Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

Blurb:
36430566Isabelle Oster has dreamed of being a prima ballerina her entire life, so when the only male dancer backs out of the fall production, she’s devastated. Without a partner, she has no hope of earning a spot with the prestigious Ballet Americana company. Until hot jock Garret practicing stretches in one of the studios gives Izzy an idea, and she whips out her phone. But does she really want this badly enough to resort to blackmail?

All-state tight end Garret Mitchell will do anything to get a college football scholarship. Even taking ballet, which surprisingly isn’t so bad, because it means he gets to be up close and personal with the gorgeous Goth girl Izzy while learning moves to increase his flexibility. But Izzy needs him to perform with her for the Ballet Americana spot, and he draws the line at getting on stage. Especially wearing tights.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

OK, you know exactly why I requested this book if you know anything about me.  The premise was tailor made for me!  I love dance books, and love them even more when the hero dances!!  And the dance stuff was fantastic!  And there was a lot of it!!  You can’t even imagine how happy that made me.  I’m not a dancer, whatsoever, but I appreciate it and envy those with that much dedication, athleticism and grace.  And honestly, the dancing was my favourite part of this book.  Seeing Garret learn about stretching, positions, pirouettes, and then seeing Garret and Izzy tackle lifts just filled my heart with happiness!

As for the rest of the story, and particularly the characters, I thought this book started off really strong!  I was drawn into the challenges of both characters, and I thought they both seemed like good kids struggling to work through what life had handed them.  I felt Izzy’s loneliness and isolation, and her struggle to do things on her own and prove her worth without her father’s influence.  And Garret had a lot to work through with an unsupportive (and possibly alcoholic) dad, and the struggles that come from a low-income family.

And I really enjoyed their initial interplay with each other…like they had their own impressions of the other, but they could see that there was more to the other.  I liked the way they started becoming friends, but you could see them wanting more.  And I liked the way they became more!

But somewhere along the way, the characters seemed to stop growing.  I know they’re teenagers, but I honestly expected them to start showing some empathy towards the other’s situation.  But the selfishness, in general, persisted.  Moreso in Garret than Izzy.  I actually grew annoyed when Izzy would immediately apologize for her assumptions about what Garret would struggle with and downplay her own struggles, and there would be crickets from Garret’s side.  Apparently money really is more valuable than close family, at least according to this book.  As a reader, I thought they both struggled equally, but I don’t think Garret ever really understood the negatives about Izzy’s life.  All he saw was the wealth and material things.  And thus, I became less enamoured with our characters, particularly the hero.

And then we get to the ending…which felt kind of rushed, and left me a bit unsatisfied.

So yeah.  Full marks for the dance component, and a fantastic first half!!  But alas, I need a good closer to make me round up instead of down, which is a bummer.  This one had so much potential.  Perhaps the ending won’t bug others as much as it did me.

Lenoreo_small

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.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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!

Lenoreo_small

Finding Your Feet by Cass Lennox

Blurb:
31567740A Toronto Connections Novel

While on holiday in Toronto, Evie Whitmore planned to sightsee and meet other asexuals, not audition for a dance competition. Now she’s representing Toronto’s newest queer dance studio, despite never having danced before. Not only does she have to spend hours learning her routine, she has to do it with one of the grumpiest men she’s ever met. Tyler turns out to be more than a dedicated dancer, though — he might be the kind of man who can sweep her off her feet, literally and figuratively.

Tyler Davis has spent the last year recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship. So he doesn’t need to be pushed into a rushed routine for a dumb competition. Ticking major representation boxes for being trans and biracial isn’t why he went into dance. But Evie turns out to be a dream student. In fact, she helps him remember just how good partnering can be, in all senses of the word. Teaching her the routine, however, raises ghosts for him, ones he’s not sure he can handle.

Plans change, and people change with them. Learning a few steps is one thing; learning to trust again is another entirely.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

As is hinted at in the blurb, trigger warnings for descriptions of emotional/transphobic abuse and the aftermath.  Not being trans, nor having experienced emotional abuse, I cannot speak to how that is handled.  From an outsider perspective, I thought it was fine, but I’ve seen reviews from abuse survivors that suggest otherwise, so perhaps read those and decide for yourself.

I was attracted to this book for several reasons.  First, it’s a cornucopia of diversity…and not only that, but it has LGBT+ characters of the lesser explored variety, so I was intrigued.  Especially with Evie, as I identify on the gray spectrum.  I even chose to read it this month because one of my diversity challenge themes is intersectionality, and since Tyler is trans and biracial it totally fits.  Second, and this cannot be understated enough, I LOVE dance books.  I’m not a dancer myself, I’m just constantly in awe of the dance community, which I feel is the perfect marriage between athletics and art…both of which I do not excel in.  😛  And third, it’s set in Canada!!  I love reading books set in my country, so that definitely played a factor.  And honestly, on the whole I was fulfilled!  I wasn’t blown away or anything, but it satisfied my desire for diversity, dance, and Canadianism!

Like I said, I cannot speak to the realistic representation of Tyler as a trans character, but I felt like the author explored some of the challenges of being a transgendered man, and the horrible experience of transphobic/emotional abuse.  I will admit that while I appreciated some of the observations Tyler had in his journey, this was not a great example of someone healing from an abusive relationship.  It was kind of glossed over and shallow, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in the wrong place.  This book was more about the relationship between Tyler and Evie, with Tyler’s fears used mostly as a roadblock to that relationship.  So more heavy on the romance, less on depth of an emotional journey.  That was fine for me, but may not work for everyone.  In general I liked Tyler, but I felt like his character could be a bit inconsistent.  And since we didn’t really get to see in depth healing, the constant roadblock from the aftermath of his ex became a bit overused without satisfying growth and change.

I really loved Evie’s character, and her representation for the gray spectrum.  I realize not everyone will appreciate it if they’re looking for the quintessential asexual character, which she is not.  But as someone elsewhere on the spectrum, I was super excited to see a character very much like me represented, as the gray spectrum really is vast.  We got to see her fall in love with different things about Tyler that had nothing to do with sexual attraction.  Ace stuff aside, I thought she was really funny, forthright, and a good mix of sweet and sass.

I loved that we got a good amount of dancing as well…it satisfied my wannabe dancer’s heart.  And watching Tyler and Evie crush and flirt with each other while dancing was the highlight of this book for me.

On the not so good side of things, there were a lot of little threads left hanging and not dealt with…I don’t understand why an author would introduce something and leave it unresolved.  The biggest was Evie’s relationship with her mother.  It was constantly in the background through emails, and quite frankly it was kind of toxic.  But we never see the resolution in that relationship.  Perhaps if we were told she had a bad relationship, that she couldn’t come out to her family, but left it at that, I would have been OK having it glossed over at the end.  But to see the quietly toxic relationship consistently in the background, complete with fat-shaming remarks, and to then see no resolution was unsatisfying.

I was also really unimpressed with Gigi in this story…he made fat-shaming remarks of his own that made me uncomfortable, and he was really allowed to be fairly mean throughout the story without consequences.  And I wasn’t impressed with his side story, especially if he’s going to get a book of his own.  I would have liked more Tyler/Evie time.

And quite frankly, none of the friendships were super awesome.  They could have good qualities, but there was a level of care missing at times…just a lot of meddling without thinking of consequences.

There were a lot of terms used in this book that went unexplained…from the tumblr things Evie and Sarah connected with, to dance terms, to whatever fujoshi is (still need to Google that).  And it took me a bit to figure out that Bailey is nonbinary, and that when the author used they/them they were just talking about Bailey, and not Bailey and Sarah or something.  I liked having another lesser explored LGBT+ character represented, but it was too bad that it took me so long to understand that.

So yeah.  Like I said, not blown away, but still enjoyed myself (rounding up for the dance aspect alone).  It wasn’t a book I gobbled up, but it did have some great aspects that I personally really enjoyed!  As an aside, am I the only Canadian that doesn’t actually consume a lot of maple syrup?

Lenoreo_small

Totally His by Erin Nicholas

Blurb:
51bxFtoLSuLActress Sophie Birch is used to having to look out for herself. So when her theater catches fire and a big guy scoops her up into his arms to save her, she’s going to fight every step of the way. Even if he’s a cop. And really sexy. And his arms feel oh-so-good.

Finn Kelly can’t help but appreciate how good the woman in his arms looks in her sexy pink lingerie. Even if she’s currently resisting arrest.

But as the two get to know each other, they’re both surprised by the things Finn is willing to do to get closer to her. And when Sophie’s estranged father arrives in town and starts causing trouble, the stage is set for disaster…unless Finn can convince her that, for once in her life, she has someone to lean on.

images    scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

This was a fabulous conclusion to what was a really witty, engaging, and fun series.  And no, you most certainly do not need to read the other books in the series to enjoy this story, but if you find yourself enjoying this one, trust me, the rest are just as engaging.  And what’s great is that each hero and heroine are SO DIFFERENT, but equally lovable.

My heart broke for Sophie, and how she grew up, and what she saw for her future because of her conman father.  And while sometimes it felt like her growth took a bit longer than I’d like, I did like watching her find her happiness, find her big family, and truly find love.  It was very rewarding.  And I loved seeing how she interacted with big groups, whether it was watching her direct in the theatre, or direct the Kelly family during trivia.  She entertained me.

And Finn was pretty adorable.  I really loved having a hero who was a cop who was quite honestly very different from the usual cop heroes you read so often.  He was protective, he had a very strong sense of right and wrong, but he loved so strongly.  He wasn’t seriously damaged or anything.  I’m not saying he didn’t have flaws, but you got to see him try to work through those himself.  And I just absolutely adored seeing him pursue Sophie when he decided she was the one for him, and she was worth risking broken hearts for (not just his, but his family’s).

And Sophie and Finn had fabulous chemistry…you really felt their draw to each other.  I loved the way they bantered and interacted.  They complimented each other well.

Finn’s family was hilarious and adorable.  I loved what they brought to the story, and how Finn’s Mom was an integral part of Sophie’s growth.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Frank, but I was satisfied how that played out.  And obviously the glimpses of Keira, Zach, Maya, and Alex were fantastic.  Actually, I wouldn’t have minded more…

So yeah.  Fun and flirty, with some feels and a super satisfying ending.

Lenoreo_small

The Feeling of Forever by Jamie Howard

Blurb:
33284471Juliet St. Clair has spent her life under Hollywood’s spotlight. While being America’s favorite girl next door has had its perks, having to testify against her stalker to put him behind bars certainly wasn’t one of them. But when she thinks about walking away from it all, she can’t help remembering the enormous pile of medical bills her family is drowning under. Bills that just keep on coming.

Felix Donovan had it all–stunning good looks, gorgeous women, and a spot as the drummer to a band that’s sitting pretty at the top of the charts. Until one life-altering decision left him paralyzed from the waist down. He doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when he wins this year’s Sexiest Man award, but the one thing he immediately does is send out a Non-disclosure agreement. Hiding his condition from the public is hard as hell, but he’s not ready to face the world while he’s still struggling to accept his new reality.

Except this year’s Sexiest Woman–Juliet St. Clair–never looks at him with pity, only desire. But falling for Juliet means a permanent spot in the tabloids, a decision Felix isn’t sure he’s ready to make. And when Juliet’s stalker re-emerges from her past, Felix’s secret isn’t the only thing at stake, it could cost Juliet her life.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

My Review:
4.5 stars — OMG you guys, I was sucked into this one from the first chapter all the way to the very end of the epilogue.  I didn’t want it to end!!  And this love mostly came down to the characters.  I am in love with both Juliet and Felix!!  I tend to develop book boy crushes on a regular basis, but my girl crushes are more rare…so I adore it when it happens!!

I’ve wanted to read this book since I first saw a review on one of the blogs I follow.  I mean, a celebrity romance and the hero is paralyzed (yay diversity!)?  Sign me up!  I know that sounds silly, but I was just so intrigued!!  And this book totally lived up to the expectations I had for it…actually it surpassed those expectations.

I actually read it this month specifically for one of my diversity challenges, and it fit that bill perfectly.  We got to see some of the struggles that Felix faces (physically, with society, and most of all mentally) as he continues to learn to deal with being a paraplegic, but we also just got to have a fantastic hero who just happened to be in a wheelchair.  Kind of the epitome of a great diverse read, where the diversity does come into play, but it’s not all that the character/story is about.

And Felix was just a fantastic hero.  Definitely flawed, and my heart broke for the Felix we first meet, but then soared as we watch him get back to himself, and really grow into a better, stronger man.  And really learn all that he has to offer, and that it’s not wrapped up in whether he can physically protect Juliet.

Juliet was just EVERYTHING.  Like I said, TOTAL GIRL CRUSH.  You get a hint in the blurb that she’s not a typical celebrity, but she just isn’t a typical ANYTHING!  I fell in love with her right from the photoshoot.  She was just so down to earth and straightforward, which don’t sound like sexy qualities, but when you watch her just go after what she wants, and not accept less than she deserves, it’s just…GAH!  LOVE IT!  And she’s delightful!  So fun and knows how to embrace happiness and sunshine and light!  Obviously not all the time, she does have her own struggles, what with the stalker and all, but…I don’t know.  I just wanted to be her friend.  I wanted to know her in real life.

And the two of them together were just magic.  I loved that when they had some struggles, they weren’t typical, and they didn’t end the way I expected.  I love it when couples embrace their love and fight for each other.

There was a pretty big element of suspense/mystery to this book that I guess I kind of wasn’t expecting.  Not a bad thing, though I did figure out who the stalker was pretty early on, so it was frustrating to have Juliet and Felix not see it.  But that’s the thing about books, it’s so easy to see things when you’re on the outside looking in.

The other major coup for this book was the secondary characters.  I am in love with Gavin…I just saw that his book is next, and I cannot wait.  Actually, I can’t wait for all the band member books, and I really want to go back and read Ian and Bianca’s book RIGHT NOW, even though I have other reading priorities.  We’ll see if I last.  The band members were total stars, and I loved the friendship they had with each other.  I loved how they were with Felix too…supportive and pushing at the same time.  And while we didn’t see much of Juliet’s sister Elle, I really loved the relationship Juliet had with her, and well her whole family.

So yeah.  Totally loved this book.  The only reason it’s not full 5 is because I grew frustrated with the stalker angle.  But everything else was so amazing, I almost don’t even care.  I seriously, 100% happy sighed when I finished this book.  If that doesn’t tell you something, well…

Lenoreo_small

Nailed It by Cindi Madsen

Blurb:
36320335I’m Ivy Clarke. Bartender, best friend, and disbeliever in love.
And now I’m in over my head, trying to flip a house all by myself.
Thanks, HGTV.
I’m not too proud to admit I need some help. Too bad the only one who can help me is the same man I want to throw out this house’s second-story window.
Jackson Gamble and I can’t be in the same room together for more than a minute without devolving into a sparring match.
Except for that one time…
But enough about that. Jackson’s looking for forever, and I don’t believe in love, remember?
Get in. Renovate. Get out. Keep my heart firmly in tact.
Because it’s much easier to fix up a house than a broken heart.

Full of humor and dripping with delicious tension, Nailed It proves that every heart can be ready for a little rehabilitation, if only you’re willing to open it up.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

Well bummer.  This one just didn’t grab me.  I didn’t dislike it, but it was solidly meh for me.  Since this book was entirely from Ivy’s POV, I found I didn’t have as much to go on for Jackson.  What I saw of him I definitely liked, but I have a feeling that I would have loved him even more if I’d had more time with him, or could have seen inside his head.

So really, all I had to go on was Ivy.  And Ivy was NOT my kind of girl.  I think I was supposed to empathize with her past and how that shaped her into the commitment-phobe she’d become.  And it worked to a point, my heart did actually break for the childhood she had, and the way her mother treated her, and how those experiences shaped her.  And if I’d seen some growth and change along the way, I might have tolerated it more.  But I just didn’t buy hers.  I don’t know why.  Honestly, it’s one of those things you just feel from reading, but can’t explain why you didn’t connect.  It’s like…I just couldn’t connect with Ivy along the story.  And when we got to the end, it felt a bit more about-face-like instead of a slow journey.  I think it’s because she clung so hard to her beliefs.  And I just got tired of it.

Along those same lines, this book became a bit repetitive at times…or at least it felt that way to me.  I felt like she would bring up the same incidences from her childhood to explain her relationship aversion.  Honestly, I wanted to start skimming just to see when she would finally figure things out.  I think I’m just not a patient reader.  Especially when I find myself unable to fully empathize with a character.

The other little thing that tweaked me that I wasn’t expecting was the level of steaminess…or something.  I don’t know how to categorize this.  See, I’ll read sweet/clean completely fade to black stories.  And I’ll read erotica.  But I don’t think I’ve read this Entangled imprint before, and this story was somewhere in between.  Like I’d get the early sexy times part, but then when we got to the act it would just be glossed over.  And not to sound like a sex-starved idiot, but it felt like a tease, because I honestly felt like it was going the more detailed way, and then just when we’d get to that part, blah blah blah, generic glossover, done.  Seriously, this is the stupidest thing to complain about, but it just caught me off guard.  There’s nothing wrong with it whatsoever, it’s just not my personal favourite.  Or else I was just in a mood.  Who knows with me.

OK, I feel like all I’ve done is complain.  In general I really enjoyed the bantering and snarkiness between Ivy and Jackson…  Sometimes it felt a bit more hostile than I was comfortable with, but other times it hit that tone just right where I was laughing my butt off, and I could really feel the chemistry between them.  I also really enjoyed the relationship that Ivy had with Savannah, and how their friendship played a role.  And again, what I saw of Jackson I really adored.  I LOVED how he stuck by her, and waited out her stubbornness, and how he saw her…both her flaws and her strengths.

So yeah.  Like I said, it wasn’t a terrible book.  I just didn’t connect with it like I’d been hoping to.  Ah well, not every book is going to be a match.

Lenoreo_small

 

Bountiful by Sarina Bowen

Blurb:
34099086No last names. No life stories. Those were the rules.

Once upon a time a cocky, copper-haired tourist sauntered into Zara’s bar. And even though she knew better, Zara indulged in a cure for the small-town blues. It was supposed to be an uncomplicated fling—a few sizzling weeks before he went back to his life, and she moved on.

Until an accidental pregnancy changed her life.

Two years later, she’s made peace with the notion that Dave No-Last-Name will never be found. Until one summer day when he walks into her coffee shop, leveling her with the same hot smile that always renders her defenseless.

Dave Beringer has never forgotten the intense month he spent with prickly Zara. Their nights together were the first true intimacy he’d ever experienced. But the discovery of his child is the shock of a lifetime, and his ugly past puts relationships and family out of reach.

Or does it? Vermont’s countryside has a way of nurturing even tortured souls. The fields and the orchards—and hard won love—are Bountiful.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

OMG!!  I am in love with Dave Beringer!!  I mean, like, “go to Brooklyn and look for Gingers in the hopes that one is the fictional Dave Beringer” kind of love.  Because I did that.  Today.  I have no shame.

I have not read the previous 3 books in the True North series (though it will be happening soon, I just ran out of time), but I have read the Brooklyn Bruisers books, and so I had an in on that side of things.  And this book just made me want to read the rest of the True North series even more!  Though I honestly don’t know how Ms. Bowen can top this story.  Like, it was f-ing sexy, and funny, and heartwarming, and none of the characters pissed me off (because there was potential, but it didn’t go that way), and even though I read this over a week (which is unheard of) because I am on vacation, so I had to sneak in reading time whenever I could, I still fell in love with it.  Honestly, it just makes me excited for when I reread it and truly devour it from cover to cover.  Probably when I read the rest of the series, b/c I’ll no doubt have a different perspective on Zara.

Zara was her own special brand of stubborn, and feisty, and damaged.  I really enjoyed having a heroine who is really in touch with her own sexuality, but isn’t necessarily comfortable with it…it was a weird dichotomy.  Like, she was interested in sex from a young age, but she was also branded as a slut because of it, so she wasn’t self-accepting, you know?  She just kind of believed the things that people judged her for.  It was kind of heartbreaking.  But I kind of loved it.  Because you know in so many romance novels there’s a girl that gets slut-shamed…  Zara might have been that girl, you know?  So it shows that side of the coin.  But her story was so much more.  She was a product of how she was raised, and she really didn’t have a lot of direction in life.  It was interesting to see the changes that becoming a mother wrought in her, but at the same time she still had a lot of healing to do.

And Dave.  *swoon*  Like, I don’t even know why he does it for me so much.  Maybe because he’s just so unapologetic.  Like he said at one point, he’s a bit slow to learn and grow, but he’s not a dick.  He had his own damage to get past, and I enjoyed that his bachelor ways had a…reason, I guess.  I loved (in a tore my heart out way) learning bits and pieces of his tragic childhood, and how that shaped him.  I loved his relationship with his sister.  Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded a more clear resolution with his past…but I might have missed something because I had to intersperse my reading.  Did he ever tell Zara about his past?  I can’t remember.  ANYWAYS.  I have a soft spot for Gingers (sssshhhh, don’t tell my hubby), and holy *bleep* was his bossy take charge attitude in the bedroom sexy as *bleep*.  Like *fans face*.  AND then there were all the times he grinned during sex.  I can’t even, you guys…like can’t even.

There was just something about the way Dave and Zara fit together that had me on board right from the start.  I LOVED the “past” section.  I fell in love really soon.  And I LOVED the way the present played out, from the start right to the very end.  I loved the secondary characters (and I’ll probably like some of them even more when I get to read their stories).  Basically it was just all sorts of goodness (with a few minor things I was confused on, but again…could be just me — like the car thing).

Anyways.  I want a Dave.  Someone get on that stat.  Thanks in advance.

Lenoreo_small

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. . .

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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??

Lenoreo_small

Unloved by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
35700589My name is Cassidy Porter…

My father, Paul Isaac Porter, was executed twenty years ago for the brutal murder of twelve innocent girls.

Though I was only eight-years-old at the time, I am aware – every day of my life – that I am his child, his only son.

To protect the world from the poison in my veins, I live a quiet life, off the grid, away from humanity.

I promised myself, and my mother, not to infect innocent lives with the darkness that swirls within me, waiting to make itself known.

It’s a promise I would have kept…if Brynn Cadogan hadn’t stumbled into my life.

Now I exist between heaven and hell: falling for a woman who wants to love me, while all along reminding myself that I must remain…

Unloved.

**NOTE: This book is intended for readers 18+**

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lgAmazon link coming soon (releases Oct 8th)

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

LOVED it.  Like, LOVED it.  It wasn’t as dark as I was expecting, I don’t know why I thought it would be.  So if you’re looking for a really dark read, this probably won’t fit.  But it was an emotional ride right from the prologue (especially since I started it 2 days after Vegas, hit a bit close to home).  I bawled off and on through the first few chapters.  I really do believe Ms. Regnery is trying to collect torn out bloody hearts for her collection…maybe she stores them with the tears of her readers…

OK, so I’m not usually an insta-love kind of girl, but there are occasions where it just works for me and is kind of a guilty pleasure.  And this book contained that kind for me.  I think it’s because we start off meeting Cassidy and Brynn on their own…I got to know them, I fell in love with them, my heart ACHED for them both (for completely different reasons).  They both have such tragedy in their lives.

I truly empathized with Brynn and what she was going through post-Jem.  I can’t relate, but I can only imagine how I would react in those circumstances…and I have a feeling it would be remarkably similar.  I feel like we got a really good look into her character…even if we mostly see her in mourning.

And Cassidy…oh my sweet boy.  My heart HURTS.  IT HURTS.  He just has such a sweet nature, and it was so hard to see it constantly existing beneath a cloud.  I really ended up loving him.  And he was strangely believable.  Like I could see how he turned out the way he did.  And he just stole my whole heart with his innocence, and his longing, and his forced isolation, and just…everything.  He was almost kind of a beta boy…and we all know how much I love my beta boys.

And while I may have had to suspend my disbelief a tiny bit once Cass rescued Brynn and she woke up, I was willing to do it.  I realize in real life most people wouldn’t have reacted as calmly as she did, but I was OK with it.  And there were moments where I expected certain reactions that didn’t come to pass (like Cass using the cell phone at the store, I expected someone to question him later, but it didn’t happen).  But I was OK letting those things just sort of slide by.  Because I was absorbed in the story, and I was OK just letting it play out as Ms. Regnery wanted it to.

I will admit I expected more steamier scenes than what I got.  Again, I think I expected a more risque novel.  But the steamy scene we did get was full of love and reverence, and it totally worked for me.  And Cass and Brynn together worked for me.  I was rooting for them, and dreading the moment when I knew things weren’t going to go well.  And you know what?  The climax surprised me!  I was so certain it was going to go one way, and it didn’t!  And then there were twists!!!  Like super twists!  And while I’m not sure I buy into all that gene/DNA stuff, I appreciated the way the ending played out anyways.  And I got me a beautiful epilogue!

So yeah.  This was a Lenore book.  It just hit all the right spots with me, and parts of it were a bit guilty pleasure, and I highlighted the crap out of the book…  I always worry when I’ve been looking forward to a book, that it will somehow let me down.  So I was so ridiculously happy when this one wasn’t one of those.  Now I need to read something light so I can recover…

Lenoreo_small

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 . . .

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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.  😦

Lenoreo_small