Friday, 30 August 2013

Kid's Korner; Special review with Harry Potter (by J.K. Rowling)

Kid's Korner is a new weekly feature here at Once Upon a Series where we will be reviewing children's fiction. Whether you're looking for something to read with your little ones (especially with the school holidays now upon us) or just enjoy this type of fiction yourself, hopefully this feature will help to inspire your reading choices.

Once again, Harry Potter pops in... Another HPVirgin defeated as this book is working its way into the Once Upon A Series folks' minds... This is actually quite a different review today but it was really interesting to do & I hope you, any children you may have & even teens really enjoy reading this- if you know any kids thinking of reading, get them to read this & they may be convinced to read, before watching, the Harry Potter series! It's OK to do this of course but I'd love to hear that you've got people to read this, or just you've read it & enjoyed it!

Publisher - Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date - June 30th 1997
Paperback - 223 pages
Genre - Children's Fantasy

Both Of Us:
Source - Purchased
Rating - 4 out of 5: I really liked it
Reviewed by - Amy, with summary from Chrissie.

Book Info - Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He's never worn a cloak of invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years. But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him...if Harry can survive the encounter. Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

A special kind of review... You'll see! Doesn't it remind you of our previous joint-review @ Once Upon A Series?
Amy: So, I haven’t read Harry Potter. How?
You must have heard so much, did you say?
Well I knew who Harry Potter was. You’re a wizard, Harry.
Living with the Dursleys, I knew. Arrived in the night.
Hagrid, Albus Dumbledore and Minnie Mcgonagall. Professors.
Giants- triple the man Voldermort is.
Or shall I call him He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named?
You-Know-Who. Slytherin.
I knew about that, and have heard of Snape.
There’s snakes and languages wizards sometimes use to communicate-
Speaking to snakes isn’t that normal though.
Should a Gryffindor have that power?
Not a Huffle Puff or a Ravenclaw,
Harry is one of a trio: him, Hermione and Ron.
They go through Hogwarts, year after year.
Death eaters nor Quidditch destroy their friendship.
But- the question is- is there more to Harry Potter?
I believe it must be about more than just those things.
More than just those and a tale of Azkaban to follow, or why is it so popular?
Everlasting hype, is that what made millions recommend it to me,
Or should I say- push it at me, guilt-tripping me...
I hadn’t read it. But then I did.
Director: CUT! This wasn’t supposed to be a poetry competition. You can’t tell us random things which you knew before reading, what else did you find out during reading? You’ve got to tell us your thoughts. This is a review. You’re writing a poem. So, we’ll need to get someone to help you.
Amy: What? So I’ll do a joint review? You can get someone to do that... Well, I better let the other person speak. Already have spouted over 200 hundred words and I’ve not yet said what I think.
Director: Exactly. Now we’re going to get somewhere. I’m going to get Chrissie to introduce this, is that OK?
Amy: I just said it was OK if they speak. Go on, then *looks at fellow reviewer* Anapneo!
Director: Who said Chrissie had blocked airways?
Amy: She wasn't speaking!
Director: They probably don’t want to speak to someone who has a babbling curse. If we undo it then maybe we can get on with this review in a... well, an efficient manner?

Amy: Pardon? Evanesco Director! *smiles at nicer companion than Director and then blanches* Wait, you’re not Chrissie! I need Chrissie to review this with but, umm... hello! *looks at boy and stands up so she can walk round him, she looks him up and down* No, you’re not really... Not really...
Harry: Um, sorry? I really am Harry Potter, if that’s who you mean. Who’s Chrissie and what do you mean, review?
Amy: You lived with muggles! How do you not know about book reviews? They give books, like your books, fame and then even now- people are still reviewing them, or sharing their opinions about the series with the world. Chrissie and I both review here... You’re in Once Upon A Series’ set and we were just about to discuss “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”.
Harry: How strange. I don’t know I arrived here. I’m tempted to wipe your memory but in the second book we find out that’s a bad idea- even with the right wand!
Amy: Ah, wands. Can I see your wand, please? I remember you walking into Diagon Alley with Hagrid, finding the shop with wands and really, even you were blown away! Mr. Ollivander sure likes his wands... Remembers every sale, from Hagrid’s wand to He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, You-Know-Who!
Harry: Surely your set is safe enough to say Voldermort? Surely?
Amy: Shut up. I liked you better in the book. I just plain really liked all three of you especially. You make a fantastic trio, you know?
Harry: Well, thank you kindly.
Amy: I trust you don’t get bigheaded like Hermoine... Or Percy, he’s a lot worse. I don’t know how Ron copes with Hermoine and his brother both jabbering on like they came from the same nest. Talking about nests, I really think Hagrid should stop nurturing baby monsters. I have a feeling the Dragon wasn’t his first monster which got him, and you, in trouble! But, well, we’ll find out. Of course, there is so much to explore in the series and; I’m far from done with your world, Harry... What do you think about the fact that all the time people of many ages are finding the Harry Potter series...?
Harry: If you don’t mind me pointing it out, isn’t this supposed to be about your opinions?
Amy: Well, yes... I think it’s magical. Your turn!
Harry: That’s cheating, and you’ll think I’m bigheaded if I say...
Amy: Well, I’ll say it for you, your adventures are amazing. One thing that did annoy me was how your adventure happened in the middle of the exams, at the end of the year and whatnot. It’s not especially good to have a slow build up of the world, and characters, for more than half a book- why did it need to take half a book- and then zip zam... All the action is gone in a blink and you’re back in safe realms of Hogwarts being awarded house points!
Harry: Zip Zam isn’t a spell, it’s just weird, you know?
Amy: Don’t you know when to keep quiet? How many times? Shut up.
Harry: Maybe you’re pretending to be Hermione. Your hair isn't curly enough, you have the piles of books nailed but so far you haven’t actually corrected me, just told me to be quiet.
Amy: Ha, I’m not Hermoine. Book bloggers are a bit like her though, we definitely like books. Has she really never told you to be quiet?
Harry: *raises eyebrows* You are a muggle, you know.
Amy: I’m actually 2/7 wizard. I have 5 more books to go.
Harry: Go read. I refuse to talk to you anymore...
Amy: Tell Hermoine I love her and not to over-revise for exams, she has the talent and puts my procrastinating soul to shame...
Harry: *mumbles* She puts anyone to shame *disappears in a puff of smoke*
Amy: I really need to learn that spell...
Chrissie: What spell?
Amy: You’re here, finally. You’re late and you missed Harry...
Chrissie: You’re imagining things, Amy. So, you don’t need me?
Amy: You could do the Summary, as you didn't so much as do the introduction *tuts*
Chrissie: I already wrote one in my old review... Anyway, are you sure you met Harry; not Hermione?
Amy: *pouts* Could you read it, please? They won’t know when we transcribe this it’s copy and pasted...
Chrissie: So polite all of a sudden! *winks* We’ll transcribe that in. *coughs* Summary coming up...

Summary (from Chrissie) - A great start to what is supposed to be an amazing series. And I'm sure that things will continue to get even better as the series continues now that the scene has been so beautifully set in this first novel. I can't wait to see what else is in store for Harry and his friends.
(Amy: I literally couldn't wait... Umm, oops? I reviewed it finally though, with a little help from Chrissie, I hope you enjoy the books, or you may have already, & this fun review!)

Other books in this series:
1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Series Spotlight: Elements of Power by Heather James

Series Spotlight is a new weekly feature here on Once Upon a Series, where I will be highlighting a series that I would either like to read if I get a chance to, or would like to finish reading at some point. Hopefully it will give you all some ideas for other series to read... or if you've read something similar that you think other fans of the series featured would like, then please do mention it in the comments.

Today we've chosen...
Elements of Power by Heather James

To start reading straight away, you can purchase Fire from: Amazon / Kobo / Barnes and NobleThe following books will be available at the retailers seen above.
You can find out more about Heather James, author of the series, over at her blog.

#1. Fire 
Is control over the elements a gift, or a curse?

Enter a world where it's normal to spark flames in your fingertips, or produce gale-force winds with a flick of your wrists.

Roxy thinks that she is in control of everything: with flames flaring at her fingertips and an equally fiery attitude, what more could she need? But then she meets Brae, a prince from a rival Realm, who turns her assumptions of superiority upside down.

Jasmine has none of Roxy’s confidence or intensity. But she does have a secret - and Brae - and she’s not going to give either up willingly.

Water pooled around my feet, rising at an alarming rate. I stared - panicked - at the palms of my hands, willing the water gushing out of them to stop as miraculously as it had begun.
I only sneezed!
Cover now revealed and final release date
to follow... After some editing methinks!

Jasmine is struggling to control her new powers, causing floods and fires with an accidental flick of her wrist. In a desperate attempt to master at least one aspect of them, she travels to the Brizan Realm, where she comes closer to discovering the truth about her parents than ever before. But not everyone wants their secrets revealed.

Alone, powerless and, for the first time in her life, afraid, Roxy has only one thought occupying her mind: escaping Cinaer's clutches before it's too late. Her flight will take her across the ocean, but not in the direction she is expecting. Before she can try and get back to Brae, she needs to rescue herself.

Despite being on opposite sides of the world, the girls soon find themselves closer than ever.

Water is the second novel in the Elements of Power series and is due to be released Autumn 2013. Keep an eye on James' website for more details. Of course, you can buy and read in time for the sequel, Fire (see that big Amazon button?).

You saw a teaser of Water in the first paragraph of its synopsis. The first two lines of Water... So, as I haven't read it yet either and I've read Fire I gladly accepted the offer of also giving readers of Once Upon A Series an excerpt, today it's an exclusive glimpse inside Water, continuing from the synopsis...

Excerpt continued...
But there wasn't time to complain about how it had started. I needed to make it stop. The water was already up to my ankles, drowning my feet along with my favourite boots.

My hair, streaked with vibrant violet strands, hung in drenched ringlets down my back as I reached, desperate, for the door to my bedroom, but the force of the water pushed me back from the handle before I could grip it.

I screamed in frustration. This was not happening! I was stuck in my own bedroom, water rising up rapidly around me. All I had to do was open the door, but I couldn't even do that because my hands were the source of the water!

It was up to my knees now. At this rate, it wouldn't take long to fill the room entirely and then…

No. I wasn't going to think about that. I was going to stop the water before then. I could do that. I could control my powers; I would not let them kill me.

Stop, stop, stop, I willed.

Think of something dry, Jasmine. Think of the Helian Realm, all that sunshine and heat.

The force of the jets increased. "No!" I screamed again.

The water was already at my waist. Tears were streaming from my eyes—as if I wasn't already producing enough water to contend with.

I spotted my dressing table by the window, the top of which was above the water line, for now. I climbed up onto it, dripping, and directed my hands towards the part of the room furthest from me; the bathroom door. Now, if that had been open, I would have been okay—I could have held my hands over the plug hole in the bath until the water stopped.

That was what I had done last time.

And the time before that.

But, of course, this morning I'd had to kick the bathroom door shut on my way out, hadn't I?

The water had already made it over the top of the table. I wanted to tear at my hair, clench my fists or hit something really hard. But I couldn't—my hands were completely unusable.

Defeated and frustrated, I settled for standing on my dressing table, cursing my out-of-control powers at the top of my lungs.

And then the bedroom door burst open and a torrent of water poured down the stairs...

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: SOULMATES by Holly Bourne

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week Amy has a "can't-wait-to-read" selection for you:

SOULMATES by Holly Bourne

Every so often, two people are born who are the perfect matches for each other. Soulmates. But while the odds of this happening are about as likely as being struck by lightning, when these people do meet and fall in love…thunderstorms, lightning strikes and lashings of rain are only the beginning of their problems.

Enter Poppy, the 17-year-old cynic with a serious addiction to banana milk, and Noah, the heart-throb guitarist; residents of mediocre Middletown, sometime students, and…soulmates.

After a chance meeting at a local band night, Poppy and Noah find themselves swept up in a whirlwind romance unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. But with a secret international agency preparing to separate them, a trail of destruction rumbling in their wake, (and a looming psychology coursework deadline), they are left with an impossible choice between the end of the world, or a life without love…

Unlike the last three or four WoW's this isn't a book we've known a lot about, we haven't yet made efforts to get this & we aren't reviewing it... yet. Guess what? Still so eager to read it but it's unlikely to just land on Amy's doorstep, unfortunately. But anyway, what do you think? Does it intrigue you too? Is this enough to go on? Maybe there is hype, I just have yet to see it...

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Review: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood & Co #1)

Publisher - Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date – August 29th 2013
Softcover – 440 pages
Genre – Young Adult; Paranormal
Source - Received from publisher for review
Rating - 4 out of 5: I really liked it
Reviewed by - Amy

Book Info
When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts.

My Thoughts- I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the mystery and ‘The Problem’; despite such an unordinary story arch I felt it all linked well enough and frankly- many elements just seemed to click for me. I suppose I love quirks, in the main novel itself, the characters and the way in which it flowed! I couldn’t figure out whether the series is supposed to be futuristic (but not very far in the future) or an alternate universe but either way this is intriguing. The history behind the issue of ghosts is one that is hard to summarize; clues keep being given as we discover much about the ‘lay of the land’. The book’s a perfect mystery with action plentiful also.
Each of the characters in Lockwood & Co’s trio are epic- Lockwood, Lucy and George are such an entertaining bunch- and Lucy, protagonist of ‘The Screaming Staircase’ is a solid character, sophisticated beyond her years. The connection I had to her was sort of ruined by the fact that sometimes I had to hunt down definitions for more than the odd word frankly.
Lucy’s vocabulary- it’s extraordinary. She’s supposed to be my age, maybe even younger. Oh, and, at one point, she said she didn’t read a lot in the circumstances. As a child, she just didn’t so I wonder, where did she get these words from? I think she’d have mentioned finding a dictionary as a ghost’s source or something... Was the only way to eradicate a ghost, once, to skim the dictionary until you learnt dozens of new words? Even though, I think, the novel is written in hindsight it’s not exactly appropriate in my opinion.
Lucy’s charming, sure, and an interesting character but one thing I’d very much enjoy is to hear the sequel(s?) from other point of views as we don’t discover much about Lockwood, and even less about George as a result of Lucy’s narration. Basically, I get the impression her perception of the trio is jaded. The agency seemed so fresh from Lucy’s eyes yet she’s the newest recruit and I wonder how long it’s been around... You discover so much about her, her background and just HER that it’s peculiar- too jaded. How did Lockwood come to set it up, for instance? Talking about agency- it’s something the characters very much have. Their lives are very restless and they seem to have a lot of power for ‘children’ as it were.
My criticisms aside, I shall just sit and wait for the story to be continued in a novel which looks very promising now.

Summary- I enjoyed the way the Lockwood and Co. has such intricacies; it was a very surreal ride but who cares? I loved the imagination- everything just seemed more exciting and I was gobsmacked quite frequently. Event after event, I found myself falling deeper and deeper into a fantastically engaging adventure. I would recommend this but not for reluctant readers as such- if the size of the book hasn’t put a kid (teens included) off they’re probably good to go...

Monday, 26 August 2013

It's Monday! What are you Reading? (26th August 2013)

This is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey that gives us all a chance to list the books that we read last week and what we hope to read this week.

Books We Read Last Week:

Maddie: Shards and Ashes edited by Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr
Amy: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter #1)

Books Reviewed Last Week:

Chrissie: Heat of the Storm by Elle Kennedy (Out of Uniform #1)
Chrissie: Candy and the Cankersaur by John Sandberg

Books We're Currently Reading:
Chrissie: Bare It All by Lori Foster (Love Undercover #2)

Books Up Next:
Chrissie: Omens by Kelley Armstrong (Cainsville #1)

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Stacking the Shelves (24th August 2013)

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews and is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

For Review:

The Siren by Tiffany Reisz (The Original Sinners #1)

Some love stories you never forget.
She tore herself from the man she adored, who transformed her, who possessed her...who would have destroyed her. Now she is adored by a man she must not have.
Some books will change your world.
She thinks she knows what it means to be pushed to her limits. She's wrong.
Be prepared...this is one of them

The Angel by Tiffany Reisz (The Original Sinners #2)

She wanted him...
Nora Sutherlin is in hiding. On paper, she's following her master's orders - and her flesh is willing.
More deeply, more strongly than she'd wanted anyone.
But her mind is wandering to a man from her past, whose hold on her heart is less bruising, but whose absence is no less painful. Instead of letting him make love to her, she'd let him go.
This is the story of a summer that proves that love hurts.

The Prince by Tiffany Reisz (The Original Sinners #3)

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer...preferably in bed. That's always been Kingsley Edge's strategy with his associate, the notorious New York dominatrix Nora Sutherlin. But with Nora away in Kentucky, now it's Kingsley's chance to take her place at the feet of the only man he's ever wanted -- Søren, Nora's on-again, off-again lover -- until a new threat from an old enemy forces him to confront his past.

Wes Railey is still the object of Nora's tamest yet most maddening fantasies, and the one man she can't forget. He's young. He's wonderful. He's also thoroughbred royalty and she's in "his" world now. But Nora is no simpering Southern belle, and her dream of fitting into Wesley's world is perpetually at odds with her dear Søren's relentlessly seductive pull.

Two worlds of wealth and passion call to her and whichever one Nora chooses, it will be the hardest decision she will ever have to make... unless someone makes it for her....

The Mistress by Tiffany Reisz (The Original Sinners #4)

There's punishment-and then there's vengeance.

Nora Sutherlin is being held, bound and naked. Under different circumstances, she would enjoy the situation immensely, but her captor isn't interested in play. Or pity.

As the reality of her impending peril unfolds, Nora becomes Scheherazade, buying each hour of her life with stories-sensual tales of Søren, Kingsley and Wesley, each of whom has tempted and tested and tortured her in his own way. This, Nora realizes, is her life: nothing so simple, so vanilla, as a mere love triangle for her. It's a knot in a silken cord, a tangled mass of longings of the body and the heart and the mind. And it may unravel at any moment.

But in Nora's world, no one is ever truly powerless-a cadre of her friends, protectors and lovers stands ready to do anything to save her, even when the only certainty seems to be sacrifice and heartbreak....

Friday, 23 August 2013

Kid's Korner Review: Candy and the Cankersaur by Jason Sandberg

Publisher - Self-Published
Publication Date - 18th June 2012
Genre - Children's Picture Book
Format - E-book

Source - Received from author for review

Rating - 3 out of 5: I liked it.

Available to purchase from - Amazon / iTunes / Nook / Kobo

Reviewed by - Chrissie

Book Info - This is the sweet and funny tale of a young girl named Candy and her Cankersaurus Rex! Candy receives a dinosaur as a gift and is determined to train him to be a good pet. This playful homage to Syd Hoff will make all dinosaur-crazy boys and girls happy! Enjoy!

My Thoughts - When the author offered me a review copy of Candy and the Cankersaur, I jumped at the chance. Having two young boys who love everything to do with dinosaurs, I knew that this would be a great book to share with them. Although I have to admit that I was a bit worried about how they would feel reading an e-book with me. That's not something I have done with them before, despite the fact that I am a big fan of e-books for myself, but as it turned out it didn't phase them in the slightest. In fact, it was a novelty for them and so were very excited when I told them we were going to read a book on Mummy's computer!

As this is only a short picture book, then this is going to be quite a short review too. The pictures in this book are colourful and eye-catching and both of my little ones enjoyed looking at them and talking about them. The storyline is fun and both the boys and I enjoyed it. The only thing that I would say is that the author pitched this book to me as being for children aged 3-6 as a book to be shared with parents, or for children aged 6-9 as a read-alone. However, I found some of the words and sentence structures to be a little too complex for my youngest, who is only three. I realise that all children develop differently and that he is on the younger end of the age range, but I still felt that some of the wording could have been put a little more simply. However, my eldest, who is six, didn't have any trouble understanding it at all. My youngest did enjoy talking about the pictures though, and made me go through it another two times with him straight after the first reading, so he definitely enjoyed it too.

Summary - A cute and fun picture book that I think will be a big hit with young boys and girls alike.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Series Spotlight: Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor by Lori Foster

Series Spotlight is a new weekly feature here on Once Upon a Series, where I will be highlighting a series that I would either like to read if I get a chance to, or would like to finish reading at some point. Hopefully it will give you all some ideas for other series to read... or if you've read something similar that you think other fans of the series featured would like, then please do mention it in the comments.

My recent Series Spotlight picks have been either a series that I want to read or a series that I have started and would like to finish, but this week I'm going to do something a little bit different. The Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series is one that I read last year while taking a break from blogging so I didn't ever get around to reviewing them. But I absolutely loved this series and by spotlighting it this week, it is my way of saying... please read these books! So yeah... just go read them lol.

1. When You Dare

Professional mercenary Dare Macintosh lives by one hard and fast rule: business should never be personal. If a cause appeals to him and the price is right, he'll take the mission he's offered. But then the lovely Molly Alexander asks him to help her track down the men who'd had her kidnapped—and for the first time, Dare's tempted to combine work with pleasure.

Fiercely independent, Molly vows to trust no one until she's uncovered the truth. Could the enemy be her powerful, estranged father? The ex-fiancé who still holds a grudge? Or the not-so-shy fan of her bestselling novels? As the danger heats up around them, the only anchor Molly has is Dare himself. But what she feels for him just might be the most frightening thing of all...

2. Trace of Fever

Undercover mercenary Trace Rivers loves the adrenaline rush of a well-planned mission. First he'll earn the trust of corrupt businessman Murray Coburn, then gather the proof he needs to shut down the man's dirty smuggling operation. It's a perfect scheme—until Coburn's long-lost daughter saunters in with her own deadly plan for revenge.

With a smile like an angel and fire in her eyes, Priscilla Patterson isn't who she seems to be. But neither is the gorgeous bodyguard who ignites all her senses. Joining forces to plot Coburn's downfall, Priss and Trace must fight the undeniable heat between them. For one wrong move, one lingering embrace, will expose them to the wrath of a merciless opponent...

3. Savor the Danger

The one woman he couldn't have was the only woman he desired…

She may be aloof, and more pretty than gorgeous, but Alani Rivers is the kind of woman a hot-blooded mercenary can't forget, no matter how hard he tries. So when Jackson Savor wakes up next to the naked, sleeping beauty—with no memory of what happened—he knows he's been drugged… even if Alani doesn't.

After she was kidnapped, Alani swore she'd never trust another man again. Still, something about this strong, sexy hero with the tender touch makes her want to believe him. As Jackson hunts downs a mysterious intruder, he swears he'll move heaven and earth to keep Alani safe. But what really happened that night? And will the truth bring them closer than they ever thought possible—or put Alani squarely in harm's way again?

4. A Perfect Storm

Spencer Lark already knows too many secrets about Arizona Storm, including the nightmare she survived and her resulting trust issues. But in order to expose a smuggling ring—and continue avenging his own tragic past—the bounty hunter reluctantly agrees to make Arizona a decoy. Yet nothing has equipped him for her hypnotic blend of fragility and bravery, or for the protective instincts she stirs in him.

Arizona wants to reclaim her life, which means acting as bait to lure the enemy into a trap. Sure it's dangerous, especially with a partner as distractingly appealing as Spencer. But as their plan—and their chemistry—shifts into high gear, Arizona may discover there's an even greater risk in surrendering her heart to a hero...

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Review: Heat of the Storm by Elle Kennedy (Out of Uniform #3)

Publisher - Samhain Publishing
Publication Date - 23th July 2009
Genre - Erotic Romance

Source - Purchased

Rating - 4 out of 5: I really liked it.

Book Info - Lieutenant Will Charleston has waited fifteen long years to show up as anything other than a one-pixel blip on Mackenzie Wade's romantic radar. If a powerful storm is what he needs to send her into his arms, he'll take it. Once the hot sex is over, though, she seems determined to kick him right back into the friend zone.

Not this time. This time, he's going to teach her the meaning of tenacious.

Mackenzie has always had feelings for Will, feelings she fights with all her strength. He's her best friend, her safety net. The one man who's not scared of her accursed psychic gift. No doubt he drives her wild in bed, but their night of passion was more than a mistake. It generated a tragic vision of the future, one that leaves her more confused--and afraid--than ever.

Problem is, Will knows her too well. Plus he's a SEAL to the bone. And they don't like to lose...

My Thoughts - Heat of the Storm is the third instalment in Elle Kennedy's Out of Uniform series, about a bunch of SEALs and the women who love them. I absolutely loved the first two books so held very high hopes for this novella. And i was not disappointed in the slightest.

This is Will's story. He has always kept a bit of a distance from the other SEALs that he works with - he's the quiet, reserved member of the group who likes to keep his business to himself. I really liked Will. He has been in love with Mackenzie for a number of years and he is her best friend and confidant. He has stood by her side as men have come and gone in her life and has been the only constant in her life as other, weaker men have decided that Mackenzie's visions of the future are too much for them to deal with. And I have to admit that I fell a little bit in love with him because of his loyalty to her, despite the fact that they've never taken things further than just being friends. Will would have been perfect for me, except for one small thing... in this novella Will has become convinced that Mackenzie has feelings for him and so is no longer willing to sit on the sidelines anymore, and his desperation to make her trust him and love him means that he makes some pretty big mistakes. These mistakes are completely understandable and, in some ways do make Mackenzie come to her senses, but as I was reading I did start to feel pretty frustrated that the patience and loyalty that I'd loved about him right from the very first page... no, when his situation with Mackenzie was first bought to the readers attention in the previous novella... seemed to disappear before my very eyes. But Will is still the type of character that will have the reader cheering for him from the very offset.

Mackenzie is also a character that will have the readers caring for her and cheering her on to find her happiness with Will. She has been plagued with visions from the future her whole life - some of them pretty horrific ones - but she is stuck with the awful knowledge that no matter what she does she can't do anything to stop these tragedies that she witnesses ahead of time. Because of this, men have never stuck around in the past meaning that she's had her heart broken a time or two, so now she is unwilling to get involved with another man. Especially Will, her best friend, the only man who has stuck around in her life. She doesn't want to lose him when he realises that her visions are too much to cope with. It is impossible not to feel for Mackenzie and the burden she carries through life.

And the chemistry between these two characters, right from the very first page is smokin' hot! Elle Kennedy is certainly very good at writing a sex scene that will leave the reader feeling hot under the collar. Will is very much a take charge man in all aspects of life, what with being a SEAL and all, and this doesn't change in the bedroom. He knows that Mackenzie always keeps herself under very tight control because of her visions - but he also knows she craves a lover who will take control for a while so that she doesn't have to worry about a thing - and the results are quite spectacular!

Summary - Another great instalment from one of my favourite erotic romance series. I really can't recommend this series enough.

Other books in the series:
1. Heat of the Moment
2. Heat of Passion
3. Heat of the Storm
4. Heat it Up
5. Heat of the Night
6. The Heat is On
7. Feeling Hot
8. Getting Hotter
9. Hotter Than Ever

Monday, 19 August 2013

It's Monday! What are you Reading? (19th August 2013)

This is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey that gives us all a chance to list the books that we read last week and what we hope to read this week.

Books We Read Last Week:
Chrissie - The Duchess Hunt by Jennifer Haymore (House of Trent #1)

Amy - The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud Lockwood & Co #1)

Books Reviewed Last Week:
Amy - The Taming of Lilah May by Vanessa Curtis (Lilah May #1)
Chrissie - Wicked Games by Kelly Lawrence

Books We're Currently Reading:
Chrissie - Bare It All by Lori Foster (Love Undercover #2)

Books Up Next:
Chrissie - Omens by Kelley Armstrong (Cainsville #1)

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Stand-Alone Sunday Review: Wicked Games by Kelly Lawrence

Here at Once Upon a Series, as the blog name would imply, we love a good series of books. But occasionally we come across a stand-alone novel that has caught our attention and up until now they haven't had a home here. So, we came up with Stand-Alone Sunday... a semi-regular feature here at Once Upon a Series to give a home to all those lonely stand-alone's that we review.

Publisher - Black Lace
Publication Date - 4th July 2013
Hardback - 256 pages
Genre - Erotic Memoir

Source - Received from publisher for review

Rating - 2 out of 5: It was okay

Reviewed by - Chrissie

Book Info - 'Looking back, I think I knew I was in trouble the first time I met him. The road he took me down was at once both more liberating than I could have dreamed of, and yet more intense than I could cope with. If the path of love doesn't always run smooth ... then how much more crooked it becomes when mixed with raw desire.'

This is no novel, but the memoir of an intense, exciting and at times unsettling relationship. Alex, for all his charms, is no billionaire playboy, and Kelly is no blushing virgin; rather your typical, overworked teacher who has no time for games, certainly not the wicked games he leads her into. Games that she ends up craving like a drug.

My Thoughts - I was very excited when I received this book for review. I've read quite a lot of Fifty Shades type books and, as this is a memoir, it promised to give the true story behind all the fiction. This caught my attention and I was very intrigued. But, for me, this book wasn't as enjoyable as i'd hoped it would be.

My main problem with the book was the lack of communication between the two main characters, Kelly and Alex. In and of itself I suppose it's a relatively minor gripe to have about a book. But this lack of proper communication was an issue over and over again, and caused so many unnecessary conflicts for the couple that I found myself getting so frustrated I had to put the book down to calm down. I mean, communication is vital in any relationship, but I'd imagine that in a D/s relationship, especially one where one of the people is a complete beginner to the lifestyle, then that ability to communicate goes beyond vital.

Alex and Kelly are actually likeable enough people for the most part, and are both good people, which actually made their one downfall even more frustrating for me. But in a way, that is what kept me turning the pages of Wicked Games. I had to keep reading to find out if these two people that I had grown to like would be able to overcome the obstacles to make things work.

What I did like about this book was that there was a good balance between the sexual elements and the storyline. In quite a lot of the erotic romance books I've read recently, the storyline has been substituted with sex and call me old-fashioned but I quite like a bit of storyline in the books I read. Yes, there is sex in Wicked Games, and those parts are well-written and enjoyable to read, but they didn't overshadow the story.

Summary - A book that held a lot of promise to be very good, and that was good in some ways. But it was just let down by the frustration I felt a lot of the time while reading it.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Stacking the Shelves (17th August 2013)

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews and is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

For Review:

The Arrangement by Mary Balogh (Survivor's Club #2)

Blinded by a cannon blast on the Napoleonic battlefields, Vincent Hunt, Lord Darleigh, needs to escape the well-meaning meddling - and matchmaking - of his family. Luckily, he is saved by a stranger, a lady with a captivating voice. When Miss Sophia Fry's intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian's home, there seems only one solution: marriage.

But Sophia fears her attraction to this handsome yet heartbreakingly vulnerable man. Could an arrangement born of desperation lead them both to a love destined to be?

Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson (Sentinels of New Orleans #3)

New Orleans is under attack from a copycat who is mimicking the crimes of a serial killer who terrorized the streets almost a century earlier.

Drusilla Jaco could happily live without the advances of the 200-year-old undead pirate Jean Lafitte, but through him she learns the terrible truth: this is no copycat - someone has resurrected the original Axeman of New Orleans. And to make matters worse, the attacks aren't random at all. He's after her.

So there's an undead serial killer on her back. A loup-garou who's going loco. The Elders are insisting on magic lessons from the world's most annoying wizard. And former partner - and sometime Neanderthal - Alex Warin has just turned up on DJ's to-do list.

DJ is about to discover that life in Louisiana has more twists and turns than the mighty Mississippi.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Series Spotlight: Long Shots Series by Christine D'Abo

Series Spotlight is a new weekly feature here on Once Upon a Series, where I will be highlighting a series that I would either like to read if I get a chance to, or would like to finish reading at some point. Hopefully it will give you all some ideas for other series to read... or if you've read something similar that you think other fans of the series featured would like, then please do mention it in the comments.

Today I've chosen the Long Shots series by Christine D'Abo. A long time ago I read book four of the series, Calling the Shots, and I absolutely loved it. Yes, I know... I started at the end of the series which is a very backwards way of doing things, but I saw it available for review on NetGalley and I couldn't resist. Also, on a side note, my review for Calling the Shots is the most viewed post on Once Upon a Series by a long shot... See what I did there? By a long shot lol. Well, at least I crack myself up! But one day, I will go back and read the rest of this series, and this is a little reminder to myself that I need to do that.

1. Double Shot
Coffee shop owner Sadie Long has been lusting after her good friend Paul Williams for years. So she's more than a little intrigued when he invites her to a business meeting at Mavericks, the sex club where he works. While catering an event at the club is not quite the proposition she was hoping for, her business could use the boost. And she can't resist the chance to work closely with Paul in such a sexually charged atmosphere. Enter the club's hot owner, Josh, and suddenly Sadie's fantasizing about being part of a threesome.

Paul has always wanted Sadie, but never thought she'd see him as anything more than a friend. On the night of the party, he and Josh tempt Sadie to reveal her deepest desire--a desire both men are eager to help fulfil.

Giving in to her sensual side, Sadie enjoys a night of mind-blowing sex. But in the light of day, will she lose Paul as a friend, or gain him as a lover?

2. A Shot in the Dark
Carter is one of the hottest men ever to walk into Paige Long's coffee shop. The attraction is mutual, and when Carter reveals himself to be a Dom, the submissive in Paige is aroused. Yet she brushes him off—her last relationship was abusive and she's unwilling to get involved with another Dom.

But when Carter returns the next day—in his firefighter uniform—Paige's fantasies really heat up. She can't resist his offer to get to know him over a drink at Mavericks, a local sex club. Their conversation quickly escalates to a session in one of the private rooms, and Paige is both thoroughly satisfied by Carter's skills in domination, and impressed with his selflessness as a lover.

Paige is ready to move on with her life. But can she trust in herself and submit to happiness?

3. Pulled Long
For months, coffee shop owner Ian Long has fantasized about a customer he knows only as "Blue Eyes." Until he learns Blue Eyes is in the midst of a divorce—the last thing Ian wants is to be the rebound experiment of a straight guy. Giving in to lust, he invites the man into the cafe after hours and they indulge in a little exhibitionist play, but Ian is unwilling to get involved.

But when he’s forced to see Jeff again to return his briefcase, Ian finally agrees to go out on a date. Dinner quickly becomes an erotic encounter in a special room at the sex club Mavericks, and Ian realizes Jeff satisfies desires he didn’t even know he had. The more he gets to know Jeff as a person, the harder it is to resist falling for him.

Jeff makes it clear he’s interested in more than just sex. He wants to go public with their relationship in more ways than one. But can Ian open his heart, when he fears it will be broken?

4. Calling the Shots
He's had a wild ride, and now sex club owner Josh Scott is looking for a change of scene. But first, he's determined to bring two friends together, and he's willing to be a third wheel to move things along...

Beth Norris is eager to be set up with hot bartender Oliver Stephenson, but she's equally attracted to matchmaker Josh. Soon she's fantasizing about both men at once—and about being the one to call the shots in the encounter...

Ready to move on with his life post-divorce, Oliver is conflicted by the realization that he's attracted to women and men. Or more specifically, to Beth and Josh. He tries to keep his distance, but it's not long before the chemistry between the trio combusts in a night of mind-blowing sex.

In the light of day, it's clear something deeper than desire is growing between Josh, Beth and Oliver. But though Josh has helped others find love in unconventional relationships, is he willing to take a chance on one himself?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: The Elites by Natasha Ngan

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week Amy shares some more from her "can't-wait-to-read" selection with you, today's pick is:

The Elites by Natasha Ngan 

'There is a rumour that the Elites don’t bleed.’

Hundreds of years into the future, wars, riots, resource crises and rising sea-levels have destroyed the old civilisations. Only one city has survived: Neo-Babel, a city full of cultures – and racial tension.

Fifteen-year-old Silver is an Elite, a citizen of Neo-Babel chosen to guard the city due to her superior DNA. She’d never dream of leaving – but then she fails to prevent the assassination of Neo Babel’s president, setting off a chain of events more shocking and devastating than she could ever have imagined. Forced to flee the city with her best friend Butterfly (a boy with genetically-enhanced wings), Silver will have to fight to find her family, uncover the truth about Neo-Babel and come to terms with her complicated feelings for Butterfly.

Packed full of adventure, romance, exoticism and the power of friendship, The Elites is a highly compelling and beautifully written novel from a supremely talented debut author.

{And Natasha isn't just talented but she's a lovely tweep too... She told me the book is a rollercoaster so if you can cope with highs and lows you may want to join me in waiting... Or you could be more practical and outgoing than I and basically just ask for an ARC. Yeah, you do that. My teen bloggers friends have grabbed some & are like, "ARC's are avaliable... Umm, Amy, what are you waiting for?" In truth, for my TBR to disappear into my reader's mouth. I just don't have room/time to devour them all at once (I mean, how big do you think my mouth is?) or even so soon but still, I'm waiting and TBRing this!}

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Review: The Taming of Lilah May (Lilah May #1) by Vanessa Curtis

Publisher - Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Publication Date - 12th May 2011
Paperback - 182 pages
Genre - YA contemporary (realistic)
Source - Borrowed from library
Rating - 4.5 out of 5: I really liked it (+ a bit more amazing)
Reviewed by - Amy

Book Info -
I'm Lilah May and I'm ANGRY.
So angry that I'm about to be excluded from school, my parents can't control me, and only one person in the world understands me. And that's my best friend, Bindi.

I haven't always been this way. It all started with my brother Jay. And what no one realises is that it's all my fault.
(By the author of Zelah Green, Queen of Clean, which has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Prize, The Nasen/TES Prize 2009 and winner of the Manchester Children's Book Awards 2010.)

My Thoughts-
I'm not sure if this has been even nominated for awards. I'm sorry for that non-sureness but I cannot lie; it should win some. Just like Zelah Green did. I reviewed them too and pretty much really liked them too. But this- this book is different. Still contemporary but more surprising.
Firstly, do you know one of the things I love about Lilah May? (Come on! Be physic.) You're not going to believe it but... the made-up words. I love it, I'm sometimes known for "inventing words" but I didn't think of the epic word, "Shockerola!" Lilah did. The thing about Lilah is, she does that to deal with her anger. I don't know how it works but as soon as that word, or maybe her personal favourite 'Groo', is uttered... Well, she seems better for it. So, I support her in what you may think is mad. I love these words, less so the latter.
How many books do you know dealing with anger management? It's not exactly a topic for children. It's not meant to be. Neither are some of the other themes and things brought up in 'The Taming Of Lilah May'.
The mixture of the cover, page length and whatnot may bring a younger audience in that is intended for. But I think 11+ are the best bet.
The length deceives for another reason. You may wonder how much can be packed into it and why the sequel needs to be a separate book at this length. But actually, many longer books don't pack a punch like this one. Drugs are mentioned. There's a hint of multiculturalism (Bindi's family want her to have an arranged marriage and this was discussed a little bit but it was a sub-plot.) If you don't mind hearing about another sub-plot, I'm not wanting to wreck part of the book but well... it's not an integral part, I'm including the below for a reason (you are welcome to skip this paragraph in italics if this is your preference!):
Small spoiler: One of the characters actually gets a teen girl pregnant and surprisingly, with all that goes on, Lilah copes quite well. I get a feeling she's more annoyed about the boy's part in it compared to the girl's. But even if this is not the case, the book handles it in a mature way (and boy, isn't it fab it's handled at all?). The consequences are shown but you don't have to read the other explicit stuff which is best left out, as I'm a teen reading books for teens y'know :P
This was totally unexpected but this part just amped up the rating. Although that is common it's really not dealt with as much as other issues- like mental illness (I know that's unique but not as unique from what I know).
All the relationships were dealt with in a sensitive and amazing way! I felt a connection to Lilah which proves it's not just characters I relate with more (sorry to mention Zelah again!) that Vanessa portrays well, it's all of them. This isn't a fluke. I truly believe you will love all Curtis' books...

Having said the above, especially this one. This is a gem, dealing with topics you probably haven't read about (or rarely, if you have). I enjoyed it thoroughly although felt the mystery didn't suit the book as well, for as long as it carried out. It does hook the reader as we wait to know background information about Jay, Lilah's brother, who disappeared. Yet I hated not knowing until probably halfway through! I'm sorry to say this wasn't the best, I absolutely don't think Jay deserved it all (though of course he's her brother) and was more moved for Lilah and her parents in the main storyline. I just wished I'd known what had Lilah in such twists earlier. Now I do know, I have a good idea of what to expect in the sequel and may read that too. There is sure to be a lot of 'punch' in that too so if you've read that/decide to read that in future please let me know!

Talking about the sequel, as always...

Other books in the series:
1. The Taming of Lilah May (LM #1)
2. Lilah May's Manic Days (LM #2)

Monday, 12 August 2013

It's Monday! What are you Reading? (12th August 2013)

This is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey that gives us all a chance to list the books that we read last week and what we hope to read this week.

Books We Read Last Week:
(believe me, they will be reviewed soon enough... Well, I view it as soon enough! :P)

Amy - The Taming Of Lilah May by Vanessa Curtis
Chrissie - Heat Of The Storm

Books Reviewed Last Week:

Chrissie read and reviewed both of these titles:
Wicked Games by Kelly Lawrence
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter #1)

Books We're Currently Reading:

Chrissie - The Duchess Hunt by Jennifer Haymore
Books Up Next:

Amy - The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
(and am eager to start so I can review this)
Chrissie - Not eager to read anything else yet!

Remember, there are a few reviews left to come of books we read as well as what we are reading/planning on reading. Won't you let Chrissie and I know your reads as well?...
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