Tag «Rating: 4/5»

Series Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Series Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

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

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (from Goodreads):

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav of 2020
Series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Author: Holly Jackson
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella called: Kill Joy

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Crime
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: May 2019 – September 2021
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think it was the title that drew me into reading the synopsis for this book. I had noticed it as an audiobook addition at my library and once I read the synopsis, I immediately put a hold on it. I love a good murder mystery and we don’t often encounter them a lot in the YA genre (I suppose that’s a good thing) so that always catches my attention. And while I don’t listen to podcasts, they seem to be all the rage–especially true crime–so I was interested to see how it would all play out.

The Concept:

I really loved how this series was formatted! It’s a blend of notes, interviews and reports from Pip’s projects interspersed with a narrated story. I’ve only read a few novels that use this approach of documents–The Illuminae Files being the most notable for me–but it works so well with a mystery novel. You almost feel like you are building the case yourself as all these pieces of evidence come in. It just gives this great suspense to the story.

The Plot:

The key to any good mystery is making it not too obvious but still making it within the realm of possibility. I took a detective fiction course in university so I really judge mystery novels hard because I’ve studied the bones of the genre. This series had enough red herrings along the way to keep you guessing but the solutions were always within reason.

At times, I feel like Books #1 & #2 wane a little bit in the middle; but I had such a blast listening to the audiobooks (thanks to the different mediums the information is delivered in) I didn’t notice all that much.

I did struggle with the direction of As Good As Dead (#3) however. This book has a completely different tone to it thanks to the outcomes of the first two books. There were a lot of options to reach the same conclusion and I think some readers won’t like the options that were chosen. I know I didn’t love a lot of the choices. However, when I take a step back and see how this book fits in with the overall series, I understand why things unfold the way they do.

The Characters:

I liked Pippa a lot. Not every “detective” is Sherlock Holmes (though he is fab) with their aloof intelligence. Pippa is kinda like the everyday girl, and I think that appeals to a reader: because if she can solve the mystery, surely you can as well.

Like any good mystery in a small town, you get to know all the other characters (or suspects?) throughout the series. It’s a solid cast of characters.

The Romance:

It’s not a huge part of the story but the little inklings warmed my heart. It brings home the fact that Pip is a regular girl in the midst of her own coming of age story and grounds the story when she gets those romantic moments throughout the series.

My Audiobook Experience:

Honestly, I think this is the whole reason why I rated this series so high: I LOVED the audio versions. Having a whole cast to bring the interview scenes to life and all the other documents (complete with sound effects) just gave me so much joy as I listened. It isn’t often I just lay around listening to an audiobook (usually I’m driving/walking or doing chores) but I was so addicted to this, I made time to listen. I guess I get the appeal now of true crime podcasts!

When to Read the Novella:

I didn’t read the prequel novella Kill Joy. My library didn’t have a copy and I wasn’t interested enough in it to buy it for myself. However, my research shows that you can read it at any time as it takes place before the first book but doesn’t spoil anything.

Series Rating: 4/5

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder 5/5 | Good Girl, Bad Blood 4/5 | As Good As Dead 3.5/5

overall

A thrilling, suspenseful murder mystery that keeps things grounded in reality. A fabulous series–and one I highly recommend you listen to as an audiobook!

Read if You Like: true crime podcasts, thrillers, mysteries
Avoid if You: want a romance-based story

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Spin-off Saturdays: A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime by Monica Murphy

Spin-off Saturdays: A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime by Monica Murphy

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

A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime is a spin-off of the Things I Wanted to Say (But Never Did)

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav Author
Series:

This is a spinoff of the standalone Things I Wanted to Say (But Never Did).

Linked with The Wrong Brother and The Reluctant Bride.

Author: Monica Murphy
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, High School
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: March 10, 2022
Source & Format: Author—eARC

thoughts

My Expectations?

I was consumed by Monica Murphy’s Things I Wanted to Say (But Never Did) when I read it last year. It was angsty, passionate and a soap opera in a book. It’s by far one of the best high-school-bully romances I’ve ever read. So I was excited to return to Lancaster Prep but I had no clue what to expect with this new book and its new characters.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Not A High School Bully Romance–

The romance between Whit and Summer in Things I Wanted to Say (But Never Did) is the definition of hate to love you. But here, the romance is more subtle and sweet than hard and angry. It was sweet watching them slowly fall for each other; for them each to see that they had more depth to their characters once they spent time together. There’s just something so charming about finding first love and that person who truly sees who you are for the first time. I loved how they were able to find a partner who they could be their true selves with–and not just the person their families were trying to mold them to be.

–Crew is Much Nicer than Whit–

Whit in was one of those characters you love to hate. Crew, he’s one of those characters with a tough exterior is a big softy inside. Much like Whit, he has an interesting family dynamic that he is trying to break free of. But he is quite the charmer when he wants to be and defintiely not as alpha male as his cousin.

–Just As Sexy–

Monica Murphy writes her books with plenty of steam, even her YA ones. I think some people will find that off-putting if they don’t enjoy erotica or sex scenes, but fans of her work will feel right at home with her steamy scenes.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Slower Start–

I’ll admit, it took me a while (about a third of the book) to get into this. But that’s because Wren and Crew really don’t know each other. They’re just classmates who have their preconceived ideas about each other and usually stay away from each other until a class project brings them together. There is an underlying tension and chemistry between them but it really doesn’t spark until they start spending more time together. That’s when this book starts coming alive.

How it Links / Crosses Over With Other Monica Murphy Works:

Other than a brief mention of Whit and his relation to Crew at the start of this novel (their cousins), you can definitely read this independently from Things I Wanted to Say (But Never Did). However, Crew Lancaster is related to a few of Monica’s other lead characters. Crew’s brother Grant has a novella titled The Wrong Brother and his sister Charlotte is the heroine in the Midnight Dynasty Series The Reluctant Bride!

concSLOW

Series Rating: 4/5

overall

With plenty of steam, sweet and swoon this romance will slowly melt your heart as you read.

Read if You Like: First love, prep school romances
Avoid if You: dislike sexual content in your YA romances

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime (from Goodreads):

Wren Beaumont is many things.

Beautiful.
Smart.
Sweet.
Innocent.

At Lancaster Prep, the girls love her. They all want to be her friend. Only I see Wren for who she really is.

A repressed little virgin who keeps her feelings locked up so tight she’s probably close to bursting. She thinks she’s above us all.

Even me.

I shouldn’t be drawn to her. She’s not my type.

Until we’re forced to work together in class and realize we might have more things in common than we originally thought. Soon enough I find myself completely obsessed. I will do anything for this girl to make her fall in love with me.

Anything.

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Spin-off Saturdays: Shifter Royals by Leigh Walker

Spin-off Saturdays: Shifter Royals by Leigh Walker

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 Shifter Royals Trilogy is a spin-off of the Vampire Royals Series

breakdown

Series: Shifter Royals, Vampire Royals

This is a spinoff of the Vampire Royals Series.

Author: Leigh Walker
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: January 2020 – March 2020
Source & Format: KoboPlus—eBook

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really remember much of Tamara from the first three books of the Vampire Royals Series. I can’t remember if I liked her or not but I was intrigued by her when she makes a cameo in Books #4 & #5 of the series. Rhys on the other hand has a pretty big role in those same books and one that doesn’t start in the most positive light either. So I was really interested to see what would happen when these two were matched together!

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Return of the Dating Competition–

I love this paranormal Bachelor dating show aspect that these books have. I think it’s a lot of fun to read about. It was something I really missed in the previous two books of the Vampire Royals Series that take place just before this trilogy. So its return was welcomed to say the least. But I also think it was a little more well done here as well. Perhaps the fewer girls competing for Rhys heart helped to really establish his connection with Tamara (plus it helped they met before the competition as well).

–Stronger World Politics–

When we weren’t focused on the dating show, we got to delve into the world of politics. Rhys is the new king of a new kingdom and not everyone is a fan of that. So I liked the suspense that came along with that. I thought this series did a great job balancing the back and forth between the dating show and the drama outside of it. All the books just had a great flow to it.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–“Snogging” and Wine–

Honestly, this is just being nit-picky but I thought it was weird that they would use the term “snogging” but no other terms that were really British. I also thought there was a lot of wine usage to get through difficult social situations…which just seemed odd in a book that was very toned down in terms of sexual content and language.

Series Rating: 4/5

The Realm 4/5 | The Uprising 4/5 | The Crown 4/5

overall

I would say that I enjoyed this series a lot more than its original predecessor! I loved the balance between the politics of the world and the reality dating competition and it was simply a fun series to get lost in for a few days!

Read if You Like: vampires and/or werewolves, love dating competitions
Avoid if You: want more action, want erotica

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Realm (from Goodreads):

He wants to make me his queen. The problem? I’m an heiress. And he’s…a beast.
I mean he is really a beast, a werewolf to be precise. I’m the first to admit that I’m born to be royalty, but this wasn’t exactly how I’d pictured it!

Rhys is about to be crowned king of the Realm, and he wants me to rule by his side. He said if I refuse, he’ll have the prince “gift” me to him. The nerve! One thing the new king needs to learn? I don’t take orders—not from him, not from anyone. But when Rhys makes it a contest and invites other women to audition to be his bride, he gets my ire up. I don’t know if I’m meant to marry a werewolf, but I do know that I was born to win. I’ll show that beast what I’m made of—I’ll make him sit, beg and heel. So may the best woman win.

And since I’m already certain that’s me, I’m all for it… Let the games begin!

*This is a brand-new series that is part of the Vampire Royals world. You do not need to read Vampire Royals in order to read this book.

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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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Series Review: The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn

Series Review: The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn

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 Duke and I (from Goodreads):

In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable… but not too amiable.

Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.

The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…

breakdown

Series: The Bridgertons

There is a prequel Series: The Rokesbys & a series of Lady Whistledown Stories

Author: Julia Quinn
# of Books: 8 (Full Reading Order Here)

There are also 2nd epilogue novellas for each novel.

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Regency, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2000 – June 2006
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Although I am a huge regency romance fan, I had never read the Bridgerton Series. Truthfully, like many people, it never crossed my radar until Netflix made the TV series. I nearly binged all the episodes in one sitting but controlled myself (and finished it within a reasonable 2 days). I loved watching these siblings on the TV series and just couldn’t get enough! And thanks to its massive popularity, my library soon got all the audiobooks and I quickly found my next audio series to read. Plus, I was impatient to see where these character stories would go.

How it Compares to the TV Series:

I’m sure most people who will be reading this series are doing so because of the Netflix TV Series. Since the first season is based on the first book, The Duke and I, I was a little worried the book would be a regurgitation of the TV show.

And while some scenes are very similar, they’ve also added a lot more plotlines to the TV show (like the whole meeting the Queen bit and anything to do with the Queen really) to make it, well, a show. But I’d say the TV series has captured the essence of the books and that’s all you can ask for really. Time will tell what the second season will be like but I think they did a great job with the adaption so far.

The Plot:

The first 3 books are your classic Regency reads, with a few loose retellings of some classic tales like The Taming of the Shrew (Book #2) and Cinderella (Book #3), thrown in for inspiration. They’re a little lighter and have a few laughs along the way. Lady Whistledown’s character (and her anonymity) helps to keep that dramatic flare of the ton alive while also maintaining an overarching plot line to thread the individual books together. I just thought they were a lot of fun to read.

I think Book #4, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, is the book that the entire series has been leading up to. We’re on the cusp of revealing who Lady Whistledown is and I think the romance that everyone (or maybe just me) has been anticipating since the first novel/episode is the focus. It’s probably my favourite of the series.

But once the identity of Lady Whistledown is revealed, I find the remaining books in the series lose that lighter side to them. To Sir Philip, With Love (#5) has a darker, somber edge to it. And while it is a touching book to read, I missed the rest of the meddling Bridgerton Brood and the always watching Lady Whistledown. I also think this was the book where my experience with the TV show dampened my reading experience. I find Eloise’s character to be very different between the two mediums, so I think I was expecting a different type of story here.

That somber tone continues on in When He Was Wicked (#6) and I felt like that was when my interest in the series started to wane. I really struggled with this story for a few reason. One: is that timeline jumps around a bit between books #4 and #5 so I got a little lost there. Two: is that the lead is a Bridgerton we don’t really know much about other than a few key pieces (so I didn’t really know what to expect). Three–and perhaps the biggest reason–is that I really struggled with the romance. I just found it to be a little off-putting because it is a complicated situation and I didn’t really enjoy that aspect (more below). It also has that somber tone to it that I don’t enjoy but on Goodreads, people seem to adore this book so maybe I’m just a minority here.

The last two books in the series I enjoyed a little more, but again, I think I wanted slightly different stories. I actually think the plots should be switched for the last two novels in some ways.

The Characters:

I love all the Bridgertons. I just think they are so much fun and I love how much they love their family. It’s touching to see. You really get invested in all their lives.

The Romance:

I would say most of these books have a slow burn romance. These characters really take their time to fall in love and fight the inevitable. But I thought all the pairs were great matches.

However, I did struggle with the romance in When He was Wicked (#5). For those who don’t know who the lead is in this book I’ve put my thoughts in as spoilers:

When He was Wicked (Book #5) Spoilers

I honestly was excited for Francesca’s story because she is the enigma of the Bridgertons. All we know is that she was a young widow. I’m not one of those people who believes you can’t find love after the death of a beloved spouse/partner so I was looking forward to her finding love again. However, while I liked Michael objectively as a character, I didn’t like the idea that he has always been in love with Frannie. And I felt like Frannie was having an emotional affair with Michael while she was married to John by asking him about all his wicked encounters with women–I dunno, the whole thing just felt icky to me. Maybe if they both fell in love after John’s death I wouldn’t have struggled with that as much.

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The Second Epilogues:

What a fun treat these were! They were great ways to wrap up each character arc and gives a glimpse into the very far future in some instances. I love a good, wrapped up conclusion!

My Audiobook Experience:

We have the same narrator throughout the series and I thought she did a great job. She has a great way of injecting humour and emotion into her reading. She really brought the characters to life for me.

Series Rating: 4/5

The Duke and I 4/5 | The Viscount Who Loved Me 5/5 | An Offer from a Gentleman 5/5  | Romancing Mr. Bridgerton 5/5  | To Sir Philip, With Love 4/5  | When He Was Wicked 2/5  | It’s in His Kiss 3/5  | On the Way to the Wedding 3/5 

overall

Fans of the show will like spending extra time with their favourite family. Fans of regency reads will enjoy this classic delivery. I do think the series loses some of its original charm as it concludes but all the stories are entertaining nonetheless.

Read if You Like: historical romances, books featuring siblings
Avoid if You: dislike historical romances

similarreads

  • The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare (Girl Meets Duke Series #1)
  • Slightly Married by Mary Balogh (Bedwyn Saga #1)
  • A Duke in the Night by Kelly Bowen (The Devils of Dover Series #1)
  • Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks (The Montgomerys and The Armstrongs Series #1)

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Single Sundays: Cupcake by Cookie O’Gorman

Single Sundays: Cupcake by Cookie O’Gorman

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 Cupcake (from Goodreads):
I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking this will be just one more story of the ignored, “big-boned ” girl, who sheds her glasses and a few extra pounds and finally attracts the notice of the most popular guy in school.

Except it isn’t. Because I’m not unpopular. Not all that ignored. And I love the way I look―just as I am.

Then someone puts my name in for Homecoming Court.

The bigger surprise?

People actually vote for me!

Now, I’m a “princess”―whether I like it or not―but the guy I’m paired with isn’t exactly Prince Charming.

Rhys Castle is the strong, silent type who always wears a frown―he’s certainly never smiled at me. I’m 99.9% sure he hates being on Court and being my partner, but surprisingly…he doesn’t switch when he gets the chance.

Turns out Rhys has a secret―something that makes him run hot and cold throughout the entire three weeks of Homecoming festivities. Whether he’s stepping on my feet during dance lessons or gallantly escorting me through the Homecoming parade, I can’t get a read on this guy, and for the first time, I find my confidence wavering.

But there’s more to Rhys than meets the eye. And the more the spotlight shines on me, I realize there’s more to me, too

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Cookie O’Gorman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: November 2, 20221
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve always enjoyed Cookie’s books; I’ve been a fan since she published her first book, Adorkable, years ago. She simply writes enjoyable, genuine and swoon-worthy YA contemporaries that never fail to make me smile. I don’t usually go out of my way to read YA contemporaries but I always pick up Cookie’s books when I get the chance.

The Concept:

I haven’t really read any Young Adult books that have a plus sized girl as the lead and I think that’s such a shame because everyone’s body is different and beautiful. The need for diverse books where people can see themselves in characters is something that is long overdue and this book is a step in that direction.

The Plot:

I smiled a lot during this book. It was the perfect blend between a coming of age story and all the feels of your favourite romantic comedy movies.

The Characters:

I loved Ariel’s personal story. Despite her confidence in herself, we see her vulnerability at times and that makes her such a relatable lead. She feels like she could be a regular person you’d meet in real life and I think all readers can find a piece of themselves in her.

This is Cupcake’s story but Rhys shines when he is in the scene. I would have loved a little more of him at the start because he too has a great backstory and vulnerability to him–something we don’t often see in our YA contemporary heroes. He’s a total sweetheart and definitely charmed his way into my heart.

The Romance:

The romance is definitely a slow burn one, taking it’s time to unfold. Which more than worked for me. There’s this great tension simmering between the two of them. Rhys is a bit of an enigma at the start too so I loved the mysterious air he had around him and how we slowly peel back the layers (and his possible feelings) the more he interacts with Ariel.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

Cookie’s books never fail to make me smile and warm my heart and this book is no exception! Fans of YA contemporary need to add her to their TBRs ASAP!

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, diverse books
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary

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Series Review: Off-Limits by Piper Lawson

Fresh Fridays: Crave (Off-Limits #1) by Piper Lawson

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

Off-Limits Series

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Crave (from Amazon.ca):

Turns out the beautiful man from the club is my new professor… But he wasn’t when he kissed me.

Ex-ballet dancer Olivia would never set foot in a club like Velvet, not to mention seize the stage. But when she learns her ‘perfect’ boyfriend has been cheating, she indulges in a wild fantasy for the first time.

From the moment Sawyer rescues her in the parking lot at the club, Olivia realizes he’s what she’s been missing. The way he touches her sets her on fire.

But one mistake becomes two when she learns Sawyer isn’t only the passionate, mysterious man she stayed up all night with…

He’s her new professor.

CRAVE is an illicit, forbidden full-length novel and book 1 in the OFF-LIMITS trilogy. An addictive, enthralling romance from WSJ and USA Today bestselling author Piper Lawson.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author; Canadian Author
Series: Off-Limits
Author: Piper Lawson
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Forbidden Love
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: October 26, 2021 – March 22, 2022
Source & Format: Author–eARC

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:

I’ve spent most of 2021 in a reading funk, but Piper Lawson’s new releases this year seem to be the balm that soothe it. I’ve read all of Piper’s books–except the short story anthology starring our two leads here–and I always know that I am going to get a great romance story. And I was so excited to see her return to the genre of New Adult romance!

What I Liked:

–Fantastic Chemistry–

The chemistry between Olivia and Sawyer is so strong right from the start that it’s easy to get sucked into their relationship. And forget that they shouldn’t be together — because they seem so perfect for each other!

–The Mysterious Sawyer–

Sawyer had made a brief appearance in the Enemies Series but he was still an enigma to me. I liked that we only got a few chapters from his POV because it helped to build up his mysterious side but still provided insight into his mind.

–Rebellious Olivia–

Olivia is a girl trying to find her independence and I liked how her character was evolving. She’s breaking free of that box people put her in but no so much that it feels forced or that her pursuit of Sawyer is simply for the forbidden thrill of it

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Forbidden Element Loses its Shine As the Novel Progresses–

This is a trilogy about the same couple, so not every obstacle to their relationship will be revealed in book #1 and I can appreciate that. However, as much as I loved the forbidden element of their relationship, I found that as the novel progressed, the thrill of their relationship dimmed. Nothing seemed to challenge the romance’s “forbidden” element; those that found out about it treated it as something mundane and there were only a few handful of moments where they were at risk of being caught. But I’m optimistic that this will evolve as the series continues.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

It ends on a bang though and I can’t wait to see where this will go next!

updates

–January 12, 2022– Book #2: Collide

I’ve never read a student-professor romance like this! But that’s what I’ve come to expect from Piper Lawson: the unexpected.

These two are stubborn and I feel like they make things purposely difficult for each other–but that’s part of their charm. They don’t know how to love or let someone in because they’ve never felt seen by another person. So it’s a beautiful thing to watch these two surrender to their connection as their relationship evolves.

I also love that these two have their own dramatic plot lines. Yes, those storyline overlap at times but I like that they both have their own things going on to help evolve that personal character growth.

Can’t wait to see how this all wraps up!

–March 21, 2022– Book #3: Claim

What a great way to wrap up this one of a kind series! Honestly, I’ve never read a student-professor romance story with as much depth as this series and I am all for it!

Everything that has been pushing and pulling Sawyer and Oliva together and apart comes together here and I loved watching it unfold. One thing I truly loved about this two is that they really evolved as people throughout this series and I think it really shows in this book as they reflect and navigate their relationship.

My Rating: 4/5

Crave 4/5 | Collide 4/5 | Book 3 4/5

overall

Overall, this was a great series that kept things fresh with original characters and plots!

Read if You Like: forbidden romance, new adult romance, STEM heroines
Avoid if You: want erotica, dislike new adult romance

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Spin-off Saturdays: Retribution Games by Ella Miles

Spin-off Saturdays: Retribution Games by Ella Miles

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

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

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breakdown

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

This is a spinoff of the Truth or Lies Series.

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

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

thoughts

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

My Expectations?

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

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

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Not Knowing Much About Our Leads–

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

–Strong Heroine Fighting for Herself–

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

–Great Romantic Chemistry–

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

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Inconsistencies With Plot–

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

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

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

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

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

updates

–October 31, 2021– Book #4: Fatal Princess

The plot thickens! Things take an interesting turn here as we see the key players make their moves for the finale. It was thrilling to read, waiting to see what the next layer to this complicated plot would reveal itself next. The romance evolves itself as well and I can’t wait to see where this goes!

–November 20, 2021– Book #5: Tortured Hero

I found this installment to be super suspenseful. Everyone is making their final moves for the finale and it brings a great tension to the read. Betrayal, lust and deception is abounds!

–November 27, 2021– Book #6: Dangerous Princess

This book was a great way to wrap up the series but at the same time, leave the reader excited for the next spin-off series. I really thought that this was going to be the last series set in this world but I’m excited to return to it for the next one!

Series Rating: 4/5

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

overall

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

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

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Mistaken Hero (from Goodreads):

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

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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

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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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Spin-Off Saturdays: Lies by Ella Miles

Spin-Off Saturdays: Lies by Ella Miles

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

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

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Lies

This is a part of the Truth or Lies Series Universe.

Author: Ella Miles
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Lies We Share

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Dark, Contemporary, Action
Heat Rating: Smokin’ **mature subject matter*
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 2020 – February 2021
Source & Format: Author–eARC

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

I loved the original Truth or Lies Series. It was unlike anything I had ever read before with a great blend of romance, danger and suspense. I was immediately sucked in and really grew attached to the characters. So I was really excited that a few of the characters were going to get their own series.

Langston and Liesel’s story was probably the one I wanted to read the most. After a collective 12 books of watching these two dance back and forth, I couldn’t wait to uncover their mysterious past and see what their future held.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Similar Plot Progression As Truth or Lies–

More so than the Sinful Truths Series, this series had more of an overarching plotline as Liesel tries to find her family’s treasure. The secrets and danger lurking in the shades just gave this series an edge to it that kept me hooked. And I really liked how each book built upon the last. I always worry with book series that have more than 3 titles in them that the storylines will get stretched out but this had a good pacing to it.

–Forbidden Love–

Liesel and Langston’s story is complicated–even more complicated than I had originally thought. It took a lot for me to let go of my previous assumptions and just embrace the reveal of their characters. That’s quite the task for someone who has invested as much time in this universe as I have.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–The Use of Rape in the First Book–

I like dark romances but all the mentioning of rape and being forced-on was just too much for me. I get the importance of it for understanding Liesel’s past but for a few chapters there, the threats of it were constant and that just stopped me from fully embracing the story.

Series Rating: 4/5

[Fated Lies 5/5] | Vicious Lies 3/5 | Desperate Lies 3/5 | Fated Lies 4/5 | Cruel Lies 4/5 | Dangerous Lies 4/5 | Endless Lies 3/5

overall

Overall, I have mixed feelings for this series. I really loved these two as characters but I didn’t always enjoy their story. But it was great to return to this world and these books never failed to surprise me.

Read if You Like: dark romances, adventures
Avoid if You: dislike reading about forced sexual situations

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Vicious Lies (from Goodreads):

This isn’t a love story. This is a story of all the reasons we can’t be together. Reason number one: we lie.

Liesel Dunn has a secret. One I literally ripped from her hands when we were kids. Her secret was in a letter that I tore in half. I have half the secret. She has the other half. We’ve always refused to share our part of the truth, so we’ve lived separate lives. Until fate brings us back together. She needs a hitman. I answer her call. I’ll do her this favor. But she’ll owe me a debt. And I plan on collecting…

Vicious Lies is book 1 in a dark romance series. It ends on a cliffhanger.

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