We’ve MOVED!!!

Hello dear Celebrity Readers…uh, readers?  Fans?  Followers?  We’ve decided to embrace the world of more options (prettier themes! access to javascript and plugins! LINK UPS!, finally obtaining the domain celebrityreaders.com!) and have moved away from the free wordpress.com to wordpress.org.  If you’re currently a follower of this site, I will be migrating you to the new site, but unless you subscribed via email, wordpress says you may not receive emails anymore…it might only appear in your reader.  So I’m not sure if there’s a setting for you to switch on or what, but I just wanted to let you officially know about the move so hopefully you won’t miss us!

COME!  JOIN US!!!  Click here to go to the shiny new site!

And thank you for all your support so far, and hopefully your continued fandom!

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Bad Princess by Julianna Keyes

Blurb:
36397594Notorious for leaping off roofs, maiming foreign royals, and that twerking incident, Brinley Cantrella of Estau is nobody’s definition of a good princess. She’s fearless and bold, not good and gracious. And after a lifetime of being told she’s unfit to be queen, wearing the crown and helping to usher Estau into a new era is the one dream she’s never dared chase.

But when her older sister abdicates the throne, all Brinley has to do to inherit the role is not twerk, not maim anybody, and definitely not get caught fooling around topless with Prince Finn, her childhood crush, the only man she’s ever loved…and her sister’s former future husband.

Finn embodies the definition of good. Tall and handsome, serious and honorable, he always does the right thing—including agreeing to marry his ex’s sister to cover up this latest scandal. Brinley has fallen down stairs, broken teeth and broken bones, but this is the first time her heart has ever been broken. She now has the crown and the prince, and on the surface, life is good—but is being married to a man everyone swears could never love her back good enough?

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

You guys…YOU GUYS.  I am in fucking love.  And I’m going to have to bleep that for Amazon.  But seriously, this was a LENORE book through and through.  And it was all Brinley!  OK, not all Brinley, Finian’s kind of da bomb as well…I’ll get to him.  But Brinley…oh Brinley.  She has made my girl crush list!!!!  And if you know me, that happens fairly infrequently.  But I was enamoured with her from practically the first page.  She made me laugh, she made my heart hurt, she was just everything I love in a heroine.  I was trying to tell my hubby about this book, and loving Brinley, and he was like “well yeah, she’s exactly your type of girl.  She sounds like Rapunzel from Tangled.”  Huh.  You know, he’s kind of right.  The stories of her misadventures when she was a child were just adorable…she sounded mischievous and incorrigible.  And it carried into who she was when we met her.  She was so true to herself, despite how often others tried to beat her down.  She was sassy, and bold, and hilarious, and curious, and just…AHHH!!  LOVE HER!

And Finn!!  I felt like I understood exactly who he was and how he felt right at the beginning, even if it wasn’t overt…  But he still surprised me along the way.  And for a book entirely from the heroine’s POV, I still felt like I got to know him.  Maybe it’s that we see the contrast between them, and how this royal life had very different effects on each of them.  But there was still a spark in him.  And he had shades of beta boy in him!  He was quiet to her bold.  But he was still strong, and he knew how to support a strong woman like Brinley.  And holy fuck was he hot.  Those kisses (and more) got me all fluttery.  He wasn’t perfect, by any means…there were times I wanted to smack him.  But the way its written, I got to understand why he made certain mistakes and bad choices, and I believed in his growth.  I love him too.

For a novella, this book sucked me in hardcore and really made me feel for its characters.  I LOVE when I feel like I can get to know them so quickly, and I become invested in the story.  I saw other reviewers say they couldn’t, so I don’t know why it was different for me…but it definitely was.  I rooted for Brinley, I was invested in what would happen to her, I was completely all in on the romance, it was just perfect for me.

Honestly, the only reason it’s not a full 5 star is because I loved it so much, I wanted more.  I could have continued reading about these two characters until they grew old and died.  I’m fully serious.  This is my first book from Ms. Keyes, but it certainly won’t be my last if this is anything to go by.  Also?  As a side shoutout, there was a romantic/erotic trope gender swap (“Finn, come”) that had me laughing my ass off.  I’m not sure if it was supposed to be funny, but I don’t even care…props Ms. Keyes.

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Falling From The Sky by Nikki Godwin

Blurb:
23463189All stability in sixteen-year-old Ridge McCoy’s life crashed and burned in the plane crash that killed his dad. This summer-long basketball camp is his chance to improve his skills and escape his problems back home. But his summer plans take a turn in an unexpected direction when he meets Micah Youngblood, the guy who runs the carousel at the local mall and has a reputation for devouring straight boys’ heterosexuality for breakfast, alongside his chocolate chip pancakes.

Ridge needs a way to avoid the guys at camp, whose only quest for the summer is to drown in beer and hook up with girls. So when Micah offers to explain how the ten unique horses on the carousel are significant to his tribe, Ridge takes him up on it. Still, Ridge can’t decide if this is a bad thing or not. All he knows is that he hasn’t felt this alive since his dad fell from the sky, and as the horse adventures come to an end, Ridge finds himself falling as well – for Micah.

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My Review:
3 stars — I will admit I’m a bit torn on this book.  I actually liked quite a bit of it, but I still felt like there was just something lacking…like it could have been so much better, you know??  And I keep going back and forth on some of the other things that bugged me.  Like they seriously bugged me, but there’s a part of me that can see how characters (especially 17 year old characters) would behave in such a way.

I’ll start off by saying that I chose to move this book up in my queue to fulfill a diversity challenge theme for this month, focusing on Native American History Month.  And this is one of the first parts that both bugged me, but I could maybe see it.  Ridge (our main hero, the only POV we read) is kind of a dick and maybe a bit of a bigot about Native Americans.  Some of the comments he makes/thoughts he has early in the book made me uncomfortable.  But then I kind of thought he’s not praised or shown in a good light for that…so it kind of just shows the kind of prejudices that are pervasive in our society, especially about Native Americans…though while he’s not shown in a good light, he’s not smacked down for it either because it’s in his head.  But how many people out there think the same things?  And we do get to see those things fall away, though it’s never overt.  And overall, I thought that Micah, and his family, and the bit we saw of his (made up) tribe weren’t negative.  Not being Native, I honestly can’t tell you if they’re positive, but they didn’t feel negative to me.  And most of the Native characters were kind of awesome; I really liked Micah, his sister, his nieces, his stories of his Nonna, his Poppa, even his cousins.  So yeah, torn on the representation of this particular diversity, since we never see inside Micah’s head.

And on a similar note with Ridge, this is a bit of a “gay for you” story, and he’s a bit of a bigot about homosexuals too…he has some thoughts that made me uncomfortable here as well (like his comparison to prison inmates being “gay for the stay” — ick).  Part of me gets this, it’s very realistic I think for many young adult males to be terrified of being gay, even if that makes me RIDICULOUSLY SAD.  So I’m torn here…he made me want to smack him, but was he a realistic depiction?  I think I would have been happier here if SOMEONE would have freaking brought up bisexuality ANYWHERE in the freaking book.  Um, hello.  Like seriously.  That’s why this lands more in the irks me category, it doesn’t get as much of a pass as the race stuff.

And since I’m getting things that bug me out of the way, there’s the cheating crap (might be minorly spoilery).  I hate cheating stuff.  I sort of get how confused Ridge was, both about his new feelings for Micah, and how he was just wanting to get away from all the things at home that had become status quo.  But grow some balls.  It shouldn’t take the whole freaking summer to break up…and she didn’t need to be a mean girl in the end, like I’m supposed to accept his behavior cheating with Micah because of that?  Nope.

Well shit, I have more complaints…so I just had to downgrade this from a 3.5 star to a 3 star.  Bummer.  Really, so many of them just revolve around Ridge’s characterization.  So much of him just wasn’t a very sympathetic character…he fell a bit flat a lot of times.  He made decisions that made me not like him, I didn’t really understand what he was really like.  And OK, one last one: I wanted resolution with his family.  I felt like that was so weird that we didn’t ever see them, and it was all very in the background.  So much of this book had a coming of age feel, but for it to truly be, I feel like we’d need to see him with his family.

OK, so things I liked!!  And crap, even the things I liked are with caveats.  This was a bit of a slow burn romance, and I appreciated that it wasn’t fast (especially with all they were dealing with).  Sometimes it would jump around a bit fast, like Ridge would be horrified about a kiss, and then still sleeping over.  I think I think too much.  But I did really think they were cute together.  In general I really liked Micah…he was kind of an oddball, and I really did feel for him and what all he was dealing with.  He felt like a pretty authentic 17 year old gay guy in a smaller town.  I wasn’t always happy with the way he pushed Ridge, but that could be just me.

I did GENUINELY love that we got to see Ridge showing emotions, and feeling things, and crying.  So many times guys aren’t allowed to cry, and that just sucks.  I really loved Zoey and her twins…I thought they added something to the story, and Abby and Jade amused me (I could so picture their very different approaches to Ridge, right to the end).  I thought the little bit we saw of Tuck was cool, I really liked the painting thing…  While I was initially confused about the carousel horses thing, I was so happy with the fact that that was explained in the end…and I appreciated the little things those adventures taught us about our heroes.  And I LOVED Terrance.  We needed more Terrance.  He was pretty much the one character who was 100% awesome in this book, and I think he was underutilized.

So yeah.  Reading all that, I really did have a lot to complain about eh?  Well crap.  I did enjoy myself.  Like I say, I just had reservations.  I’m probably not properly expounding on the good parts of this story.  I’m just conflicted, and it’s always so much easier to talk about the things that didn’t work than the things that did, you know?  So there you go.  My beautiful review.  You’re welcome.

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Enchant by Micalea Smeltzer

Blurb:
35412486Mara Pryce never imagined that her life was anything but normal and then a strange gray-eyed young man appears at her graduation. When he vanishes without a trace, she’s convinced he’s a figment of her imagination. Then he appears again and shatters her whole world.

Mara is an enchanter, part of an ancient line of Wiccan power, and a war is raging—one of good and evil—between the Enchanted and the Iniquitous.

The Iniquitous want her dead and it’s Theodore’s job as her protector to keep her safe.

When Mara and Theodore arrive at a safe house, where Mara will remain hidden while learning about her powers, they find that the real threat might be a little closer to home than they want to believe.

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My Review:
2 stars — I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I hate when this happens.  I actually won an ARC of this book, but it just did not work out for me.  And that always bums me out.  I’ve never read anything by this author before, but I’ve heard great things about her contemporary books…so I’m uncertain if it’s just that her voice doesn’t shine through as well in non-contemp books?  I’ll maybe give those a try before I decide if we’re just not a match.

So what didn’t work for me?  Well, for one thing, I didn’t like ANY of the characters.  ANY of them.  I didn’t really hate any of them, but I couldn’t care less about them and what was happening to them.  They felt very shallow, both in attitude and in how they were represented…I needed more dimensions.  I honestly couldn’t really tell you very much about them.  And what I can tell you, I didn’t really like.

Mara was very flat.  She barely reacted to anything that happened to her, and her emotional reactions to the bad things were short-lived (except the dream/vision…that one was better, I actually felt for her).  She didn’t seem to form connections with anyone, or when she did it was immediate and we weren’t shown what drew them to one another.

And Theo…well he was a dick.  And I get he was supposed to be a dick, but the moments that were supposed to swing me to his favour just didn’t work for me.  They did not supersede his bad attitude.  And holy volatile!!  I can’t tell you the number of times he just started screaming at people (usually his sister) out of nowhere!  They were over the top reactions in my opinion.

As for secondary characters, nothing from them either.  We barely met her BFF Dani before she was out of the picture, or her father (though he might have been cool).  Adelaide was OK, but mostly she came across very self-absorbed and whiny…she felt younger than her age.  And she and Mara together were mean girls, the way they thought/talked about Naomi…I was NOT impressed.  Winston was whiny and oblivious, I didn’t even feel for him like I should.  And I couldn’t figure out Finn or Ethan, we got no time with either of them.  Though I guess I did like Nigel, the cat.

As for the paranormal aspect, well quite frankly I didn’t really learn enough about it to form an opinion.  Most of the book was about the push and pull between Mara and Theo.  Honestly, I was pretty bored.  It wasn’t until 95% into the book before something really action-y happened.  Uh, that’s WAY too late to get my interest.

*sigh*  I could probably elaborate, but that will bring me into meaner territory, and I try to avoid that.  Honestly, this book had quite a lot of potential.  It has a lot of the same basic setups of many of these paranormal books (girl doesn’t know anything about the paranormal world, but is apparently a chosen one, falls for a bad boy), but I don’t mind that.  In fact I’m often attracted to that.  I feel like the author just needed someone to tell her when she was being repetitive, both in phrases (how many times did I need to read “why does something so wrong feel so right?”) and in plot points…when she had inconsistencies…when she needed to tell the reader how Mara felt about learning her whole life had been a lie, when she needed to give the reader MORE.  *sigh*

Basically, good bones, poor execution.  Needless to say, despite that killer ending, I won’t be reading further.  But I will try out this author’s contemporaries, perhaps I’m just pickier when it comes to my non-contemps.

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Déjà Revu November 20th, 2017

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Déjà Revu is a weekly review round-up that is open to all book review blogs.
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Original

Meme

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Fantasy

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Contemporary

Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic

Horror

Paranormal

Romance

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Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic

Romance

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Horror

Non-Fiction

Romance

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Romance

 

Stacking the Shelves — November 18th, 2017

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(Images link to Goodreads, Titles link to Amazon using Amazon Affiliate links)

Stacking The Shelves is feature/weekly meme created by Tynga’s Reviews in which you share the books you are adding to your shelves, both physical and virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical stores or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Lenoreo’s Haul

(All Ebooks unless otherwise specified)

Preorders That Went Live:

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  • Constant (The Confidence Game #1) by Rachel Higginson — released November 16th, 2017.  I actually beta read this book (feel free to be jealous), and it was everything I was hoping for (see my review here).  But since it’s Rachel, of course I’d already preordered it.

New Releases:

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  • Foul Play (Barlow Sisters #3) by Jordan Ford — released November 17th, 2017.  I beta read this book too, but as has been happening more often than not, I have yet to review it.  I kind of want to read the whole trilogy again from start to finish and then review the final copies!  But trust me, it’s the PERFECT ending.  And OMG, this pink cover is SO Chloe.

Newsletter Freebies:

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  • Just Jilted by Cindi Madsen — OK, so I totally thought I was already signed up for Ms. Madsen’s newsletter, but when she mentioned she had some bonus stuff coming out for a different book of hers, I went to double check…and lo and behold, I wasn’t!  So I signed up, and as I’m looking through the preview mailer (or whatever that was), I noticed that she was giving this book to newsletter subscribers, so I fumbled all over myself to one-click it that!  I haven’t read this book yet, but it was formerly titled Ready to Wed, and I actually already have a paperback copy of it in its former incarnation!  And since I’ll be meeting Ms. Madsen for a second time at Apollycon 2018 in Washington, D.C. in March, and I seriously dislike reading physical books nowadays, this couldn’t have been more fortuitous!

Got It On Sale:

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The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Blurb:
23309653SOMETIMES, THERE ARE NO WORDS…

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom – until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: an ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry – except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy – insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother, Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though – swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them…

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My Review:
4.5 stars — Well I must say, I am spoiled for reading ebooks people.  Reading this hardback was HELLA HARD.  For the usual reasons — can’t eat and read, can’t read in the dark, hard to hold open.  BUT I was surprised with how much I’ve gotten used to highlighting my Kindle books.  Like, I refuse to mark up a physical copy, but there were so many beautiful quotes in this book that I was just itching to highlight.  It ended up being my number one drawback, b/c Ms. Ockler just says things in a way that really got to me sometimes, you know??

There were occasional moments in this story where I got a bit confused in the language and style, but it was extremely rare.  When I read the prologue, I was uncertain if it would be a match for me.  But once I got past it to the first chapter, I was basically sucked in for the rest of the book.  I did find that the book slowed a bit at the end and I found myself wanting to skip ahead…the pacing just didn’t work for me.  These are all reasons I’ll be rounding down, but honestly they were about the only detriment of this book for me.  Otherwise it just hit so many of my buttons.

Even though our characters are right on the upper limit of YA (I’d call it mature YA, particularly for some content), I really felt like this was a coming of age story of sorts.  And not just for our narrator, Elyse, but for Christian in the background as well.  But Elyse does go through a transformation in our story…a journey to finding her new self.  It was slower than I expected, but in some ways that made it more realistic and I was fully invested.

I truly did love both Elyse and Christian.  I felt like they had many layers, and I loved the way their romance developed.  But in a lot of ways that was a very secondary plot line.  The main focus is on Elyse finding her voice, and in the goings on of Artigatis Cove (the bet, the town development, the regatta, the mermaid parade, etc).  And what made this story TRULY shine for me was the diverse cast of secondary characters…they were just all so different.  While the whole story is from Elyse’s POV, I really felt like this was a bit of an ensemble book.  It wasn’t just about her developing relationship with Christian, but about her relationships with everyone she meets that summer.  From her observations of the adults, to her “aunt” Lemon (who was just perfection in a kooky way), to Kirby and Vanessa and the friendships she forms there.

BUT, the absolute standout relationships were with Christian and his little brother Sebastian.  Those moments stole the whole book for me.  And I’d like to say it was Sebastian that stole it, but it was the trio together: Sebastian, Christian AND Elyse.  I LOVED the way they interacted.  I loved the way Christian loved his brother.  I LOVED how adorable and incorrigible and perfectly six years old Sebastian was.  I loved what he taught Elyse.  I just loved EVERYTHING about every moment that involved these 3 together.

I loved all the little storylines that helped to further the story about losing one’s “voice” and the different ways that can happen.  It was really effective, without being obvious or preachy.

I LOVED the little nods to both the original fairytale as well as the Disney version (mostly in character names or boat names).

And I LOVED feeling like I got a glimpse of Trinbagonian life.  I loved the little bits of slang I learned.  I desperately want to visit the twin islands now.  And maybe learn how to wine.  I loved the diversity that Elyse represented, and I felt like it was done authentically.  It was a perfect fit for my diverse retelling challenge this month.

So yeah…I’m glad I made the exception from my strictly ebook reading diet to throw this one in the mix…it was so worth it, and I will definitely be watching out for more books by Ms. Ockler in the future.

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Jacob’s Ladder: Gabe by Katie Ashley

Blurb:
36287261As the lead songwriter for Jacob’s Ladder, the last thing Gabe Renard needs is a debilitating case of writer’s block. After years of meaningless one night stands, he’s finding it hard to pen the love-filled ballads the label is requesting. In an effort to clear his mind, Gabe takes his jeep off-roading in the North Georgia Mountains. When a wrong-turn leads to him getting stuck more than just creatively, he’s forced to call for help. To his surprise, the “Ray” who has been sent by Hart Wreckers to his aid is actually “Rae”—a sexy-as-hell spitfire in a pair of tight-as-hell jeans. The combination of Rae’s sassy mouth and rocking body might be the inspiration Gabe needs. But for the first time since becoming a rock star, his advances have been shot down.

Reagan Hart has never been a fan of musicians. In fact, just the mention of one might cause her to throw a tire tool. Her disgust for them started when she was just eight and her mother ran off with a traveling country singer, and it only worsened when at seventeen, her rocker boyfriend knocked her up before blowing out of town. As a single mother taking care of her family’s collision business, Rae doesn’t have time for hook ups, much less a relationship. And if she did make time, a musician would be last on her list, even one as good-looking as Gabe Renard.

Can Gabe find the words to prove not only to Rae, but himself, that she’s the only one for him?

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My Review:
2.5 stars — I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I’ve never read a book by Ms. Ashley, and I have a feeling we are just not a match.  It happens.  I do believe she’s a very popular author, so take my review with a grain of salt.  From what I could tell, this appears to be a spin-off book of another series of hers, so for fans I’m sure this is much anticipated!  I just can’t help but be sucked into celebrity stories, so that was my draw and the reason I requested.  Especially celebrities that fall in love with “normal” people.

In the end I didn’t really like either character that much.  Don’t get me wrong, they both had great moments, but in general I just couldn’t empathize with either.  And oddly, the sweet moments felt inconsistent with the other moments where Gabe seemed like a huge egotistical self-absorbed entitled dick, and Rae seemed like an overreacting irrational witch with a b.  I think I’m just not meant to read books about characters with volatile emotions.  I also tend to prefer more subtle characteristics, occasionally they felt like caricatures if that makes sense.  Just a bit too over the top and didn’t strike me as completely realistic.  Or maybe it’s just that these are not the type of people I would want to hang around with.  Again, this is really just a personality conflict between me and the story.  Won’t necessarily be a problem for others.

There were a few moments where I really felt the chemistry between Gabe and Rae and it worked for me.  I LOVED the scene where they were baking brownies, and everything that happened afterwards (other than the overreaction).  But that was about it for me.  The book felt very sex focused.  I didn’t really feel the falling in love part as much.  I didn’t swoon over the comments that Gabe made, quite the opposite…which is probably why the steamy stuff didn’t really work as well for me.  Again, just not a good fit.

One thing that actually really surprised me is that I LOVED Rae’s son Linc.  I’m not a kid person usually, but he came across sweet, but still a realistic 9 year old.  I loved how he colluded with Gabe, and I really loved some of the scenes at the end (especially the first epilogue).  Rae’s sisters also seemed pretty cool, as did her Aunt Sadie.  And while I’m not interested in reading any more in this series, Eli intrigued me.  I’m sure fans of this author will look forward to his story.

I will note that my advanced copy was LITTERED with mistakes, it did not read like a final copy.  And while ARCs aren’t always the final copy, this felt *quite* rough.  There is the possibility that after sending out the ARCs, the author sent this to a proofreader and the final copy will be more polished.  But I feel like that’s unlikely.  So if this kind of thing really bothers you, proceed with caution (maybe try the sample).

So yeah.  I know this seems like a really bummer review.  I was kind of bummed.  But it wasn’t a horrible book, it just wasn’t a me book.  It wasn’t a book I devoured.  And it wasn’t a book where I fell in love with my main characters, which I kind of need to truly enjoy a book.  But it was also not awful by any stretch, hence the rounding up.  It really was mostly just a case of the reader not matching up with the author’s writing.  I hope others have more luck.

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Constant by Rachel Higginson

Blurb:
36286507Fifteen years ago I met Sayer Wesley. I fell in love with him. I promised I would never leave him. I swore nothing could break us apart.

Five years ago I broke my promise. I ran away. I took the one secret that could destroy us both and disappeared.

Five days ago I thought I saw him.

I knew it was impossible. Sayer was locked away, serving a deserved sentence in federal prison. He couldn’t find me.

He wouldn’t find me. I was too good at hiding. Too good at surviving.

Because if Sayer ever found me, there would be hell to pay for a plethora of sins. The worst of which, he didn’t even know about.

Five hours ago, I told myself I was crazy.

Five minutes ago, I saw him again.

Five seconds ago, I was too late.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — Another fabulous beta read!!

DAMN!!  Like holy shitsnacks people.  I was curious about this book from the first moment Ms. Higginson hinted at the blurb in her street team.  I mean, seriously…how can you not be intrigued by that??  It was both everything I was expecting and totally took me by surprise all at the same time.

This may be a slightly different genre for Ms. Higginson, but she brings her epic voice with her to each of the characters.  Honestly, for me it doesn’t matter what genre she writes, I know I’m going to fall in love.  Her characters have snark and sass and heart and depth.  And the voice of the BOOK even screams Rachel Higginson.  There’s just something about the way she writes that gets to me every time, and she got me this time too.  When you’re having to talk yourself out of highlighting Caroline’s conversation with a Cherry Coke bottle, you know you’re in trouble.

I’m neither a lover nor hater of past/flashback chapters.  But I can honestly say that they worked amazingly well in this story.  They were scattered about in such a way that we learn just enough to tantalize and give us glimpses at both past events and the past incarnations of our characters.  They melded with the storyline perfectly for me.  And if I’m being honest, my favourite chapters were the past chapters.  There’s just something about young Caro and Sayer (and Frankie and Gus) that had me hooked.  And I can’t tell you how many times I was on the edge of my seat.

The present chapters actually provided a contrast in pacing.  While the past chapters felt quick, the present chapters were a bit more introspective at times for Caroline.  Occasionally that didn’t work for me, but I felt like the pace picked up in the second half of the book, and it was a ride right to the end.  And can I just remind everyone that this is a DUET.  So, you know…try not to be too surprised with the ending.  I wasn’t.

The relationship between Caroline and Sayer was SUPER strange.  And I knew it had to be.  Honestly, I was wondering how Ms. Higginson was going to be able to pull it off.  I mean, from the blurb we know that she was in love with him, and we also know she’s now frightened of him…so I was curious how she was going to pull off convincing me of both of those emotions.  And I was a bit concerned with how *I* would feel about Sayer as a result.  But I honestly shouldn’t have worried, Ms. Higginson makes it all work out in the end.  I won’t give anything away, but I both loved him and was occasionally disturbed by him.  Which is a strange feeling to have for a hero.

Caroline was just everything I love in a Higginson heroine.  Which is not to say she’s a cookie cutter of any of her previous heroines, but she was flawed and frustrating and brave and sassy and all those things that I somehow end up loving.

Can I give props to secondary characters too?  From past characters (Frankie and Gus) to present characters (Juliet, Francesca, Maggie, and Jesse) to evil characters, they all just added their own something to the story.

And now we wait.  In agony.  You have no idea how hard it is for me not to beg and plead for hints.  But honestly?  I prefer to wait and devour the whole thing instead of ruining it.  I’ll just keep chanting February, February, February….

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Merrily in Love by Melissa West

Blurb:
36313195The Littleton brothers are as much a part of Crestler’s Key as the sun and surf, living the single life without a care. But love has a way of changing even the most determined bachelor’s mind . . . 

Brady Littleton has left his reckless youth behind to become a man his brothers can count on. When the family dive shop needs to expand, he’s got the answer: buy the Christmas shop next door. Except the retiring owner’s goddaughter, Kylie Waters, has come back to town. She was Brady’s first kiss—his first everything—and she doesn’t want to sell. He’s got a solution to that too. Whoever makes the most sales by Christmas Day can take over the shop, fair and square.

Kylie resolved to put the youngest, wildest Littleton brother out of her head when he abruptly ended their relationship years ago. But the steady, gorgeous man he’s become is impossible to ignore. Especially once reminiscing leads to a kiss as hot and heady as mulled wine. Their deal means that one of them is going to lose out on a dream…unless Christmas Day brings the gift of a sweet, surprising second chance…

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

This one had its ups and downs for me, but I finished it with a smile on my face, and shed a few tears (well, more than a few, but I’m blaming PMS for the overreaction), so I’m calling it a win.

Both Kylie and Brady spent a lot of time aggravating me.  But I also felt for both of them.  Kylie with her fear of abandonment issues.  Brady with his over the top sense of guilt when it came to his family.  So while I wanted to smack them for some of the decisions they made, and how long it took for them to grow, I also felt for them and how their past and choices had scarred them.

And even as aggravating as they both were, they were also really endearing!  They could be really sweet, and some of the moments when they were together actually had me sighing in happiness and swooning.  You can’t go wrong with swooning.

Honestly, the only reason it’s not a full 4 stars is that I always find it aggravating (jeez, is that like my word of the day or something?) when authors elude to something in the past, but don’t just explain it to the readers.  Like in this book, we know something happened to break up our characters, break both of their hearts, have them each blame the other, and develop some animosity.  But the author just kept teasing us with it, occasionally dropping breadcrumbs.  Eventually it was basically explained, but it’s the kind of literary technique that just makes me want to abandon a book…because I spend so much time wondering what happened, that I just want to skip pages to find out.  Not always, I do get that there are certain instances where it makes sense, but I honestly don’t understand what the point was of keeping the reader in the dark in this case.  But I’m about to get ranty about something that’s really rather small, so I’m gonna stop.

I must say, I did NOT like either of Brady’s brothers…they were kind of selfish and not understanding.  I got their worry, but they were kind of dicks about some stuff.  However, Brady’s parents were da bomb.  And Franny and Ally rounded out our fabulous secondary characters nicely.

So yeah.  Some aggravation, but a WHOLE LOT of swooning too.  I mean come on, the whole ending was one big swoonfest.  So all in all a winner.

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