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Series Review: Legacy of Orïsha by Tomi Adeyemi

Series Review: Legacy of Orïsha by Tomi Adeyemi

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 Children of Blood and Bone (from Goodreads):

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

breakdown

Series: Legacy of Orïsha
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: March 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I feel like you couldn’t escape Children of Blood and Bone (#1) in 2018. It seemed to be everywhere and talked about by everyone. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick it up right away. I think it was the mention of magic — books with magic (particularly witch and wizard books) can be a little hit or miss for me.

When I was looking for a new audiobook series to start, I happened to see that both Children of Blood and Bone (#1) AND Children of Virtue and Vengeance (#2) were available for instant download at my library so I thought was a great time to start this series (I thought it was a duology, I didn’t realize the 3rd book was still in the works).

The Concept / The World:

At the end of Children of Blood and Bone (#1), Tomi has left an author’s note detailing how the deaths of young black people at the hands of police motivated her to publish this series. You can definitely see the parallels between the maji of the novels being persecuted for their perceived differences (physical and ability) and the events of our current world when it comes to racial prejudices. The English minor in me would love to explore those parallels in an essay because it is very well done throughout the series.

This world is also heavily inspired by various African cultures, particularly Nigeria, with the language used for casting spells to character names and so forth. It was a refreshing approach for me because I find a lot of high fantasy novels I’ve read lately are Asian or Northern European inspired.

The Plot:

I struggled with the pacing of Children of Blood and Bone (#1). The first half of this book was very adventure based–a genre I don’t tend to enjoy for its slower pace. So I had a hard time keeping focused for the first little while. Things really picked up by the middle when all the players start setting up for the finale but then it tapered off until the last quarter. I loved the last quarter of the book though. Lots of action and plot twists! Overall, it was very up and down for me and my interest.

I felt like Children of Virtue and Vengeance (#2) suffers heavily from middle book syndrome. It’s very character driven as our leads try to navigate the world they find themselves in. I can appreciate the struggle they are going through but I needed a little more excitement to keep my interest.

The Characters:

Zélie falls into the common heroine category of high fantasy worlds where they are thrust into the position to be the savior of the world, much to their chagrin. She also very emotionally driven in her actions, which is understandable given everything that happens. I just have a personal preference for heroines who are more logical than emotional when it comes to actions in my fantasy novels (like Kestrel from The Winner’s Trilogy or Helena from An Ember in the Ashes). But I find her storylines to be boring and her romance forced.

Which is maybe why I leaned more towards Amari. Again, her character arc of rebellion isn’t anything new but I appreciated how her eyes were opened to the real world. If you go back to the metaphor of what this novel stands for (violence based on race), Amari is that person who doesn’t think it’s their “problem” until they are directly impacted by the situation. However, do I think she could have had some more character development? Absolutely.

My favourite POV was Inan. I appreciated reading his struggles. Yes, he is all over the place with his feelings and actions, but who wouldn’t be when you become the thing you’ve been taught to hate? I just thought his whole character arc was fascinating and I found myself looking forward to his POV chapters.

The Romance:

So, I adore forbidden romances and the synopsis made me think we were going to get a good one with the line:

Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.”

I guess it isn’t a good sign when you start shipping a relationship that isn’t really isn’t there. I can appreciate that the romance was subtle but I’d almost argue that it is insta-love at its worst because it appears out of nowhere. Growing attraction or lust? Sure, I’d see that but I struggled to see why these two characters fall for each other in Children of Blood and Bone (#1).

So the romantic in me was disappointed by the somewhat forced romances that appear throughout the series.

My Audiobook Experience:

Bahni Turpin narrates the audiobooks and if you haven’t read an audiobook by Bahni Turpin, you’ve been living under a rock and are seriously missing out. She is a fantastic narrator (read the audio version of The Hate U Give and you’ll understand) and she does do a great job here as well. I could have used a little more distinction between Zélie and Amari’s chapters but she did a great job overall.

There are a lot of terms to know in this book because of the magic elements (like the different skills maji have) and all of those are thrown out at the start of the audiobook. Reading an audiobook isn’t like a physical book where you can turn back to the glossary to refresh yourself on the terms. So, I did struggle with that a bit and perhaps that was why it took me a long time to get into it.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Much like the inaugural book, Children of Virtue and Vengeance (#2) ends with a bang and I’m really curious to see where it will go! I’m not counting down the days by any means but I am interested in finding out how this ends.

Series Rating: 3/5

Children of Blood and Bone 3/5 | Children of Virtue and Vengeance 3/5 | Book 3 TBP

overall

I can see why people adore these books. The world and its focus on Nigerian culture is great as is the metaphor of racial injustice in current society. However, for me, I find I lose interest in the middle of the books due to their long page length (I feel like you could cut some stuff out but still get the same idea) and I start to get bored repeating the same sentiments with the characters. I’m curious to see where the third book will go.

Read if You Like: high fantasy, magic
Avoid if You: dislike long novels, dislike magic

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Fresh Fridays: King of Wrath (Kings of Sin #1) by Ana Huang

Fresh Fridays: King of Wrath (Kings of Sin #1) by Ana Huang

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:

Kings of Sin Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3book4book5book6book7

booksynopsis

Synopsis for King of Wrath (from Goodreads):

She’s the wife he never wanted…and the weakness he never saw coming.

Ruthless. Meticulous. Arrogant.

Dante Russo thrives on control, both personally and professionally.

The billionaire CEO never planned to marry—
until the threat of blackmail forces him into an engagement with a woman he barely knows.

Vivian Lau, jewelry heiress and daughter of his newest enemy.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful or charming she is. He’ll do everything in his power to destroy the evidence and their betrothal.

There’s only one problem: now that he has her…he can’t bring himself to let her go.

***
Elegant. Ambitious. Well-mannered.

Vivian Lau is the perfect daughter and her family’s ticket into the highest echelons of high society.

Marrying a blue-blooded Russo means opening doors that would otherwise remain closed to her new-money family.

While the rude, elusive Dante isn’t her idea of a dream partner, she agrees to their arranged marriage out of duty.

Craving his touch was never part of the plan.

Neither was the worst thing she could possibly do: fall in love with her future husband.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Kings of Sin

Crosses over with Twisted Lies (Twisted #4)

Author: Ana Huang
# of Books: 7 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Dark
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: October 20, 2022 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had been looking forward to Vivian and Dante’s story since the Twisted Series. I love a good fake marriage trope! And while you definitely don’t need to read that series to dive into this one, fans will be excited to see how the plot here weaves together with the plot in.

What I Liked:

–Slow Burn Romance–

Vivian and Dante are a perfect match in every way–though they definitely don’t see it! Their slow burn romance had plenty of sparks along the way and I easily fell in love with their story. I love when couples slowly break down their walls and get to know (and subsequently fall for) each other.

–Vivian–

While the billionaire arranged marriage trope is one that is tried and true, I found Vivian to be a refreshing heroine for this story. Her cultural influences when it comes to her relationship with her parents is a dynamic that you don’t often see in romance novels. I also liked that she could put Dante in his place with a quick witty retort.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Underutilization of the Valhalla Club–

I am slightly disappointed that the Valhalla Club wasn’t a bigger aspect to the plot. When I first read about this series, it seemed like the club would be the centralizing factor of this series. While we definitely met some future series leads in this one, I would have liked to have seen it utilized a little more as this is the series opener.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

We got little inklings of what is to come and I can’t wait! Especially when Ana has said that some future couples aren’t exactly what they seem!

My Rating: 4/5

King of Wrath 4/5 | King of Pride TBP | Book 3 TBP | Book 4 TBP | Book 5 TBP | Book 6 TBP | Book 7 TBP

overall

This isn’t your everyday “billionaire contemporary romance” novel. No one weaves tropes together like Ana Huang and I love the diversity she brings to her characters.

Read if You Like: slow burn romances, character driven stories
Avoid if You: dislike romance

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Spin-off Saturdays: Once Upon a Broken Heart (#1) by Stephanie Garber

Spin-off Saturdays: Once Upon a Broken Heart (#1) by Stephanie Garber

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:

Once Upon a Broken Heart Series is a spin-off of the Caraval Series

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: To-Watch Author
Series: Once Upon a Broken Heart

This is a spinoff of the Caraval Series.

Author: Stephanie Garber
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: September 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library—Audiobook

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

Well, I knew that there was going to be a spin-off of Caraval eventually but I kinda forgot that fact when I picked up this book. It didn’t take long for me to clue in and I was excited to dive back into this fascinating world Stephanie Garber has created…and see a few old friends along the way!

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Twisty Though Not as Suspenseful–

I had a hard time putting down Caraval when I read it and while this story was engaging, it didn’t have the same thrill level for me. There are plenty of twists along the way to be sure but I felt like everything moved at a gradual incline to the big finale. That made the last third of the book super engaging but I wasn’t as WOWed as I could have been.

–Sister Dynamic–

At the core of Caraval is the love between two sisters and the lengths they will go to save each other. Here, we see a different side to the sister dynamic and I really enjoyed watching that play out. It was very reminiscent of the original series but entirely unique at the same time.

–Jacks–

I’ll admit that the finer details of the Prince of Hearts is lost to me but I do know that I enjoyed his character immensely in both series. He’s still the enigma of a Fate but I feel like we might be seeing his true side come to the surface.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Slow Start–

As I said above, it took me a will to get into this. I think in Caraval we get thrown into the game right away but Evie is still trying to figure out her role so it takes her a bit to realize she is a player.

–Craved More Romance–

Perhaps I read too much into the gift of “three kisses” but for a story with the title “broken heart” I did crave more romance and sexual tension.

My Audiobook Experience:

I read the original series but decided to try the audiobook this time around and I really enjoyed it. It was easy to follow along and, as I often do with audiobooks, enjoyed the hearing the emotions of the characters brought to life. Even with it being a third person POV, I easily connected with Evie’s emotions.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m very, very curious to see how this all plays out now that the players are making their moves!

Series Rating: 4/5

Once Upon a Broken Heart 4/5 | The Ballad of Never Ever TBP

overall

With a gradual crescendo, fans of the Caraval Series will appreciate the return to the magical world; and those new to the world will enjoy this story of devious Fates.

Read if You Like: high fantasy, omnipresent beings, riddles
Avoid if You: want more romance

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Once Upon a Broken Heart (from Goodreads):

How far would you go for happily ever after?

For as long as she can remember, Evangeline Fox has believed in true love and happy endings…until she learns that the love of her life will marry another.

Desperate to stop the wedding and to heal her wounded heart, Evangeline strikes a deal with the charismatic but wicked Prince of Hearts. In exchange for his help, he asks for three kisses, to be given at the time and place of his choosing.

But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that bargaining with an immortal is a dangerous game—and that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’d pledged. He has plans for Evangeline, plans that will either end in the greatest happily ever after or the most exquisite tragedy….

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Fresh Fridays: Defy the Night (#1) by Brigid Kemmerer

Fresh Fridays: Defy the Night (#1) by Brigid Kemmerer

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:

Defy the Night Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Defy the Night (from Goodreads):

A fantasy series about a kingdom divided by corruption, the prince desperately holding it together, and the girl who will risk everything to bring it crashing down.

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.

breakdown

Series: Defy the Night
Author: Brigid Kremmerer
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

A few years ago now, I read Kemmerer’s Elemental Series and really enjoyed it. Despite that, I never picked up another title by her and I honestly have no good reason to explain why I haven’t. But when I read Kait @ Katie’s Book Blog‘s review, I decided to get my hands on my library’s audiobook.

I love a good fantasy novel and this one sounded great! I definitely forgot about the Robin Hood inspiration when I read this book, but that was one of the reasons I decided to add it to my TBR.

I had just finished reading the audio version of Realm Breaker–which I didn’t enjoy–so I wasn’t sure if reading another fantasy audiobook immediately after that flop was a good idea. But, my library loan was going to expire and I was optimistic I would enjoy this one!

What I Liked:

–The Pacing–

I felt like this story was always moving. Yes, it definitely helps that we have two POVs that we flip between but I found both Corrick’s and Tessa’s stories to be equally intriguing. Plus, I couldn’t wait to see how they would cross paths.

–Kept Me Guessing–

I liked that nothing was overly predictable with the plot. While I certainly had some theories that turned out to be true, they certainly got tested along the way and had me second guessing.

–Tessa–

While Corrick has great character development and layers, I really enjoyed Tessa’s character. She’s passionate and compassionate. She’s certainly stubborn but I appreciated that she could see when she was wrong. There’s three sides to every story (yours, mine and the truth) and as Tessa starts to learn more about the kingdom, she discovers that maybe her views aren’t necessarily the right or the only ones.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It Was Just Missing that Next Level–

While I really enjoyed this book, there was just something missing here to take it to that next level. Perhaps it was the fact that I was reading about a medical epidemic in a kingdom during the global COVID-19 pandemic that stopped me from getting totally into it. I also think that some of the other side characters could have been developed a little more, like King Harristan.

My Audiobook Experience:

I thought the audiobook production was great. I was very happy with my decision to listen to this story. It’s easy to follow along and the narrators were fabulous.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Now that there have been some great character and plot developments, I’m excited to see where this will go next!

My Rating: 4.5/5

Defy the Night 4.5/5 | Defend the Dawn TBP

overall

With a dash of romance and a dash of Robin Hood inspiration thrown in, this fantasy book makes for an engaging read.

Read if You Like: Robin Hood, fantasy, slow burn romance
Avoid if You: dislike fantasy
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Fresh Fridays: This Woven Kingdom (#1) by Tahereh Mafi

Fresh Fridays: This Woven Kingdom (#1) by Tahereh Mafi

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:

This Woven Kingdom Trilogy

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for This Woven Kingdom (from Goodreads):

Clashing empires, forbidden romance, and a long-forgotten queen destined to save her people—bestselling author Tahereh Mafi’s first in an epic, romantic trilogy inspired by Persian mythology.

To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight.

The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom—and the world.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: This Woven Kingdom
Author: Tahereh Mafi
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2022 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I promised myself I wouldn’t start a new series by an author if I already had one started but I couldn’t resist trying Tahereh Mafi’s newest series despite not finishing the newest books in the Shatter Me Series. I was on a high fantasy kick when my audiobook came in for this one and I was eager to dive in!

What I Liked:

–The World Building–

We take some quality time to set up this world and its characters. I became so captivated by their stories as we progressed through the novel. So while not a lot was happening drama wise, I was still motivated to keep reading to learn more.

–Alizeh–

I love a strong heroine, especially one that grows into her independence and abilities. I really enjoyed watching her character’s story unfold.

–Alizeh & Kamran Banter–

GIVE IT ALL TO ME! I loved any scene these two shared. I think I listened with a small smile on my face anytime these two start their verbal sparring.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slower Start–

I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the slower start. Great world and character building helps you interested in reading but I could have used some more action a little earlier on.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I am so excited to see where this series will go next!

My Audiobook Experience:

This was super easy to listen to and follow along with as an audiobook.

concSLOW

My Rating: 4/5

This Woven Kingdom 4/5 | These Infinite Threads TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

It takes its time to set up the world and its characters but it is well worth the investment!
Read if You Like: slower stories, world-building, high fantasy
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance
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Fresh Fridays: My Contrary Mary (Mary #1) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

Fresh Fridays: My Contrary Mary (Mary #1) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

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:

Mary Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for My Contrary Mary (from Goodreads):

Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens?⠀

Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she’s a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It’s a secret that could cost her a head – or a tail.⠀

Luckily, Mary has a confidant in her betrothed, Francis. But after the king meets a suspicious end, things at the gilded court take a treacherous turn. Thrust onto the throne, Mary and Francis are forced to navigate a viper’s nest of conspiracies, traps, and treason. And if Mary’s secret is revealed, heads are bound to roll.⠀

breakdown

Series: Mary

This is a spinoff of the My Lady Janies Series.

Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Standalone Retellings
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Humour, Parody, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I have a bit of a so-so relationship with the My Lady Janies Series. I didn’t *love* it but I enjoyed the idea of spinning well known history and there were some moments of brilliance interspersed with moments of silliness. I wasn’t sure if I was going to pick up this series but when I read that the first book was about Mary Queen of Scots–a historical figure I knew a decent amount about–I was willing to give them a shot.

What I Liked:

–I Was Familiar with the History–

Part of my struggle with the Jane Series was that I wasn’t overly familiar with all the history of our lead characters. So certain scenes and how they unfold were a little lost on me. I couldn’t see the intelligent spin the authors put on the historical moments.

But I do know the history of Mary Queen of Scots because I researched her story after I started watchin the TV Series Reign. As I often do with series that are based on history, I read the history and learn what history says happened, not the creative license TV shows or movies sometimes take.

So I think I got a little more out of this story because I could see how the Eðian (shapeshifting) aspects puts a spin on notable history events.

–Witty–

I laughed a lot thanks to the audiobook. I learned with the Jane Series that the audiobooks were the way to go for me to get the most out of the humour. But there is a lot of play on words and other aspects that made me appreciate the efforts the authors put into weaving this tale.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Sometimes It Gets Silly–

I have a bit of a love-hate thing with the Eðian aspect. It’s a fun idea and helps explain some of the prejudices of the time. But sometimes, I think it gets a little silly and distracts from the realism of these historical events. Having read the Jane series, I knew what to expect when it comes to these twists but I’m still torn on how much I actually like them in the books.

My Audiobook Experience:

I learned my lesson with the last series that the humour and dry wit comes across better when I listen to these books as audiobooks so that’s what I did for this series. I definitely enjoyed the audiobook production and I do think it contributes positively to my reading experience.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m a little undecided about continuing on with this series. I’m not a huge Mary Shelley fan and the synopsis for the second book doesn’t overly excite me. I like Fae stories though….we will see. Right now I’ve marked it as a pass on Goodreads.

My Rating: 3/5

My Contrary Mary 3/5 | My Imaginary Mary TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

Fans of the original Jane series will be excited for another round of historical hijinks! And new fans will appreciate the clever weaving of fantasy and history — so long as you know what you are getting into before you pick it up.

Read if You Like: historical retellings with fantasy spins, parodies
Avoid if You: dislike satires/parodies

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Series Review: Vampire Royals by Leigh Walker

Series Review: Vampire Royals by Leigh Walker

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 Pageant (from Goodreads):

Who’s the fairest of them all?
Young women from every settlement in the land are being handpicked to enter The Pageant, a beauty contest reminiscent of Miss Universe from the old days. Gwyneth West’s social-climbing mother wants her to compete, by Gwyn isn’t so sure…
The Pageant is government-sponsored. If you’re lucky enough to be chosen, participation is mandatory. Aggressive competition is allowed, even encouraged.

And then there’s the prize…
The winner of The Pageant gets a marriage proposal from Dallas Black, otherwise known as The Dark Prince. Dallas is the son of King Black, who won the last world war and now governs the new settlements. The Royal Family is mysterious. Rumor has it they don’t sleep. Rumor has it they eschew the sun.
Rumor has it they’re immortal.
When Gwyn is thrust into The Pageant, she fights to survive the competitive nature of the other contestants.
But even if wins…can she survive a vampire fiancé?

breakdown

Series: Vampire Royals

Books #6-8 are a part of the Shifter Royals Series

Author: Leigh Walker
# of Books: 9 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological but Connected
Complete?: No
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2018 – ongoing

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

So I actually picked up The Pageant (#1) because the cover drew me in when I was browsing audiobooks to borrow on my library’s Hoopla. The bold colours and the haunting background of the cover called to me every time I scrolled by. And once I read the synopsis, I thought it would be a great new audiobook series for me to read!

The Concept / The World:

I think the best way to describe this series is as the perfect hybrid baby between The Selection (girls competing for the prince’s love from different social classes) and Twilight (the vampires and werewolves). Basically, it’s all about human girls finding love with dangerous paranormal creatures who capture their hearts despite the many obstacles in their way.

The Reading Order:

In terms of Chronological Events, it’s best to read everything as it is listed on Goodreads for the Vampire Royals Series. The book number corresponds to the order of events.

But, not all the books follow the same heroine. Books #1-3 follow Gwen; Books #4-5 follow another girl from the competition; Books #6-8 follow another girl (and they are often grouped under the Shifter Royals Trilogy); Book #9 follows a third girl from the original competition of Books #1-3.

The Plot:

For Books #1-3, the overall feel is very much like the TV show The Bachelor — if you had teenagers competing for a vampire bachelor since that’s what the drama stays focused on. You have girls trash-talking each other; interfering parents and dates.

Yes, there is a subplot of the humans vs vampires but it really takes a backseat to the drama of Dallas finding a bride…at least I felt like that was the case for those 3 books–and I was OK with that. However, when I compare the “rebellion” subplot featured in The Selection Series, this one is much better executed.  In the Selection, I felt like the rebellion plotline came from nowhere but with this paranormal series, we get it in the right doses so that you never forget that it is actually happening outside the competition.

Books #4-5 have a different approach where they lack that reality competition aspect and I really missed that. I didn’t think the politics of the world and the rebellion were strong enough to carry the two books without the Bachelor-esque storyline.

Read my review of Books #6 to #8 here as a part of my review of the Shifter Royals Series!

The Characters:

If you take Katniss (The Hunger Games), America (The Selection) and Bella (Twilight) you’d probably get Gwen. She seems to have some of the best and worst traits of all these heroines–though she wasn’t the worst heroine I’ve endured. She was likeable in a lot of ways. She worries for her family and she knows how to play the royalty game. Of course, she is a little all over the place with her feelings for Dallas but given the nature of the competition, I can understand how she would be put in that position.

I liked a lot of the side characters (who end up being future leads) which is something I always enjoy in my book series. It’s great to see some characters redeem themselves…or get their just desserts.

The Romance:

It’s really cute and sweet. There isn’t much else to it besides attraction and some stolen moments, but I liked how the couples communicated with each other. These books are very clean in terms of sexual content (really, it’s a lot of hand-holding and kissing) so I find that refreshing in a paranormal read. Adult paranormal or supernatural series can get a little smutty (Black Dagger Brotherhood for example) so it was nice to read something that kept things PG.

My Audiobook Experience (Books #1-#3):

I really enjoyed the audiobooks! They were quick and addicting to listen to. It made it feel like I was watching a TV show. I could only find audiobooks for the first 3 novels, so I read the others that way though I would have loved to have continued with the audio versions.

The Shifter Royals Spin-Off:

Read my review of that series here!

Series Rating: 3/5

The Pageant 3/5 | The Gala 3/5 | The Finale 3/5 | The North 3/5 | The Siege 3/5 | Shifter Royals Series | The Rebel TBP

overall

If you are looking for an uncomplicated paranormal romance that reads more like a reality TV show, this is a fun series for you to pick up!

Read if You Like: vampires, love competitions
Avoid if You: want more action
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Series Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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 Inheritance Games (from Goodreads):

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

breakdown

Series: The Inheritance Games
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Despite a not so great experience with Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Raised by Wolves Series, I have enjoyed her other releases lately. This series sounded right up my alley and my coworker mentioned it to me as well. I love a good family mystery/thriller novel and this sounded like the perfect recipe for an exciting series.

The Concept / The World:

I kinda got Knives Out vibes from this series in some ways. The feeling you get from a house full of people you don’t know if you can trust, stuck together while a will is contested? It just sets the scene for a thrilling series.

The Plot:

I know I craved a lot of big twists in Book #1, The Inheritance Games, and while we get some great reveals, I also finished it feeling a little underwhelmed. I had to remind myself that this is a trilogy and that was only the first book. And it succeeds as the first book in a trilogy, setting the scene for even more chaos to come by introducing all the cast and their deadly secrets.

I definitely found Book #2, The Hawthorne Legacy, to be more of what I expected the first book to be. This book was constantly putting my off-kilter with reveals and drama. I stayed on the edge of my seat for that one!

The Characters:

Avery is a great heroine to follow. She’s strong, smart and independent but she also has a vulnerability to her that makes her an intriguing character to follow. I also find that characters that share a similar backstory tend to be very morose and Avery wasn’t like that at all. She wasn’t uber depressing to listen to, I appreciated her attitude towards everything. And the fact of the matter is, the games won’t let her do it alone so it was fun to watch her interact with the other characters.

The Hawthorne Brothers were a fun group. They’re all quirky and have such a great depth to their characters. It was fun to see their characters to evolve.

The Romance:

It isn’t a huge focus but it does add a suspenseful element to the plot at times. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of it but that remains to be seen.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed the audiobook productions. They were all super easy to listen to and follow along with.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I thought Book #2, The Hawthorne Legacy, would have ended on more of a cliffhanger honestly. There are still a ton of unanswered questions but nothing that made me go “give me the next book now!”

Series Rating: 4/5

The Inheritance Games 4/5 | The Hawthorne Legacy 4.5/5 | The Final Gambit TBP

overall

This is a suspenseful YA family mystery with lots of twists and turns, an eclectic cast of characters and a strong heroine who keeps you on your toes.

Read if You Like: family mysteries; riddles/scavenger hunts
Avoid if You: dislike mystery or suspense novels; dislike books with murder

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Fresh Fridays: Iron Widow (#1) by Xiran Jay Zhao

Fresh Fridays: Iron Widow (#1) by Xiran Jay Zhao

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:

Iron Widow Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Iron Widow (from Goodreads):

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav Reads 2022
Series: Iron Widow
Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, LGBTQ
Heat Rating: Warm *suggestive content*
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

So I first heard of this book in K A Linde’s author newsletter and was really intrigued by her brief review of it. When I read the synopsis I immediately thought this was something I needed to read ASAP! It seemed like it was going to be a blend of Mulan and Gundam SEED (the anime that got me into anime!) so I was really excited to dive in!

What I Liked:

–Gender in Society–

Before you even start the novel, the author has left a note stating “This book is not historical fantasy or alternate history, but a futuristic story set in an entirely different world inspired by cultural elements from across Chinese history”. And I think that is important to keep in mind that she is exploring various aspects of the female role in society throughout various points in history.

I think a lot of readers will draw allusions to Mulan when they read this because Mulan is a mainstream, popular culture story about Chinese Tradtions. Zetian’s story about joining the “army” and the expectation that girls need to serve their families by getting married is very similar to Mulan’s. It was fascinating to see Zetian say “why does being a girl stop me from doing this?” and then proceed to see that yes, she can do it and slowly release herself from the binds that have been placed on her for her whole life.

I enjoy books that challenge the way you think and I felt like this book did that a lot when it comes to societal norms. There have only been a few times in my life where I have felt like my sex has been used against me in a negative way. I couldn’t even fathom Zetian’s reality being a true reality but I know that there are many places in the world where girls are treated as second class citizens simply because they are girls.

–The Romance & Sexuality–

I don’t want to give too much away about the romance but all I’ll say is that it went the way I expected and wanted it to go and I can’t wait to see how it will go in the sequel!

I feel like you can’t talk about gender roles in society without bring sex and sexuality into it. And, again, I liked how we explored sexuality in a lot of different tones throughout the novel. From the male pilots using women sexually before fights, to females needing to be virginal, to the use of violating someone to control them and to queer relationships. There is a lot to unpack but I felt like this book hit the right balance in all respects.

–Zetian–

She’s an interesting heroine to follow and understand because she truly doesn’t understand herself. It was fascinating to watch her grow and evolve as the story progressed and she had obstacle after obstacle thrown at her.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Truly Understanding the Qi World–

I think this is mostly a “me” thing because I feel like things are explained well enough. I usually read this book just before bed, so sometimes I don’t remember the finer details of how things work. So I struggled keeping the moments of reality and fantasy straight sometimes or remembering how or why certain people could do certain tasks.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I have a lot of questions I want answered and I can’t wait to see how they are!

My Rating: 4.5/5

Iron Widow 4.5/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This book certainly lived up to the hype for me! I can’t wait to explore more of this fantastic world!

Read if You Like: fantasy novels, strong heroines
Avoid if You: dislike science fiction

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Series Review: Kingdom of the Wicked 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

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

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

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!

updates

–January 28, 2022– Book #2: Kingdom of the Cursed

This book definitely has a different feel from the first one. I found the suspense comes more from the sexual tension that is brimming between Emelia and Wrath…and trust me, I’m not complaining! Their hate to lust you vibes are great and filled with plenty of chemistry.

I found the middle of the book got a little stale for me. We kinda kept rehashing the same things over and over without any huge developments. But the last quarter picks the plot pack up and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next one.

My Rating: 4/5

Kingdom of the Wicked 4/5 | Kingdom of the Cursed 4/5 | 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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