Rebel by Rebecca Yarros

Blurb:
34032529She’s Penna Carstairs.
The Renegade they call Rebel.
FMX-treme Magazine’s sexiest female athlete of the year.
There’s no rule in extreme sports she hasn’t broken,
No gender barrier she hasn’t demolished.

She’s the woman I met in a bar in Vegas.
The woman I illegally BASE jumped for.
The woman I spent one insane, incredible night with.
But now I’m screwed.
Or rather…not screwed.

Because the woman I can’t get out of my head is the one woman I can never touch again.
I’m Dr. Cruz Delgado—the youngest professor on this campus,
And Penelope Carstairs just walked into my class.

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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.  Though in all fairness I didn’t get to this one before release, so I actually read my preordered copy instead.

Welp, this was definitely my favourite of the series!!  It’s like they just kept getting better and better!  I LOVE it when that happens.  I’m not the type of reader who’s particularly drawn to forbidden romances (such as student/teacher in this case), but I don’t shy away from them either.  Basically if enough else draws me in, then I’m totally in.  And that was most definitely the case in this story.

This one started off beautifully.  I was already mega intrigued by Penna, not only as this badass extreme athlete who was every bit as enthralling as the boys she calls friends, but also as the damaged woman we got to see glimpses of in Nova.  And Ms. Yarros totally fulfilled all my wishes in her story.  We really got a glimpse of how her sister’s actions had broken her, and got to delve into the mental aspect of recovering from an accident.  I thought Penelope was exactly as strong inside as she appears on the outside.  She has an inner core of strength that just shined through, even as she struggled with figuring out who she was.  She was sassy, she stood toe to toe with everyone, and she was wicked smart.  She was a heroine it was so easy to fall in love with.

And I ADORED that Cruz didn’t want to squash her fire/strength/attitude, but recognized what a privilege it was just to keep up with her.  And at the same time, we still got to see a bit more of what it’s like to love someone who is addicted to adrenaline and always pushing the envelope.  It was beautiful.  He was awesome.  I LOVED that he matched her in strength and stubbornness, and that he really pushed her when she needed to be pushed, and was there for her with no strings attached at other times.  He was also really easy to fall in love with.  Dedicated, sassy in his own right, and also wickedly smart.  So hot.  Honestly, I know lots of people love the whole muscles and shiznit, but every time Penna described his muscular arms, I just wanted her to talk about his dimples, his accent, and hear more of the things that came out of his mouth and the thoughts in his head…but I am a bit weird that way.

And if you couldn’t tell from all that, they were perfect complements to each other.  They pushed and pulled and fought but inevitably brought out the best in each other.  And it was so awesome to watch.  And while I probably should have been more bothered by the student/teacher relationship aspect, apparently this reader was fully able to buy into the inevitability of it, and the measures they took for Cruz not to be biased, and all that jazz.  *shrugs*  Honestly, there was so much else going on, it really didn’t remain in the forefront except when they brought it up.  It was more them keeping it a secret at times.

As with all the other Renegade books in this series, I desperately wanted to visit all the places they were seeing, and go on my own world cruise.  I loved learning little tidbits here and there about the places they were seeing.  And I also fell in love with the sports aspect…I think one of the things that I loved about this series is that it is true sports romance, in that we actually get to delve into the sports, not just have them be some background aspect.

And I was so on the edge of my seat throughout much of this book!  GAH!  So much action and suspense!

Honestly, I think my only real problem with this book is that I noticed quite a few instances of repetition.  Like I had so many moments of deja vu, where I felt like Penna had described something in the EXACT same way a few chapters earlier.  Or Cruz and Lindsay would have the EXACT same conversations in two different places.  And that led to some little bits where I’d be wondering why the result of the previous conversation didn’t follow through in the future.  Or why Penna got away with not talking to Rachel OVER AND OVER even though she constantly said they’d talk later, or that night, etc.  These aren’t huge things, just a bit of a bummer because it took me out of the story.

All in all, this was a SMASHING finale to the series.  The grand gesture at the end was everything I was hoping it would be and more, and the epilogue was perfect!  You have no idea how happy I was with it; not just its contents, but the fact that it existed…I needed that final wrap up/glimpse into the future.  Now I’m off to dream about dimples…does it for me every time.

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If Ever by Angie Stanton

Blurb:
35901365Fiercely independent Chelsea Barnes has caught a rare break and been cast as the first non-celebrity on the hit show Celebrity Dance Off. Chelsea is coined ‘America’s Chance to Dance,’ but her partner planned on an A-lister, not a nobody.

Clashing with her partner, she’s ready to go home; but during an emotional dance, her heart-breaking past as an abandoned, homeless teen is revealed. Not only do the viewers fall in love with her, so does the flirty British guest singer, Broadway star Thomas Evan Oliver.

Tom is struck by this feisty girl who complicates his over-structured life, and pursues her in a romantic cross-country courtship until she’s voted off and joins him. Their sexy whirlwind love affair blossoms in New York as she navigates the big city and his exhausting eight shows a week, but most important, her scarred heart begins to heal. Perhaps happily ever after might be a possibility after all.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.  Though I was delayed in getting to my ARC, so I actually read the copy I purchased instead.

OMG you guys, it didn’t take me long into the book before I knew I was going to love this one.  I’ve loved so many of Ms. Stanton’s YA books, and this one felt like Dream Chaser for adults.  I honest to goodness laughed out loud, silently cried, squealed in delight, and last night before bed I got so hyped up that I was singing “Don’t Stop Believin” to my husband, and he was cursing my caffeine intake, but it was really just excitement over this book.  And honestly, if it wasn’t for the ending, this would have been at least a round up if not a full 5 stars.  The ending is the reason for rounding down.  I’ll get to that later, I want to gush first.

I will admit to being a Broadway fan (we always go to at least one show each time we visit NYC), and while I don’t watch any of those reality dance shows (b/c I’d always rather be reading), I do love the world of dancing as well…probably b/c I have like no grace or coordination myself (although I did attempt ballroom dance lessons when I was in University).  So this book really was almost tailor-made for me.  But what makes it stand out is not just that these settings were present, but that the author does an amazing job of really making you believe it, and really giving you all the little bits to immerse you into both worlds.

The book is really split into two halves, and the first half is where we’re immersed into the world of dancing, and it just made my heart so happy.  It was grueling and exhilarating all at the same time.  I felt how hard Chelsea worked, what a toll it took on her body, and how it really showed a true appreciation for dancing as almost a sport.  I was so concerned with how her relationship started with her dance partner, Dominic, and so was ridiculously pleasantly surprised with how that relationship developed.  It could have gone in a cliche direction, and it didn’t.  I LOVED that.  And I adored Chelsea’s interactions with Hank.  He was definitely another favourite secondary character.  I really appreciated that her progression through the weeks was believable too.  And I loved how we got to see Chelsea’s character really develop and become stronger in this first half.  I was so proud of her when we got to the finale and all the work she put into it.

The second half was about her time in NYC with Tom, and really the development of her romantic relationship with him.  This is where we got to dive into the world of Broadway, and what it’s like to be an actor trying to make it work on Broadway.  It honestly opened my eyes to the challenges and rewards of such a career.  And I felt the magic of his performance…I wanted it to be real!  I wanted to see him perform and hear his beautiful voice!  Damn you Ms. Stanton!  Make it real!!  I couldn’t hear him sing, but it didn’t matter…it felt like I could.  I felt Chelsea’s emotions when he finally got Stay right.  It helped me to imagine her dance as well…I felt like I could see it.  It was very emotionally impactful.

Tom was RIDICULOUSLY swoon.  Like, added to my top book boyfriends list swoon.  Like, I had tummy tingles almost from their first interactions.  And he was more of a beta boy, and you know how I love me a beautiful beta boy!!  I loved that he was technically the celebrity, but he was really very down to earth, humble, and at times insecure.  If you couldn’t tell, I ADORED him.

I LOVED their romance.  The chemistry was off the charts, and they just made me giddy and happy.  My highlight was definitely Tom’s teasing, and the way they would banter with each other.  I can’t even describe to you how many times that boy made me laugh.  I loved that we got to watch their romance go through all the stages, from crush to early relationship honeymoon phase to honest struggles and missteps.  My heart hurt for the challenges that they faced, and I thought it was very realistic.

I had a bit more of a rollercoaster ride with Chelsea.  I loved her, and my heart ached for everything she went through in her past, and how it shaped her into the woman she is today.  I really believed it too.  She was hard to read, b/c she was so insecure and damaged and afraid, and self-sabotaging at times.  I think what made her character really hard to read is that in the first half we got to see her really develop and become stronger, and I was rooting for her all the way.  But in the second half we saw her fall and fall hard.  That’s hard to take.

And this is where my rounding down comes into play: I wasn’t satisfied with how the book ended with her character.  She fell, and we really didn’t get to see her climb back up and become strong on her own again.  I needed to believe that she was going to be OK, that she was getting stronger, and without Tom.  I didn’t want her strength to be completely dependent on Tom.  It wasn’t enough to ruin the book, it just bummed me out a bit.

And honestly?  The ending was extremely abrupt.  Like turn the page and do a double take when it’s the note from the author and not an epilogue.  I’m always a sucker for an epilogue, but I really felt that this book needed one.

So, as seems to be the case with me lately, there is my short novella of a review.  While the ending wasn’t as satisfying as I wanted, it was really a small blip on what was an otherwise perfect book for me.  I’m so happy right now, and don’t even want to read another book, I just want to bask.

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Saving Detroit: A Challenged Faith Novel by Michelle Bolanger

SDBlurb:  Luke Kelso is about to land what he thought was his dream job as crew chief for his dad’s pro-race team, but a celebratory night out with friends turns into a six-month nightmare of abuse after he is drugged and forced into service for a high-end sex trafficking ring.

His rescue and return home to a family that loves him should have given him a safe place to recover and begin rebuilding his life. But when the truth about his family’s involvement in his ordeal is revealed, Luke turns his back on God, his family, and his career, vowing to take down the one who shattered his world forever.

An emotional story of recovery and healing through faith in God, Saving Detroit is a heartbreaking look at the horrors of human trafficking seen through the eyes of a young man fighting a battle against an evil only God can defeat.

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5 stars

I had the pleasure of alpha reading this story. Although, I think my job was super easy because MB knows how to write and didn’t really need much help on this one so I found myself really able to let loose and just enjoy the story as it unfolded.

So, full disclosure, I’m what you would call a casual observer of faith. I don’t go to church every week and if you know me at all you know that I rarely talk about faith with people. I’ve never finished the bible and quite frankly God and I argue quite a bit.  Which is one of the reasons why I identified so much with Luke’s character.

I got his questionable faith. I constantly question my own. (Every day)  It made me feel better to read about a character in a faith based novel that wasn’t whole heartedly about God. He was not perfect, he could’t explain his feelings about faith and God.  In fact, he hated God at one point.  I related to that so hard.   It made me feel less alone.  He was like the anti-hero.  His struggle was…uncomfortable to read.  Or maybe it just hit a bit to close to reality for me.  But I think that’s what the author was aiming for and in that she succeeded.

While his situation doesn’t mirror mine, I do have some experience in sexual abuse. (As I’m sure we all do)  And I found myself backing his impulsive decisions for revenge. I wanted him to get closure his way.  I felt the anger, the helplessness and the hopelessness.  It was a very intense and emotional read. As I’m sure it would be for anyone else.  The topic of human trafficking is a serious and sensitive one.  And I’ve not read a book with this focus ever before so I was a bit hesitant to read it. But I’m so glad I did.

Writing abuse is hard.  Reading about it is equally difficult. I must say MB has a way of writing that pushes you emotionally to that edge without going to far.  And that’s why I keep coming back for more from her.

The ending though you guys! I just can’t even!  (And that will be the first and last time you see me write that.)   I would absolutely recommend this to anyone. Whether they are believers or not.

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The Bohemian and the Businessman by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
32721286Priscilla Story, the self-proclaimed “wild child” of the straight-laced Story clan, has always had a knack for getting herself trouble. Except this time, her “growing problem” is going to require a Daddy sooner than later…or she can kiss her inheritance good-bye.

Shane Olson, who previously dated Priscilla’s sister, Margaret, isn’t opposed to a marriage of convenience for the sake of furthering his business interests, but Priscilla – with her wild ways – is just about the last woman he’d choose to marry.

In order to make the marriage look convincing, they end up having to spend more time together than they’d originally planned. When rolling stone, Priscilla, who lives by the seat of her muu-muu, and seriously-ambitious Shane, who’s had his whole life planned since he was eleven, start falling for each other, it’s going to take a whole lot of compromise for this Bohemian and her Businessman to find their happily ever after.

 

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

OMG!!!  Stratton has competition as my favourite Blueberry Lane boy!!  Shane was sooooo my type of hero.  He was unsure, and confused, and inexperienced, and sweet, and caring, and SO HOT with the way he loved Priscilla!!  GAH!  Yup, I LOVE me some beta-ish boys.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about him after meeting him in Crazy About Cameron.  He was so abrupt, and clueless, and I just didn’t get a very swoony vibe from him at all.  But wow, underneath all that serious exterior is someone who is just so focused on his goals, that he’s let relationships fall by the wayside.  I really enjoyed watching him struggle with his attraction to Priscilla, and his conflicting feelings about where he thought he was going, and where his path ends up taking him.  His growth was really believable, and I LOVED the choices he made, and the points where he stood up for Pris…I didn’t feel like we had to wait too long for that, I HATE when authors make you wait and then give you an abrupt change.  Shane’s transition and development was perfect.  And on a sidenote, I want to punch Vicky in the nards!!  Screw you Vicky!

And then we have Priscilla!!  I was also confused on how to feel about P in CAC.  But she was such a strange combination of sweet and wild!  In fact, the wild is probably an overstatement.  I think they just call her wild b/c they don’t know what to do with her, b/c she breaks the mold.  Sure, she may be a wanderer, but you find out there’s reasons underlying that beyond the obvious.  And OMG, I totally felt her vulnerability, and how much it hurt that being who she truly was inside was so frowned upon by most of her family.  Honestly, I’m not sure how I’m going to fall in love with Betsy at all, she and Pris really have a volatile relationship…but I have faith that Ms. Regnery will work her magic.  I get that in big families, there are often divisions between the different types of personalities.  I LOVED that Pris had Meggie though (and vice versa).

And the great thing about Priscilla and Shane is that I really FELT their chemistry, and they totally made their “opposites attract” thing work.  Like I could really feel how they each fascinated each other.  Priscilla wanted to help Shane loosen up (and I think deep down he wanted that too), but she also needed the safety and security she felt with him.  And Shane needed Priscilla’s sweetness and light, but also gave her a safe place to acknowledge that it’s OK to set down some roots.  And damn!  They sure know how to steam up the place!!

I will say that I’m a bit torn on Priscilla’s extra secret.  I don’t mind the way she dealt with it, and I liked that it gave me a bit more understanding of her, but I felt like it came up really late in the book, and so it wasn’t given as much attention as I would like.  We didn’t really get to see her have a conversation with Shane about it, it was just mentioned and moved on from.  I guess that could happen, but it made me feel sad for Pris.

All in all, a FABULOUS read for me in the Blueberry Lane series.  It was definitely my kind of book, and I LOVE that we get to see such wildly different people in this series, both boys and girls.  Often times I feel like the heroes in long series can become a bit cookie cutter, but Ms. Regnery gives us a spectrum of both heroes and heroines.  And manages to find a way for ALL characters to get into our hearts somehow.  It’s truly my absolute favourite thing about this series, that no matter the personality of the character, whether I’m like them or not, Ms. Regnery always manages to get me to *understand* them, and root for them.  That’s a sign of great character writing.

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A Boy Like You by Ginger Scott

Blurb:

33543707They say everyone’s a superhero to someone. I’m not sure who I’m supposed to save, but I know who saved me.

We were kids. His name was Christopher. And up until the day he pulled me from death’s grip, he was nothing more than a boy I felt sorry for. In a blink of an eye, he became the only person who made me feel safe.

And then he disappeared.

Now I’m seventeen. I’m not a kid anymore. I haven’t been for years. While death didn’t take me that day, the things that happened left me with scars—the kind that robbed me of everything I once loved and drove me into darkness. But more than anything else, that day—and every day since—has taken away my desire to dream.

I wasn’t going to have hope. I wouldn’t let myself wish. Those things—they weren’t for girls like me. That’s what I believed…until the new boy.

He’s nothing like the old boy. He’s taller and older. His hair is longer, and his body is lean—strong and ready for anything. I don’t feel sorry for him. And sometimes, I hate him. He challenges me. From the moment I first saw him standing there on the baseball field, he pushed me—his eyes constantly questioning, doubting…daring. Still, something about him—it feels…familiar.

He says his name is Wes. But I can’t help but feel like he’s someone else. Someone from my past. Someone who’s come back to save me.

This time, though, he’s too late. Josselyn Winters, the girl he once knew, is gone. I am the threat; I am my worst enemy. And he can’t save me from myself.

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

OMG, GINGER SCOTT IS A CRUEL AUTHOR!!!  I knew that it was going to be hard to wait for the next book in this series, but I didn’t know it was going to be like this!!  WHY?  WHY??!!!!

OK, so I was freaking HOOKED from the prologue.  And not just by the action and plot, but I always forget the way Ms. Scott write’s characters, and just the way she writes in general.  I don’t know what it is about it but it just gets me every time, and I’m sucked right into the story.  And seriously, like from the first page, I had a feel for who 8 year old Joss was, and I could picture their childish games, and the dynamics of their group, and just everything.  It was the absolute perfect way to start the story.

And then we dive into present day, and my heart just aches for the 16 year old (or however old Junior year is) Joss, and how unbelievably damaged she is, and how I could totally understand why she is the way she is, and why she acts the way she does.  She was so hard on the outside, and destructive, and just…I just got it, you know?  And I could feel all her emotions, and how she saw her life and how she saw herself.  She was an amazingly well described heroine, who I couldn’t help but love despite not being anything like her.  I felt everything with her, and that’s always the best journey an author can take you on.

And the cast of secondary characters was full and varied as well.  From her friends, Taryn and Kyle, and how the each interacted with Joss and helped or hindered her.  To the new boys, TK and Levi, who added to the Wes storyline, and gave such a great look at family (their father as well).  To her softball girls, who weren’t present a lot, but added to the depth of her story.

And then there’s her father.  Gah.  I don’t even know what to say.  I hated him.  I hated him, but I understood him, and I was disappointed in him, and I went through all the same emotions Joss went in as the story progressed.

And last but not least there’s beautiful Wes.  Who confuses the shit out of me, but whom I adore and has become one of my favourite book boys in no time at all.  He is just everything that Joss needed.  He is caring, and sweet, and forceful, and he has expectations for Joss.  But he’s left me so confused.  I don’t even know what is going on there.  Is there something more?  Is this more than just a contemporary?  And if it’s not, then what in the world is going on?

I wish I’d had more dedicated me time to read the end of this book, b/c it came out of nowhere and broke my heart and I didn’t get to bawl as I wanted to because I was reading in a public place, and when I bawl I go full on red eyes, look like death warmed over, snot everywhere…

And now I wait.  Damnit Ms. Scott, you are a cruel mistress, but I will keep coming back for more every time.  I highly recommend this book, but if you’re impatient like me, perhaps watch for a release date for book 2, and then devour it just before.

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Don’t Speak by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
33222262From New York Times bestseller Katy Regnery comes a new twist on a beloved fairytale.

A fisherman’s daughter.

The governor’s son.

Two very different worlds.

In this modern retelling of The Little Mermaid, a fisherman’s daughter from an Outer Banks island untouched by time, meets the son of North Carolina’s governor at a fancy party where she’s working.

Laire, who wants so much more from life than her little island can offer, is swept away by wealthy, sophisticated Erik, who is, in turn, entranced by her naiveté and charm. The two spend a whirlwind summer together that ends on the knife-point of heartbreak and forces them to go their separate ways.

Years later, when fate leads them back to one another, they will discover the terrifying depth of the secrets they kept from each other, and learn that shattered hearts can only be healed by a love that willfully refuses to die.

All novels Katy Regnery’s ~a modern fairytale~ collection are written as fundraisers. 10% of the e-book sales for in March and April 2017 will be donated to P.E.O. International, a non-profit organization that celebrates the advancement of women, awards scholarships and grants, and provides motivation for women to make their dreams come true.

**Contemporary Romance. Due to profanity, adult themes and very strong sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.**

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

Well darn.  I just didn’t connect to this book like I was expecting to.  I love Ms. Regnery’s Blueberry Lane novels, but this is the first of her Modern Fairytale stories that I’ve read.  I’ll still give the others a try, but I think I had some expectations for it from seeing people gush about those stories, and so I kind of set up roadblocks against myself if that makes any sense.  I’m not sure how to explain it.  It’s like, I wasn’t sure how the retellings would play out since they are contemporary stories, but I guess I just kept expecting one major plot point in this particular story, and didn’t quite get it.  I can’t really say more without giving minor spoilers.  While I have never read the original Little Mermaid fairytale, I do adore the Disney movie and I do know the basic gist of the original story…and I guess I felt that the absence of that major plot point was disappointing.

And those anticipations and expectations hindered my enjoyment in other ways too.  I kept trying to guess when certain things would happen or how certain parts would play out, and so I was never fully absorbed in the story.  Again, that was my fault.  Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood for a retelling.  Perhaps the pace of the first half just didn’t work for me, it was a lot longer than I was anticipating, and I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

One of the little things that threw me off were the many subtle references to the Disney film.  It’s funny, b/c while I adored the movie, it felt odd to me that there should be such obvious references (from character names, to subtle song nods).  This is TOTALLY a personal preference thing, but I often found those references, and even some of the ways in which Laire thought of Erik as the “Prince of Utopia Manor”, or Erik thought of Laire as a “little mermaid”, to be kind of forced, or contrived.  That doesn’t mean they were, that’s just how they felt to me.

I spent a lot of my reading time thinking that all the building blocks for a great story were there, but I just couldn’t connect with the characters.  And there weren’t any obvious reasons why, I’m not entirely sure if they were flat or if it was just me.  But while they did most things really right, I didn’t swoon as much as I expected, or get as many tingles, or even bawl in the places where I should have been crying…I didn’t shed a single tear.

I think part of my problem is that I felt a personal disconnect with Laire’s extremely sheltered upbringing, and those conservative views that often result in women being shamed just rub me the wrong way entirely.  It really fit well and made SO MUCH SENSE for how naive the little mermaid is supposed to be.  That was soooo well done (seriously, the set up of a sheltered island girl and a Governor’s son was a perfect way to make the story work in a contemporary setting).  But I didn’t end up feeling ANY good feelings towards her family, and perhaps I needed a little something to love about her father to understand her reactions later on.  But maybe that’s because they made me so angry that I didn’t care for her family at all.

OK, so I know…this review is ridiculously long.  I just…I like to understand what went wrong for me, especially when so many felt differently.  I DID love the romance.  I think I held myself back from Laire because of how naive she was, and so it made it harder to connect to both of them as fully as I might otherwise.  I LOVED that while Erik looked like he would be a party boy or something, he was not what I expected at all.  It was definitely a lot of strong feelings in a short amount of time, but young love can be like that sometimes so it didn’t bother me.  And can I just say that I love that he called her Freckles?  SO CUTE.

And I actually really enjoyed the part after the Interlude.  I felt like that was paced really well, and I adored a certain major character in that part.  I felt a lot more feelings in the second half, and started to connect more.  It definitely started hitting me in the feels more, but of course that part was shorter.

So yeah.  There you have it.  My thoughts.  *sigh*  *shrugs*

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It’s You, Book Two by K.P. Kelley

Blurb:

33387588The second book in New York Times bestselling author Katy Regnery’s first duo of paranormal romances!

HAPPILY EVER AFTER…
To some, they’re just words signifying a fairytale ending.
For me, Jack Beauloup, they represent an unyielding desire:
Forever with Darcy Turner, the unexpected love of my life.
A love that has placed her human life in danger.

According to Pack Law, my binding is an abomination that must be severed.
It’s ignited a fiery hatred that I must confront and control.
But what is bound cannot be broken.
I will keep Darcy safe.
Even if it means giving up on my dreams.
Even if it means giving up my life.

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

Well hmmm…this is a tough one.  As I’m writing this up, I still don’t know whether I will round up or down.  I enjoyed a lot of this book, was hooked into the romance and action and mythology of the paranormal aspect.  But I also had a few qualms, a few niggles.  It wasn’t quite as satisfying as I’d hoped, and some parts went in directions that I wasn’t entirely happy with (from a personal taste perspective).

So what was I happy with?  I still really loved how unique this take on a shifter story was.  I enjoyed the concept of the Roux-ga-roux and the way Ms. Kelley really made it her own, and blended in the Métis culture and superstitions.  It extended from what was in the first book and remained fairly consistent.

I also really enjoyed that the immediate conflict which ended book one on a bit of a climax was actually dealt with pretty quickly in book two, and was not dragged out.  I loved that we got more good, loving, romantic time with Darcy and Jack, and not just conflict.

What was I less than happy with?  A bunch of little things that kind of added up.  1) There were a few spots (particularly in some steamy scenes) where the POV jumped from Darcy to Jack from one paragraph to the next.  When I’m reading dual POVs, I’m happiest when it’s very clear whose POV I’m reading, and there are clear delineations between them (like chapters or at least breaks).  2) I wasn’t happy with the eventual explanation of the time loss.  I felt it was kind of cheap and didn’t make sense, and if the author wasn’t going to delve into it and make it more clear, then it should have been left out altogether.  There were enough interesting and unique paranormal aspects that it wasn’t needed.  I almost felt similarly about the rash/burns, but I can live with that one.  It just kind of felt lost in the shuffle of book two.  3) I wasn’t happy with the resolution with Willow and Amory…did they tell Amory?  Is he in the dark?  How did they explain everything????  4) I wasn’t happy with the glossing over of Willow’s Enchanteresse stuff.  If you’re going to make it part of the plot, give it some lip service, otherwise it feels very plot device-ish.

SPOILERY PARAGRAPH!!!!  I will hide this on Goodreads, and remove from my Amazon review, but please just don’t read unless you’ve read the book!!!!  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!  5) I was a little disappointed the biology/moss stuff didn’t go anywhere.  It was so foreshadowed, and I really thought she was going to have some breakthrough.  That could have been cool.  6) I really wanted Jack to take out Saint Germain, or show them there was another way, and more clearly break from the pack, though I suppose that would be too dangerous.  7) I wasn’t happy with the amount of sexual propositioning that seemed to happen between unbound Rougs (Julien with Willow, even though he had feelings for Lela, and Tombeur reacting to Darcy, even though he loved Tallis).  I guess this goes along with 6 a bit, in that I kind of thought they were just broken, and Jack and Darcy were the new way (what with all the cheating even in bound couples). 8) I WANTED LOUVETEAUS DAMNIT!!!  ie that epilogue was not nearly satisfying enough.

SPOILERY PARAGRAPH FINISHED!!!

I still wasn’t a big fan of Darcy.  I loved Jack way more, so I was constantly mad at Darcy’s actions.  Although at least Jack kind of screwed up going too far with the keep his distance stuff, so he wasn’t perfect.  But I was never quite happy with how she saw the Roug stuff, and how disgusted she was even by the animals.  I never fully believed that she accepted him (and I guess he didn’t really either).  And I am not a fan of couples that are so bad at communication.  Seriously, I get that neither of you have had much for relationships, but COME ON!!  *sigh*  It’s just a personal taste thing, not my favourite.

So yeah, it looks like a lot of bad, but they’re honestly not big things in the grand scheme of things, just annoyances, you know?  But there were just so many…round up, round down, round up, round down.  But OMG people the emotions in this book were actually pretty amazing!!  My heart broke for Jack on so many occasions, he just grabbed your heart and twisted it!!  *sigh*  My life is so hard.  This one really is a solid 3.5 stars.  I’ll decide on a whim I guess.

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It’s You, Book One by K.P. Kelley

Blurb:

30037207From New York Times bestselling author Katy Regnery comes her first duo of paranormal romances!

ONCE UPON A TIME…
the most beautiful boy in the world kissed me.
I’ve never been able to forget.
Perhaps it was his jet-black hair,
or the changing copper-color of his eyes,
the intense way he looked at me…
or the fact that he awakened my passion for the first time,
at once otherworldly yet heartbreakingly real.
After that kiss, I never saw him again.

His name was Jack Beauloup.
Jack, my “Beautiful Wolf.”

Twenty years passed. He has returned. For me.

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

I think I picked the wrong time to start reading this book, but with the release date coming up I didn’t have much choice.  But reading it over Christmas with a bunch of company over so I couldn’t remain engrossed just wasn’t ideal.  When I started the book I was totally sucked in.  I LOVE books that while being for the adult audience, give you the teenage perspective too…when there’s a past, I don’t just want to know it happened, I want to be there and experience it.  And Ms. Kelley totally gave that to us, and I am in love with the past parts.  I could feel the chemistry drawing Darcy and Jack together, and Darcy’s anguish over the loss of that love when found was just perfect.  And I totally felt her confusion over why it should have such a profound effect on her for so long.  Seriously, the emotions in those sections were just spot on perfect.

But back in the present, I had an up and down relationship with Darcy and Jack…but mostly Darcy.  I had moments where I really enjoyed her…she was smart, she was sassy, she was fairly down to earth.  I liked her relationship with her bff Willow, and I am totally intrigued by that little side story with Amory btw….hope we get more in book two.  But while I enjoyed the continuing chemistry between Darcy and Jack, I wasn’t quite as enthralled as I was in the past parts.  Basically the steamy parts were good, but I wasn’t necessarily blown away.  And I was a bit dismayed with how long the discovery process took…ie, how long it took Darcy to accept that something was up with Jack, and put the pieces together.  I don’t know how it could have been done faster, but it was hard to see all the clues going together, and remember that normal people wouldn’t assume that shifters really exist.

I did THOROUGHLY enjoy the mythology in this one, and how Ms. Kelley chose to present the paranormal aspect.  As a Canadian, I was a bit confused with the way she initially described Métis, but that could have been me reading into things that weren’t there, because in the end it sounded correct.  I just never thought of them as a tribe per say.  But I’m not an expert, so I assume she did the appropriate research and it’s me that has it wrong.

I was a bit saddened by the way Part One ended (trying not to give spoilers).  I can’t help but have wanted Darcy to react differently.  She hurt my heart.  It’s funny, b/c it’s not that I don’t get it…but at the same time, it wasn’t what my heart wanted.

Jack was completely swoon.  I really enjoyed how sweet he was, and the choices he made throughout his past wrt Darcy.  I really enjoyed Part Two from his perspective, I was totally missing his POV and was so happy when we got it in the end.  It filled in so many blanks that I had, and yeah…just supremely satisfied.  I wasn’t quite as sucked in, but that could have been because of life stuff, and not necessarily the book, you know?  Or maybe I was still just mad at Darcy.  😛  Who knows.  I’m also not a Lela fan, I’m not sure how she’s going to be redeemed at this point.

All in all, really interesting paranormal take on the shifter story…love the backstory and mythology, love Jack, and had some amazing set up for the love story.  I enjoyed that there was a lot else going on besides the Jack and Darcy love story, and I’m super curious how it’s all going to end.  Hopefully when I get book two, I’ll have more dedicated time to devote just to reading and devouring it.

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J.C. and the Bijoux Jolis by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
26853609Jean-Christian “J.C.” Rousseau’s reputation as a charming flirt has been well-established in Philadelphia, and he’s never had trouble winning a woman’s heart. So, when Libitz Feingold, the best friend of J.C.’s sister-in-law, Kate, comes to Philly over the holidays to help out during Kate’s final weeks of pregnancy, J.C. is shocked to discover that the prickly New York-based gallery owner and jewelry designer is completely immune to his charm. Recruited to help her set-up a local gallery during her visit, it’s not long before he starts to fall for her, but he’s going to have to rely on more than mere flirtation if he wants a shot at winning her heart.

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

That was a delightful ending to the Rousseau phase of the Blueberry Lane series!!  I didn’t really have any leanings one way or another about how I would feel about J.C. or Libitz, though I really enjoyed the brief glimpse we got of Lib in Kate and Ten’s book…and she lived up to those few expectations I had of her.  She was feisty and blunt and really took no prisoners, but with a soft heart beneath it.  Honestly, I really loved her, but I didn’t feel like I got to know her as well…I didn’t really get glimpses into her past as much as I might have wanted to.  Not that they weren’t there, but they didn’t have as big an impact on me.  It was almost like she held herself apart from even the reader a bit.  And I was less than impressed with her handling of the Nice Neil situation…but that’s because it’s a bit of a button topic for me.  It was definitely not as bad as I was expecting when I saw it being set up, and obviously I still enjoyed myself immensely reading this romance, but it’s the kind of thing that I’m just never going to be super satisfied with so it probably affected my enjoyment a bit.

I had no expectations of J.C.  I know that he was alluded to as being a bit of a playboy wastrel in previous books, but I hadn’t really formed any solid opinions on him (not like I had his brother).  So my impression of him was all clear and ready to be made based on this book alone.  I mean, I did enjoy his bantering with his siblings in the previous 2 Rousseau books, but that was about it.  And he kind of starts off the book with a bit of a typical playboy vibe, a wee bit smarmy…but almost immediately we get glimpses into why he is the way he is, and how his childhood shaped him and the way he views love and relationships.  And quite frankly my heart just broke.  I do not have similar experiences, but I just really felt for him.  I could see how he would make those choices, and how confusing it would be to be surrounded by people who believe in HEAs and then faced with someone who makes him want his own.  He was a delightful character from start to finish, and I really felt like his growth and struggle was realistic and well paced.

I thought J.C. and Lib had amazing chemistry together, and although it took time for them to get to the steamy bits, it was worth the wait.  One of the things I loved most about them as a couple is that they had similar playing the field type histories…it was nice to have a girl who was comfortable in her sexuality, and was kind of an equal to all the playboys we read about so often.  It made it so that I really believed how they could understand one another, and they sort of went on this journey into love together.  I really really loved that.

I will say that while I adored the prologue and epilogue, I was a bit disappointed not to get a bit of closure with Kate and Ten before that epilogue…that’s what I had been anticipating would be in the epilogue, so while I loved it, I did want just that little bit more in the HEA of J.C. and Lib.  Maybe it’s because it felt like the ending was a bit unbelievable given both of the characters, like it was a bit rushed…I couldn’t help but wonder how they would resolve some of their issues (including religion, culture, etc), but I guess I will have to be satisfied with perhaps an occasional glimpse of them in the upcoming Story and Ambler phases.

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Hold My Breath by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
32869404Fractions of seconds can do lots of damage. One decision can ruin lives. A blink can be tragic. And loving a Hollister…can hurt like hell.

I would know.

They say the average person can hold their breath under water for two full minutes when pushed to the extremes. Will Hollister has been holding his for years. The oldest of two elite swimming brothers, Will was always a dominant force in the water. But in life, he preferred to let his younger brother Evan be the one to shine.

Evan got the girl, and Will…he got to bury all of the secrets. A brother’s burden, the weight of it all nearly left him to drown.

The daughter of two Olympians, my path was set the day my fingertips first touched water. My future was as crystal clear as the lane I dominated in the pool—swim hard, win big, love a Hollister.

My life with Evan burned bright. He gave me arms to come home to, and a smile that fooled the world into believing everything was perfect. But it was Will who pushed me. Will…who really knew me.

And when all of the pieces fell, it was Will who started to pick them up.

In the end, the only thing that matters are those few precious seconds—and what we decide to do while we still have them in our grasp.

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

OMGOMGOMGOMG!!!  I swear to god, I spent an enormous amount of time smiling like a moron while reading this book.  No seriously, I feel like I need to get my husband to surreptitiously (and thank god for red squiggly line internets, b/c I am failing at spelling today) take a photo of my dorky reading grin, b/c I have a feeling it’s even more epic than I thought.  And this book…this book and Will….mostly Will, but also Maddy…and occasionally Uncle Duncan…well they just brought out the huge moronic grin in spades.

OK, so I will break in here for a brief moment and say that this book started off a bit slow for me.  I don’t know if it was the book (could have been), or me and what was going on in my life, but I just had a really hard time getting sucked into this one.  BUT OH MY GOD, when I did??  I was sucked…like a Hoover.  I mean seriously, I *just* finished the book, and I actually whooped and happy sighed a little, enough to get commentary from the hubby.  It was just so good feeling and happiness inducing, that I’m just beside myself.  So while that beginning is going to force me into rounding down instead of up, that ending is making me want to say SEVENTY BAJILLION STARS!!!  All the stars!

OK, I’ve calmed down…  I will try to make some of this a bit more coherent and thought provoking (HAH).  Obviously I loved the speed swimming aspect of the story, since I pretended to be a speed swimmer in my youth…I mean, I wasn’t any good at it, but I can at least say I did a sport when I was younger.  I even won my heats on occasion.  I was a bit saddened that there was no mention of the other strokes (other than free), since I’m a backstroke girl myself, but really it was an awesome spotlight on the sport otherwise.  And Ms. Scott really knows how to make you live and breath a sport, so that you can actually feel yourself pulling and clawing and grabbing the water along with them.  I mean, obviously there is a SHITTON more to the story than just the sport, but it was there, and it was nicely represented in my opinion.

But, as I alluded to up there in my gushing, the aspect that really shines in this story is the characters.  I really enjoyed Maddy right from the very beginning, but it took me a while to fall in love with her…but I kind of enjoyed that.  It felt like she fought for my love, you know?  She EARNED it.  I have mad respect for her.  I felt like I got to know what made her up, and what made her unique, and I really loved what we got to see from her.  She is a fighter.  And she had so much to overcome in her own right in this story.  I enjoyed her relationship with her parents too, mostly her coach Dad.  She pushed him to be better.  And she pushed herself too.  I felt like all her steps on the journey were believable, and she was a fantastic counterpoint to my new book boyfriend, Will.

Will.  *sigh*  Just breathe him in folks, he’s divine.  I ADORED that he wasn’t an alpha.  He wasn’t a beta necessarily, but he definitely wasn’t an alpha male.  He was just this quiet, sensitive, melt me with his thoughts kind of guy.  I LOVED the way he loved Maddy.  How he’d always loved Maddy.  But how that love grew.  My heart is just eviscerated over the obstacles he had to overcome.  Oh Ms. Scott, you were MEAN to him.  But you got him through it, so I’ll forgive you.  And you gave him good people, like Uncle Duncan…who made me laugh and smile (moronically) over the way he would quietly push him.  And like Tanya and Dylan.  I didn’t expect them.  What an intriguing twist to a story that I thought I had figured out.

And that’s the thing, Ms. Scott gives you great MCs, but she gives you great secondary characters too.  On all sides.  Fleshed out just enough, and always adding to the story.

And while she gives you a crapload of heartache, she gives you some amazing laughs and smiles.  So she balances it all out nicely.

So yeah.  Loved it.  Loved their love story.  It may have started a bit rough for me, but it made my heart so ridiculously happy in the end.  Awesomesauce.

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