The Prince & The Player by Tia Louise

Blurb:
34305655Let the games begin…

Runaway Zelda Wilder will do whatever it takes to secure a better life for her and her sister Ava. Crown Prince Rowan Westringham Tate will do whatever it takes to preserve his small country.

“Playboy Prince” MacCallum Lockwood Tate will do whatever it takes to steal Zelda’s heart…

When Zee is blackmailed into humiliating the brooding future king, she never expects to be pulled into a web of international intrigue–or to fall for Rowan’s naughty younger brother Cal.

Cal is determined to capture the sexy player, but Zelda is in over her head with very dangerous men. Time is running out, and it may be too late for the prince to save this player.

Cinderella meets Ocean’s Eleven in this CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE featuring secrets, lies, royal high jinks, scams and double-crosses; breathless, swooning lust, cocky princes, dominant alpha future-kings, and crafty courtiers, who are not always what they seem.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — This one started a bit slower for me, I was enjoying it, but it wasn’t blowing me away.  It ended with a blast though!  It just sped right up and kind of overwhelmed me!  But strangely, even though it ends on a cliffhanger, I haven’t decided if I’ll continue.  Probably not.  While I thought the plot/action was very intriguing, I wasn’t completely sold on the romance and characters, which are kind of the things that most draw me into a story.

I had a few problems with the romance, and I think one of those problems stems from the fact that there are TWO love stories in this book, and that while it is dual POV, we get to read from the heroine of ONE COUPLE and the hero of the OTHER COUPLE.  Which is kind of cool and unique, but ultimately not satisfying for me.  Basically I didn’t really get to focus on either couple well enough, and since I didn’t get to see both sides of each love, I didn’t really buy into the emotions necessarily.  Obviously some romances are written in single POV, so you don’t need to see both sides to buy a love, but then the author really needs to show me what the other half is feeling through our POVs eyes, kwim?  Does that make sense?  And I really did not get a feel for what Cal or Ava were feeling…  Ava maybe a bit moreso, but honestly I felt like I didn’t really get much from that love story at all, it felt more pushed to the background.  So it kind of felt unnecessary.

And BOTH couples suffered from a lot of lust that didn’t transform into love for me at all.  I guess Ms. Louise was trying to go for insta-love or something, and I definitely felt the lust, but I have NO IDEA what drew them to each other (BOTH COUPLES) other than physical attraction.  I guess I don’t mind that quite as much if we get that development later in the relationship, like I’ll give it a pass.  But I NEVER really got a feel for what they were so infatuated with wrt their partner, besides the physical attraction.  I really needed more emotion.  Maybe it’s because the love story I felt I got more of was Zee and Cal, and he was just so blunt and dirty talking and kind of forceful, that I didn’t understand what made Zee different to him than the others.

And I guess that’s the other thing.  While I didn’t dislike any of the main characters, I also did not fall in love with any of them.  They were all ok, but maybe because the narrative was split between 4 main characters, I never really got a lot of development of any of them.  And I must say that they all acted a lot younger than their ages.  The girls felt like teenagers (particularly Ava, who is supposed to be 21), and the boys felt like college age.  *shrugs*  Which, some people really do behave that way at those ages, but I don’t understand why in their particular case.

And while I felt like Zee was a bit naive with Reggie, I did end up enjoying the suspense and action that the book ended with.  I was on the edge of my seat wanting to see how it was going to play out.

So yeah.  Not a bad book, just didn’t have enough of what *I* personally enjoy the most in my favourite books to keep me captivated.  Oh well, not every book is a match for every reader.

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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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Remember Me Forever by Sara Wolf

Blurb:
32507774Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, forty-three weeks, and two days. Or so she thinks.

The boy she maybe-sort-of-definitely loved and sort-of-maybe-definitely hated has dropped off the face of the planet in the face of tragedy, leaving a Jack Hunter–shaped hole. Determined to be happy, Isis fills it in with lies and puts on a brave smile for her new life at Ohio State University.

But the smile lasts only until he shows up. The menace from her past—her darkest secret, Nameless—is attending OSU right alongside her. And he’s whispering that he has something Isis wants—something she needs to see to move forward. To move on.

Isis has always been able to pretend everything is okay. But not anymore.

Isis Blake might be good at putting herself back together.

But Jack Hunter is better.

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

Huh, I just read my review for book 2 and realized I’m feeling the exact same way!  I really really enjoyed the book, but I don’t have an immediate gut feeling for rating.  I don’t get it.  It’s so weird.  This time I assumed it was just my mood, but maybe it’s just something about these books.  There’s just so much to them, and they’re kind of odd, and so they don’t give you that immediate feeling for how to rate them.  Or maybe it’s just me.

So yes, babbling concluded, I really did enjoy the finale to this trilogy.  Isis was still the Isis we fell in love with in the first two books.  She is so wonderfully odd, like so odd you can’t even describe her (b/c you know I totally tried to describe her to my husband), but she just enchants me with her wit mixed with horribly childish humour.  I know, it’s a terribly weird combination.  And then you add in her vulnerability and totally skewed sense of self, and she just gets to me you know?  She made me laugh laugh laugh, and then cry too…

And we got just a wee bit more of Jack than even in the second book.  I shouldn’t love that boy, he is his own realm of broken.  Like he should have a whole planet to hold his broken.  But maybe that’s why he gets to me too, you know?  Because you see how the choices he’s made really have affected him too.  And even though he kept making HORRIBLE choices, I still rooted for Jack and Isis.  I still wanted the ending that I got.  OK, I will admit there was a moment where I kind of wanted a super big twist ending with Kieran, but it was like a fraction of a second.

The plot type things that happen in this series can be a wee bit outside of believability, but they entertain me anyways.  I had a bit of a hard time with the revenge aspect.  Don’t get me wrong, what happened totally fit with Jack’s and Isis’s personalities, it was VERY CONSISTENT with what we knew about both of them.  But it doesn’t make me feel good.  I think that’s what makes this book (and this series) so odd too.  Isis and Jack aren’t the most morally awesome characters.  It makes it hard to cheer for everything they do, you know?

I enjoyed some of the new secondary characters, and I’m so glad we still saw Wren and Kayla a bit.  Again, as with the rest of the series, the secondary characters play a role, but not as big as I sometimes like.  It’s like we get teased with them, but I’m always left wanting a bit more.

I found a few little things got dropped in the narrative.  Like Isis’s Mom.  I needed more there.  And the plane ticket.  What was the point of that?

But yeah, I’m super satisfied.  I’m so happy that it really lived up to what I was expecting of it, even if I had no idea where it would go.  I’ll definitely be looking for more by Ms. Wolf in the future.

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In Your Dreams by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
29353356Casey Coffield has a growing list of personal flaws he keeps locked away in his head:
He’s never on time.
His list of IOUs to his best friend is endless.
Money is always short.
Goals are never in reach.

Oh, and he’s decided to add college drop-out to that list, too. He doesn’t really think that last one’s such a bad thing, but his family insists it is, so it stays on the list.

On paper, he’s a zero. But in person, when he’s mixing tracks for a sea of bodies at the hottest clubs and parties, he’s downright irresistible. Just-right stubble on his chin, body of a boxer and a smirk that stimulates all the right nerves—women have never been a problem. They flock to his swagger and fall for his charm…fast.

All except for this one.

Purple hair, gray eyes, a raspy voice and sass, Murphy Sullivan is a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll. And her and Casey? They have history. He can’t remember it, but she wrote a song about him—and it’s not exactly a love song. But it is good. Damn good. And uncovering her inspiration just might be the key to solving a few of his shortcomings—not to mention open doors to his own big break in the music industry.

But sometimes dreams get messy when they collide. Sometimes life changes patterns. A past paints the wrong picture and futures get cloudy. The only question that remains is who will you choose when the dust settles—you? Or the girl of your dreams?

** This book is a Falling Series spin-off. It can be read as a standalone. **

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My Review:
5 stars — I don’t even know why this one is a full 5 stars for me, I just feel it in my bones, you know??  I just loved this whole book, I really really did.  It just made me feel good and happy and squeezed my heart and made me feel all those things that Ginger Scott has always makes me feel with her books.  I don’t know why it took me so long to get to Casey’s book, I should have read this right after release!!  *sigh*  Makes me want to go back and reread the whole Falling series.  It’s the series where I fell in love with Ms. Scott.

This one is going to be really hard to review, b/c I’m not sure how to accurately express exactly what it was about this book that just got to me so much.  I think Casey just surprised me a whole heck of a lot.  Now, my memory is crap when it’s been a bit since I’ve read a book, so I didn’t have detailed memories of him, but I don’t remember being particularly enamoured with him…not that I didn’t like him, I just didn’t have strong feelings one way or another.  And Casey was really complicated and flawed.  I think maybe that’s where the surprise came in.  He had way more depth than I had been expecting.  He was such a strange combination of a bunch of different personality quirks that somehow worked together, and I was still left in love with him.  Like really in love.  He could definitely be cocky and arrogant and an a-hole, but there was so much going on inside his head too.  He was sensitive, and easily hurt, and WANTED to be more.  But almost afraid of it too, you know?  He was shaped by the environment in which he grew up, and even that was strange and unique.  Not full out horrible, but not awesome either.  I LOVED the way he soaked up the love from Houston’s family and eventually Murphy’s.

And Murphy was fricking awesome too.  Her story and history with Casey were not at ALL what I was expecting, and I really appreciated that it didn’t follow the typical formulas, you know?  It shaped her, but there was a LOT that shaped her that had nothing to do with Casey.  And she was just someone I could empathize with, she reached to my heart as well with her mix of sass and shyness.  She just fit with Casey so well, and I was invested in her story all on her own.  Casey may have been my shooting star in this story, but Murphy held her own.  I LOVED her songs too.

And Lane was such a surprise.  He brought out the best in both Murphy and Casey.  I LOVED the way he fit into the story, he really brought a lot of heart.  And I loved Murphy’s parents too, they made me laugh and love.

And hot damn!  The chemistry was fantastic, and while the physical component came later, holy smokes was it hot when it came!  DAMN, the dancing scenes killed me.  I want to go to a club where Casey is DJing.

*sigh*  Yup, it was all just so nicely balanced with difficult topics, hard situations, heartwrenching scenes, sexy time and humour.  And Casey just may be the most surprising book boyfriend on my list, he won me over hook, line and sinker, even despite his flaws.  *happy sigh*

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Pucked by Helena Hunting

Blurb:
25422262With a famous NHL player for a step-brother, Violet Hall is well acquainted with the playboy reputation many hockey stars come with. She’s smart enough to steer clear of those hot, well-built boys with unparalleled stamina. That is until she meets the legendary team captain—Alex Waters.

Violet isn’t interested in his pretty, beat-up face, or his rock-hard six-pack abs. But when Alex inadvertently obliterates Violet’s previous misapprehension regarding the inferior intellect of hockey players, he becomes more than just a hot body with a face to match.

In what can only be considered a complete lapse in judgment, Violet finds out just how good Alex is with the hockey stick in his pants. But what starts out as a one-night stand, quickly turns into something more. Post-night of orgasmic magic, Alex starts to call, and text, and e-mail and send extravagant—and quirky—gifts, making him difficult to ignore, and even more difficult not to like.

The problem is, the media portrays Alex as a total player, and Violet doesn’t want to be part of the game.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — HUGE thanks to my girl Kelly for loaning this book to me!!  I’ve seen this book around quite a bit, and I’ve been so torn on whether to read it or not.  See, I LOVE sports romance.  And I f-ing LOVE hockey romances in particular.  BUT.  And this is a big BUT.  I am NOT a fan of over the top comedy.  It’s not that I don’t understand why others enjoy it, it’s HONESTLY just a personal taste thing.  And I’d heard that this one was pretty OTT, so I was hesitant to pick it up.  And quite honestly, it both surprised me and didn’t.  I DID find the OTT very annoying, and it’s ultimately what has me giving this a 3.5 star and *wanting* to round down.  BUT, unlike other OTT comedies I’ve read (most of which I’ve cringed through and even DNFd) this one had a lot of redeeming qualities to it — and *that* was the surprise (and is what’s making me want to round up…we’ll see what wins).  So even this review will be kind of 2 sided.

So let’s start with the annoyances.  I had heard about the overuse of “Beaver” and “Monster Cock”.  And it was just as bad as I’d been told.  That was a bummer.  It’s funny, b/c I don’t mind crass, I enjoy certain parts of it.  But the overuse was too much.  It was humorous for the first maybe 20%, then it just got tiring.  And cooter?  Really?  I mentioned it to my husband, and he was like “are they 12 year old boys?”  And the way she played with “snuffie” when he was sleeping actually just disturbed me.  That was the side of the humour that *didn’t* mesh with me at all.

The ultimate problem for me with OTT comedies, is that the balance is off.  I guess I don’t really want pure comedies.  I need the heart too.  I WANT both.  I don’t think I’m meant to read about characters that feel like caricatures.  And quite honestly, that was what Violet ended up being for me.  I didn’t see any depth to her character, and I didn’t even really empathize with her as much as I was probably meant to when the big climax/breakdown happened.  I was just annoyed with her…though not majorly annoyed, just minorly annoyed.  Because here’s the thing…there were parts of her that I actually found quite amusing.  Her crass mouth wrt swearing and saying inappropriate things actually *did* work for me.  The moment when Buck first sees them kissing and asks what they’re doing and she says she’s sucking his dick?  And then proceeds to talk about mouth f*ing?  Hilarious to me.  I even embarrassed my husband by explaining the scene when we were on a date at the Melting Pot.  He was wondering how many more times I was going to say f*.  So I guess I can vibe with Violet on that one.  It was the more childish stuff that didn’t work for me with her.  And I was kind of sad with how judgey she was wrt Buck and his intelligence.  Not cool man.

So what worked for me then?  Cause that probably seems like a lot of negative.  Well, while the balance may not have been…well, balanced enough for me, it wasn’t completely one-sided either.  I did get to see some romance between them.  OK, let’s stop joking around.  You know what worked for me?  Alex worked for me.  BIG TIME worked for me.  Like, I’m a beta hero LOVER and while Alex wasn’t strictly a beta hero, he had a lot of beta in him.  Give me an unsure, nerdy/smart, awkward, trying too hard, bumbling guy and I’ll fall in love with him EVERY SINGLE TIME.  The single-minded and purposeful way he pursued her?  The sweet way he checked with her EVERY STEP OF THE WAY during their steamy encounters?  The way he kind of put his heart on the line?  OMG, yes baby, that’s my kind of man.  I even got why he allowed the playboy rep to spread…it was disappointing, but I got it.  And all the Canadiana (Tim Horton’s, The Hip)?  YES!  Love it.  And I loved that he balanced it out with his own bit of pervy boy, I enjoyed how fascinated he was with Violet’s tits, and I loved how grrrr he could be once given the full go ahead.  I mean damn, what a strange combination of aggressive and awkward.  Yup, works for me.

And if you could overlook all the beaver and MC comments during EVERY SEX SCENE, then they were actually pretty steamy and enjoyable as well.

So there you have it.  Not my fave heroine, but I didn’t dislike her…she just annoyed me.  Mixed with a total BOOK BOY WIN for me with Alex.  And…yup, going to round up.  Alex is just that worth it for me.  However, I’m not sure I can handle the comedy stylings going forward.  I’m definitely skipping Buck’s book, b/c I read some reviews that pointed out things that will annoy the crap out of me.  Still debating about Randy’s book.  And super intrigued by Lance’s book…that sounds like it might have more of my kind of balance.  Thanks again to Kelly for the loaner!!  I got to indulge in my curiosity without committing to buying.  😉

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180 Seconds by Jessica Park

Blurb:
32739485Some people live their entire lives without changing their perspective. For Allison Dennis, all it takes is 180 seconds…

After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.

One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.

When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.

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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.

WOW.  Seriously, wow.  I knew I was going to enjoy this book, but I’m not sure I entirely realized HOW MUCH I was going to enjoy this book.  I was sucked in right from the start, and my love just grew in intensity as I continued to read it…  It was one of those books where you resent your life for interfering with your reading…or at least it was for me.

I am a sucker for a damaged heroine.  I wasn’t quite sure how damaged Allison would be, and while some of my suspicions were way off base, I really appreciated that we got to see some different effects of just being in the Foster system and bouncing around from home to home without an added other huge trauma.  Not sure if that makes sense, but sometimes I think just that basic concept of feeling unwanted and unloved and too much rejection does not get enough attention.  Allison honestly brought out all the feels for me, I HURT for past and present her.  I felt how much she wanted to close off the world, and how afraid she was of letting people in.  There’s a teeny tiny part of me that wonders if her transition was too fast, but that’s partly b/c there were time jumps in the story.  But quite honestly?  I was getting so much out of the story, I didn’t even care.  I LOVED seeing Allison slowly open up and accept love.  It was beautiful.

There were two shining stars for me in this story (besides our heroine of course).  Obviously there is Esben.  I wondered if he would be too good to be true, and I debated about whether that would annoy me, but you know what?  It really didn’t.  Especially because despite being such a good and kind and generous soul, we did get to see into his own damage, and see what shaped him into the person he was.  And he was not without his own flaws and bad decisions.  But I ADORED him.  EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.  I really expected a much different hero after reading the blurb and seeing social media star, and the glimpse we get before the experiment.  My preconceived notions were blown away.  He made me feel so many emotions all on his own, and he is totally my kind of book boyfriend material.  I want an Esben.

And I loved the way they grew together.  Their chemistry was palpable, and sweet, and slow burning, and gave me so many tummy tingles.  I ADORED the way their relationship progressed, it was all so satisfying for me.

The other star for me was Simon.  I’m not sure if it’s just because he’s a Dad, and I’m missing my own, but I LOVED HIM SO MUCH.  He made me cry in so many unexpected moments, just by being himself.  He was vulnerable, and honest, and tried so hard, and I was just always so happy that Allison had him.  And OMG, did he make me laugh!!  Right from that first chapter!!  I’m not sure I’ve ever loved a secondary character in quite this way before.  He added so much to the story.

Steffi was another intriguing character.  I knew there was more to her story, but for some reason I was still caught off guard.  I enjoyed what we learned about her, and what she brought to Allison’s own growth.

I did end up losing some of my steam nearer to the end, but I was also interrupted so many times, that I think that hurt it too.  If you can read it all in one sitting, I highly recommend that.

All in all this book made me laugh, smile big grins, get tummy tingles, silently cry some tears, and bawl like a baby.  That’s a pretty great spectrum.  Definitely one of my favourite reads of the year, it just hit all the right places for me.

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Wicked Restless by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
26821969Andrew Harper grew up in a house marked by tragedy. His older brother Owen did his best to shelter him, but you can only be protected from life’s pain for so long. Eventually, you end up just feeling numb…and isolated.

Loneliness was the one constant in Andrew’s life. Until one girl, met by chance in a high school hallway, changed everything. Emma Burke was a mystery and all that was beautiful in this world, the only air Andrew ever wanted to breathe. She took the lonely away, and filled it with hope and color, and Andrew would do anything to keep her safe, happy and whole.

But sometimes, what feels good and right is what ends up hurting us the most. And when Andrew and Emma are faced with an impossible decision, Andrew is tested to see just how far he’s willing to go for the girl who owns his heart.

Cuts are deep.
Scars are left behind.
And revenge beckons.

When Andrew finally gets his chance, in college, five years after his first love broke him completely, he finds out old feelings don’t really disappear just because you say you hate someone. The more he tries to avenge all that he believes he lost, the more he uncovers the real story of what happened years before.

Love is wicked. But a restless heart is never satisfied beating on its own. Can Andrew and Emma make it right before it’s too late, or will the ties that bind them now destroy their only chance at a future?

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My Review:
4 stars — OK, this one is a harder book to review and rate too, but the successes were much clearer and more impactful for me, so they definitely weigh more heavily in my opinion.  So I can definitely say that Andrew’s book was a hit for me, even if I did have some reservations.

I think my problem comes in that I was SO in love with Andrew in Wild Reckless, or at least what I could see of him.  He was sweet, and felt more beta boy, and yet lonely too.  I was curious where his story would go.  AND I FELL IN LOVE with him in Part One!  OMG, that boy was everything I was hoping he would be!!  He gave me tummy tingles, and made me giggle and swoon.  I ADORED Part One of this story (and yes, all the way through the letters too).  It made me so happy and so sad all at once.  I’m not always happy with being in the dark for long periods about certain aspects, but I did at least know there was more to Emma’s story based on comments made here and there (and actually had a pretty good guess, though it turned out to not be quite right).  I really loved that love story between them.  I felt their infatuation with one another, I felt how strongly their feelings came on.  And because of the Part One “climax” of sorts, I could understand how those feelings could be made even more impactful when you go through something difficult together.  I understood why Emma was scared (even without knowing the details of her story), and I totally believed in Andrew’s sacrifice.  So if I’m not making myself clear, I LOVED both characters in Part One.

And thus, my heart HURT for who Andrew became 5 years later.  And I actually got it.  I think the reason Ms. Scott succeeds in making me believe in Andrew and how he got to where he did is that I saw inside his head (LOVE dual POV books), AND I saw who he was before, I saw some transition in the letters, and eventually we learned a lot of the things that fundamentally changed him for the worse.  I TRULY GOT IT.  But I wish I didn’t.  My ultimate problem with this book, and the reason it’s a 4 star and not a 5 star, is that I hate Andrew’s choices for 30% of the book.  He was HORRIBLE.  To Emma yes, but mostly to Lindsey.  I think it went too far for my delicate sensibilities.  I don’t want to be *that* disappointed in a boy I love.  I honestly think the only reason I can forgive him is because I knew who he was before, who he *still* could be inside, and because I got to see some remorse.  But I’m still sad.  I would have appreciated it more if he made some initial bad decisions, but then distanced himself.  Ah well, we can’t always get what we want.

And I didn’t expect all the drama that found our hero and heroine in this story, but I was hooked on the ride.  I saw a few things coming, and I had all the feels for Emma and the struggles she goes through.  I thought that side plot was particularly impactful, and I enjoyed the journey she went on.  I think everyone’s journey is different, but I believed in the paths she took.  And I was satisfied with the way Andrew handled the situation.  I think that’s where we begin to love our hero again and forgive him.  It’s too bad it takes that, and maybe it’s a bit convenient, but I’m ok with that.  I actually felt like the Emma struggle from Part One (I’m trying to be vague and not give anything away) kind of got lost in Part Two.  I thought it would get more limelight, but it didn’t really seem to impact her life or come into play between her and Andrew.  I was a bit disappointed with that.  Again, sometimes there’s too much difficult stuff, and so you can’t spread the focus to all of it.  Ah well.

My absolute FAVOURITE part was the first date in Part Two.  OMG, could Andrew be anymore adorable?  And the way Emma hugged those presents, OMG OMG OMG.  LOVED them both.

AND, I’m totally onboard with another reviewers suggestion of a story for Trent.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!  That boy was so sweet, and it was nice to see Andrew have a good friend.

So yeah.  I had some struggles, but the good stuff wins this time.  (on a side note, I don’t get the cover…particularly the ferris wheel)

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The Silent Waters by Brittainy C. Cherry

Blurb:
32070295Moments.

Our lives are a collection of moments. Some utterly painful and full of yesterday’s hurts. Some beautifully hopeful and full of tomorrow’s promises.

I’ve had many moments in my lifetime, moments that changed me, challenged me. Moments that scared me and engulfed me. However, the biggest ones—the most heartbreaking and breathtaking ones—all included him.

I was ten years old when I lost my voice. A piece of me was stolen away, and the only person who could truly hear my silence was Brooks Griffin. He was the light during my dark days, the promise of tomorrow, until tragedy found him. Tragedy that eventually drowned him in a sea of memories.

This is the story of a boy and girl who loved each other, but didn’t love themselves. A story of life and death. Of love and broken promises.

Of moments.

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My Review:
4.5 stars —  I saw this book on sale on one of my bargain book emails (BookBub I think), and while I haven’t read any by Ms. Cherry, I do have a few and I’ve heard great things.  And she’s going to be attending an author event I’ll be at in the fall, so that right there had my interest peaked.  And then, as I usually do when deciding on a book, I read the 1 star reviews.  😛  It’s basically so I can see if the things they’re complaining about are the kinds of things that would bother me.  It helps to temper the 5 star reviews (of which I’ll read a few, as well as any friends reviews).  Well damn, the 1 star reviews really intrigued me, and gave me the impression that if I read the sample I would see right away what they didn’t enjoy.  Well damn, challenge accepted!  And you know what?  I was SUCKED IN!!!  I NEEDED MORE!  So apparently I’m not like the 1-star reviewers, b/c this was sooooo my kind of book.  Like seriously, I knew darned well just from the blurb that this would fit as a guilty pleasure for me.

So yeah, that was a seriously long and pointless introduction, I just found it really amusing is all.  But you guys, this was just my kind of book.  I know it’s going to sound really stupid, but I am so attracted to books about damaged heroines.  I can’t imagine I’m the only one.  And add in a swoony sweet hero?  Oh yes please.

I actually just recently read a book about selective mutism, and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t blow me away.  That’s because *this* was the book I was looking for.  I’m probably going to completely fail this review quite honestly, I just really really really enjoyed myself.  Everything from the plot, to the characters, to the swoony romance, to the intrigue, to the depth and message.  I actually highlighted something that hit me so hard I shared it with my husband:

“Sometimes our minds acted as a form of kryptonite, and we had a responsibility to our own self-worth to aggressively tell it to fuck off with its lies.”

Oh Maggie May, you speak the truth.

I actually enjoyed the way the family dynamics played out in this book (which was one of the things others complained about).  I appreciated that they didn’t all handle it well.  It was actually a balance on how they coped with Maggie’s mutism and agoraphobia.  Her Mama broke my heart, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility you know?  People can be so easily influenced by others, and everyone has their own demons to face when confronting adversity.  I won’t say that I wasn’t occasionally baffled at how Maggie could maintain that level of fear for SO MANY YEARS, but trauma affects everyone differently and I was able to accept it somehow.

And speaking of family dynamics, I REALLY appreciated the way the Cheryl relationship worked out.  I wasn’t expecting that, I love when secondary characters surprise me.

And even the way the relationship with Brooks played out was satisfying to me.  I really felt their connection and chemistry and I swooned so hard.  Even if I will admit that I HATED Brooks’s taste in music.  😛  It was terrible.  To me.

There was a part of me that didn’t enjoy the time jumps in the middle.  I mean, I enjoyed the way they were presented, but I was saddened that so much time went by.  I wasn’t expecting that.

I totally called the mystery element.  Maybe I was supposed to, but I saw the way that was going to play out.  But I was happily surprised with how Maggie’s healing developed.

Anyways, I’m just babbling here and probably not being very helpful.  Essentially, this book was a Lenore book.  It hit all my buttons, and gave me so much of what I was craving.  So yay!  I’m excited to get to more of Ms. Cherry’s books, but they will likely have to wait until the summer.  But after reading the sample, I just couldn’t resist diving right in.

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Who She Was by Stormy Smith

Blurb:
34515672Trevor Adler loathes the music he used to love, but it’s the key to his full-ride scholarship and the ticket away from his dysfunctional parents. To kick off their freshman year, Trevor’s roommate drags him to a frat party, where he ends up face-to-face with his childhood best friend and finds himself entrenched in memories he’d rather forget.

Unable to let Charlie go again without understanding the truth of why she disappeared from his life and chose to become the type of person they always hated, Trevor is relentless in his pursuit of the girl he once knew.

Charlotte (Charlie) Logan is broken. Under her perfectly-crafted exterior are the shards of a shattered heart. A handful of angry words changed her life completely and Charlie’s never been able to forgive herself for the truth she’s hidden from everyone.

While Trevor pushes Charlie to remember the music that lit her soul and the laughter they shared, they find themselves reverting to a banter-filled rhythm that feels all too familiar, yet different now. When Trevor’s own secrets come to light, it becomes clear he and Charlie both must face their tragic pasts if they have any hope at a future together.

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

There is SO much to love about this story, but the highlight for me is most certainly the characters.  They were so full of depth, quirky, EXTREMELY lovable, but also with epic flaws that made them feel real (and made you occasionally not like the things they were doing, even as you still loved them).  And since characters are a highlight for me, this played a huge part in why I enjoyed this book.

Trevor was seriously swoony.  He pursued his friendship with Charlie with a single-minded determination that had you cheering for him…most of the time.  It was interesting to see a character that put so much thought and care into another human being, but at the expense of himself and sometimes without realizing that a true friendship has the give and take, and to expect someone to let you in, you also have to let them in.  So occasionally I would want to smack him into learning that lesson faster…but again, that’s where that depth of character and flaws part comes in.  He had his own growing and learning to do (and not just because of what was happening in his own life, and the struggles he was dealing with).  But he was honestly so sweet and understanding with Charlie, and I loved the way he knew when to push her and when to back off.  And he seriously had some of the swooniest lines I’ve ever heard, I was melting right along with Charlie (and Darcy).

Charlie was strangely easy to love as well.  Strange because we don’t get to hear her thoughts much in the first half, and the way she behaved could be very offputting.  But maybe its because you get such a strong hint that something awful has happened to hurt her and force her to put on that mask.  And I will admit that I had a strong hint (and I’m not sure why, maybe it was from the first chapter, or I saw something that spoiled it?), of what might have happened.  So I was waiting to see inside her mind.  I loved the growth her character went through, and the conclusions that she comes to about what she needs.

And the chemistry between Charlie and Trev was pretty fantastic…especially friendship wise.  They had this amazing flow between them, a banter and a way of interacting that just made me want to know them in real life.  And some of the swoony moments between them gave me such freaking butterflies.  I will admit to being a little bummed we didn’t get more romance.  I’m a romance lover, and after some of that build up, I really wanted the payoff to be bigger.

Speaking of characters, Sam and Darcy were the sh*t.  Seriously.  Some of the best secondary characters I’ve seen in a while, I loved the way they were there in the background, offering support, and going through their own struggles.  They were SO fun and offered some of the best advice.  I adored them.

In the end this book delved into some pretty hard topics, but I felt like it did so with realism and heart.  My heart broke for both characters and the struggles both in their past and present.  I really thought that their personal developments moved at a real pace.  It wasn’t something that could be changed overnight, but that took time and a lot of steps.  Sometimes I feel like other books rush this, and so it was really refreshing.

So why not 5?  Some little reasons, and a bigger one that has me a bit baffled.  I can’t put my finger on why, but I kept avoiding reading this book, even while reading it.  I would find other things to do.  I even got snagged by another book in the middle.  Was it that I was avoiding the tough topics?  Maybe.  But I think I might have been a bit bored on occasion, I needed just…something more.  Or maybe that there was just SO much that Ms. Smith tried to pack into this one novel, and I felt like one or two things then got shortchanged.  In particular I felt like I needed more of a connection with the music.  It was supposed to play this large role, but often times I would find it got forgotten and then just brought up here and there.  It’s hard to explain.  I really enjoyed the lyrics that they wrote to one another nearer to the beginning, I thought those were beautiful.  I was a little confused on some of the later ones, but I’m kind of dense when it comes to lyrics, so that was probably just me.

I felt a bit let down with the ending too.  The developments with Charlie’s family COMPLETELY threw me, and I couldn’t really reconcile the changes.  It’s not that I didn’t expect some development and change, but what we got felt too neat and tidy and unrealistic (at least for me).  It sort of felt that way for a few things, like we had this real and gritty book, and then the ending fell flat (the grand gesture left me confused) and a bit rushed.  I might have just been tired though.

So there’s my novella of a review.  There were just so many things that I loved about this book, but I just can’t shake that other feeling.  I hate when I can’t articulate (even in my own head) what I’m feeling.  I sincerely hope its just a me thing, b/c this book has so much power and love to share.

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Bound by Brenda Rothert

Blurb:
18943370College senior Kate Camden has learned to adapt – to her last year of school, to the promise of motherhood, to the fact that she’s doing it all alone. But just when she’s learned to adjust, heartache threatens to break her apart.

Pro hockey player Jason “Ryke” Ryker has it all: adoring fans, a promising career, and a beautiful wife. But when his seemingly perfect life is shaken by tragedy, he’s left questioning whether having it all is ever more than an illusion.

When circumstance brings Kate and Ryke together, they discover they don’t have to hurt alone. Bound by a grief that haunts them both, they must rely on one another to survive heartbreak. But that grief is more powerful than they realize, and the tie that binds them together may ultimately tear them apart.

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My Review:
3 stars — Picky Lenore strikes again!!!  Dude, this is getting annoying.

OK, first things first, I honestly interpreted the first paragraph of the blurb to mean one thing, and in the prologue we find out something completely different.  I thought she was going to be a single mother.  So I had to do a bit of a context switch.  Not a big deal, but I had been anticipating a certain type of read so it threw me.

Let’s start positive!  Things I loved.  I really enjoyed the grief support group sessions.  Both just from a general perspective of seeing people struggling through grief, and how it has its ups and downs and is a constant struggle.  While I never went to any groups like this, I think many people don’t realize just what grief does to people…and everyone adjusts differently.  I also enjoyed the way Ryke and Kate were able to admit to some of their fears in the group, and sort of tell the other person in a safer space.  It allowed them to understand some challenges that they might have kept to themselves without that weird veneer.  I really loved how Ms. Rothert tackled grief and especially Kate’s story, which may not be obvious to many people, but it’s very real and heartbreaking.  I also really enjoyed the connection that Ryke and Kate had because of their shared grief.  I didn’t feel like it was forced or contrived, and there were moments where (particularly) Ryke was there for Kate that were just perfect — like the moment on the dock when they were camping.

I LOVED Ryke’s patience at times.  And how hard he tried to do the right thing for Kate and not rush her, but still convey his desires.  And he was pretty hilarious at times.  I even enjoyed his comradery with his fellow hockey players, particularly Luke.  And the bits of hockey we did get were fantastic, making this a true sports romance because we actually got to see the sport being played.  And that moment at the charity event where Kate was talking about hockey fights was gold, I LOVED it!  Made me laugh.  And I adored the interactions Kate had with her Mom, and the games night with her Mom and Dale.

BUT.  Unfortunately there’s a but.  There were a million little things that bugged me and kept me from truly enjoying this story.  Kate wasn’t a terrible character, but other than her grief, I found I didn’t really enjoy her.  The hot and cold stuff went on a bit too long for it to be understandable.  I just didn’t see the growth in her I wanted to, so I didn’t understand what changed when things between her and Ryke FINALLY progressed.  And I wasn’t all that impressed with a psychology major who was so opposed to counselling…you would think she would be less dismissive of it.

And there was a lack of consistency at times.  Almost like the author made some decisions to change up the story, but didn’t go back and smooth out the beginning.  Like the first impression we’re given of Mags is a LOT different from our final impression of her.  And I’m kind of bummed that there really wasn’t ANYTHING redeemable about her, I think I would have appreciated the story more if she hadn’t been somewhat villified.  Ryke could still have not had the same kind of love as for Kate without making Mags a bitch.  And Kate wasn’t necessarily consistent either.  She starts off being kind of jealous like Mags, but then it was like that didn’t work so then suddenly she wasn’t.  Or it was explained away by other things.  I couldn’t quite get a grasp on who she was.

And the believability of parts of the story didn’t work for me.  Like, even if Kate is opposed to sex, what about other non-pregnancy-inducing intimate activities?  Or does she just feel as though it’s a floodgate that once opened would lead there?  And moving in together???  Where did she sleep?  How did that work??  I don’t understand.  And after the confession about his parents and family and how bummed he was, she still reacted like that to the present?  Sucks.  And people in relationships really play that kissing game??  Really?  Didn’t like that at all.

*sigh*  OK, I probably have more to say, but I’m going to stop there.  I think I enjoyed the first half more b/c I assumed that the development would happen faster, and when it kept not happening, I started to lose my mojo.  I don’t mind having obstacles, but leaving them to the very end doesn’t make the transition as believable.  And I didn’t even get good steamy times to make up for it.  I don’t know what to do about this author now, b/c I LOVED her most recent book.  I don’t want to read anymore Kate and Ryke, that’s for sure.  I can’t decide what to do.  Maybe I’ll watch for future books, maybe it’s that she’s developed a lot more over time and I prefer her writing now.  We’ll see.

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