Tag «Rating: 3.5/5»

Series Review: Boys of Oak Park Prep by Callie Rose

Series Review: Boys of Oak Park Prep by Callie Rose

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 Savage Royals (from Goodreads):

A long time ago, I was one of them. Now I’m back, and they hate me for it.

Plucked out of the harsh life I was living and thrust into a world of unimaginable wealth, power, and privilege, all I want to do is keep my head down and survive until graduation.

But they have other plans—Mason, Finn, Elias, and Cole.

Everyone at my new school calls them the Princes, and that’s exactly what they act like. They always get what they want… and who they want.

And they want me.

I’m not sure why, since they all seem to hate me.

The Princes are gorgeous, flawless, and cruel. They own this town, and they’re determined to own me too.

To break me.

What they don’t know is that I’ve already been broken once.

I won’t let it happen again.

breakdown

Series: Boys of Oak Park Prep
Author: Callie Rose
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Bully, Dark
Heat Rating: Warm *spicy YA*
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: May 2019 – July 2019
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

So I actually found out about this series from one of my favourite authors: Piper Lawson. She recommended this series as a binge-worthy KU read in her January 2020 Newsletter and I was intrigued.

High School Bully Romances seem to be all the rage again (remember Bully by Penelope Douglas years ago?) and I’ve tried out a few because I love enemies-to-lovers romances–but have had mixed results. But I love Piper’s writing style and we have similar reading tastes so I took her recommendation to heart and put them on my KU reading list.

The Concept:

If you don’t enjoy darker contemporary reads, I wouldn’t recommend you read this. I’ve definitely read more disturbing YA bully romances (like A Hurt so Sweet for example) than this is but it lives up to the title of “savage” to say the least.

The Plot:

This is definitely one of the better “high school bully” romances I’ve read. It wasn’t filled to the brim with overt shock factor moments but the events were dramatic enough to keep the stakes raised. I would have liked more of an overarching plot (maybe more hints about Talia’s mom’s past or even Talia’s childhood) but we get enough to drive the plot forward.

The third book lagged a bit for me, but the ending earned some bonus points from me.

The Characters:

Are layered! I really liked Taila as a lead. She’s a fighter and it takes a lot to bring her down. Unlike other heroines in the genre I’ve encountered, she actively seeks out her bullies and has a plan to stand her ground. She doesn’t cave in at the first sign of affection.

As for the “Princes”, they were quite the group. They kinda reminded me of The Raven Boys in how they interact with each other sometimes. I liked them and it was interesting to watch them evolve as the series progressed.

The Romance:

I always get a little scared when I see the words “reverse harem”. I immediately think about Zoey from The House of Night Series and how irritating her harem romances were. So I was pretty cautious about this when I started.

And I’m still a little on the fence about it. One positive is that it added an intriguing layer to the plotline that I haven’t encountered in this genre before. (Most of the time there is only one love interest, maybe one other rival). It put an interesting spin on it and I liked that it wasn’t the sole focus of the books either. But in the same breath, I wasn’t entirely convinced that she had romantic feelings for all of them either.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Savage Royals 4/5 | Defiant Princess 4/5 | Broken Empire
3/5

overall

I think a few aspects will turn off some readers like the sexual content around high schoolers and the reverse harem. But if you enjoy darker readers or are an avid fan of the high-school-bully-romance trope, then this is a quick series to binge.

Read if You Like: high-school-bully-romance trope
Avoid if You: dislike sex scenes in YA

similarreads

  • A Hurt So Sweet by Bettie Rosewood (Elite of Eden Falls Prep Series #1)
  • Paper Princess by Erin Watt (The Royals Series #1)
  • Secret Heir by M J Prince (Dynasty Series #1)

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Series Review: Retrieval by Aly Martinez

Series Review: Retrieval by Aly Martinez

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 Retrieval (from Goodreads):

One story. Two couples.

I proposed on our first date.
She laughed and told me I was insane. Less than a day later, she said yes.
It was a whirlwind, but we were happy…
Until we got greedy and wanted a family.

It was a life I couldn’t give her, not for lack of trying. Fertility just wasn’t on our side. We sought out doctors and treatments. Spent money we didn’t have. Lied to our families. Smiled for our friends. Put on a brave face for a world that didn’t understand.
Finally, we were successful…
Until we were forced to bury our son.

We were left broken, battered, and destroyed.
They say love is in the details, but it was the details that ruined us.

This is the story of how I took back what had always been mine.
The retrieval of my wife and our family.

breakdown

Series: Retrieval Duet
Author: Aly Martinez
# of Books: 2 (Series Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological Events
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Romance, Second Chance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: September 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook (#1); Kindle Unlimited (#2)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found Retrieval as a freebie from one of the book deal emails I subscribe to. What drew me into it was the fact that this couple struggled with fertility–a topic that isn’t always covered in romances (or at least the ones I read). It didn’t sound like your everyday second chance romance and I was excited to read it.

The Concept:

The following line from the synopsis is key:

One story. Two couples.

You’re not just getting Elisabeth and Roman’s story and it’s important to remember that. Everything gets clearer the further into the story you are.

The Plot:

The plot completely surprised me. It went in a direction I didn’t expect–and I loved the suspense that brought out! I’ll admit, it is a little confusing as the start, trying to figure out how it all connects; but like I said above, the further you read, the more it makes sense.

However, the dramatic moments are broken up by the romance and sometimes I felt like it stifled the movement of the plot. This was particularly the case in book #2 Transfer. The pacing was off a bit for me there and I got a little bored of the repetitive scenes.

The Characters:

All the characters are well developed and likeable. I was immediately drawn into their stories and histories. Because we hop around between the characters I was impressed by how fleshed out they were.

But, I do have a little rant for something Roman did in Retrieval:

Spoiler for Retrieval about Roman

When Roman goes to convince Clare that he is there to help her (knowing full well that she is likely abused by her husband), he forcefully grabs her. Why would you do that to a woman you know is abused? Do you think frightening her will bend her to your will? Why should she trust someone who does exactly what her husband does? This irked me to no end when it happened. He is a little too brash for my tastes.

[collapse]

The Romance:

Surprisingly, this isn’t as important as I expected it to be. The romances are great don’t get me wrong and they do their job to enhance the story when needed.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Retrieval 4/5 | Transfer 3/5

overall

This isn’t your everyday second chance romance. It has a suspense edge to it with some great twists that will suck you in!

Read if You Like: second chance romances, romantic suspense
Avoid if You: dislike suspense

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Fresh Fridays: Pretending Not to Love You (Hazel Pathway #1) by M S Larson

Fresh Fridays: Pretending Not to Love You (Hazel Pathway #1) by M S Larson

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:

Hazel Pathway Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Pretending Not to Love You (from Goodreads):

Raine
It’s my first day at a new high school and I inadvertently become one of the most popular girls at Glass Hill High. The girls want to be my best friend, and the guys want to date me. The only guy I have eyes for is Alex Williams, but he’s determined to set me up with his best friend and star wide receiver, Chase.

Alex
I’ve been spurned by my ex-girlfriend. She dated me to get to my best friend, Chase, who most of the girls are in love with at Glass Hill High. Now I’m gun shy about dating any girl because I’m afraid they’d just want me to get to Chase. Raine is no exception. When she claps eyes on him on the first day of school, she’s going to fall madly in love, so it’s better that I protect my heart. I’m going to hook Raine up with Chase and pretend that I’m happy for the both of them. Only the more time I spend with her, I can’t help but fall deeply in love with her. And the situation is affecting my relationship with everyone around me, including Raine and Chase.

Will Alex let go of his past and pursue Raine?

breakdown

Series: Hazel Pathway
Author: M S Larson
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, more books are planned
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you M S Larson!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was asked if I wanted to read and review Pretending Not to Love You I thought the premise was super charming. I’m a sucker for “forbidden” love in whatever form it comes in so the idea of falling for your BFF’s (maybe) girlfriend had me intrigued.

What I Liked:

–Instant Chemistry–

I enjoyed the tension between Raine and Alex because it was so obvious they had instant chemistry from the moment they met but neither was sure what to do about it. I could really see why these two would fall for each other.

–Positive Parental Relationships–

I find we don’t see a lot of positive parental influences in YA so it always notable for me when I came across that.

Both Alex and Raine talked to their parents about their problems and feelings. And their parents were in positive, healthy relationships as well.

–Girls Supporting Girls–

While Raine does have a rival of sorts in Mary I liked that they were never overly petty about it. And Raine was great about helping out other girls to find their inner confidence in themselves.

What I Didn’t Like:

–A Little Too Much Dialogue–

The flow seemed to be dampened for me because there seemed to be an excess amount of dialogue. Don’t get me wrong: it was great to see these two talk things out, but most of the chapters were dialogue. More inner monologues or summary paragraphs would help keep things moving smoothly I think.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I am really excited for the next book! I liked the little hints we got here about what could happen next.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Pretending Not to Love You 3.5/5 | Want You to Love Me TBP | Book 3 TBP | Book 4 TBP

overall

I think with a little more polish (which will come with writing more books) this would be a fantastic read. I’m excited to see what will happen next in this series!

Read if You Like: sweet romances, first loves
Avoid if You: want a darker story, want more angst

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Single Sundays: The Marriage Pact by Winter Renshaw

Single Sundays: The Marriage Pact by Winter Renshaw

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

Synopsis for The Marriage Pact (from Goodreads):

I was sixteen when I vowed I would never marry him.

We shook on it. Pinky swore. Even put it in writing and all but signed our names in blood.

It was the one and only thing we ever agreed on.

To the world, he’s Prince Julian, Duke of Montcroix, second in line to the Chamont throne. Panty-melting accent. Royal charm. Hypnotic presence. Blindingly gorgeous. Laundry list of women all over the world who would give their first born for the chance to marry him. Most eligible bachelor in the free world …

But to me, he’s nothing more than the son of my father’s best friend—the pesky blue-eyed boy who made it his mission to annoy the ever-loving hell out of me summer after summer as our families vacationed together, our parents oblivious to our mutual disdain as they joked about our “betrothal.”

He was also my first kiss.

And my first taste of heartbreak so cataclysmic it almost broke me.

I meant it with every fiber of my soul when I swore I’d never marry him.

But on the eve of my 24th birthday, His Royal Highness has the audacity to show up at my door after years of silence and make a demand will forever change the trajectory of our lives: “We have to break our pact.”

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Second Chance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: June 23, 2019
Source & Format: Hidden Gems–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was in a bit of a reading slump (3 2-star reads in a row) when I picked up this book. I can always count on Winter Renshaw to write a story that I will devour in one sitting; one that will get me into the excitement of reading again.

Despite a “no-ARC” sign up policy, I had to sign up for this one. I’m obsessed with anything Royal (and I’ve had great success with other modern royal contemporary romances lately) so that immediately had my attention. Then add to the fact that there might be an arranged marriage or something along those lines? So there!

The Concept:

While Julian is from a fictitious kingdom, there are enough allusions to current monarchies that you understand his motivations and such. Some people may not like current popular culture references in their novels but I thought it was really fitting here. 

The Plot:

If you are looking for a lighter, quick read that isn’t plagued by copious sex scenes this is a great book for you to pick up. If you get a little hung up on logistics or want something deeper character-wise? Maybe don’t pick this up (or go in with different expectations).

One of the things that really hooked me in was the allusion to their shared past and some “event” that transpired to stop their budding romance. I liked the suspense of the mystery–I was eager to figure out what caused these two to not speak for years. And while the actual reason was something I didn’t expect at all, I’m not really sure if it is feasible. That’s why I say you should go in and leave some logic behind because it’s one of those things that the more you think about it, the less likely it seems. 

The Characters:

I liked both of our leads a lot. The depth with go to with them works for the story and keeps things light. I always appreciate dual POV in romances and that’s what we get here. I liked Julian’s POV were a little shorter and more abrupt (in some ways). It added some mystery to his character and motivations but still gave you a taste of what he was thinking/feelings.

The Romance:

I thought these two were super cute together. I loved their “hate to love you” past but I wish we got to see more of it. Some flashbacks to show those moments when things changed when they were teenagers would have gone a long way in making their relationship stronger. Things move very quickly in their second chance romance and I think seeing that past would help satisfy the somewhat skeptic in me.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

If you want a lighter book that you can devour in one sitting that is entertaining and charming, this is a great read.

Read if You Like: royals, lighter romances
Avoid if You: get caught up in logistics/realistic plots
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Series Review: Roommates by Mara Jacobs

Series Review: Roommates by Mara Jacobs

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 In Too Deep (from Goodreads):

I didn’t believe in love at first sight, until I first saw Lucas Kade.

I was giving swimming lessons to children when I first saw him. Turns out one of the kids was Lucas’s little brother. So, I’d be seeing a lot more of Lucas. And that was just fine with me.

I had a lot going on—a freshman at an elite college, first time away from home, and, oh yeah, roommates with a girl I’d been sent to spy on. I wasn’t exactly looking for anything exclusive. Something casual, though, would be great.

But there was nothing casual about my feelings for Lucas.

He was a townie, hiding a secret, and I knew better than to get involved. I was always the sensible one, the peacekeeper.

Before I knew it…I was In Too Deep.

breakdown

Series: Roommates Trilogy
Author: Mara Jacobs
# of Books: 3 (In Too Deep, In Too Fast, In Too Hard)
Book Order: Connected (almost take place concurrently)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: Warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: July 2014 – March 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not sure how this series crossed my radar. I think In Too Deep shows up as a freebie from time to time and that’s how I learned about it (though I bought it so who knows?). It might have also been a recommended read when I first started my New Adult Romance addiction in 2014. Anyways, I bought copies of the first two books years ago and finally read them as a part of my #ShelfLove 2017 Challenge and followed up with the final book for my 52 Sequel Challenge for 2018.

Anyways, I’m all for secrets and drama and this series looked like it would deliver.

The Plot:

While In Too Deep focuses on a love at first sight relationship, I actually didn’t mind it. For once, this trope was used as an actual plot device in a positive way. Meaning, it worked for the type of story the author wanted to tell. But this book was also surprisingly self-aware. These two knew their feelings were too much, too fast and they actually acknowledged it. Unfortunately, it is a little cliche at times but it was still super enjoyable.

I adored In Too Fast though. I almost wonder if the titles for the first two books should be switched because it seems more accurate for this awesome story. I love the enemies to lovers trope and I knew this was going to be a good one as soon as I met these two in the first book. But this one also had a unique plot and two fabulous leads to carry it–I enjoyed it immensely!

And after such an awesome sequel, perhaps I set my expectations a little too high for the final novel. While I enjoyed the leads and saw how well they worked together, I found the plot was a little repetitive at times and that certain plot devices weren’t used to the best of their abilities.

The Characters:

I liked that these characters seemed to be their own. They each had unique personalities and histories so it made me eager to see all their stories unfold in the other novels.

I do have to say though that I wasn’t a fan of the hero’s POV in In Too Hard; mainly the writing style. They just didn’t sound like him–almost like I was reading the heroine again so it didn’t have a very distinct voice.

The Romance:

It’s passionate and lusty but they also have great connections. You can see why each pair would be drawn to each other, even if things move faster than I like. And if you don’t like copious amounts of sexy times in your books, this series is pretty mild about those steamier moments.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

In Too Deep 3/5 | In Too Fast 5/5 | In Too Hard 3/5

overall

These aren’t mind blowing romances by any means but they are a fresh set of stories that have unique elements,  solid characters and charming romances.

Read if You Like: New Adult, romances, more sweet than sexy
Avoid if You: want more steam, want deeper stories/characters

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Single Sundays: Ask Me Anything by Molly E Lee

Single Sundays: Ask Me Anything by Molly E Lee

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

Synopsis for Ask Me Anything (from Goodreads):

I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

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

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

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

Ask me anything…except how to make things right.

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

The Concept / The World:

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

The Characters:

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

The Romance:

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

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

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

Read if You Like: coming of age, contemporaries
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary
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Blog Tour: Boyfriend Bargain by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Synopsis for Boyfriend Bargain (from Goodreads):
Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills returns with an all-new swoon-fest of a novel about what happens when you take a chance on love.

Wanted: one hot guy with rock-hard abs and a big stick.

Broke and desperate, Sugar Ryan has no use for arrogant, bad boy athletes . . . until she’s forced to bargain with the cockiest of them all.

If only he knew she was alive.

Her mission? Get on this hockey player’s radar any way possible.

Zack Morgan is the king of the ice and the bedroom—but nothing prepares him for the mystery girl who shows up everywhere he does—frat parties, his favorite bar, and finally his front door with an offer he can’t refuse. The only rule in her boyfriend bargain: no falling in love.

But after one (um, two) smoking-hot hookups, he’s done with pretending and vows to make their fake relationship real. Too bad she can’t trust a player with a reputation for breaking hearts.

Will this hockey star score his forever girl or will their Boyfriend Bargain end in heartbreak?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Series: TBD
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Hockey
# of Books: 2
Book Order: Connected
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 5, 2019 – ongoing
Source & Format: Social Butterfly PR–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m always eager for a new Ilsa Madden-Mills New Adult read but when I saw that her newest book featured two of my favourite tropes–hockey player and a fake relationship premise–I knew that this was going to be a read-ASAP type of book.

The Plot:

I thought that this book would be a little lighter than it was but I liked the tone it had. Both of our leads have their own struggles and I enjoyed watching them deal with them as they navigated their budding feelings.

In particular, I really appreciated and admired Zack’s mental health storyline. Anxiety in sports (not simply the pressure of doing the sport but how one’s personal mental health affects their playing) isn’t something I’ve really come across in the genre before. I loved how it was dealt with here and how it was one of the main focuses and not something mentioned in passing.

The Characters:

Like I said before, Zack and Sugar have their own issues which make them layered characters. I thought Zack had the strongest character story but Sugar definitely evolves as well throughout the story. It was great to see her come outside her comfort zone.

The Romance:

For me, I didn’t see the chemistry between these two right away. Zack borders on some insta-love I thought in the first bit and I wasn’t entirely convinced why. But by the mid-way point we watch them talk and share a little more so it helped me to see why they were a good pair. This is one of those times where the various dramatic stressors they undergo helped to cement why they work as partners.

Why I’m SO EXCITED There is a Sequel:

I LOVED some of the various side characters we met and there was an inkling of something between two particular characters that I can’t wait to get the full story on!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Boyfriend Bargain 3.5/5 | Book 2 TBR
overall
This is a solid contemporary romance and one that has a refreshing take on the genre!

Read if You Like: sports romances, new adult
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romance

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Ilsa Madden-Mills

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills writes about strong heroines and sexy alpha males that sometimes you just want to slap.

She’s addicted to dystopian books and all things fantasy, including unicorns and sword-wielding females. Other fascinations include frothy coffee beverages, dark chocolate, Instagram, Ian Somerhalder (seriously hot), astronomy (she’s a Gemini), and tattoos.

She has a degree in English and a Master’s in Education.

When she’s not pecking away on her computer, she shops for cool magnets and paints old furniture.

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

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon

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Fresh Fridays: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Fresh Fridays: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

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:

Rule Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Rule (from Goodreads):

Three Dark Crowns meets Pretty Little Liars in this sensational and striking new fantasy from debut author Ellen Goodlett.

Three girls. Three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.

The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos.

Or rather, three unexpected options.

Zofi has spent her entire life trekking through the outer Reaches with her band of Travelers. She would do anything to protect the band, her family. But no one can ever find out how far she’s already gone.

Akeylah was raised in the Eastern Reach, surrounded by whispers of rebellion and abused by her father. Desperate to escape, she makes a decision that threatens the whole kingdom.

Ren grew up in Kolonya, serving as a lady’s maid and scheming her way out of the servants’ chambers. But one such plot could get her hung for treason if anyone ever discovers what she’s done.

When the king summons the girls, they arrive expecting arrest or even execution. Instead they learn the truth: they are his illegitimate daughters, and one must become his new heir. But someone in Kolonya knows their secrets, and that someone will stop at nothing to keep the sisters from their destiny… to rule.

Magic, mystery, and blackmail abound in the first book of this sensational and striking fantasy duology.

breakdown

Series: Rule
Author: Ellen Goodlet
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Rise, to be released June 2019
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Magic, Politics
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: September 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I won’t lie, it was the cover that drew me into this read. I was browsing my library’s new additions when I scrolled across this one. I actually checked out the hardcover from my library but never got around to it. But the premise was promising. I love the drama and secrets of Pretty Little Liars (well, the TV show at least; I never read the books) and Three Dark Crowns won me over with its sequel so I was optomistic I would enjoy this one.

What I Liked:

–Multiple POVs–

I love books that follow multiple characters. I find it gives the novel a 360-degree view of everything that is happening and keeps the story moving. Even if you don’t enjoy one POV, at least you have some others to look forward to.

–Diverse Cast–

When books mimic real life (especially by highlighting prejudices and the like) I’m always invested. This book has quite the group of characters. All the girls come from different family styles, races and castes (travelers, maids, etc). You’ve also got characters that are LGBTQ (in a very normalised, not token kind of way). So in that respect, I truly found this book to deliever on diversity without it feeling like it was simply checking all the marks off.

–The Magic–

I liked how straight-forward the tithe system seemed to be. Not only is everything magic-wise easily explained but it also has limitations. One of my biggest peeves about magic is the almost unlimited power it can have but the magic here makes sense.

–The Blackmail–

I think this is where the Pretty Little Liars comparisons come in because there is someone taunting these girls with their secrets. And the secrets are pretty juicy–and contribute to the plot in a rather strong way. These aren’t petty “I know about your secret relationship” type of secrets; they run much deeper (and more complex) than that.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It Seems Needlessly Drawn Out–

Perhaps starting this book the week I was working nights wasn’t the best idea–my concentration is pretty crappy. However, I found the chapters used a lot of words to deliver very little in the grand scheme of things. I would get lost in text at times. But I will say that each chapter ended in a way that had me eager for the next one so I was a fan of that.

–Blending of the Characters–

While I praised this book for its diversity earlier on, sometimes I couldn’t tell Zofi apart from Ren from Akeylah. The “problem” is the third person narration. It isn’t very personal as it lacks the depths a first person POV can provide (ie the inner character monologue). As a result, I often had to reread the synopsis just to remember that Zofi was from “A” and her secret was “B” so I wouldn’t get the girls mixed up.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really started to enjoy how the various plots were starting to weave together so I am very curious to see how everything with wrap up (or unravel) in the finale.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Rule 3.5/5 | Rise TBP

overall

While nothing immediately stands out about this fantasy novel, fans of the genre will enjoy this solid and diverse story.

Read if You Like: multiple POV, wordy stories
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Series Review: Beta Brothers by Hazel Kelly

Series Review: Beta Brothers by Hazel Kelly

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 Friends with Benefits (from Goodreads):

Carter’s been crazy about Nina since the first time he saw her emerald eyes, but his fratastic reputation landed him in the friend zone before he even had a chance to say, “How you doin’?”

So when Nina suggests they become friends with benefits, he can’t believe his luck.

After all, once he’s gotten in her pants, winning her heart should be easy… right?

breakdown

Series: Beta Brothers
Author: Hazel Kelly
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, Book #4 to be released July 2019
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: June 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Disclaimer: I have not read the first book in the series, My Best Friend’s Ex (#1). This is only a review of Friends with Benefits (#2). I’ve also updated this review to include my thoughts on Book #3, Professor with Benefits.

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for a friends with benefits type of situation in books. The main reason is the palpable sexual tension because love is almost always inevitable. So while I hadn’t read the first book in the series, when Hazel asked me to read Friends with Benefits (which you can totally read as a standalone!) I leapt at the chance!

The Plot:

For the most part, the plot focuses on these two fighting their feelings for each other while keeping their relationship secret from their friends. We don’t delve too deep into their character stories or backgrounds, which does give this story a lighter feel to it. With the exception of one particular scene, we shy away from the petty and over the top drama that often accompanies these books so I found that to be rather refreshing.

The Characters:

It took me a few chapters to get used to our leads. They’re a little on the quirkier side of things so the humour wasn’t overly apparent to me (but I struggle with comedy in novels I read vs listen to). But once I got a feel for them, I started to enjoy their comments and styles. They do make for a fun pair to follow.

I also thought they lacked some maturity at the start of the novel but they matured as the story (and their relationship) progressed which made me happy.

As I said above, the character development could have been stronger by elaborating more on their backstories. However, I think the primary goal of this novel is to focus on the lighter side of love and looking to the future so I didn’t mind. I saw growth in their maturity and that worked for me.

The Romance:

These two have great chemistry from the start. I liked the fact that it was Nina who set all the rules for the relationship and not Carter (like it often is in books). It was nice to get that reversal on the usual approach to this trope.

updates

–June 20, 2019– Book #3: Professor with Benefits

**DNF’d at 16% (Start of Chapter 11)**

This one just wasn’t for me. I struggle with quirky characters and the comedy they produce in books and this is one of those prime examples where I am just not feeling it. These two are a little odd–which is great–but it was off-putting instead of charming for me.

In turn, that caused me to not feel the chemistry and tension between them. And that’s what I crave in a forbidden romance! I want the heat and sexiness to be overflowing…and that wasn’t happening. Things felt a little forced and perhaps a little rushed as well.

It was the line: “Your legs look wow in that skirt” that sealed the DNF deal for me. Nothing sexy or charming about that.

Series Rating: DNF

My Best Friend’s Ex N/A | Friends with Benefits 3.5/5 | Professor with Benefits DNF

overall

Once I got a feel for the story and characters, I enjoyed this lighter rom-com and it was the perfect way to de-stress after a long day at work!

Read if You Like: lighter romances, quirky characters
Avoid if You: want deeper backstories

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Series Review: The Cage by Megan Shepherd

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 Cage (from Goodreads):

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures, all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer appears—a handsome young guard called Cassian—they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

breakdown

Series: The Cage
Author: Megan Shepherd
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella (#0.5) called The Caretaker

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2015 – May 2017
Source & Format: ARC Paperback (The Cage); Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I actually got a paperback copy of the ARC of The Cage from Lola @ Hit Or Miss Books as a part of her giveaway three years ago. I loved the concept so I was very interested in reading it but never managed to actually get to it. Which is why I picked it as a 5 Year 5 Book Challenge 2018 pick for the year 2015; especially since the series was now complete!

The Concept / The World:

I love stories where an unlikely group of people find themselves together in a dire situation. Will they band together or will they tear each other apart? Will their secrets be exposed? It just adds to the suspense of the novel and keeps you wondering what will happen next.

When it comes to The Cage (#1), this was one of those books where I loved the concept more than the actual execution. The overall idea of why these characters find themselves in this weirdly crafted world kept my attention but the stuff in between (like romance) caused it to wane. This definitely changed in the sequel novels where I found the attention stayed on the overall plot (ie why they have been captured by the alien species and what they are going to do about it).

As for the world itself, it’s easy to grasp and definitely intriguing in its own way.

The Plot:

The plot of The Cage was very slow for me. I found the mystery of why these 6 were being kept in a cage pushed me to keep reading. But at the same time, I thought some of the other elements were repetitive. Cora in particular seems to cycle through the same plot line (attempt escape, talk to the Caretaker, repeat) and she is the character we follow for a majority of the novel. The other characters get their own POVs which was a refreshing change; however, we know all the other characters secrets early on so their POVs weren’t overly enthralling. There are some good twists near the end though.

And I thought the sequels did a good job of building on that momentum at the end of the first book. The narrative of the novels shifts away from the romances and the petty stuff and instead hones in on the bigger plot of the story: saving humanity. I really enjoyed the pacing of The Hunt and the various twists we got along the way. The Gauntlet has the same great pacing; my only reason for a slightly lower rating is my dislike of some of the plot resolutions (or at least how they are resolved).

The Characters:

I really struggled to like the characters in The Cage (#1). They all seemed a little bland to me. I wasn’t a Cora fan in the slightest though I understood her desire to escape. But I never really got the logic behind the other characters’ motivations (except Rolf) and actions. We also don’t spend a lot of time getting to know them because Cora’s chapters outweigh them, so I never really grew attached.

So in the sequel novels I found them to be the right pieces to move the story forward but I never really “connected” to any of them.

The Romance:

I did NOT see the attraction between Cassian and Cora whatsoever. Well, I guess I get Cassian’s fascination in a way but not Cora’s. The love triangle that ensues is painful to watch. Thankfully it gets toned down in the sequel novels so it isn’t a huge part of the plot moving forward.

The rest of the romances served their purposes. There was one couple in particular I was rooting to see happen so I liked that.

My Audiobook Experience (The Hunt [#2] & The Gauntlet [#3]):

I LOVED the audio version–it almost makes me wish I read the first book as an audio. The narrator does a great job giving everyone a unique voice with unique tones and accents. It was just a blast to listen to!

When to Read the Novella, The Caretaker?

I read it after I completed the series mostly because I forgot it existed 😛 You can read it for free here and I would definitely read it AFTER you’ve read The Cage because it definitely gives away some of the plot twists (plus, it’ll will give you more context if you already know the scenes).

concSLOW

Series Rating: 3.5/5

The Cage 3/5| The Hunt 4/5 | The Gauntlet 3.5/5

overall

Despite a really rough start with The Cage, I truly to end up enjoying this series. Once we move away from the petty character moments, we do get an intriguing and unique fast-paced story about humanity’s survival in the later two sequels.

Read if You Like: dystopian science fiction, romance
Avoid if You: need fast paced plot ASAP

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