Tag «Rating: 3/5»

Series Review: Jessica by Beth Fantaskey

Series Review: Jessica by Beth Fantaskey

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 Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (from Goodreads):

The undead can really screw up your senior year …

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancé. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

breakdown

Series: Jessica
Author: Beth Fantaskey
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Vampires, Romance, Paranormal
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating (#1); Multiple (#2)
Publication Dates: February 2009 – October 2011
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Before I went to university many years ago, the only way I could get “new” books was by borrowing them from friends; getting them as gifts or buying them myself. My public library wasn’t that great (they had limited funding back then) so I often bought books that I saw on Indigo (the Barnes and Noble of Canada) that interested me. Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side was one of them.

I always think fondly of this book when I think back to it years later. I thought it was such an interesting take on the world of vampires and YA romance. I remember reading the extended epilogue online shortly afterwards and hoping there would be a sequel. I hadn’t discovered Goodreads yet and so it took me a few years to discover that there actually was a published sequel but I never got around to reading it.

The Jessica Series has sat at the top of my “Series Tracking” worksheet for a very long time; but when I saw that my library now had the audiobooks, I knew I found my next series to binge. I reread Book #1 and then immediately started Book #2.

The Concept / The World:

There are no sparkly vampires here! Lucius lives up to the stereotypical Romanian vampire which is part of his charm as he is thrust into midwestern America. It’s fun to get his take on American customs and culture when he writes back to his uncle. I liked that this book didn’t shy away from the traditional, darker side of vampires but it still had its own unique take.

The Plot:

In Book #1, I struggled a bit with the pacing of the plot. While I enjoyed watching Jessica and Lucius dance around each other and their feelings for a length of time, it makes things seem a bit rushed at the end. It’s almost like the “on” switch is suddenly flicked on given how things progress. Which is weird to say when we do take our time to get there; but the shift in the plot isn’t really that gradual. Especially when I look back at what the synopsis says is to happen in the book. There was just a slight disconnect.

One thing that really surprised me with this series is that it isn’t overly fluffy or melodramatic. Despite the fact that it includes vampires, it’s rather grounded in its approach. Becoming a new vampire and embracing your heritage perfectly mirrors the teenage coming of age experience. And that is reflected in the snippets of the “Growing Up Undead” guide Jessica receives in book #1.

I struggled a bit with the vibes of Book #2, Jessica Rules the Dark Side. I don’t want to give much away but I felt like some of that spark of what made the first book so great was missing. It almost feels like the opposite of the first book: the suspense overtakes the romance. It’s a nice way to wrap things up but there were parts (like the new POV) that either should have been the main focus of the book or just completely omitted I think to balance out the story better.

The Characters:

As I said above, part of Lucius’ charm is listening to his takes on American culture. I loved his dry humour and wit. He just makes me laugh.

I really liked Jessica’s growth throughout the series. I was never annoyed with her which is always a bonus. She’s relatable yet not in the cliché way that some heroines are (you know, where the author tries to make the heroine “relatable” all the while they are some “special snowflake”). She’s not always confident in herself and she makes some mistakes along the way, but she has this inner strength and loyalty that really starts to shine and come through as the stories progress. It was great to watch her character evolve.

The Romance:

I love a good slow burn romance and sometimes we don’t always get that in YA (where things can be hot and heavy rather quickly). I liked how these two really got to know each other and learned to compromise in order to be true partners. They have great chemistry, even if I think that chemistry got a little lost in the last quarter of Book #1 when the plotline thickens.

My Audiobook Experience:

I own the paperback of the first novel but when I reread the first book again, I went with the audiobook (and did again for the sequel). SO MUCH FUN! It was great to have these characters brought to life with the accents and I honestly think I got more of the humour and wit by listening to the audiobooks.

Series Rating: 3/5

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side 3/5 | Jessica Rules the Dark Side 3/5

overall

A great blend of humour and heartwarming moments, this series is a fresh take on teenaged vampire romances!

Read if You Like: vampires, YA, romance, character driven stories
Avoid if You: YA, paranormal stories

similarreads

  • Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz (Blue Bloods Series #1)
  • Evernight by Claudia Gray (Evernight Series #1)
  • The Dark Divine by Bree Despain (The Dark Divine Series #1)
  • Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Tantalize Series #1)
  • Nevermore by Kelly Creagh (Nevermore Series #1)

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Spin-off Saturdays: The Renaldis by Karen Erickson

Spin-off Saturdays: The Renaldis by Karen Erickson

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

The Renaldis Series is a spin-off of the Worth It Series

breakdown

Series: The Renaldis

This is a spinoff of the Worth It Series.

Author: Karen Erickson (aka Monica Murphy)
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Temporary Arrangement

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: July 2013 – July 2014
Source & Format: Own—eBook

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

When Anastasia’s true paternity is revealed in the Worth It Series, we get introduced to a different side of The Renaldis Family. I was really excited to learn more about this family when I finished the inaugural series — I even pre-ordered the first book! But life got in the way and unfortunately, I never managed to read the series until years later when the finer details of the Worth It Series were forgotten.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Has the Family Drama–

Just like its predecessor, The Renaldis Series packs in lots of family drama along the way. While I found that the siblings weren’t as involved in each story as the Worth brothers were in their series, you still have family members meddling (or helping) along the way to fuel the drama. I did miss the more overarching plot that the previous series had (drama with the family business); the drama in this series is more about the emotional obstacles stopping these couples from being together. But the drama we do get is definitely melodramatic.

–Passionate, Forbidden Romances–

Things move quickly in all these books (maybe a little too quickly sometimes) but there is definitely chemistry with all the romantic pairs–even if they are quick to deny it themselves. I would have liked to have seen things worked out a little more, but melodramatics is the goal here and that is certainly achieved with the romances.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Kidnapping His Bride–

I had really mixed feelings about Book #2, Kidnapping His Bride. I love reading about arranged matches in modern romances; it’s an interesting dynamic to explore. But I really struggled with Rafe’s approach to his “promised to Cat since they were children” dilemma.

He claims Cat has been the only one for him yet he slept around with other girls despite knowing their arrangement. Then he gets upset when she wants to break it off because she didn’t think it was a serious arrangement…just like he did. It’s hypocritical and I don’t like that trait in an alpha male. His approach is something that would work more in a historical romance when society was different, but it just felt icky in a modern romance. I almost stopped reading it when that was brought up early on in the book.

Series Rating: 3/5

[Temporary Arrangement 4/5 ] | Tempted by Her Boss 4/5 | Kidnapping His Bride 2/5 | Falling for Her Husband 3/5

overall

If you want some quick, passionate romances these fit the bill. But if you want deeper romantic connections, look elsewhere. I think my reading tastes have evolved since I read the inaugural series and I think I would have enjoyed these more if I read them closer together.

Read if You Like: quick reads, soap operas
Avoid if You: dislike melodramatics

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Tempted by Her Boss (from Goodreads):

Paige Stewart has committed the ultimate nanny sin—she’s fallen in love with her boss. She adores Matteo Renaldi’s sweet, precocious son. Who wouldn’t? But it’s torture going about her day-to-day tasks, catching fleeting glimpses of the boy’s enigmatic father. Chastising herself for fantasizing she’s in the Renaldi master bed…

It’s ridiculous, pointless. After all, soon little Matty won’t need her anymore and she’ll move on.

Matteo has no interest in dating. He’s consumed by work, his son…and his son’s nanny. She’s everything he’s not: young, carefree, trusting, maybe a little naïve. She deserves better than an embittered widower. Yet when she accidentally falls into his arms, he can’t resist drawing her in for a kiss that quickly spirals out of control.

As they travel to his family’s home in Italy and slowly fall in love, the whispers start. And when one particularly ugly story blows up in their faces, their reputations might escape unscathed, but their hearts may not…

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Fresh Fridays: House of Dragons (Royal Houses #1) by K A Linde

Fresh Fridays: House of Dragons (Royal Houses #1) by K A Linde

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:

Royal Houses Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for House of Dragons (from Goodreads):

Ten years ago, half-Fae, half human Kerrigan Argon was discreetly dropped off onto the steps of Draco Mountain with nothing but a note. Her life changes completely as she’s swept into the care of the House of Dragons—an elite training program for gifted Fae.

On the year of her seventeenth name day, each student will be chosen by one of the twelve tribes of Alandria to enter society.

Everyone is chosen, except Kerrigan.

So, she strikes a bargain with the Dragon Society: convince a tribe to select her or give up her birthright forever.

With the unlikeliest of allies—Fordham Ollivier, the cursed Fae prince, who escaped his dark throne—she has to chart her own destiny to reshape the world.

breakdown

Series: Royal Houses

I think it is set in the same universe as the Ascension Series

Author: K A Linde
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, House of Shadows, is to be released October 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Dragons, Romance, Action
Heat Rating: Cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: October 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

K A Linde has published a number of books in the last few years and I mostly read her contemporary romances. But I really liked her Blood Type Series which was a New Adult Paranormal series with vampires, so I was curious to see what she would do with a YA series about dragons.

What I Liked:

–Intriguing World–

I was really captivated by the world this story takes place in. I found the hierarchy of society to be very interesting and complex. The idea of a boarding school that trains people to fight so that they can be recruited by elite families is something you don’t often read about. There’s a lot of potential for political intrigue and deceptions as people grapple for power and control.

I’m also a sucker for Fae stories so the blending of dragons and fae together was a fun take.

–Lots of Players but Easy to Follow–

I love stories with multiple characters so having the large cast here was great for me. It just adds layers to the story and keeps the plot moving. Because when Kerrigan’s plot line ran a little dry, I found some of the side stories kept me pushing forward.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Plot Twists Were Underwhelming–

I sometimes felt like the big reveals just didn’t have the impact that they should. It wasn’t that this story was overly predictable or anything. I guess it was just that the reveals when they happened just didn’t have enough shock to make me go WOW. More like, “oh, yeah, makes sense”. Which is a shame because K A Linde has really thrown me for a loop with some of the twists in the other series I’ve read by her in the past.

–Kerrigan is ‘Meh’–

If you think Kerrigan is going to be a jaded, special snowflake of a heroine, you would be correct. She never wowed me and I found her to be a little boring with her “whoa is me” attitude. I get it, she’s an angsty 17 year old teenage with a complicated past but I didn’t bond with her as much as I would have liked. I like badass heroines and she has her moments but I didn’t become an instant fan. I’m optimistic that as this series progresses, so will her character.

My Audiobook Experience:

I get a little worried when there are multiple characters to follow when I pick up an audiobook because I have a terrible memory and it is so easy to get lost. But this book was really easy to keep up with! It had a very good flow to it.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m really intrigued by this world and that’s what I am looking forward to exploring more in the next book.

My Rating: 3/5

House of Dragons 3/5 | House of Shadows TBP

overall

First books in fantasy series have a lot of responsibility to lay down the foundation for the future and I think this one succeeded in doing that. There’ a lot of potential here to bring things to the next level and knowing how K A Linde does that in her contemporary series, I think she can do that here as well.

Read if You Like: YA fantasy, world-building, magic
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike YA fantasy

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Single Sundays: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Single Sundays: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

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

Synopsis for Romanov (from Goodreads):

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are to either release the spell and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

breakdown

Author: Nadine Brandes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Romance, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

As someone who claims to love Imperial Russian History as much as I do, I really don’t know much about Anastasia Nikolaevna. I think most people know the gist of her family’s history and their subsequent exile. But I like books that explore alternate histories and play the “what-if” game so this was something I was eager to read!

The Concept / The World:

It’s hard to write a story–reimagining or not–that is based on history. I mean, most of us know how Anastasia’s (Nastya) story ends so it can be hard to surprise a reader. But at the same time, a good story teller should be able to weave together the historical moments we already know and give you a new perspective on it.

Here, that perspective is the idea that Nastya had magic. And I think that both helps and hurts the story at the same time. Could you have omitted it and still had a story? Probably.

The Plot:

Like I said above, you kinda already know how things are going to go for the Romanovs. This is a survival story and that can make it very depressing at times. As someone who loves the glitz of Imperial Russia, it was a good reminder for me that things weren’t always so opulent and a lot of people suffered during this time period.

But the pacing of the plot was just off for me and I found my mind wandering. Maybe if I knew more about Anastasia’s history, certain scenes would have popped out for me more.

The Characters:

One of my favourite aspects of this story is the Romanov family. The heart of this novel is about a family trying to survive while still being a family. Yes, they had incredible power and control, but when they lose it all, they are just a family. Their bonds and their sacrifices were heartwarming and heart-wrenching to watch unfold.

I also liked that things weren’t always black and white with some of our character interactions. There’s a lot of lessons about getting to know a person before you pass judgement and learning to forgive others for their past actions.

The Romance:

I think I’m in the minority for this one but I didn’t love the romance. I can appreciate the slow burn and the challenges they face but I was never fully convinced it was an amazing connection. Or maybe that is the point of it: that love can come from unlikely places and surprise you.

My Audiobook Experience:

It’s quite a lengthy audiobook and even though I listen to books at a faster playback speed, it did feel slow to me. Maybe that affected my overall feelings for the book. Though I think if I read it as an eBook/book, I might have put it down…

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This one just didn’t do much for me. I think fans of the Anastasia story and who know the history might get more out of this magic spin to her story.

Read if You Like: Imperial Russia, historical retellings, magic
Avoid if You: dislike survival or depressing stories

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Series Review: The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A Nielsen

Series Review: The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A Nielsen

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 Traitor’s Game (from Goodreads):

Nothing is as it seems in the kingdom of Antora. Kestra Dallisor has spent three years in exile in the Lava Fields, but that won’t stop her from being drawn back into her father’s palace politics. He’s the right hand man of the cruel king, Lord Endrick, which makes Kestra a valuable bargaining chip.

A group of rebels knows this all too well – and they snatch Kestra from her carriage as she reluctantly travels home. The kidnappers want her to retrieve the lost Olden Blade, the only object that can destroy the immortal king, but Kestra is not the obedient captive they expected.

Simon, one of her kidnappers, will have his hands full as Kestra tries to foil their plot, by force, cunning, or any means necessary. As motives shift and secrets emerge, both will have to decide what – and who – it is they’re fighting for.

breakdown

Series: The Traitor’s Game
Author: Jennifer A Nielson
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: February 2018 – March 2020
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This was a series I stumbled upon at the library when browsing audiobook titles. I loved the cover and once I read the synopsis (and saw that my library had all the audiobooks in the series), I put myself on the holds list. I love a good fantasy novel and this one seemed to be a solid blend of stories I had liked in the past yet had its own flare to it.

The Concept / The World:

The idea of magic is a touchy thing for me because it isn’t always the most logical (or can quickly have “exceptions” when it needs to) but I didn’t mind it here. There was a system to the magic and how it was used that I appreciated.

I also enjoyed how rich this was in the politics. I think there might have been a few too many groups involved to keep it all straight (it was hard as I was listening to the audiobook, trying to remember all the details as I read the books a few weeks apart).

The Plot:

Book 1, The Traitor’s Game, started like any other book in the genre. It seemed to follow the same generic formula and I found my mind starting to wander and not absorb as many details as I should have. And that is a real shame because there are some great twists near the end of that first book that were exciting and fresh.

That freshness continues on throughout the rest of the series. I loved the evolution of the plot. There are a lot of players involved and lots of aspects that contribute to the narrative. One thing that really impressed me was that nothing ever felt like “filler” content in the 2nd and 3rd books.

However, I do think the romance overshadowed a lot of stuff and because it was lacklustre for me, it dampened the reading experience quite a bit.

The Characters:

I’m going to admit that people started to blend together a bit for me. I blame the audiobook on that one and my crappy memory at trying to keep characters straight.

There are a lot of players in this game and they all do their job well.

The Romance:

I didn’t really feel Simon and Kestra as a romantic pair. I’m not really sure why because they have all the makings of a cute couple. I think it was just that there was a massive focus on their romance and how it drove so many of their decisions that just irritated me a bit. I never really felt invested in it like I should have been.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobook production itself is great. I just think as someone who has a crappy memory that this wasn’t the best format for trying to keep everything/one straight and clear.

concSLOW

Series Rating: 3/5

The Traitor’s Game 3/5 | The Deceiver’s Heart 3/5 | The Warrior’s Curse 3/5

overall

I think those who are on a high fantasy kick who will enjoy this. You have to give it some time to find its own footing but once it does, I think you’ll be impressed with its trajectory.

Read if You Like: high fantasy, politics, slow building stories
Avoid if You: dislike romance-focused stories

similarreads

  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (Snow Like Ashes Series #1)
  • The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty (The Traitor’s Circle Series #1)
  • Dance of Thieves by Mary E Pearson (Dance of Thieves Series #1)

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Series Review: Sexy Jerk World by Kim Karr

Series Review:  Sexy Jerk World by Kim Karr

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 Sexy Jerk (from Goodreads):

My best friend is married.
Everyone I know is married. It doesn’t bother me. I like my life the way it is.

Since I’m single though, when my best friend and her husband finally decide to go on their dream honeymoon, she asks me to watch their three-year-old son.

Of course I say yes.

What my best friend neglects to tell me is that I won’t be babysitting alone.

Feeling Max might be too much for me to handle, her husband asks his only single friend to help.

Nick Carrington and I have met a couple of dozen times. I’ve never really given him a second thought—other than to say he’s kind of a jerk. Out loud. So he can hear. Sure, he’s tall, dark, and handsome. And yes, he has the best ass I’ve ever seen, and I mean ever seen quite literally. You see he mooned me at last year’s Fourth of July barbecue because, like I said, he’s a jerk.

He always has to be the life of the party.
He’s also arrogant.
Imposing.
Rich.
And a playboy.
I’d even go as far as to say he’s a manwhore.

Yet somehow before I know it, this manwhore and I are co-parenting. Living under the same roof. Eating meals together and yes, talking.

Don’t look at me like that—it’s not like I had a choice. Even though I knew every minute would be hell, I had to say yes.

But after two weeks what I didn’t expect is that I’d been wrong about him.
That under his smart-ass exterior, he’s quite charming.
That his arrogance is actually confidence.
And that the sight of his naked body would do really bad things to me.

So yes, I’ve misjudged him. And yes, I like him. Really like him. Although there are times I still think he’s a jerk…I now think he’s a sexy jerk.

And I want more of him.

The question is—does he want more of me?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Sexy Jerk World
Author: Kim Karr
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Uptown Girl

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Toasty (Kink: mild in Big Shot)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: May 2017 – September 2017
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Kindle); Audiobook (#2, #3)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After I read Kim’s No Pants Required (and loved it!) she quickly became a staple on my contemporary romance TBR lists. But I haven’t been the best about actually reading her books. That’s why I added Sexy Jerk to my 2019 5 Year 5 Books Challenge as a pick for the year 2017 and the last two books to my 2020 5Y5BC.

The Plot:

Compared to Kim Karr’s Men of Laguna Series, I didn’t think this series was as rom-com-esque. There’s a dose of real life thrown along the way as you watch these characters struggle with finding themselves.

I think the drama gets a little top heavy near the end. Things reach their climax at the end and seem a little rushed as the majority of the books are dedicated to sexy times and character moments.

One thing I really loved how open all the characters were about sex and exploring sexuality in their relationships. That’s not something that you get all the time in contemporary romance.

The Characters:

Besides the first book, I kinda struggled to connect with these characters. I’m not really sure why because they did have layers to them so they had some depth. I think I just didn’t understand some of their struggles or hesitations? My other theory is that the pacing and flow of the novels just didn’t work for me and I found my mind wandering.

The Romance:

All of these romances felt fast to me because of their quick plot timelines. I could see the connections though for the most parts so I tried to overlook it.

The one I really struggled with was in Big Shot (#2). Given the nature of that relationship and the second chance mentality, I just craved more from that story and its characters.

When to Read the Novella, #0.5 Uptown Girl:

Some sites list this book as #4 in the series but I think that’s only because of its publication date (it was released after the 3 full novels). But I think you will get the most out of it by reading it first. It just fills in some of the little holes that are alluded to in Sexy Jerk. However, you can definitely skip it and not miss much either.

My Audiobook Experience:

Despite owning all the books in the series, I listened to the last two as audiobooks from my library simply because I’m running out of audio titles to read! The productions are great and do a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life.

Series Rating: 3/5

[Uptown Girl 3/5] | Sexy Jerk 4/5 | Big Shot 3/5 | Hot Stuff 3/5

overall

This wasn’t my favourite Kim Karr series ever but if you are looking for a refreshing lighter romance, these standalones are great.

Read if You Like: contemporary romance, sex positive stories
Avoid if You: dislike drama, dislike contemporary

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Series Review: The Keeper’s Chronicles by Becky Wallace

Series Review: The Keeper’s Chronicles by Becky Wallace

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 Storyspinner (from Goodreads):

Drama and danger abound in this “intricately woven” (Shannon Messenger, author of the Sky Fall series) fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

breakdown

Series: The Storyspinner; The Keepers’ Chronicles
Author: Becky Wallace
# of Books: 2 (Full Series Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: March 2015 – March 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook (#1); Scribd–eBook (#2)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When The Storyspinner first came out, it seemed to be everywhere. It was gracing lists and seemed to be a staple review post around the blogosphere. I love a good fantasy novel; especially one where the lead heroine is strong in perhaps unconventional ways and there are political maneuvers abound. So I had some high expectations for this.

The Concept / The World:

Like its title suggests, this story weaves together many character stories into one. I loved the multiple POV because it kept the story moving when the plot is somewhat dry. But it also provides a full-circle view of the world and drives the world building.

It might have been me and my somewhat of a rush to finish this book before I had to return it, but I wasn’t totally clear on the roles of Keepers. I’m going with “it’s a me thing”. I often struggle with magic premises…despite the fact that I adore fantasy.

The Plot:

In the grand scheme, I felt like not much happens in the first book. It felt like there was a larger focus on character development or maybe it just felt that way because we got multiple POV. I did enjoy the mystery of who is after Johanna–it wasn’t predictable–even if most other things about Johanna are.

The sequel follows much of the same flow but perhaps at a little faster pace because everything has been building up to this. I read the books too far apart to appreciate the finer details but it was easy to get back into the swing of things.

The Characters:

As I often am, I was drawn to the side characters. I like Jo enough and I liked her drive and intelligence. But I found the paths the other characters went down to be more intriguing. I was surprised by some of the evolving and harder paths the characters follow. It allowed for some great growth throughout the series.

The Romance:

I wasn’t totally sold on Johanna’s romance. I think in the sequel it improves but I was often drawn to the side characters’ relationships. But if you love romance in your novels, no doubt something will appease you here.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Storyspinner 3.5/5 | The Skylighter 3/5

overall

Perfect for fans of fantasy who prefer more character driven stories with a dash of romance!

Read if You Like: fantasy, not overly complicated plots
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POV

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Series Review: Contagion by Erin Bowman

Series Review: Contagion by Erin Bowman

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 Contagion (from Goodreads):

It got in us

After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

Most are dead.

But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.

Don’t set foot here again.

As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.

breakdown

Series: Contagion
Author: Erin Bowman
# of Books: 2  (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Suspense
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: July 2018 – July 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I kinda stumbled upon this series by accident. I was browsing audiobooks at my library and noticed the author’s name so I decided to see if it was something I’d be into. I really enjoyed Vengeance Road by Bowman and I knew she could create a great world. I’ve been searching for that great SciFi thriller ever since I read Across the Universe and this one seemed like it had the potential to be that.

The Concept / The World:

There’s just something so suspenseful about an isolated space colony with an unknown enemy lurking in the shadows. I found that despite the slower plot, the setting really kept me interested in what was happening because I was invested in solving the mystery.

The scientist in me loved the science of this novel and how it contributed to the story. Sometimes I find the Science Fiction stories I read crossover into the fantasy elements but this one kept it pretty real and was pretty accurate with its scientific terms/explanations.

The Plot:

This story took a while to get its plot to take off. I think part of the problem is that I was a little overwhelmed with all the characters we are introduced to (more on that below). But the combination of the setting and the mystery kept me reading.

The mystery was good though I thought it was pretty basic. Nothing overly shocking or ground-breaking in either novels. I had a pretty good idea of what was happening for the most part fairly early on but I appreciated the science behind it all.

The Characters:

I’m someone who LOVES multiple POVs in a novel but even I was overwhelmed by the number of characters we are introduced to. I had a really hard time distinguishing all the characters from each other so it kept them at a bit of a distance throughout the first novel. I just never connected with any of them or their stories.

The Romance:

I love a little romance in a novel and though there was an inkling early on in Book #1 that was interesting, it fizzled out pretty quickly and nothing else ever sparked. It gets a little more of a focus in Immunity (#2) which was a refreshing element to the story.

My Audiobook Experience:

In hindsight, the audiobook might have been a not-so-great choice for me. Part of the reason I had such a hard time separating the characters from each other was that I didn’t always notice when we switched POVs. I listen to audiobooks at 1.5X the speed (and usually when I’m doing something else) so the page breaks aren’t always noticeable to me. And instead of having each chapter as a different character POV, we got multiple character POVs within the same chapter. So everything just blends together here and it made it hard to follow as a reader.

Series Rating: 3/5

Contagion 3/5 | Immunity 3/5

overall

If you want a science fiction novel that grounds itself more in the practical than the fantastical, this might be a great duet for you to pick up!

Read if You Like: science fiction, little romance
Avoid if You: want lots of action and drama

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Series Review: The Storymakers by Betsy Schow

Series Review: The Storymakers by Betsy Schow

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 Spelled (from Goodreads):

Somewhere over the rainbow, all spell is about to break loose…

Fairy Tale Survival Rule No. 32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the charming brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

breakdown

Series: The Storymakers
Author: Betsy Schow
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 2015 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I actually think I first saw Spelled on Netgalley but even if I didn’t, it was those shoes on the cover that called to me. I have an obsession with shoes–it’s probably unhealthy. But besides that: I really enjoy fairy tale based stories and this own sounded like a lot of fun.

Of course, it sat on my library Wishlist for a long time, but when I saw that my library had all the audiobooks available, I decided it was time to give this series a shot!

The Concept / The World:

I’ve read a few retellings of the Wizard of Oz over the years as well as the classic Fairy Tales and Classic Myths, but it was cool to have everything weaved together into one story and world.

I loved all the little details Betsy Schow threw in along the way. The chapters all have a fun take on classic fairy tale elements and stories. Like quotes from fake autobiographies on classic fairy tale characters. Even the curse words were puns on fairy tales! I just had a blast getting to know this world and how everything fits together.

The Plot:

One thing I loved about the plots of the respective books is that they were always moving. There’s a lot of action in these books and I liked that. Things were always evolving and twisting as you progressed through all the obstacles. It made things less predictable as well which is always a treat.

I will admit though that I did get a little lost in what was happening from Book #2 Wanted onwards. There’s a lot of jumping around and that impacted the flow of the story for me. I really struggled to keep everything straight and my interest started to wane at times.

The Characters:

I would say that this story is more for the younger YA fans. Some of the dilemmas the characters face seem juvenile compared to some of the other YA characters out there. Though I’m not sure if they would be able to follow the way the plot jumps around…

But what I will say is this: although the leads we meet might not be the most likeable characters at the start of their stories, they are redeemable. It was great to see them grow a bit as they conquered the various obstacles and saw more of the world than just their own individual story.

The Romance:

It’s easy for fairy tale retellings to get caught up in the romance but that’s not the case here. It plays an important role for sure but it isn’t the main focus which is refreshing.

My Audiobook Experience:

All the books were great audio productions. No complaints here!

Series Rating: 3/5

Spelled 4/5 | Wanted 3/5 | Banished 3/5

overall

This is a super creative world and I loved the weaving of stories…even if I did get a lost sometimes. But out of the many fairy tale retellings I’ve read, this is one stands out as being super unique!

Read if You Like: fairy tale retellings, Shrek, Ella Enchanted
Avoid if You: want a darker read

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

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for In the Penalty Box (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

What I Liked:

–Gender Roles in Sports–

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

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

–Self-Discovery and Growth–

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

–Slow Burn Forbidden Romance–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Pacing–

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

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

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

My Rating: 3/5

In the Penalty Box 3/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

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

Read if You Like: slower stories, sports romances
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, dislike sweet romance
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