Tag «true love triangle»

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

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

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

Iron Widow Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Iron Widow (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

What I Liked:

–Gender in Society–

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

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

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

–The Romance & Sexuality–

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

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

–Zetian–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–Truly Understanding the Qi World–

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

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

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

My Rating: 4.5/5

Iron Widow 4.5/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

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

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

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Series Review: New Camelot by Sierra Simone

Series Review: New Camelot by Sierra Simone

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 American Queen (from Goodreads):

Warned as a girl to keep her kisses to herself, Greer Galloway disobeys twice–once on her sixteenth birthday as she’s kneeling in a pool of broken glass, and another time after a charming stranger named Embry Moore whisks her into the dazzling Chicago night. Both times she falls in love, and both times her heart is broken beyond repair. And so as an adult, she vows never to kiss–or to love again.

That’s until the Vice President of the United States shows up at the university where she teaches, and asks for one thing: for her to meet with the hero-turned-President Maxen Colchester. Maxen, the soldier who was her first kiss in that pool of broken glass.

And the other complication? The Vice President is none other than charming Embry Moore himself.

Soon, Greer finds herself caught between past and present, pleasure and pain–and two men who long for each other as much as they long for her. And as war and betrayal press ever closer, they tumble headlong into a passionate love affair that will change the world…

From the USA Today bestselling author of Priest comes a contemporary reimagining of the legend of King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot–elegant, carnal, and unforgettable.

breakdown

Series: New Camelot Trilogy
Author: Sierra Simone
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)

There are 2 novellas.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Erotica
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (BDSM: high | Kink: major)
Point of View: First Person, Single (#1); Multiple (#2-3)
Publication Dates: October 2016 – October 2017
Source & Format: Own–eBook (#1); Public Library–Audiobook (#1-3)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for anything with an Arthurian Legend twist (I even took the literature class in university) and when I saw that Sierra Simone–who co-wrote one of my favourite contemporary romances, Porn Star— was the author, I was very curious to see what modern spin she would put on arguably the most famous love triangle in history.

The Concept:

If you don’t enjoy non-vanilla romances, I’d avoid this one. It’s full of BDSM moments and kinky sex scenes. And while there is substance to the romance (as in it’s not just sex scene after sex scene though I’d say 70% of the books are dedicated to the deed), the sex scenes are quite detailed when they do appear and I just think it would make you uncomfortable.

But I mean, how great of an idea is it to make the classic love triangle a menage? It’s one of those true love triangle situations I rarely encounter in a novel/series and I was definitely on board for seeing how it would all work out.

As for the Arthurian Legend aspect, it’s one of those little hidden eggs you find along the way. And I don’t think most of it becomes apparent until you complete the trilogy and see the bigger picture. But I appreciated the modern spin (President instead of King, etc) though I wasn’t a fan of the creative license employed by the end.

The Plot:

I kept waiting for something to happen in American Queen; it just took a little too long to build for me. While I liked the flashbacks, I almost wonder if it would have been better to have all the past events thrown out at once and then jump to the present. (Perhaps have each book dedicated to a different time instead of a different character).

American Prince definitely amps up the suspense when it comes to the dramatic plot. And at times, I wished that would remain the focus. While I loved having a new perspective (Embry’s) I did get a little tired of all the passionate sex. I just found the scenes to be distracting and I’d often forget what important drama/twist/secret had just happened. It became especially hard since I was listening to the audiobook and we do jump a lot between the past and present. The situation was the same in the finale (American King) as well and I found myself getting pulled away from the plot.

The Characters:

I usually don’t enjoy the “Guinevere” character (only exception has ever been from the TV Series Merlin) and Greer was just ok for me. She’s a little wish-washy and part of that translates to her romances with the boys She’s just so non-confident in her everyday life but as soon as you dim the lights, she’s a confident submissive and they just didn’t seem to go hand and hand for me. Yes, all the power to her for owning her sexuality but I struggled to reconcile the two versions we see of her.

Embry and Ash served their roles well. It was nice for them to each get their own books to heighten their development. Otherwise, I would have wondered what the big deal was.

The Romance:

I was disappointed in this because everything seemed to instalove to me (with the exception of Ash and Embry’s relationship). But Greer’s love for the boys just seemed like some fixated school girl fantasy that she has lived in for so long that it comes across as superficial when she actually begins a relationship with the boys. I didn’t see this all-consuming, soul-deep connection they seemed to go on about.

I really adored Ash and Embry together though. I could see the passionate draw they had between them and that only strengthens as the series progresses. I could have just read a book about those two honestly and have been satisfied.

My Audiobook Experience:

Emotions are always more apparent to me when I listen to audiobooks and I think that helped bring these characters to life for me in a way that could understand their dilemmas and struggles.

That being said, I wish we had a second male narrator for Ash in book 3. It was weird to have the same voice for both Embry and Ash and when you stop suddenly in a chapter, it was hard to recognize who the POV was.

When to Read the Novellas:

I have yet to read them but both seem to be recommended for reading after you have finished the entire trilogy.

Series Rating: 3/5

American Queen 3/5 | American Prince 3/5 | American King 3/5

overall

If you are searching for a romance novel that works around a “true” love triangle and don’t mind the steamy scenes, pick this series up. But I think those who don’t enjoy erotica should stay far away, even if the Arthurian draw is there.

Read if You Like: erotica, menage romance, contemporary retellings
Avoid if You: dislike erotica, dislike BDSM

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Series Review: First and Last by Laurelin Paige

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

First and Last Series

booksynopsis

Synopsis for First Touch (from Goodreads):
When Emily Wayborn goes home to visit her mom while on hiatus from her hit TV show, she receives a voicemail from her former best friend, Amber. Though the two were once notorious party girls, they haven’t spoken in years. Although the message might sound benign to anyone else, Amber uses a safe word that Emily recognizes, a word they always used to get out of sticky situations during their wild days. And what’s more chilling than the voicemail: it turns out that Amber has gone missing.

Determined to track down her friend, Emily follows a chain of clues that lead her to the enigmatic billionaire Reeve Sallis, a hotelier known for his shady dealings and play boy reputation. Now, in order to find Amber, Emily must seduce Reeve to learn his secrets and discover the whereabouts of her friend. But as she finds herself more entangled with him, she finds she’s drawn to Reeve for more than just his connection to Amber, despite her growing fear that he may be the enemy. When she’s forced to choose where her loyalty lies, how will she decide between saving Amber and saving her heart?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: First and Last
Author: Laurelin Paige
# of Books: 2 (First Touch, Last Kiss)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Dark, Suspense, Mystery
Heat Rating: hot (Kink: major; BDSM: Mild)
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: December 29, 2015 – June 14, 2016
Source & Format: NetGalley–eARC

disclaimernetgalley

thoughts

**This post was originally posted 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:

When I was asked by St. Martin’s Press to read the new Laurelin Paige novel, I thought it was a joke, pinched myself and responded immediately to say YES! Paige’s Fixed Trilogy is one of my all time favourite Adult Contemporary Romance trilogies (and it is also one of my blog’s top viewed review posts) and I recommend it to anyone who is looking for an addicting contemporary read. So when I read that her newest series took on a darker contemporary edge, I was so there!

What I Liked:

–The Mystery–

I don’t read a lot of romance suspense novels because I find they don’t have a great balance between the plot and the romance (one is favoured more than the other) and they are terribly predictable. NOT THIS ONE!

I loved its unpredictability! It kept me on the edge of my seat and trying in vain to figure out what was going to happen next. There were so many little twists and things at play that it pushed me to keep reading.

–The Romance–

I’m not the biggest BDSM/Kinky romance fan and I liked that it wasn’t really present in the Fixed Trilogy. Here, it is definitely present and initially this worried me. However, I think it really works well for this story. It doesn’t feel out of place or simply added for shock factor. Nor does it take away from the main plot either or focus on some innocent virgin stepping in to the “dark side” of things. It adds a depth to the characters and the plot; so even if it isn’t my favourite plot device ever, I can appreciate what it does for this story.

What I Didn’t Like:

–That I didn’t Immediately Love Emily–

That’s a bit of a lie. I actually really liked Emily in the first two chapters but I admit that she lost me a bit in the middle when more of her character’s past was revealed. I felt like I had interpreted her to be one way and all of that was shattered when I got further into her story. Maybe I was just a little judgmental when certain things about her past were revealed but I think a majority of it was simply that I didn’t know the full story.

When the suspense-aspect of the plot goes on a mini hiatus in the middle of the novel (the only time I really felt it lag), I liked that it helped you understand more about Emily’s character. Her relationship with Amber in the past is revealed a tiny bit at a time and you learn other things about her past. And I’m happy to say that by the end of First Touch, I really like Emily as a character and could appreciate the choices she makes.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Gah! The way that one ended!!! I didn’t see that coming and I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds in Last Kiss!

updates

–June 8, 2016– Book #2: Last Kiss

I was really excited to pick this one up! Given the ending of First Touch, I was dying to know what happens next!

I found this novel moved fast, in an addicting, I-need-to-know-what’s-next kind of way. Seeing everything unfold was a well worth it and kept me motivated to read. I would have finished this book in one sitting if life wasn’t in the way!

I felt like everything was on point with this novel. The character development was stronger, the relationships with characters as well as the plot in general were at their peak. Combined, they all kept me on my toes trying to figure out what really happened to Amber and company.

What held me back from a 5/5 was the romance in this one. While I loved the sexual tension, the BDSM style of Reeve and Emily’s relationship really had me concerned. Definitely seemed more unhealthy to me than previously but eventually it was expanded upon in a way that satisfied me. However, I do think some people will not enjoy their relationship despite the great dramatic plot.

Overall, it was a fantastic way to wrap up this duology and I can’t wait for the next Laurelin Paige novel!

but

My Rating: 4/5

First Touch 4/5 | Last Kiss 4/5

overall

While I wasn’t blown away with First Touch, I definitely feel like this story is building to a conclusion that will blow my mind! It’s a dark, dangerous and sexy ride that fans of J Kenner and Maya Banks will love without the heavy duty BDSM scenes or elements.

Read if You Like: romantic suspense, undercover lovers, dark romances
Avoid if You: dislike kinky romance situations, drug use

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