Vanishing Act by A.M. Madden

Blurb:
32502728In this captivating standalone romance from the USA Today bestselling author of Stone Walls, Hollywood’s hottest actor meets his dream woman: a free spirit who has no idea who he is.

After personal heartbreak and professional setbacks, Landon Price is running on empty. If he doesn’t take a break from the public eye soon, he’ll risk becoming another cautionary tale in a town that’s full of them. So in between film projects, Landon asks his agent to clear his schedule and then he simply . . . vanishes. Renting a discreet home on a remote Hawaiian beach for the summer, Landon begins to recharge. And in the process of finding himself, he meets a beautiful, feisty local who challenges everything he thinks he knows.

Zara Jobert has no interest in being a conquest for a cocky playboy from the mainland—even one with undeniable charisma and movie-star good looks. So she’s pleasantly surprised when the handsome newcomer’s persistent advances mellow into cozy banter and a sneakily seductive intimacy. When Landon reveals his true identity, Zara’s hurt that he lied, but she doesn’t care that he’s famous. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. And falling for Landon might come with a heartbreaking choice—between Zara’s old life, and a new love.

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My Review:
DNF @ 40% — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I really tried with this one.  I will say one thing right from the start, this was not a *bad* book.  It just wasn’t capturing my attention AT ALL, and I just have too much to read to spend my time reading something that’s not captivating me.  Basically I was bored.  And when I looked at my Kindle’s prediction of time left in this book and it said 4.5 hours, I said I’M DONE!

If the book kept going as it was going, I probably would have given it a 3 star.  Like I said, it wasn’t bad.  But I’m behind on things as it is, so I gave up.  The first bit until we meet Spike/Marshmallow was really slow, and I did not get a great feel for Landon at all.  He didn’t have personality traits that bugged me, but I really had no idea what he was like, other than self-important.  There really just didn’t feel like there was any depth there.  I was already considering DNFing it at that point, b/c I think the writing style just wasn’t jiving with me either.  I know it was just an ARC, but the tenses felt funny, and I kept getting tripped up on sentences because of the weird way the words were organized sometimes.

BUT!  Then we met Spike/Marshmallow.  AND OMG HE STOLE THE SHOW!  And it wasn’t just because he was freaking ADORABLE, but b/c he brought out something that I had been waiting for in Landon — a personality!  Landon was HILARIOUS when he was interacting with Spike.  Like, he was funny, and sassy, and I just started to love him!!  Things were looking up!!

And then we met Zara.  And again, nice girl, but she felt a bit flat.  And part of that is because Landon concentrated so much on how beautiful/hot she was, it really felt like the physical aspects were the main ones in their attraction.  And even at 40%, I still wasn’t feeling them together.  We were *told* that he liked other aspects of her, but not shown really.  I enjoyed his teasing, and I thought we were getting a wee bit more depth, but for some reason I was just bored.  Too slow?  I don’t know.  But I wasn’t even remotely invested.  OK, I was like 1% invested, b/c that part of me wants to know what happens.  If anyone wants to spoil it for me, please feel free.

Honestly, in that entire 40%, the bits where Spike/Marshmallow were present were the absolute highlights for me.  But an awesome dog is not enough to make a book great.  Good?  Yes.  Great?  No.  And so I gave up.  Ah well, they can’t all be matches right?

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I Knew You Were Trouble by Lauren Layne

Blurb:
31306110New York City’s hottest bachelors are stirring up trouble in this fun, flirty Oxford Novel, as a love triangle forces a feisty beauty to choose between winning back Mr. Right or giving in to Mr. Wrong.

Taylor Carr has it all—a sleek job in advertising, a stunning Manhattan apartment, and the perfect man to share it with: Bradley Calloway. Even after Bradley dumps her for a co-worker on move-in day, Taylor isn’t worried. She’ll get her man eventually. In the meantime, she needs a new roommate. Enter Nick Ballantine, career bartender, freelance writer—and longtime pain in Taylor’s ass. Sexy in a permanent five-o’clock-shadow kind of way, Nick knows how to push Taylor’s buttons, as if he could see right through to the real her.

Nick’s always trying to fix people, and nobody could use a good fixing more than Taylor. Sure, she’s gorgeous, with mesmerizing silver eyes, but it’s her vulnerability that kills him. Now that they’re shacking up together, the chemistry is out of control. Soon they’re putting every part of their two-bedroom apartment to good use. Then Taylor’s ex comes crawling back to her, and Nick figures she’ll jump at the chance to go back to her old life—unless he fights for the best thing that ever happened to him.

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

This one honestly is probably even maybe a 4.5 stars (rounded down), but for reasons I cannot explain, I just was not having a good reading day today, and so I kept getting drawn out of the book.  I honestly don’t think it was the book this time, but I still rate based on personal enjoyment, hence I’m sticking with 4 stars.

OK, weird caveat out of the way, I LOVED Nick and Taylor!  I had no idea what to expect from them given the few glimpses we got from them in Someone Like You, but I do suppose I expected a bit more animosity.  And we did get a bit of that enemy vibe, with them snarking back and forth.  But it didn’t go on too long.  It was always mixed with curiosity and good feelings.  It was like they needed to each be smacked.  Yet somehow they managed to smack themselves, without too much help.  What I found interesting about their “dislike” is that there was, sort of, a bit of meanness there.  It wasn’t intentional necessarily, it was like bantering gone too far, or barbs that unintentionally hit too close to home, you know?  I’m not always a huge enemies to lovers trope reader, but I appreciated that it wasn’t fake animosity, you know?  Unintentional, yes.  Fake, no.

I feel like we got a bit more from Taylor than Nick in this book.  And I really ended up feeling a lot for Taylor, she really broke my heart.  She had kind of a tragic upbringing, in a totally different way than I’m used to reading.  And it really damaged her, despite good intentions.  And I think that’s where the real heartbreak comes in, her Aunt wasn’t trying to damage her, and with no other influences, Taylor was really left floundering, unable to fully conform to who her Aunt tried to raise, but not feeling as though she should be pursuing anything other than what she was used to.  Not sure if that makes sense.  But I really did hurt for her, and while I cannot personally vibe, I felt like Ms. Layne really exposed Taylor’s underbelly and made you understand her.  Taylor really ended up being such a strange heroine, because she was part strong, snarky, forthright mixed with vulnerable, damaged, and with so much love to give.  My only gripe is that I wanted to see more done to showcase her turnaround on the major obstacle in her and Nick’s relationship.  I didn’t quite buy it, and I feel like there was a bit of a missed opportunity there.

And while we didn’t get quite as much from Nick, he really did have his own damage to overcome.  Perhaps it’s that we didn’t learn he had damage until maybe the middle of the book, and so we kind of didn’t get to know all of Nick up until that point.  It doesn’t really leave a lot of time, you know?  But I did enjoy his gruffness, his cockiness, his sweetness.

And I truly felt like they complimented each other as a couple.  I loved their interplay, I loved how they didn’t let each other get away with shit.  And I definitely felt their chemistry, though honestly their steamy scenes were some of the moments where my mind wandered as mentioned above.  So take from that what you will.

And I can honestly say that I appreciated the climax and resolution more in this book than in the past few.  It felt less campy, and while still quick, I didn’t feel quite as rushed.

I loved that we got to see a few of the characters we’ve fallen in love with (the Lincoln, Cassidy and Nick exchange in Lincoln’s office was gold), but that we weren’t overwhelmed by the whole cast of characters.  AND I loved that we got new characters to fall in love with!  My fingers are crossed for a Brit & Hunter novel, and I would personally love to see Ms. Hayes get a HEA as well.  She deserves it after Bradley the douchecanoe.

So yeah.  Thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite my brain’s efforts to derail me.  🙂  You can always count on Ms. Layne for solid romance goodness.

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Royal Treatment by Parker Swift

Blurb:
34323416All this duke needs is his duchess…

For five blissful months I’ve been engaged to Dylan Hale, the most handsome, commanding, and wickedly sexy duke in England. For five months I’ve woken up next to the man I love, indulged in secret trysts, and submitted to every delicious desire. Even better? We’ve managed to keep it hidden from everyone. That means no paparazzi scandals, no snide comments from Dylan’s mother, and no harsh public scrutiny. It’s been heaven, but with Dylan’s royal responsibilities looming, our time alone is running out. And while I can’t wait to be Dylan’s wife, I’m terrified that becoming Dylan’s duchess might mean losing myself.

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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.

I LOVE it when a series gets better as it goes along!  I don’t know if it was just me, but I enjoyed this one a lot more than the previous two books, it was a fantastic finale to the trilogy.  And I think that surprised me a little, b/c I honestly had no idea how we were going to get a whole other book out of Dylan and Lydia’s story, and the previous two had been good, but a bit long and occasionally boring.  I honestly can’t tell you if I was just in a different mood this time, or it really was better, but we’re going to go with the book being better.  Benefit of the doubt and all that.

I can honestly say that by this point in the trilogy, I was already in love with Dylan and Lydia.  They had the most fantastic banter, I can’t tell you how delightful it was to see them sassing each other back and forth.  And while they had a highly sexual relationship, I really could see more to their relationship than just that.  And I felt like we just got to see more of them together (without just sex) in this book.  The thing I loved about this book is that while they hit roadbumps along the way, they weren’t drawn out, and I was so proud of them for not taking to long to work things out together.  They didn’t frustrate me as characters.  They still had some growing to do, but I felt like even in all that I could already see how far they’d come together.  And so this book gave me ups and downs, but never made me feel anxious or annoyed (which can be hard to do).  I was fully invested in their romance and love and was so happy with the way things were resolved along the way.

I loved that we got both Lydia *AND* Dylan’s POVs throughout the whole story.  I really felt like we got to know Dylan just a bit more that way.  And I really did end up loving both characters.  But most of all, I LOVED them together.  I loved the way they complimented each other.  I loved how thoughtful Dylan was of Lydia, and how she showed him how to feel love and learn more about the man he was and who he could be.  And I LOVED that Lydia was so strong and challenging to both Dylan and the world in general.  I loved that we got to see Lydia’s Brooklyn life.  I will admit I still kind of wanted to know more about Lydia’s mother.  It just seems so bizarre to not know anything about her, but that’s just me being greedy.

And I was still in love with the secondary characters, particularly Emily and Will in this book.  Can we say spin off book?  😛

So yeah.  Great finale.  Love seeing an author develop over time.  Surprisingly really appreciated this last story in the trilogy.  They’ve become characters I really enjoyed reading about, I was so happy I stuck with them.

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Sunlit Surrender by Jess Dee

Blurb:
35209988Bianca Rogers is ready to forget her worries for a while and celebrate her brother’s wedding at the exotic Bandicoot Cove resort. The last thing she expects is to be knocked off her feet—literally—by Brody Evans.

The chemistry between Brody and Bianca is undeniable. She’s everything he wants in a woman. She’s sexy, warm, friendly…delicious, and overwhelming attraction quickly grows to full-blown lust.

But they’ve come to the island with baggage that can’t be ignored forever, and their previous mistakes and the circumstances that have led them to the island soon demand attention. As desire transforms into love, it’s time to see if the past is going to get in the way of any happy-ever-after there could be in their future.

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

OK, technically I did get to the end of this book.  But at 34% I started skipping to get to a point, and after that I skimmed to the end.  This book’s “hook” did NOT work for me.  Not only did it not work for me, it actually made me irrationally angry.  I’m not even kidding.  I started reading, got to the point where our heroine and hero meet, started getting REALLY confused, had a theory, then read something that nullified that theory, then got more confused, then wondered if my theory was correct despite inner musings that made it truly unbelievable, and finally couldn’t take it anymore and started skipping until I could confirm my theory.  Then I got really really mad because the way the heroine’s inner thoughts were written, it did NOT make sense.  So not only did I not like this hook (my theory) in general, but I felt like it was not done well.

The stupid thing is, I’ve read a few books by this author before, though granted they were a few years ago, so I’d been anticipating an enjoyable read.  But despite all the anger from above, I was actually pretty bored.  Bored with the characters, even bored with the sex!  And being bored with the sex is not a good sign for an erotica type book.  Maybe I was bored because I didn’t like the characters, or because I was already so irrationally angry; it’s a distinct possibility.

And after my theory was confirmed, I started skimming to see where this all was going to go, and got mad at the miscommunications that were continually perpetuated for no reason I could understand.  And I just didn’t care about their problems.

Take all this with a grain of salt.  I can’t divulge the hook, b/c that would be spoilery to the extreme, but not everyone will have a problem with it.  And since I think that affected my enjoyment of every aspect, it kind of makes the rest of my opinions null and void outside of that.  Sometimes I just get heated, you know?  And yesterday was definitely a day for that.  Since I did skim to the end, if I rated it it would probably be a 1 star for me.  But since I didn’t honestly read the whole thing, I usually don’t give a rating.  I can’t decide if the skimming was enough to validate my opinion.  I almost think it was.  *shrugs*

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The Nanny Arrangement by Rachel Harris

Blurb:
29561320Soft-spoken and shy Hannah Fisher is determined to make the man she’s loved her entire life finally see her as a woman. With the help of a makeover, a new mission—Operation Find My Happy—and the convenient forced proximity of a tour bus, she vows to win her best friend Deacon’s heart.

Former bad boy and current fiddle player Deacon Latrell has the world at his fingertips: a new gig with a famous band, plus his best friend on tour as his son’s nanny. Life couldn’t get much sweeter. Now if only he could stop imagining kissing the daylights out of his childhood BFF…

With one friend set on pushing the boundaries and the other afraid to rock the boat, one thing’s for certain—their story would make one heck of a country song.

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

Mmmm, I love me a good friends to lovers story.  I was hooked from the prologue too, I just felt Hannah’s voice in her 14/15 year old self, and how much she put on the line to approach Deacon.  And I felt his overwhelming loneliness and despair.  Honestly, it was so good I was bummed for a tiny second that I wasn’t getting the young adult novel of their story.  😛  I will admit that that prologue was a full 5 stars for me, and that it was sort of on a different level.  But saying that, the story that followed was still all sorts of satisfying and grin inducing.

I really enjoy these romances from Ms. Harris.  They just have the perfect blend of sweet characters, great chemistry, steamy scenes (even if the books are fade to black, there are still tummy tingling hot spots), fabulous supporting characters, with just the right hint of strife without going overboard.  I can honestly say I was worried that Deacon’s inability to trust would wear on me…and it almost did.  It rode the edge (probably more than I would have liked, it got a bit frustrating).  But I was satisfied that the turnaround was short, so I didn’t have to be disappointed in him for long.  And it’s always so satisfying to see a reluctant hero nudged in the right direction (go Sherry and Arabella!).

I was also concerned with the kid aspect, b/c I’m not really a kid person.  And while the kid speak didn’t really work for me (sue me, I’m not won over by “wovins” and “mes a cowboy”), I did really appreciate the way Hannah was with the kids.  I respected the hell out of her, she really seemed to genuinely love the job, and it made her happy, and she treated them with respect and encouragement.  I love seeing positive adult role models…or parents…or whatever.

Hannah was a bit of a contradiction.  I loved the strong parts of her I saw, and I felt for her shyness and insecurity.  I LOVED the friendships she formed with Sherry and Arabella, it made my heart happy.  And when she finally made her move (in the limo) I loved the passion in her and the way she stood up for herself and Deacon…  I will admit that I wish I’d seen more earlier on, but I’ll take what I can get.  It seems both my hero and heroine had awesome bits, but the things that they clung to and allowed to get in the way got a bit frustrating.

As a side note, while it’s not required to read any other books in this series (or the related one), if you have read Tyler & Sherry’s story and Charlie & Arabella’s story, you will be very satisfied with the glimpses you get into their lives!!

So all in all, it was a great read!  Especially if you’re looking for a solid, Harlequin-esque romance (the Harlequin Romance line, not the Blaze line.  😛 ).  I wonder if it will be Nate or Miles next?

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All the Stars Left Behind by Ashley Graham

Blurb:
31450972Relocating to Arctic Norway would put a freeze on anyone’s social life. For Leda Lindgren, with her crutches and a chip on her shoulder the size of her former Manhattan home, the frozen tundra is just as boring as it sounds. Until she meets her uncle’s gorgeous employee.

Unfortunately, no matter how smoking hot the guy is, Roar comes with secrets as unnerving as his moving tattoos. And Leda doesn’t trust him.

Roar shouldn’t be drawn to the moody human girl with eyes that leave him weak in the knees. But when Leda gets shot by one of his enemies and survives, Roar finally understands why he’s drawn to her: Leda is exactly what he was sent to Earth to find. A weapon of immense power capable of saving his planet.

She just doesn’t know it yet.

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

OK, this was a frustrating read for me.  And I’m having a hard time judging what all comes into play in my final assessment.  There is definitely a component that is a bad match writing style for me I think.  But there’s also bits that were honest to goodness not written as well too.  And this is where it gets complicated: the part that doesn’t match with me style-wise is that things aren’t spelled out for me in a clear manner, and I really really hate that (I’ll explain in a second).  But the problem with disliking that, is that I have a hard time judging what was bad writing versus just not a match, you know??

OK, I’ll attempt to explain…  Well, did anyone else see that movie The Arrival?  My husband loved it, whereas that movie made me SOOOOO angry and annoyed and frustrated and mad.  And while I could enjoy so many aspects of the movie, if I can’t have my theories confirmed on what was happening, then I just don’t like it.  Like, I need things to be closer to black and white, I don’t play well in gray area and subtlety.  I’m probably not making any sense.  *sigh*  Regardless, this book was kind of like that.  I’m left at the end of the book thinking I have a pretty good idea of what happened, but I’m not sure.  And I want to be sure.  I don’t understand what the point is if I’m not sure.  So was it bad writing, or style??  I DON’T KNOW!!

There were definitely parts of this book where I can categorically say that it needed better editing and needed to be cleaned up.  There were quite a few TINY continuity issues (like the showers on the ship were supposed to be ionized air, but then Leda talks about her hair being wet from her shower; or the drug that was supposed to put that guy to sleep for about 40 hours, and less than 24 hours later he’s wide awake; or how did the pain meds work on the tethered cord surgery, but not for the bullet wound?).  See?  Tiny, but I noticed them, and it annoyed me.  But it probably only annoyed me because I was having other problems.  The book just felt…for lack of a better word, fragmented.  From individual sentences that were probably trying to be too pretty, but then I would have to read them over again to understand them; to the overall plot and the way I would feel like I missed something from one section to another.  It was just kind of choppy in places, and didn’t make for a nice read.  And then there was the tiny plot thread that was completely dropped at the end of the book (what Enren said about Toovu and the Woede — purposely being vague to avoid spoilers), which I suppose could have been ok if there was going to be a sequel or something and they’d tackle it there, but I don’t get that impression.

So yeah, frustration.  The book needed a bit more clean up and definitely needed to be smoothed over.  Things happened so fast, I kind of couldn’t follow what people were talking about sometimes, or the conclusions they were coming to.

And then there’s the characters and chemistry.  *sigh*  This review could get so long if I really went into detail on those parts, but I’ll try to keep it brief (*snort* yeah right).  Quite honestly, I didn’t dislike the characters, but I wasn’t totally enamoured with them either.  Like none of them.  And hence I didn’t find my emotions engaged at any of the potentially heartbreaking parts.  It was a little bit insta-lovey between Leda and Roar, which I don’t always mind if I get something else out of it.  But there was so much else going on, I never really did understand why they were in love…  I got the draw and the connection, but not the emotions I guess.

And there were a ton of potentially intriguing side characters with potential little side plots, but we never got to learn about them or dive into them.  They were so many moments where the author could have delved deeper, but chose not to in favour of action I suppose.  Which is not horrible, but I hate getting teased with depth and then not getting it.  We could have learned so much about Aurelite society, how it was, how it affected people, how it shaped them.  From Stein to Petrus to even Roar.  And Nils!!  What about Nils and his mom??  And why tease us with those things and not go into them?  Why say them at all and make them part of the story and not go further?  I think the author tried to do too much with the story, and had to cut back, and didn’t really get the right focus back.  Or not.  Honestly, that’s conjecture, I shouldn’t say I know anything.

*sigh*  So yeah.  It had a lot of potential.  And despite the way this review sounds, there were interesting moments!  I even enjoyed the kisses between Roar and Leda.  I loved the inclusion of some diverse elements, and how Leda always had Spina Bifida, regardless of whether she was some fabled weapon or not.  But she pushed through it.  And there were some really quotable pretty lines!!  When the author hit her mark on those, they were really beautiful!

And that is that.  I’m sad.  Reading books that don’t match me is really taxing on my reader’s brain.  Ah well.  Onward and upward!

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Into Your Arms by Chelsea M. Cameron

Blurb:
34657526Freya has secrets she doesn’t intend to share. Not with her new friends on the cheerleading squad at Maine State University, and certainly not with sexy lumberjack-look-alike Rhett. Just because sparks flew between them at a bar one night doesn’t mean he gets to know why she transferred to MSU. When Freya dares Rhett to come to cheerleading practice, she never expects to see the dark-haired lumberjack again.

Except Rhett is the last person to turn down a dare, especially when it comes from a pixie-sized blonde. When Rhett wows the squad and becomes Freya’s stunt partner, his hands come far too close for comfort. But as Freya and Rhett’s hot post-practice sessions bring them closer, she risks her secrets being revealed. Can Freya chance exposing who she really is to the guy who wasn’t supposed to win her heart?

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

Well, this book was kind of a disappointment.  I’ve enjoyed other books by this author, both YA paranormal and NA contemporary, so I was excited to see her book on NetGalley and immediately requested it!  I was even more intrigued with a book that would show cheerleading in a good light (instead of the villainous light we usually see it in).

But.  😦 Then I started reading.  And I guess the overarching theme of my feelings for this book is that it’s flat.  The characters are flat.  The plot is flat.  The chemistry is flat.  Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve felt so ambivalent towards characters.  Well, I guess I felt quite a bit of dislike for Freya, so that’s more than ambivalence.  But in all honesty, I really just didn’t understand who either of these characters actually were.  They had a lot of “paper traits” (which is a new term I’m going to coin).  ie ON PAPER they could have been really interesting characters.  But we never really got to understand them as individuals, so I felt nothing for either of them really.  Well, except extreme annoyance towards Freya.

The book starts off with both characters having secrets, even from the reader, and that shit just annoys me.  Luckily it didn’t last very long, but I don’t understand why the author chose to start it as a secret in the first place, b/c it wasn’t that big a deal.  And I guess that’s the whole thing…we did not get enough backstory of either character to really understand what shaped them.  The author tried, but it fell flat.  Freya’s personality and attitude was honest to goodness CONFOUNDING to me.  Why did she have trust issues?  Why did Mia’s family’s love not make up some of that?  Why would her parents neglect make her less trusting?  Why was she so mean and rude to Rhett?  Why did she not want a relationship?  WHY WHY WHY???  We’re told some reasons, but I need to be shown them, and I never was.  So I had no empathy for Freya whatsoever.  And because we weren’t given enough about Freya, I couldn’t do anything but dislike her more and more for the way she treated Rhett.  Like seriously, she was just a straight up jerk.  For a book that was trying to show cheerleaders in a better light, Freya kind of failed inadvertently.  Luckily the sport looked pretty cool, but she was even kind of mean and judgemental to her fellow cheerleaders.  And the over the top hysterical way she reacted to things just had me raising my eyebrows and writing her off.  I don’t get it.

So how in the world did I end up rounding up on this book?  Well, I guess Rhett.  Though maybe even he’s not a good enough reason.  He was also flat, the same thing — we were told so many things about him, but we weren’t shown.  I didn’t feel enough for him, though I felt more for him than Freya.  He started off in the book appearing like a TOTALLY different kind of guy, and honestly his personality felt like it did a 180 after the first chapter.  I don’t get that.  But after the 180, he was kind of sweet, and intriguing, and he had a lot of paper qualities that I should have fallen in love with.  And I did like him.  I mean, he was patient, kind, funny, charming.  But I don’t understand why he was interested in Freya.  Like not at all.  And despite all those paper qualities, I still didn’t *feel* anything for him.

I felt like the author took shortcuts in places to make the plot work.  Particularly having Rhett be into break dancing and jiu jitsu.  Why was he into those sports?  Who got him into those sports?  How could he afford that?  It was convenient though, b/c then it made his proficiency at cheerleading make sense.

*sigh*  After writing all this out, I think I’m going to have to round down.  I just don’t think there’s enough to justify rounding up.  Because I have another peeve.  The writing around the dialogue was incorrect I think.  And because of that, it was ridiculously hard to figure out who was speaking, and so it constantly took me out of the book.  I had hoped it was just in the ARC version, but I glanced at the sample and it appears to still be the case.  I’m not an editor or proofreader, but I know when something’s wrong, and this was not done well in this book.  (like he would speak, then she would laugh in the same paragraph, then there would be a new paragraph and more dialogue, and sometimes it would be her speaking and sometimes it would be him — an exaggeratedly simple example).

So yeah.  Bummer.  Mega bummer.  I might still round up.  Rhett really did have so much potential.  *sigh*  I hate writing reviews for books like this… 😦

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It Had to Be You by Lizzy Charles

Blurb:
34995954James Parson has a problem. His military dad is going to yank him out of his expensive boarding school if James doesn’t prove he’s no longer hooking up, pulling pranks, and charming his way out of consequences. What better way to show he’s now responsible than becoming the committed boyfriend of a U.S. diplomat’s daughter?

Level-headed, book-smart Edelweiss may have traveled the world thanks to her dad’s job, but when it comes to friends and boys, she knows exactly nothing. Newly enrolled in boarding school, Edel is now on a mission to learn it all. James says he’ll help her experience the ultimate high school life—if she’ll be his fake girlfriend. And fake is perfect, because he’s exactly the kind of player she’d never date.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains red-hot romance, all the feels, and a soul-mate bad boy.

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

I will wholeheartedly admit that there were a few things in this book that on another book would probably have bothered me more, but I just couldn’t help but devour this book and end it with a big smile on my face.  And I think that’s because there were just that many things to love, and that I got enough pleasant surprises that it made me gloss over the things that usually annoy me.

So let’s get the lamesauce stuff out of the way.  The niggles:
a) Lack of communication.  Yeah, there was some of that, but it didn’t bother me quite as much for some reason, maybe because I was getting other stuff from the romance, and it didn’t last like the whole book?  But it did bother me a little…it’s frustrating when assumptions are made on both sides and that’s what prevents the couple from getting together.
b) Over the top evil/witchy with a b girl.  Emma was seriously over the top.  I’m not a fan of that.  I didn’t even see any depth in her to explain why she was that way, she was just a straight up mean girl.  I guess those girls exist in real life, but I’m kind of tired of that.
c) The situation with Emma became a bit implausible, and I’m not sure I enjoyed how that all played out and was handled.
d) A few little things were dropped or not followed up with how I expected.  Like we’d suddenly be a week later, and I kind of wanted to know how things developed in between time (like after the hair, or even right after they agree to fake date).
e) Some of the twists felt a bit convenient, especially since we’d find them out at convenient times as the story went on (Julie, some of the Ainsley stuff including the Foster Mom).

OK!  That’s done!  I know that seems like a lot, but please remember they were little niggles that only slightly detracted from the awesome.  So what was the awesome?  Great characters that surprised me at different turns!  I enjoyed the fact that James wasn’t a horrible bad boy, but more of a guy who made some poor choices, or got pulled into the “need to impress” that many teenagers feel in high school.  He was seriously so much deeper than I had been anticipating.  I LOVED that we got to see how his family life affected him (having a military father, no mother), how his race affected him, how being biracial with a white father affected him.  I appreciated those little touches and that they weren’t glossed over.  I loved that we got to see real emotion in him, particularly wrt his father.  I loved that he made some monumental mistakes, which I know sounds weird, but I loved that he owned up to them and tried to make amends.  I loved that he really was genuinely trying to change.  I LOVED that he was a literature nerd, I would have enjoyed even more from that.  Basically he really impressed me with how much we got from him in just a short novel.

Then there’s Edel.  Not to be left out, Edel was pretty well rounded as well!  I enjoyed her unique situation, and how her life growing up shaped her, and how she desired normal teenager experiences.  I loved that she was pretty naive, it really fit with what I expected from her.  But she was also brave and strong at times too, and I thought she grew as the book went on.  She had typical teenage girl feelings, and they still existed right to the end.  I loved that we got to see bits of her relationship with her parents.  And she also made mistakes, one big one in particular.  I did enjoy how she stepped up and did the right thing eventually, and didn’t shy away from it.

And the two of them together were super adorable.  I LOVED the tummy tingles I got just from the hand holding.  And I loved the way they stuck up for one another, particularly how Edel championed James.

I also really enjoyed the secondary characters, though I wouldn’t have minded a bit more.  But I wonder if we didn’t get more because this is going to be a series and we’ll eventually get their own stories?  I sincerely hope so.

So yeah.  May have had a few pitfalls, but the good just made me so happy that it was a success!!

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Tanner by Sarah Mayberry

Blurb:
34682642He’s used to risking it all in the ring, but nothing prepared him for love…

After flying half-way around the world to surprise her boyfriend, Evie Forrester finds herself heartbroken and stranded in a strange city. What could be a total disaster becomes something else when a tall, dark bull rider turns out to be a white knight in disguise. Evie isn’t sure she needs saving, but Tanner Harding is a difficult man to deny. He’s even harder to resist…

Tanner Harding can tame a monster bull with ease, but he never expected to be floored by someone like Evie. Sparks fly between them until injury threatens to end Tanner’s career –and suddenly he’s the one in need of a rescue.

Evie can’t turn her back on her wounded hero and, as Tanner struggles with his recovery, she’s not sure she can guard her heart against him either. Tanner knows Evie has slipped under his skin, but she lives in Australia and his future is under a cloud. Can two people with too many reasons to walk away make the bold decision to stay?

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

I have made it no secret that I am a huge Sarah Mayberry fan.  Back when I was reading Harlequins like they were going out of style, I found her to be a refreshing voice full of humour and sass, and always unique characters and situations.  And I’ve read a few of her books outside of the Harlequins (she’s had a few with Tule publishing), and she always just feeds my happy romance reader heart.

I was worried that I wasn’t going to fall in love with Evie at the beginning of the book.  She just struck me as really naive, and I couldn’t help but groan at the decision she had made and how she couldn’t see how it was going to end up, you know?  But somewhere along the way, Ms. Mayberry made me love her anyways.  I can’t say I completely understand why she decided on the surprise trip, but I can accept it I guess, you know?  I was OK with what we got from the fallout of that decision (how she dealt with it), and surprisingly didn’t end up hating Troy (the boyfriend).  I kind of feel like that’s a miracle.  And the way that all went down helped to make me believe in her developing relationship with Tanner…I think if it had been any different, it would have rubbed me the wrong way you know?  That was an intriguing balancing act by Ms. Mayberry.

And Evie was just so sassy, I loved her dry sense of humour.  I LOVED the way she handled Tanner after the turning point, she was just perfect.  And you really could see her kindness and stubbornness.  And I loved that we got to see her depth, and I really believed in her love of animals and such.

I’m not always a huge fan of taciturn heroes, but Tanner was so much more than that.  Sure, he could be gruff and grumpy, but he could also be sassy and teasing and he made me swoon with how he stepped in right away with Evie.  He had his lower moments, of course, but I was satisfied with how that all played out.  I kind of wish we could have seen him deal with the plot twist…we got some of it at the beginning, but then it faded a bit.  I just wanted his feelings revisited a bit, it was overshadowed by the romance.

But damn people, the romance was smoking.  I really did feel the chemistry and the steamy scenes were very hot.

The other thing I really appreciated about this story is how well she can drop you into an environment and really make you feel it and understand it.  I’ve never had any interest in bull riding, but I felt like we got a realistic glimpse of what the sport is like, with both the challenges and the highs.  I really appreciate that, because then it doesn’t feel like a gimmick, but something that is a really big part of the heroes life.

All in all it fulfilled my romantic heart, as Ms. Mayberry’s stories always do.  And the epilogue gave me just enough to have me grinning from ear to ear.

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Confessions of a Former Puck Bunny by Cindi Madsen

Blurb:
34733602Confession #1:
I used to be a puck bunny, but after a hockey player broke my heart, I gave up all things hockey. Now I’m just focused on finding a way to pass my math class so I can graduate college.


Confession #2: Ryder “Ox” Maddox’s deep, sexy voice sends fuzzy tingles through my entire body, and I’m powerless to stop it. Which is a big problem since the hot, surprisingly funny hockey player is my new math tutor.

Confession #3: I can’t stop thinking about how ripped Ryder is from all his hockey training, and how fun it’d be to cross lines with him.

Confession #4: I kissed a hockey player and I liked it.

Confession #5: If I’m not careful, I might relapse and fall for Ryder, and then I’ll be totally pucked.

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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.

OK, so I will admit that because of shifting priorities in reading, I have not yet had a chance to read books 2 and 3 of this series, but other than getting spoiled that those couples have a HEA (which duh), I don’t think it spoiled my reading experience in the slightest.  All it did is make me want to go back and read those books NOW NOW NOW, so let’s hope that I can fit them in before the year is out (especially Dane, he made me laugh).  And quite honestly the “family” of players and girlfriends added so much to this story, I LOVED having them there.

Now that that’s out of the way, OMG SWOON!!!  And you know who that swooning is for?  Oh yeah, it’s all for Ryder.  That boy is a perfect mix of sweet/funny and sexy/aggressive.  Like could there really be a more potent combination??  I love me a beta boy, and while I would NOT call Ryder a beta boy in the slightest, I felt like he had some of those qualities you know?  He was just so sweet and attentive and I felt like he surprised me at many turns (just as he surprised Lindsay).  And the way he pursued her with such single-minded determination?  Holy hot balls!!  (is that a saying?  I’m making that a saying)  ANYWAYS, he was the perfect omega boy, with a healthy dose of alpha traits mixed in as well.  I honestly can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with him.  Or maybe I just can’t get out of my own head, and I’m in love with him.

I also really enjoyed his backstory, and how it shaped him and the decisions he made.  I thought that his growth was realistic, because while I was in love with him, he did need a smack or two along the way.  But it made it satisfying to see him do what he could to prove his feelings.  And that was another thing I enjoyed, I appreciated that the forgiveness wasn’t easy (because he really did f* up), and he had to fight for her a bit.  That paint gun scene was immensely satisfying, as was the way the ending played out (sorry can’t elaborate, it would be spoilerific to the extreme).

Now don’t be fooled, I’m not done with my gushing.  Why?  Because we don’t just get a smoking hero, we also got a fabulous heroine to match him.  Lindsay was sassy, and vulnerable, and had a lot of depth.  I LOVED being in her head and seeing her fight through her instincts honed by her bizarre upbringing.  She had such a journey to go on, I can’t even tell you.

And this brings me to the most surprising thing about this book that seriously just won me over, mostly b/c I was expecting something different.  This book totally could have gone down judgemental lane, but Ms. Madsen hit it out of the park by avoiding that pitfall.  I mean, come on people, Lindsay was a former puck bunny!!  And so many authors just love to throw those girls under the bus, but Ms. Madsen tried to give us a different perspective of why they might do what they do.  And not only that, but Lindsay even admitted that they all had their own motivations, and she tried hard not to fall into the trap of judging girls who might enjoy one night stands.  I know I can fall into this trap myself, even if I try not to, so I just really appreciated this sooooo much.  Lindsay was unhappy with her former life because of her *own* reasons, not because it’s inherently shameful.  I loved the lack of double standard that showed.  Right on Lindsay, right on.

So I’ll end this review with a Confession of my own: I watch quite a bit of hockey (heck, my Oilers are in the playoffs as we speak and I’m GLUED to the TV for it), so I love a good hockey romance.  But damn, do these books give an unrealistic representation of the number of good looking hockey players.  I’m not saying they don’t all likely have amazing bodies, but when I look up and down the bench, I’m really not seeing teamfuls of gorgeous guys…or at least not gorgeous to me.  No offense hockey players, I’m sure it’s me and not you.  😛

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