired at times.

Read if You Like: dystopian fiction, unique concepts
Avoid if You: dislike dystopian fiction

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