Fake Fiancée by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Blurb:
34129618Fake engaged to the hottest quarterback in the country? SCORE.

They say nothing compares to your first kiss,
But our first kiss was orchestrated for an audience.
Our second kiss . . . that one was REAL.
He cradled my face like he was terrified he’d f*ck it up.
He stared into my eyes until the air buzzed.
Soft and slow, full of sighs and little laughs,
He inhaled me like I was the finest Belgian chocolate,
And he’d never get another piece.
A nip of his teeth, his hand at my waist . . .
And I was lost.
I forgot he was paying me to be his fake fiancée.
I forgot we weren’t REAL.
Our kiss was pure magic, and before you laugh and say those kinds of kisses don’t exist,
Then you’ve never touched lips with Max Kent, the hottest quarterback in college history.

Three months. Two hearts. One fake engagement.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — This one started off with a LOT of promise, but inevitably it just left me wanting more.  Bummer.  I’m thinking perhaps Ms. Madden-Mills just isn’t for me, this is the second book that had good bones, but just didn’t fulfill me in the end.

I loved the set up in the past and that first meet.  I was sucked in by their first encounter at University, and could see the initial chemistry they had together.  I was intrigued by Max, and loved the complexity of his character at first…a bit alpha with some vulnerability.  And I thought Sunny was nicely sassy, and independent and strong.

I adore fake relationship stories…I don’t know why, they just always suck me in.  And this one started off really well, and had good bones for that part of the story.  And I enjoyed the way their relationship continued to develop.

But then things just started to fizzle.  Sunny kept avoiding Max, and so I had a hard time understanding how they fell in love.  Max was a bit more boneheaded in some of his decisions than I normally like.  I still liked them both, but I wasn’t in love with either of them.

The major problem for me though, and what has me rounding down instead of up, is that I felt like a bunch of plot points just kind of fizzled or were dropped.  I stopped being intrigued.  I expected to learn more about Sunny’s father, and to see more resolution there (though we did get some).  I kept waiting for the first chapter to come back into play, and when it finally did it was kind of a let down (not bad, I just wanted more).  There didn’t even seem to be much of a climax, the book was more a hill than a mountain, you know?  And then the Felix/Bianca stuff.  That just left me confused.  I expected some big thing, with clarity, and we never got that.  Just a throwaway explanation in the epilogue.  None of these things are necessarily horrible, it’s just not my personal preference for a story arc, you know?

So yeah.  Bummer, I do have reviewers I follow who love her, but apparently Ms. Madden-Mills is just not for me.  Ah well!

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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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Temporary by Sarina Bowen and Sarah Mayberry

Blurb:
36123044The most beautiful man I’ve ever seen is the same one who can ruin everything.

The first time I lay eyes on Callan Walker, I know he’ll be trouble. With his smug grin, hot Aussie accent and thousand dollar shoes, he’s just the kind of rich guy who always gets what he wants.

And he wants two things: a night of sin, and my cooperation as he outmaneuvers his powerful mother to take control of his uncle’s estate.

I can’t afford either one. I’m the only thing standing between my little sister and the foster care system. He may have money and charm on his side, but I have something even more powerful — pure desperation. This temp job at his mother’s company can become a full time job for me. It has to.

But when Callan’s eyes rake over my body, sometimes I forget my obligations. His piercing gaze finds the fun, optimistic girl I used to be and not the tired person I’ve become.

And it works–if only for a moment. Our night together was a mistake. I can’t afford to get sucked into his high-powered family’s treachery. But the closer I get to Callan, the more layers I find beneath those expensive clothes. Though I can’t forget this is temporary. He’s temporary. I have too much to lose.

Too bad my foolish heart didn’t get the memo…

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I won an ARC of this book through a contest, but this does not affect my honest and unbiased opinion.

I am a HUGE fan of both of these authors, and in a stroke of luck I threw out the wild guess that they were collaborating in a contest that probably didn’t expect winners, I managed to…well…win.  So I had really high hopes for this book, and can I just say that it lived up to EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM??  This book was everything I loved about both authors, so if you’re a fan of either one, you won’t be disappointed.

The thing that has always sucked me in with both authors writing was their focus on fantastic, relatable characters.  Characters that you root for, characters that you fall in love with.  And Callan and Grace were no exceptions.

I felt the desperation and struggles that Grace faced, trying to provide for her sister and give her a stable home.  I felt her wariness of starting relationships when she’d had such a bad track record of being left behind.  And OMG, she had such a smart, sassy mouth on her…what I loved is that it was kind of subtle, not in your face sassiness.  She was strong, independent, with a big heart and a beautiful soul.

And Callan surprised the crap out of me.  My heart ACHED for his grief over his beloved uncle…so much so that *I* mourned for Uncle Jack.  I wish I’d known him.  The situations he faced at the hands of his mother, both in the past and in the book, just made me want to throw down with him and punch her in the throat.  I really understood how his experiences shaped him, and I loved getting to see that there was a LOT more there than met the eye.  And his humour and his own brand of sassiness were just infectious.  I can’t even tell you how many times he made me laugh.

And Grace and Callan together made my heart happy.  I followed them from flirting to more, and their chemistry was palpable.  I desperately wanted them to work, regardless of the odds they were facing.  Even when mistakes were made, I waited patiently for them to make it better (and they did).

I even adored Olivia, despite her teenage sauciness.  I thought the balance between teenage snark, bad attitude, vulnerability, and sassiness was perfect.  I appreciated that she wasn’t forgotten about.

So yeah.  I got “stuck in” and now I want to go listen to some Aussie accents.  And dare I hope that this is the start of a series??  Please please please please please….

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The Way Back Home by Carmen Jenner

Blurb:
33119387August Cotton shouldn’t be here. When a tragic accident calls him home to Magnolia Springs, this returned Veteran adds his parents to the list of things he’s lost in recent years, right along with his IED detection dog and his left leg. As the sole guardian of his four-year-old sister, August must rely on his Marine training in raising a tiny hellion who’s as stubborn as he is. But the Corps could never prepare him for this. Nor could they prepare him for Olivia Anders, a woman who’ll stop at nothing to get her way.

As owner of Paws for Cause, Olivia is no stranger to the broken men and women who return home from war. She’s no stranger to broken dogs either. In fact, she’s made it her mission to pair the two and enrich both of their lives, but pairing ornery and aloof August Cotton will take some work. The last thing August wants is some pushy southern woman occupying his parents’ bed and breakfast and forcing him to open up about the hell he narrowly escaped, but that’s exactly what Olivia intends.

They complete one another, and yet they can’t stand to be in the same room.

Can Olivia make this hardened Marine feel again and finally show his heart the way back home?

*** Intended for a mature 18+ audience only. This book may contain triggers for some readers.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — OK, first things first, YAY to the author for putting the potential trigger warning!  I don’t actually experience triggers, but I kind of thought that this one might have potential (it does deal with the difficult subject of war, ptsd, and suicide).

OK, so wanna hear the weird thing about this one?  I LOVED so much of this book, but the one thing I was meh on?  The romance.  *rolls eyes*  Like seriously, isn’t that odd?  It’s kind of a romance book.  It’s not the whole point, but it’s kind of a main point.  *sigh*  I was going to leave that til the end like I’ve been doing lately, but how about we just get it out of the way and end on a high note?

I 100% felt the lust and attraction between Olivia and August.  I did.  It made it a little frustrating that this ended up being a slow burn book, and that the author tended to rely heavily on the interruption to stop things from going in a physical direction (I can’t even tell you how many times they were about to kiss and someone/something interrupted them).  I don’t mind that in general, but if it’s multiple times, I tend to start rolling my eyes.  My problem was not in their physical chemistry, it was that I didn’t completely follow the development of their feelings and emotions.  I got some of it, but these two were just so ridiculously damaged that they were just not healthy with each other.  I mean, like I said to my husband, it was quite a bit of hate boinking (except I used a more colourful word that definitely won’t make it past the ‘zon’s approval process).  I know some people really enjoy those kinds of angsty relationships, and I honestly actually got how it made sense in some ways, given what they’d been through in each of their pasts, but it just kind of leaves me feeling icky and unsatisfied.  And it probably didn’t help that I didn’t understand the point where Olivia got fed up…it didn’t feel like it fit, I didn’t understand how she got to the end of her rope.  Oh well, sometimes I am dense.  And I *really* didn’t like how she handled the PTSD stuff with both August and Dalton.  Honestly, I was a bit surprised how often she made really silly mistakes, and then the author would excuse it away as she should know better…but for realz people, SHE DOES THIS FOR A LIVING.  She *should* know better.  I didn’t buy being distracted by her feelings for August.  It was just too much to watch her constantly putting herself in dangerous situations.

OK!  Now onto the fun stuff!!  Well, and heartbreak.  But the good heartbreak.  The elements that put this book up there for me are actually kind of diverse.  I actually thought Olivia was hilarious and sassy and in general she had an amazingly tender heart.  It’s kind of a strange mixture actually.  But I just fell in love with the way she took in strays, from animals to humans.  I loved the way she interacted with many of the strong secondary characters.  She was wonderful with Bettina (though can I just say I’m never a fan of writing out 4 year old dialogue with the lisps included?  Personal preference).  I was pleasantly surprised with the way her relationship with Josiah progressed, and my heart ached in that storyline (though I will admit I read another review that mentioned some race issues, and in the end I agree with that reviewer, even though my little white reader self didn’t completely ferret that out on my own).  I thought Josiah and Beau added to this full, hilarious household.  And, being an animal lover, I ADORED Betty, Zora, and the bit we saw of Xena.

And while I never really felt like I got to know August quite as much, and particularly not until the second half, I loved a lot of what I got to see in his story.  I felt for him with the Jude/Sav storyline.  But where he really shone was in watching him with his dogs (either Havoc or Zora).  I felt like I learned a LOT about Marine Working Dogs, and how that all works, and while heartbreaking at times, it was also fascinating and gave me EVEN MORE respect for both the animals and handlers.

So yeah.  It’s weird when you like characters on their own, but when they don’t bring out the best in each other.  Or at least not in my opinion.  So, needless to say, this book left me feeling very mixed.  The parts I loved I REALLY LOVED.  But if I can’t connect on a romance in a romance book, well…I don’t know.  It’s a bummer, at minimum.

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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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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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Nova by Rebecca Yarros

Blurb:
32057669He’s got one shot to make it right…

He’s Landon Rhodes.
The Renegade they call Nova.
Sinfully gorgeous, broody, tatted-up, professional snowboarder.

They say a girl broke him once–
That’s why he’s so reckless, so driven, so careless with his conquests.
But I’m that girl.
They can call me his curse all they want.
He and I both know the truth–
He’s the one who destroyed me,
And I’m too smart to let that happen again.

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My Review:
4 stars — So I held out on reading this book when it was released, partly because I had a lot going on at the time, and partly because I kind of wanted to wait for Rebel and read it at once.  And now of course I’m going to be late for my Rebel review date tomorrow, but alas…maybe we can pretend I live in another time zone?

All that to say that I kind of rushed through reading this book, and after just rereading my review for Wilder, I seemed to run into a few similar problems.  I had a hard time concentrating on it.  There were parts that obviously sucked me in and wouldn’t put me down, but there were other parts where I wanted to skim and get moving quickly.  So I will say that I felt like this book had a few pacing problems at times.  It was like this great book that could have been even more awesome if it was a bit more condensed.  BUT!  I will say that I’m not a huge fan of LOTS of angst, and quite of few of those moments I wanted to rush through involved feelings and…well…angst.  I kind of hate that word.  It’s NOT a bad thing, it’s just a lot of intense emotions and heartbreak and hurt and sometimes it’s more than this little reader can handle.

DESPITE all that, I really loved both Rachel and Landon.  I wasn’t sure I would.  The circumstances surrounding their original relationship were NOT what I would call ideal…in fact, they venture into the territory of cheating, which is usually a no-go for Lenore.  But perhaps because I didn’t have to see it happening, or perhaps because of the explanations that surrounded it, and the GENUINE remorse and regret for cheating/lying that was felt by both Landon and Rachel, I was able to see past it and still fall for them as a couple.  I’m not sure if it will work for everyone, but I think it will surprise many people who have similar hang-ups to me.

I LOVED Rachel’s sassy strong attitude, and I enjoyed that we got to feel her hurt appropriately.  There were no easy solutions in how she continued to deal with her heartbreak.  I both loved and hated how long it took.  Loved it because it could be realistic.  Hated it because it could get a bit tiring to read about the back and forth, I just wanted things to move forward.  I’m kind of an impatient reader.  But I ADORED that she was an extreme sports type girl herself and fit in with the adrenaline-fueled Renegades.  And I really loved her side story about her adoption.  It wasn’t a huge storyline, but it did have a pretty big impact at times.  I appreciated that we got a diverse heroine as well, but I didn’t really feel like the fact she was Korean came into play at all in her experiences growing up or anything (so diversity-wise, it existed but wasn’t explored).

Landon surprised the crap out of me.  Seriously.  I expected to have a hard time with his man-whoring ways.  Or with whatever happened between them.  I mean, he betrayed his best friend.  But maybe it’s because so much of that happened in the past, but I just ended up giving my heart to him.  I 100% felt his vulnerability, and brokenness, and just how lost he was.  He was so easy to love, even when it turned out he was still making mistakes right to the last quarter.  I LOVED the way he fought for Rachel, and how once he was given that glimpse of her in his life again, he help on like a barnacle and wouldn’t let go.  He just made me feel SO MUCH MORE than I was expecting.

And can I just say that the sports aspect of these stories is top notch?  Well, the sports and the whole traveling the world on a ship thing.  I ADORED being immersed in that experience, and I now want to research world cruises.  I don’t want to try extreme sports, and my heart probably couldn’t take even watching it, but damn did Ms. Yarros just pull you right in and get your heart pumping.  And I’m still loving all of the secondary characters, and my heart aches for Penna.  I cannot wait to start her story next, I’m going upstairs to do that right now!!

So despite my problems with pacing here and there, this was still a very powerful love story with lots of emotions and characters that I loved.  It will be hard to let go of them when this series ends.

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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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