Saturday, January 12, 2019

After Dark Review of Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet

Read for: Netgalley/ Requested Review & I love the author

Synopsis: "Tess Bailey: the galaxy's Most Wanted.
Captain Tess Bailey is in deep trouble. She and her crew are on the run, pursued by a tyrant who'll take them dead or alive. Tess's best hope is a tall, dark, and much-too-appealing stranger, Shade Ganavan, who says he can help her. But his motivations are far from clear...

Shade Ganavan: arrogance, charm...and that special something that makes you want to kick him.
With the dreaded Dark Watch closing in, what Tess and Shade don't know about each other might get them killed...unless they can set aside their differences and learn to trust each other before it's too late."

My Review:  The last few years Amanda Bouchet has been one of my favorite authors, I am obsessed with her fantasy romance series Kingmaker Chronicles. I have to admit though that I was a little hesitant when it came to this book, I am not really comfortable in the Sci-fi genre yet and I wasn't sure how her writing would translate from high fantasy to Sci-fi. I shouldn't have been worried though, I really ended up enjoying this one. Even with different settings in space, I was still able to picture so much of the descriptions. I also fell in love with the characters, but let's all admit that Bonk steals the show. I really appreciated how the love of books and reading was drawn into the story, it was a little extra icing on the cake. I also like how the relationship struggles to unfold with so many doubts and opposing sides. I am looking forward to the next book!

My Rating: I was pleasantly surprised with this book, though I shouldn't have been with my love of her other books. I enjoyed the story, the characters, the banter back and forth, and of course Bonk. I give it a rating of Four Paws!

I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley, the above is my honest opinion.

You can find out more about Amanda Bouchet and her other books on her Goodreads Page or Website.

Nightchaser was just released on January 1st, so you can now obtain your own copy in print or digital format from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or check your local bookstore!

The Series That Never . . . Ends Challenge Sign Up

I know, like I need another reading challenge on my list, but as you know I almost always do some kind of series challenge and when I came across this one I knew it was perfect.  Over the past year or so I have really taken a step back from the romance genre because it hasn't been really popular here on the blog, but I have really missed it.  So I am going to bring it back and if it doesn't interest you than you can just skip those posts, I will be bringing them back as After Dark posts randomly and they will always be posted late in the evening after the kids go to bed ;)

Anyway, back to the challenge, The Series that Never . . . Ends Challenge is hosted by Shari at The Delighted Reader.  The goal is to catch up or read those longer romance series that have gotten away from you.  

The rules are a little different than what you usually see which I find fun . . .
* The minimum goal is 5 books.
* The books have to be in the same series and by the same author(s).
* Only romance series are accepted. Any sub-genre of romance accepted.
* Sign up between Now – November 30, 2019.

And there are different levels that you can join too . . .
Level One – 5-9 books – Surviving the Book TsunamiLevel Two – 10-15 books – Removing the Thorn From My SideLevel Three – 15 books or more – Goddess of Reading the Never Ending Series

So based on those rules and levels, I will probably be completing this challenge a couple of times this year.  

The main driving force behind this series is catching up on Marie Force's other series, I loved the Green Mountain/ Butler VT series but have a lot more books to read by this super author. Now I am not sure which series to tackle first so I will just list them for now and see what my library has available.

Level Three - Gansett Island Series
There are currently 20 books out in the Gansett Island Series and I have only read the first book, and there are more coming out I believe! Yikes!

Level Three - Fatal Series
The Fatal Series  currently has 13 books out and 14 & 15 both due to release this year! I have only read the first little novella and have a lot of catching up to do.

So obviously that is already a lot but I will just have to pick which one of those series to read.  I also have a few more that I need to catch up on . . .

Level One - Warrior Wolves Series
I loved Christine Depetrillo's Maple Leaf series but my time away from romance left me in the dark about this series.  The 5th book was just released in December and I did manage to pick up the first four at an author event so time to get caught up with this series!

Level Two - Mackenzies & McBrides Series
I loved the first book in the Mackenzies & McBrides series and wanted to read more, a year later I read the second book and said I wanted to read this series soon, I picked up a few of the books at a used bookstore and that was it, it has been nearly a year and I haven't read anymore yet.  There are 9 books in this series and I need to get moving because book 10 comes out next week!

Level One - Chronicles of the Warlands
Finally, isn't it crazy when you think a series is finished, you read the whole thing and then a few years later discover more books have been released?! I read books 1-4 of the Warlands Series in 2011 and while I absolutely loved the series, I thought that was it, but recently when I was trying to add favorite books to my shelves in print, I discovered 2 new books have been released in 201 and 2018! Luckily, I was thinking it was time for a re-read so had already planned on this being on my list, but now I have 2 more books to read.

So there are just a few of the romance series I need to catch up on, boy do I have my work cut out for me but I am excited to pick up more books by favorite authors and re-visit some favorite characters! Most of all I am so excited to be getting back into the romance genre more, I have missed those character connections, spunky heroines and gruff heroes, witty banter and more!

Are there any series that you ended up way behind and want to catch up on? Even if it isn't romance let me know down below.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Early Reader Bedtime Story: Zog by Julia Donaldson & Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Read for: Early Reader Challenge

Synopsis: "What do dragons learn at Madam Dragon's school?
How to fly. . . 
How to roar. . . 
How to breathe fire!

Zog is the most eager student in the class, but he's also the most accident-prone. With each test (and each bump, bruise, or scrape), his dream of earning a gold star seems further away than ever.

But a mysterious girl keeps coming to his rescue. And when Zog faces his toughest test yet, she may be just the person to help Zog win classroom glory!"

My Review: Munchkin has loved all of Julia Donaldson books so far, especially Room on the Broom, so I had to pick this book up for him. It looks just like the dragon from Room on the Broom and Munchkin was super excited about it. This has the same great rhythm and rhyme of her other books so it still felt familiar. It had lots of great repetition and simple words but quite a bit of text. Young readers will grow a lot in confidence as they read this book. We enjoyed the story and how it progressed as well.

My Rating: We really enjoyed this book and love the illustrations as well. It will become a favorite just like the rest of her books! We give it a rating of Four Paws!!

Good Night! Sweet Dreams!

Review of 2018 Books: The Stats, the Surprises, the Disappointments and the Best of the Best

I guess it is about time I wrap up my 2018 reading year since we are well into 2019 already.

2018 Reading Stats:

In 2018 I read a total of 324 books (give or take a couple that aren't on Goodreads)
broken down that is 40,307 pages and
616:20 hours (25 days, 16 hours and 20 minutes) of audio book time

of those books:
43 earned 5 star ratings
152 earned 4 star ratings
102 earned 3 star ratings
32 earned 2 star ratings
14 were DNFed

95 were in the 0-50 page range
57 were in the 51-150 page range additionally 5 audio books in this range
65 were in the 151-300 page range, additionally 21 audio books in this range
23 were in the 301-400 page range, additionally 30 audio books in this range
11 were in the 401-500 page range, additionally 14 audio books in this range
6 were in the 501-650 page range, additionally 1 audio book in this range
none were over the 650 range

55 were Children's Books
35 were Early Reader Books
57 were Middle Grade Books
58 were Young Adult Books
93 were Adult Books

29 were Graphic Novels
46 were Romance
85 were Fantasy
14 were Sci-Fi
71 were Audio Books 
24 were by local Rhode Island Authors

Things I have discovered in 2018:

I did a lot more tracking than I have done in the past and I have learned a lot about myself as a reader through that tracking.  First, I always thought of myself as a YA reader but even without reading as many romances as normal I ended up reading nearly double the number of adult books over YA books! I have a sweet spot for audio books, I seem to prefer listening to books between 250-350 pages which take about 8-10 hours.  I should not be afraid of big books, some of the books I have enjoyed most have been the longer books.  DNFing books does not harm me in anyway! Yes you heard that right, it doesn't do anything negative to you when you decide to put a book down that you are not enjoying, in fact it has quite the opposite effect!

Biggest Disappointments:
So besides the 14 books I DNFed this last year, there were a few disappointments. It doesn't mean that these were bad books, or even that I hated them, just simply books I felt were going to be fantastic but just didn't live up to my expectations.

The cover is stunning, the idea behind it is super intriguing, a blend of historical fiction and fantasy, but it just did not work for me. I honestly almost DNFed it a few times.

This one hurts! I love Hades & Persephone re-tellings and was really looking forward to this one and the next book in the series. I struggled to get a grasp on the world and didn't connect with the characters, except the bone and soul eating horse.

I know, this is probably going to upset a lot of people but I did not like this duology! I struggled to get through it only because of King of Scars coming out. I did not like most of the characters, I know everyone loves Kaz but he was my most disliked character. Honestly my favorite was Mattias.  I wasn't a fan of the heist process either, too much was done off page for my liking. Luckily, we now get to return to Nikolai and forget all this Kaz nonsense. 

Biggest Surprises:
I read some books this year that I wasn't sure about or that sucked me in far more than I ever expected. Some pulled me into new genres and others introduced me to new authors and worlds.

This series completely consumed me the first half of the year. I had seen it a few times over the years but had put it off as being too science and clinical for my liking. I finally decided to read them and picked up the audio books as well (which I cannot recommend highly enough). They were so intriguing and engrossing, it really felt like this was a part of our history and that dragons were out there to be studied.  The twist in the final book was AMAZING! Even talking about it now makes me want to re-read them again!

So I have pretty much avoided Sci-Fi (except Star Wars) most of my reading life because I have no desire for math or science in my books. I also have a difficult time picturing a lot that is described with nothing to base it on. So this series was never on my radar but several of my favorite Booktubers constantly rave about this series, also it came recommended at the local bookstore, so I thought I would give it a try. I  was beyond shocked when I ended up loving it so much. Even with the distant and clinical format, the human element came through so strongly and I really became invested in this series. Again I highly recommend the audiobook versions! Because of these books I am starting to dip my toes into the Sci-fi genre a bit more. 

I wasn't really sure what to expect with this book but Pirates haven't really been my thing in the past. I ended up absolutely loving this high seas, steam punk, found family, girl power book. I was sucked into the story and the adventure, it even ended up triggering a full month of pirate themed books!

I have pretty much given up on YA contemporary but received this as part of a trade so gave it a try. It ended up being everything I ever wanted in a YA contemporary romance. It was all I wanted Princess Diaries to be and more! Even though it was dramatic at times, and it was pretty predictable, I still loved every minute of it and can't wait for the next book!

2018 Honorable Mentions
I don't normally do this but I read so many fantastic books this year that I just had to mention some that just barely missed out on my top books of the year.

Middle Grade, tough subject, told from the perspective of a tree, go read it!

Witty banter, lots of tension, girl power yet feminine, far more fun to read than I ever expected!

I get what people talk about now about assassin nuns, it just works! 

I loved this twist on the original! And so much attention paid to the details.

This was a bit predictable but the cliffhanger ending has me hooked!

Another Middle Grade book told from the perspective of a refugee in verse, go read it!

and finally

The Best of the Best Books in 2018:

So here we go with my top books of 2018! I did not expect a single one of these to land at the top, but they have all clearly earned the right to be here. I love that they are all so different, 2 historical fictions, 2 fantasy and 1 contemporary.  All of them except for 1 is over 400 pages and 3 of them are over 500! Do you have any idea how hard this was to narrow down?! Here we go in reverse order from 5 to 1 . . .

This cover kept catching my eye every single time I went into the book store, so I finally caved. But then it sat on my shelves for a couple of months because it was intimidating with its 624 pages. I did finally pick it up and read it while listening to the audio book and was completely consumed by it! I can't even tell you how into this story I got, I want a GOT like TV show of this, but of course first we need the 2nd book which he hasn't even finished writing yet!!

This is why you wait until after the first of the year to determine your favorite reads, you never know what the end of the year will bring. After a week long slump I picked this book up. It hadn't even been on my radar even though it is a Arthurian Legend book, but it came in the Once Upon A Book Club box so I decided to read it. I again became so invested in the characters and the story that I just couldn't put it down. I did again read it while listening to the audio book and the audio book captures the accent so beautifully!

This book was on my shelf for a while and then I also received an ARC for a Penguin edition release. I knew it was going to be a tough read but OMG I bawled and bawled and bawled! So sad but so good!

Yes I am counting this as one because I read them all nearly back to back and there was no way I was breaking this trilogy up. I know that this may not be the most popular series, but I urge you to try it and if it didn't work the first time try again as an audio book! I was and am obsessed with this historical fiction Vlad the Impaler re-telling series.  Lada and Radu will forever be my favorite siblings, their relationship is one for the record books. This series will have you hopefully, scared, sad, happy, you will cry, you will cheer, you will be disgusted and you will see love like you have never seen before.

I was intrigued by this book because there are horses on the cover but I passed it up last year, but Sam at Thoughts on Tomes just kept raving about it and I became really interested.  I am so glad that I finally picked it up this year. I read it for Tome Topple and it was a buddy read, I also read it while listening to the audio book (because I was worried about pronunciations and names). I really struggle to put into words how beautiful this book was,  it has an almost lyrical writing style, the characters and the way their relationship grows throughout the story is just beautiful. Their dedication to each other blows me away.  This will not be a book for everyone but it was definitely the book for me this last year!

So what were some of your favorite books of 2018? Have you read any of mine? Will you be picking any of these up this year?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review of White Stag by Kara Barbieri

Read for: Requested Review/Netgalley

Synopsis:  "As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.

Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling."

My Review: . It has taken me a couple of days to gather my thoughts on this book. I was really intrigued by the synopsis. The book kicks off following Janneke after she has already been in the Permafrost Goblin realm for 100 years, which I really appreciated that it is clear that it has take a long time to progress to the current events and it isn't as sudden as it seems. I really enjoyed the back and forth between Janneke & Soren, as well as the awkwardness due to the human/goblin differences. Their relationship does border on stockholm-ish but I had no problem with it. I enjoyed the variety of influences from mythology and fairy tales as well. I also enjoyed the play with right versus wrong, good versus evil, the lines are definitely blurred and reformed a few times throughout the story. It was a really engrossing read and entertaining, until the last couple of chapters. Then things got overly complex, like she tried to use a lot of symbolism and metaphors that just weren't necessary and didn't match the tone of the rest of the story. That ending was a big disappointment for me and being that it is the end, it doesn't leave a great last impression. Note: I did read an ARC and I am hoping possibly the ending has been altered in the finish copy.

My Rating: I really struggled to come up with a rating for this one because I really did enjoy it right up to the end. It is amazing how an ending can really sway your entire view of a book. I give it a rating of Two Paws and a Stump Wag.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley, the above is my honest review.

You can find out more about Kara Barbieri and her books on her Goodreads Page or Wattpad Page.

White Stag was just released on January 8th and is now available in digital and print format from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Top 5 Wednesday: Hyped 2019 Releases I'm Taking a Pass On

Top 5 Wednesday is a group on Goodreads hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes on Youtube.

So this week's topic is about the top books that everyone else is hyped for but I am not, I am often on the outside of the hype when it comes to new releases. I do get hyped for popular series but I am always late to the game it seems.  Anyway, here are some of the books that everyone and their friends seem to be highly anticipating but leave me kind of meh.

It was like pulling teeth for me to get through the first book and it kind of makes me sad because so many of my favorite readers are ready to give their right arm for this one but I just couldn't bring myself to continue the series.

I was a little curious of Children of Blood and Bone but saw a lot of eh reviews and then the whole stunt with Nora Roberts, created a whole lot of nope for me. I may read these eventually but chances are pretty darn slim.

I am slowly working my way into Sci-fi and I did try a chapter on LifeL1k3 but it just wasn't for me, so I won't be picking this one up (even though I love the cover).

I still have yet to read The Hate U Give, but honestly contemporary YA is not for me anymore, the teen drama and emotions drive me up a wall. I think I will pass on this one.

I am a little sad about this one because Kiersten White is one of my new favorite authors from 2018 but I was never a Buffy fan and I don't want a book I am not interested to ruin my love of the author's works in general.

So what hyped books are you going to pass on?