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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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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Chance of a Lifetime by Marissa Clarke

Blurb:
26136108Sometimes the biggest risk is playing it safe…

Gen Richards is tired of living down to her family’s expectation of the helpless blind girl. Resurrecting her high-school bucket list that begins with “kiss a total stranger” seems just the thing until she finds herself in a panty-melting lip lock with her big brother’s best friend.

Chance Anderson thrives on adrenaline, but Genny’s the one risk he’s not willing to take. His recklessness a decade ago landed her in the hospital and ejected him from her life. He’s bad for her and everyone knows it—especially her big brother.

Chance reluctantly helps Gen complete her bucket list in order to keep her out of trouble. Running through a freezing fountain, playing Spin the Bottle while fending off a mad horde of stinging insects, and skinny dipping with homicidal attack swans don’t hold a candle to the real danger: falling for the one person he can never have.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — SQUEEEEEE!!!!  This was totally my kind of book!!!  I loved the characters, I loved the chemistry, I loved the steaminess!!  It just totally worked for me.

I actually put it higher on the reading queue b/c it fit for a Diversity Challenge theme this month, and I absolutely LOVED what Gen being blind added to the story.  It felt really authentic, and I couldn’t help but wonder how Ms. Clarke managed that…  I was just so immersed!  All the descriptions of sounds and smells and the feeling of things just really added to the authenticity.  AND OMG I grew frustrated not being able to “see” things that were happening when we were in her POV!  Isn’t that crazy??  There was this one scene at the beach house where they walk into a discussion between Chance’s brothers and Claire, and I just wanted to see their body language and facial expressions!  It felt like it really gave me great insight into the life of a blind person…at least, to a certain extent.  So well done on the diversity front.

As I said, I loved both characters, and I loved the growth I saw with each of them throughout the story, but especially at the end.  I appreciated each perspective on how the climax would play out, but I also appreciated what they wanted from the other…and that they each found their way to the middle and each other.  I love it when a book really satisfies that for me.

I loved Gen’s sassiness and sense of adventure, and I really appreciated her journey.  But the star for me was Chance.  I loved his caring nature, and how much empathy he had.

I loved the two of them together most of all though!  They were fun and sassy and the banter was great!  I loved the way they loved each other, and how that love persisted through time and heartache.  And their chemistry was fantastic!!  Like, I can’t tell you the number of times I got huge tummy tingles!!

Honestly, the only part that has me not going full 5 is the resolution with Walter.  Walter felt almost borderline emotionally abusive, and either he should have been toned down, or there should have been more there…because that all was not cool.

So yeah.  I devoured it.  It was good stuff.  Definitely recommend!

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Cuff Me by Lauren Layne

Blurb:
27225024Meet New York’s Finest-three hot brothers sworn to protect and serve the city they love . . . and the women who’ve stolen their hearts.

ARRESTED BY LOVE

Vincent Moretti is one of the NYPD’s top homicide detectives-and one of the most eligible bachelors in town. His family, however, thinks he should date his longtime partner, Jill-a sassy, sexy, smart-mouthed blonde who drives him absolutely crazy.

Behind the quiet authority, tough-guy demeanor, and dark aviator glasses lies a man with a big soul-and a hard body that can soften any girl’s heart. After years as his coworker, Jill Henley has given up hope that anything could happen between her and Vin. Besides, loving him would break all the rules. But seeing Jill with someone else triggers feelings in Vincent he never knew he had. Now he’ll have to stop playing good cop/bad cop-and find a way to convince her to be his partner for life. . .

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My Review:
4.5 stars — THIS BOOK!!!  OK, I read the first two books in this series quite a while ago (I got them both as ARCs), and both ones had a lot of promise, but there were just things about them that niggled me and prevented me from loving them.  But THIS was the book I was most looking forward to!  I mean, Vincent and Jill!!!!  But of course I didn’t get an ARC of this one.  And since it was above my personal ebook price threshold, I put off buying a copy.  But since I’m going to be meeting this author THIS SATURDAY, and this is one of the few books of hers where there is actual paperback copies available, I sucked it up!!  AND I’M SO GLAD I DID!!!

These two were everything I was hoping they would be from the glimpses I got of them in the previous 2 books!  And btw, you TOTALLY don’t need to read the other books to read this one, but the Moretti family is pretty fun, and definitely a highlight of the series, so you may find yourself wanting to read them afterwards.  They were just as hilarious and interfering and awesome in this book as in the others.

I was concerned with the subplot of Jill being engaged to another man, but that all played out a little differently than I had been anticipating.  I can honestly say that I’m very happy with how that was dealt with, and what it brought to the story.  I’m very sensitive to cheating subjects, but there were no problems.

I loved Jill and Vin on their own, but I especially love them together.  They just fit together so beautifully.  She was all sunshine and light and fun and teasing, and he was gruff and awkward and more withdrawn and quiet.  But they just worked together, you know?  I loved the way their relationship progressed, and even the stumbling blocks that they inevitably hit weren’t drawn out and didn’t feel cliche.  Vincent actually really got to me, I loved that there was no horrible event that made him more closed off, but that it was an aspect of his personality…and I loved the observations that Mama Moretti had about him, and why he appears the way he does.  And he was so freaking cute in a growly guy way!  When he was trying, I just melted.  And Jill was totally like girl crush territory!  She was just…I don’t know.  Not without flaws, but I would want to be friends with her.

And as with all the books in the series, the Moretti family really stood out.  I can’t even tell you how many times I highlighted their interactions.  And I enjoyed the mystery of the Lenora Birch murder, and not just because it was one letter off from my own name.

Honestly, the only downside for me is that I was thrown off by the pacing.  I expected things to move much faster, and I was always thrown off when I’d start the next chapter and 2 weeks had gone by.  It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.  Add that to the fact that I had to break up my reading b/c of things happening in my real life, it just made for a different reading experience.  And, I kind of wanted an extended epilogue because I’m greedy….

But yeah.  So happy.  Seriously, so happy with this one.  And isn’t it always relieving when the book you’re most looking forward to actually lives up to your anticipation??

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Made for You by Lauren Layne

Blurb:
21965116Some mistakes are worth making…

When the Wrong Guy is Oh-So-Right

Will Thatcher is exactly the type of sexy playboy good girls like Brynn have always avoided. And yet there was still something about him she just couldn’t resist. When Will moved across the country three years ago, Brynn vowed it was time to put him behind her. She never thought Will might have other plans . . .

Back in town, Will intends to get what he’s always wanted-gorgeous, unforgettable Brynn. For years, he tormented the untouchable ice princess in a desperate bid for her attention. Now he has a new plan, and he’ll do anything to rewrite their stormy past. This time, he’s out to show Brynn that the imperfect man might be the best mistake of her life . . .

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My Review:
3 stars — Oh dudes…  I know I’ve been conflicted about books before, but I can honestly say this one is probably my most conflicted ever.  Because the things I loved, I LOVED.  But there were things that I essentially hated too…or at least strongly disliked, b/c I really try not to hate things.

So what did I love first: the essential quality of Lauren Layne-ness to the book.  There is a reason I love most Lauren Layne books, and it’s often in the witty repartee of the characters.  There’s just something that always makes me laugh and has me delighted by either the dialogue or the internal thoughts of the characters.  And while this seems like a really small thing, it was enough to level this book off at 3 stars for me, b/c I would give that aspect 5 stars if I could.  She also writes pretty great kissing/steamy scenes, and this book was no exception.

What did I decidedly NOT like: when it comes right down to it, I really didn’t *like* either character.  They both had good moments, so it’s not an all-out hate or anything…there were even things I loved about both of them.  But in the end I mostly just wanted to smack them, for different reasons.

Brynn was a witch with a b.  There’s no other way to put it.  I get (and love) the depth of history that went into explaining how she became this person of lists and regimented everything.  And I actually really felt for how her childhood bullying stayed with her right into her 30s.  I think people underestimate the scars of systematic bullying and how it can affect you.  I actually liked that.  But the problem is, even if you excuse her walls to protect herself, she was still kind of mean.  And judgmental (of everyone, including other girls…bordering on slut shaming occasionally, but not quite).  And stupidly oblivious (stupidly because I really honestly couldn’t buy someone being that oblivious to Will’s affections).  AND SELFISH!!  She didn’t seem to care to learn about anyone else (most notably her sister and Will).  And I didn’t buy into her growth.  All of a sudden being an orthodontist is boring?  So who is she??  What does she want out of life?  What defines her?  I have zero answers.

And while I wanted to love Will, b/c on one side of the coin, the way he held onto his love for Brynn through 15 freaking years was kind of adorable (and even the epilogue almost had me swooning).  And he was freaking hilarious sometimes.  But he was also REALLY REALLY mean.  Like, I’m only so-so on enemies to lovers tropes as it is, but to hear the things these two said back and forth to each other just made me cringe and made my heart hurt.  He was basically a bully.  And he wasn’t nearly as understanding as I would have liked when he found out about her childhood bullying.  And OMG, the games!!  WHY WOULD YOU NOT JUST TALK TO HER AND FESS UP???  Why would you constantly test her, and then get mad when she thinks you hate her and isn’t getting it?  Why’d you have to break my heart by having these horrible qualities so I can’t love you for your good qualities??  It just wasn’t enough.

The whole book is basically just terrible communication, and you know I hate lack of communication tropes.  And when he finally just tells her THE TRUTH, he gives her 5 seconds to absorb it, and then bails.  UGH.

So you see what I mean?  If it hadn’t been for the witty dialogue and moments of great connection scattered here and there, it would have been a 2 star.  That’s how much I love the things I loved.  Because these characters just didn’t redeem themselves.  I’m just not a forgiving reader I guess.  I can’t tell you how bummed I am, b/c honestly there were moments of awesomeness that obviously had me hoping for a good ending.  *sigh*  OK, I’m just going to stop.  😦

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Bossman by Vi Keeland

Blurb:
31140847The first time I met Chase Parker, I didn’t exactly make a good impression.

I was hiding in the bathroom hallway of a restaurant, leaving a message for my best friend to save me from my awful date.

He overheard and told me I was a bitch, then proceeded to offer me some dating advice.

So I told him to mind his own damn business―his own tall, gorgeous, full-of-himself damn business―and went back to my miserable date.

When he walked by my table, he smirked, and I watched his arrogant, sexy ass walk back to his date.

I couldn’t help but sneak hidden glances at the condescending jerk on the other side of the room. Of course, he caught me on more than one occasion, and winked.

When the gorgeous stranger and his equally hot date suddenly appeared at our table, I thought he was going to rat me out.

But instead, he pretended we knew each other and joined us―telling elaborate, embarrassing stories about our fake childhood.

My date suddenly went from boring to bizarrely exciting.

When it was over and we parted ways, I thought about him more than I would ever admit, even though I knew I’d never see him again.

I mean, what were the chances I’d run into him again in a city with eight million people?Then again…

What were the chances a month later he’d wind up being my new sexy boss?

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My Review:
4.5 stars — Since I’d had less success with Ms. Keeland’s solo works, but GREAT success with her first co-written work, I was curious to see how I’d enjoy this one…it came highly recommended by some bloggers I follow.  And I’m here to tell you, I floved it!!!  Can I get a woohoo??!!  Basically it was everything I loved about Cocky Bastard, so I do believe I just needed to find the right fit with Ms. Keeland’s work.

There’s just something about the chemistry of the characters, both steamy chemistry and friend chemistry, that just draws me in.  I LOVED the way they interacted with one another, the way they were drawn to one another.

Chase had me laughing almost right from the start with his elaborate made up stories.  And I found myself intrigued by him and the way you could tell he was immediately affected by Reese.  And he just burrowed further into my heart with the way he pursued his feelings for Reese, despite the roadblocks in the way.  I could feel his…almost…bewilderment at what he was feeling.  And when we finally started to get glimpses into his past, well my heart just broke for him.  I fully understood his hangups.  So many times the reasons for certain actions in these romances just doesn’t feel like enough, but I got it with him, even if I didn’t agree with him.  And while we didn’t get a lot from his POV, I still felt like I got to see inside him enough.

And Reese surprised the heck out of me too.  She was a heroine that I could get behind.  She had her own tragedies, her own hangups, but she just didn’t come across like most romantic heroines.  I felt a quiet strength in her.  And she was funny, and sassy, and I really appreciated her passion for her work, and her desire to make it on her own.  I understood her hangups, even if she broke my heart from time to time.  And she was a good balance of being caring and empathic, without being a pushover.  I really loved that.  I loved the way she often handled advances from guys with almost sweetness and humour.  I don’t know, she’s really hard to describe, and I’m probably doing a crap job of it.  But I LIKED her.  REALLY liked her.  So many times it’s easy to fall in love with the heroes, but I fell in love with her too.

And this book had a fabulous secondary cast too!  I enjoyed Reese’s BFF Jules, Ugly Kitty, and I especially loved both Sam and Anna.  They all added something.

And the best part?  Ms. Keeland knows how to give good epilogue.  Damn, I love good epilogue.  I can honestly say that I will definitely be searching out more books by this author in the future, especially those in this vein…vain?  Nope definitely vein.

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Cocky Bastard by Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland

Blurb:
26111248He was someone who belonged in my wildest fantasies instead of a rest stop in the middle of Nebraska.

A sexy, cocky, Australian named Chance was the last person I expected to run into on my cross-country drive.

When my car broke down, we made a deal. Next thing I knew, we were traveling together, spending sexually-tense nights in hotels and taking unplanned detours.

My ordinary road trip turned into the adventure of a lifetime. It was all fun and games until things got intense.

I wanted him, but Chance wouldn’t make a move. I thought he wanted me too, but something was holding him back.

I wasn’t supposed to fall for the cocky bastard, especially when I knew we’d be going our separate ways.

All good things must come to an end, right?

Except our ending was one I didn’t see coming.

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My Review:
4 stars — YAYYYYY!!!  After reading my first Vi Keeland novel and being underwhelmed, I was a bit concerned about trying more.  But I’d heard so many good things about her more recent novels, and also about these books that she and Penelope Ward have co-written.  So I tried a sample, and was absolutely hooked!!  This book was everything I was anticipating from these authors, and I was so happy that they worked for me!

This book was happiness and giggle fit inducing!  I fell in love with Chance pretty much right from the start, which honestly surprised the heck out of me!  He was nothing like I was expecting, especially with a book title of Cocky Bastard.  He was this weird mix of a bit of a dick, arrogant, a total smart-ass, cheeky, intuitive, thoughtful, vulnerable, and even sweet.  He just…there was a lot to him.  And I really loved him.  He made me laugh.  He intrigued me.  He kept me guessing.  And in the end he had me rooting for me.

And Aubrey surprised me too!!  I was expecting one thing, with her rigidity and uptightness, but there was a lot to her as well.  I LOVED the way Chance was able to bring her out of her shell.  She was funny, and sassy, and smart, and had such a big heart.

And the two of them together were just gold.  The chemistry was amazing, but what I loved is that the whole part one is them getting to know each other and developing a friendship while wanting more.  I could read part one over and over again and not get tired of it.  I honestly expected one outcome from Las Vegas, but was surprised that it didn’t end up that way.  Yay for not falling into common tropes!!

Part two shocked the crap out of me from the first page.  I DID NOT see that coming.  Like at all.  I LOVED Chance’s persistence, and you really felt how much he cared and how in love he was with Aubrey.  Unfortunately I felt like Aubrey let me down here and there in the second part, mostly just with how long it took.  I both needed it to take long, b/c it validates her feelings, and I desperately wanted things to get moving forward.  I would have appreciated it being tightened up a bit more.  I did appreciate that there were moments where we could have had long drawn out miscommunications, and the authors didn’t go that way either.  THANK YOU.  I get so tired of that.

Pixy/Esmeralda Snowflake/Mutton totally stole the show.  I loved the bonds that both Aubrey and Chance developed with her.

So yeah, I’m all aboard the fan train now.  Definitely will be checking out more of the books co-written by this duo.  It was a great mix of fun/crazy with depth/seriousness.  And a very satisfying ending.  Excuse me while I happy dance.

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Belong to You by Vi Keeland

Blurb:
17936062My honeymoon was almost everything I dreamed it would be, a tropical paradise, turquoise water, romantic walks on the beach, and loads and loads of mind shattering sex. The only thing missing was the groom.

After seven years of coasting through a relationship with Michael, my senses were numb. A week of passion with a stranger was just what I needed to clear my head and take back control of my life. But how do you move on when the man that was only supposed to be a fling somehow seeps into your soul and steals your heart?

 

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My Review:
2.5 stars — I read this book in an anthology (inTENse), and I’m thinking it wasn’t the best introduction to Ms. Keeland’s works.  From what I can vibe from reviews, it’s got a bit of a different feel, and besides that, earlier works are never the best representations.

This book was just very meh for me.  The characters were OK.  Not horrible, but not super endearing.  I kept getting glimpses of potential sweetness/vulnerability in Jack, and that intrigued me, but it was usually glossed over in favour of the stereotypical alpha behavior.  And I’ll get this out of the way right now, I’m one of those rare readers who’s not actually that big of a fan of alphas.  Weird right?  *shrugs* What are you gonna do.  It’s not that I hate them or anything, I just tend not to gravitate towards them.  There are always exceptions to that rule, but Jack wasn’t an exception for me.  Every time he practically peed on Sydney to mark her, I just kind of rolled my eyes.  It can be sexy, but it wasn’t for me in this case.

This book just felt very much like a lot of books that I’ve seen out there, and I’m not sure what I was expecting…in fact, looking back on the anthology, it states it’s 10 books about 10 alphas, so I wasn’t very bright in my choice eh?

So yeah.  Super rich hero.  Playboy who’s very experienced but has never really had a relationship.  Heroine has a LOT less experience.  Supposed to be a short fling, but of course they fall in love (ish — no words, just deep connection, neither has ever felt that way about another person).  Secrets, shameful past of hero.  He’s kind of a jerk pushing her away because of it.  Heroine feels insecure b/c of other women in his life.  You know, the usual.

Steamy scenes were pretty good.  I liked that Sydney wasn’t too much of a pushover.  Her BFF Sienna was pretty sassy and funny.

In the end it wasn’t a bad story, it just didn’t stand out.  And in fact it kind of dragged on longer than I expected, so I got a bit bored.  If you love these kinds of stories though, I think you’ll enjoy this one…they’re just not really for me.  And I have no interest in finding out what happens in the next book with Jack and Sydney.  Oh well, it was mostly my own fault for not understanding what kind of story this was going to be…

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Juked by M.E. Carter

Blurb:
30625212Juked: verb.
/jook-t/
A slang soccer term meaning: faked out, deceived, confused your opponent
See examples Daniel Zavaro and Quincy Watson:

As the rising star in Houston, Daniel has found fame as Captain of his Pro soccer team and the city’s most eligible bachelor. Daniel has everything – except someone special – and that suits him just fine. He doesn’t want, or need, complications.

Quincy has baggage, and lots of it. After a tragic accident spins her world on its axis, she finds herself as a single mother, raising a newborn nephew she never knew she had. Between parenthood, her full-time job, and dealing with the suffocating grief of losing her sister, every day is a struggle.

When they begin to cross paths unexpectedly and often, an unlikely friendship starts to evolve. Feelings change. Lines get crossed. What happens next surprises them both…

Before they know it– they’ve been Juked.

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My Review:
4 stars — Loved it!  I read this one in a day you guys.  It was just an easy, fun read, but with its share of drama and heartbreak as well.

What’s funny is that usually it’s characters that put me over the top on a book, and while I enjoyed both characters, individually they weren’t what stood out to me in this book.  It was a bunch of other things that mixed together made for a very enjoyable read.

As a lover of sports romance, I thought this one did a pretty good job actually including some sport in the story.  I loved that while Daniel was a sports celebrity, he wasn’t some rich guy necessarily.  I know next to nothing about soccer, and honestly find it kind of boring, but I thought it was funny that they didn’t shy away from the dramatic acting that happens on the field and is apparently part of the play (with injuries to get penalties).

This book actually made me really happy with its diversity!!  I actually felt like it wasn’t just token, you know?  Like I couldn’t just imagine Daniel as white and basically nothing would change.  I LOVED his big Mexican family, and I really enjoyed that we got to see their dynamics, and the struggles they all faced after his father’s betrayal.  It’s really interesting to see how that doesn’t just affect young children, but adult/young adult children as well.  I appreciated that they weren’t perfect.

I also really appreciated a lot of the frank internal and external observations/conversations Daniel had about sex.  It felt more realistic than so many other playboy heroes.  And not only that, but he acknowledged that there was a difference in being able to separate your emotions from the act, and…I don’t know…  It just worked for me.  And I appreciated the conversations that Daniel had with his nephew Nicky, and how he navigated being a role model and giving good advice to a teenage boy.

On Quincy’s side of things, I really loved the whole story with baby Chance, and navigating becoming an emergency caregiver.  I really felt for what she was dealing with, and it felt so real…  I hurt for her, I felt her fears and feelings of inadequacy.  I loved the way the custody storyline played out, it took some interesting turns I wasn’t expecting.

And I LOVED Quincy and Daniel together, they made me laugh!  They had fantastic chemistry, and I felt their draw to each other.  I also enjoyed their friendship and how it developed (though sometimes it was a tiny bit showy instead of telly).  And I appreciated that the conflict of the story and the climax wasn’t a LONG drawn out misunderstanding.  It felt real, again.

I ADORED the way Daniel was with Chance.  I’m not a kid person you guys, and a lot of times I don’t think kids/babies are depicted realistically in books (the struggles are glossed over).  I thought the author nailed a lot of this, and I really could imagine so many of those situations.

So those are all the pros.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  I wasn’t as excited about them both not wanting to define their relationship.  I understood where Daniel was coming from, but not as much with Quincy.  And my biggest pet peeve was the slut shaming that occurred.  Now, luckily, it was mostly from Quincy’s best friend Geni, and less so from Quincy herself, but it still kind of annoyed me.  Now, I realize it’s sort of setting up for Tiffany’s book and showing how she’s viewed by so many, but I just really wanted Quincy to get more mad at Geni (though I suppose the author kind of made Geni look bad for doing it…).  Strangely, there was even a degree of guy-type slut shaming.  I’m not saying I don’t find some sexual things people engage in to be…well, not to my taste.  But I felt a bit of judgement from Daniel towards his teammates.  This wasn’t a major part of the book, but if slut-shaming is a 100% no-go for you, well, there is a bit…

So there you have it.  I seem to be getting more and more verbose as time goes on.  I always feel like people are going to think books are bad based on my reviews, but I just really like hearing myself talk…and I’m picky.  I note things.  So always look at the star rating…the star rating tells you how much my cons actually play a part in the whole shebang.  And obviously they played very little part here, there was just too much else to love…

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#Bae by Cambria Hebert

Blurb:
30968750Happily-ever-after.
That’s what happens when you get married.
Right?
Turns out sparkly rings, cake and a fantastic wedding do not automatically grant you that, not even when it’s all you truly want.
I’m even starting to doubt the bottomless, unconditional love I share with the man I married will be enough.
I can’t have happily ever after, know why?
Because I can’t give Romeo what he truly wants. I’ve tried. So hard. I won’t be happy unless he is and something is missing. Someone.
Paparazzi are in my face. The flashing cameras and prying eyes are everywhere. My secret is getting harder to hide, and I know the second the scoop is dished the grip I have on the fraying rope of that happily ever after will snap right in my face.
In our face.
I can’t let that happen. No matter what.
Because with or without a happy ending, Romeo comes Before Anyone Else.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — Oh Rimmeo… I forgot how much I loved their voices, you know? Like I knew I was in love with them, but I forgot just how much. And right from the prologue I was like “OH YEAH!” Seriously, these two are epic. Like I love them both individually, but I also love them as a couple. I love the way they love each other, I love the way they tease each other, I love them from their light interactions to their heavy interactions.

What I think I loved most about this book is that it wasn’t just an extended epilogue, full of happy, happy, happy. Don’t get me wrong, I love those…though usually in novella form, not in novel form. NOPE, Ms. Hebert gave us so much more. It’s like how in real life there is no such thing as a Happily Ever After…not really. You find your person, and that part is AMAZING…but you still work EVERY SINGLE DAY to make it the best it can be. You’re still faced with challenges, both individually and as a couple. And that’s what we get to see in this book, though a bit amplified because of Romeo and Rimmel’s celebrity status, and because Ms. Hebert loves to torture her characters along the way.

This book had a lot of heavy. It starts right from the prologue, and we really get a lot of feels and raw emotions. I’ll try not to go into too many details to avoid spoilers, but as I already had an idea of the issue Rimmel and Romeo would be facing, I’m not sure if it’s a spoiler or not. But if you’re adamant about not being spoiled AT ALL, perhaps skip the rest of this review.

OK, still with me? I cannot fathom how prospective parents do it. The loss that they suffer in the prologue is experienced by so many, but not really talked about openly. And as someone who doesn’t even desire children, it’s a bit out of my realm of experience. But I have friends who have experienced miscarriages, and I thought that Romeo and Rimmel’s experience was very raw and real, and touched on a few related topics. I actually did OK emotionally in the prologue, probably b/c I knew it was coming, but Ms. Hebert certainly tried to make me bawl, b/c you see how happy and playful and excited they are. And the rest of the book we get sprinkles of their struggles, mixed in with paparazzi crap, and the usual drama that seems to surround our favourite couple. I broke down for Rimmel, particularly in the scene where she visits Valerie. It’s so hard to see our kind-hearted heroine struggling with so many expectations and guilt. But it was Romeo’s struggles that truly caught me off guard…because I think we forget about the potential papa’s sometimes. I totally bawled for him, and felt every one of his emotions.

If that all has you concerned, don’t worry…we do still get a lot of moments of levity sprinkled in. And not only that, but it feels like coming home while reading this book, where you get to hang out with all your favourite characters again. I love the whole freaking family, and seeing Braeden, Ivy, Nova, Trent and Drew again just made my heart happy.

And yes, they do experience their fair share of over the top drama, but if you’re a fan of the Hashtag series, you know what to expect. And can I just say that I laughed so hard at the fourth wall break near the end of the book that I actually woke my husband up? That was comedy gold Ms. Hebert. Dark humour at its finest.

So yeah. As a die-hard fan of the series, I wasn’t surprised that I loved the book, but I think I was surprised that even after all this time there’s still more story to tell. And honestly? It just made me desperately want to reread from the beginning again. Instead I’m on to #Blur! Soon I will be done, and they’ll have to wait until I have time for another epic reread.

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