Good Boy by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Blurb:
30747137Hosting her brother’s wedding for an MVP guest list is the challenge of Jess Canning’s life. Already the family screw-up, she can’t afford to fail. And nobody (nobody!) can learn of the colossal mistake she made with the best man during a weak moment last spring. It was wrong, and there will not be a repeat. Absolutely not. Even if he is the sexiest thing on two legs.

Blake Riley sees the wedding as fate’s gift to him. Jess is the maid of honor and he’s the best man? Let the games begin. So what if he’s facing a little (fine, a lot) of resistance? He just needs to convince the stubborn blonde that he’s really a good boy with a bad rap. Luckily, every professional hockey player knows that you’ve got to make an effort if you want to score.

But Jess has more pressing issues to deal with than sexy-times with a giant man-child. Such as: Will the ceremony start on time, even though someone got grandma drunk? Does glitter ever belong at a wedding? And is it wrong to murder the best man?

Caution: May cause accidental aspiration of tea or coffee. Do not read in a public place where loud laughter is inappropriate. Contains hot but hilarious hockey players, puppy cuddling and a snarky pair of underwear.

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My Review:
4 stars — These books by Ms. Bowen and Ms. Kennedy are just endless boodles of entertainment.  And not just laugh out loud funnies, but heart too you know?  They always have an amazing balance.  And this book is non exception.

Blake is such a bizarre creature, I had no idea what I was going to find in this book.  He’s really…almost, eccentric?  He’s hilarious, but just so freaking weird too!!  He’s like this big teddy bear that you just want to hug, but that could also annoy the bejeezus out of you.  But I think the love always wins out in the end.  He was kind of a different book boy than I’m used to falling in love with, b/c he is just so…hard to define.  It’s not your normal kind of sexual intensity, you know?  Not like he’s not sexy, but he’s goofy sexy.  He’s make you laugh during the steamy moments sexy.  And that’s hella fun too.  And in spite of all his goofy qualities, he’s just such a great guy with a big heart.  I loved how sweet and considerate he was of all his friends and his family.  I loved that he really saw Jessie, and what she was going through, and always had the most thoughtful advice and observations and pick me ups waiting in his own unique Blake way.

Jessie took me a bit longer to warm up to.  It’s funny, b/c at the beginning I was worried I wasn’t going to love Jessie.  Because she really had a LOT of growing up to do, and the way she saw Blake and the way she almost…lashed out? at him because of her own insecurities hurt my heart.  I felt so protective of Blake, so I was quick to frowny face all over her actions.  But of course Ms. Bowen and Ms. Kennedy would not stand for that!  Nope, they had to make her learn and grow and change.  It’s almost like they’re good character writers or something, right?  So Jessie definitely grew on me.  I started to feel for her and the pressures she was feeling, even if I wanted to smack her for her insecurities, I still GOT it.  Sort of.  Mostly.  And I LOVED seeing her come into her own, and really start to understand her value.  It might have been nice if she could have gotten there a bit more on her own, without Blake, but I’m not going to complain too much.

I loved how well they complemented each other too.  How they both contributed to the others growth and healing.  How Blake showed her a different side of herself, and how Jessie stood up for him and took care of him.

And obviously the secondary characters were pretty sweet.  They didn’t necessarily have huge roles, but they played their parts.  From Mama Riley, to the WAGs, to Leila…actually, writing that out, my favourite secondary characters all played a role in Jessie’s growth.  But I guess Blake still had Wesmie and some of his other fellow hockey players.  I wouldn’t have minded a bit more on the support front.

Anyways, thoroughly entertained.  Can’t wait to dive into more of these Toronto hockey players stories!!

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Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino

Blurb:
13561898Brad is great at meeting other people’s expectations. But his own? Not so much. Take the gay thing. Okay, so yeah. It took a morning meeting with a frat brother’s hairy, naked ass for him to admit it, but he knows the truth about himself now. Let the gay life commence.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. He hasn’t quite determined how to come out to anyone, even Sebastian, the geeky-hot TA in his history class. Sebastian is everything Brad is not. Intellectual, suave, hairy. Out. And he doesn’t seem interested in Brad, even when Brad makes a fool of himself trying to catch his notice.

Score one for foolery: Sebastian does more than notice Brad; he takes him to bed. Brad’s been with plenty of girls, but with Sebastian, the sex is something else entirely—hot, mind-blowing, affirming, and a little domineering in a way that drives him wild. But when great sex turns into something more—dare he admit the “L” word?—Brad must face the crushing realization that Sebastian doesn’t feel the same. Unless, of course, he does. After all, even grad students can be idiots about matters of the heart.

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My Review:
ORIGINAL REVIEW: 4 stars — Was better than I was expecting…not saying I was expecting it to be bad, but it was like deeper than I expected. Now I sound like a valley girl. *sigh* Basically I wasn’t expecting much for story, but there was a romance flavour to it all. And I LOVED Brad. He was a really interesting male hero — so many contradictions to him. Loved his story, loved his passions, loved his approach to this new insight into his life. Sebastian was a great complement for Brad too — though I would maybe like to have learned a bit more about him. We got hints here and there, but not enough I guess. The frat boy friends amused me, especially Kyle…

ON REREAD: 4 stars — It’s been a while since I read this one, but it looks like I concur with my past self.  Brad was the real winner of this story for me, we saw so much more development in his character.  I loved learning about how his experiences as a teenager sort of forced him back into the closet, and it broke my heart b/c it left him so confused and unsatisfied with life.  I love how he was never truly ashamed of being gay once he figured it out, it was more that he thought he wasn’t supposed to be.  And once he figured it out, he accepted it pretty quickly, and was only really mitigating the fall out from there on out.  He was kind of a sweetheart, and I loved that he was so different from what people expected, when you really got to see the real him.  I felt sad that people had pigeon-holed him, and made him feel as though who he really was wasn’t ok somehow.  It was so satisfying when he started going for what he wanted, and learning about love and pleasure for the first time.  I loved that he owned up to his bad choices in the past, and felt bad for not realizing how he was hurting girls along the way.  I LOVED that his family was so supportive and a non-issue.  I LOVED that his best friend was freaking hilarious and shocked, but then all in ready to fight for him.  I appreciated him having someone like that in his corner.

Sebastian had growth too, but I can’t say I fell as in love with him.  We just didn’t get to see inside him enough, except near the end when he has his epiphany.

I love that the author challenged the expected roles in our lovers, having Sebastian top and Brad bottom.  And I will say the steamy sections were definitely hot!  But there was definitely more story, and more romance than I had remembered.

All in all, a solid M/M.  Maybe a 3.5 star instead of full 4, but I enjoyed myself, so I’ll go all in, what the heck, why not…

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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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Bulletproof by Melissa Pearl

Blurb:
23846788Morgan Pritchett doesn’t need anyone. Strong-willed and confident, she’s the master of organizing and looking after everyone around her. In her mind, she’s bulletproof.

But she has one weakness – men. She can’t seem to live without them, yet is unable to find her perfect match. After yet another break up, Morgan promises her sister and best friend that she’ll write off men for the rest of the year…but then she meets Sean Jaxon.

Sean Jaxon has worked hard to become a Hollywood actor, scoring minor roles and slowly making a name for himself as an action sidekick. After a chance encounter with the stunning Morgan Pritchett, he decides to take a risk and put his dancing skills to the test by signing on for the lead role in Superstar, a TV musical. He never thought he’d reconnect with the girl who urged him to ignore his manager and be honest with himself, but when Morgan shows up on the set as a production assistant, he realizes he’s found his ultimate weakness – her.

Their passion for dance and music will bring them together, but will their relationship be able to withstand the forces determined to pull them apart? As Morgan comes face-to-face with her long-buried demons and Sean decides just how much he’s willing to risk for love, these two songbirds discover something…they’re not as bulletproof as they thought.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — OMG, I was sucked into this one right from the start.  I had just finished trying to read a different book and was super frustrated and cranky, so even though it was after midnight I knew I needed a different taste in my mouth in order to fall asleep, so I started Bulletproof.  MISTAKE!  Then began an endless stream of “just one more chapter, just one more chapter.”  GAH!  And while my tired eyes failed me and I only got a few hours in, I gobbled the rest of the book up the next day.

Morgan intrigued the heck out of me in Fever.  She was this strong, forthright girl who seemed very confident in everything she did.  And she honestly was everything I thought she was, but she was also more.  She is honestly one of the most unique heroines I’ve read.  She was vulnerable in a way I don’t think I read about a lot.  We really get a great glimpse into what has made her into the girl she is today, someone who honestly feels as though they have to be “bulletproof”, has to contain their emotions, and who went from having responsibility thrust upon them too young to not being able to function without taking charge.  She was so conflicted within herself, so damaged, but so determined that that was her lot in life.  I also enjoyed that she was a very sexual girl who truly enjoyed sex, but also used it as a means of feeling self-worth.  Because I honestly think that a girl can be both of those things; so often we see the damage, and it makes it seem as though a girl can’t enjoy sex.  I wish she’d had a smoother road on that one, but then it wouldn’t be Morgan you know?  She really had a crazy journey to go on, and my heart ached for her.  She made some very poor choices in this book at times, but that just made her more real I guess.  I think her one choice near the end would have turned me off in any other book, but for some reason I was ok with how Morgan got to that point.  It fit her character, as much as it pains me to say that.  She was flawed.  And maybe she needed to hit that point in order to wake up and confront her demons.

Wow, sorry, that got long.  All that to say, while I really am nothing like Morgan, I really loved her in the end, despite all her flaws.  And as a fellow tall girl, I LOVED having a tall girl as a heroine.  We have our own unique challenges, and I loved that she wasn’t self-conscious about it.  I also loved that she was a dancer, and a great one, because so often dancers are always petite.  Nicely done Ms. Pearl.

And then we get to Sean.  Damn, but he had his own flaws too.  I feel like again, as in Fever, I felt more for the heroine’s journey than the hero’s.  He did have his own journey to go on, but I felt like we didn’t get to dive quite as deep with him.  I loved that we got to see him struggle with his poor upbringing, and that he was easily swayed and influenced about his own worth in the industry.  It shows that while he may look confident to the outside world, he is struggling to believe in himself as well.  He disappointed me as well, but like with Morgan, I kind of understood why he made certain poor choices.  He had his own journey to go on, to grow and come into his own.

And I ADORED their courtship.  I loved that circumstances meant they actually were forced to go slow and get to know each other.  I LOVED how nervous Sean was, but how instantly drawn to Morgan he was.  And holy cow, their chemistry!!  Seriously, reading about them dancing was just hot (even if I couldn’t always picture the moves that were described)!  But yeah, you could really feel what drew them together, and while there was a strong physical attraction component, I felt their connection in other ways too.

I can’t decide how I feel about Rhonda and Travis.  It’s not that I don’t honestly believe there are people out there like that, but occasionally they felt a little over the top.  I believed Rhonda a bit more, but with Travis, I couldn’t help but wonder why no one else wanted to intervene.

I LOVED seeing Ella and Cole happy together.  I’m very intrigued about Jody’s story, and I appreciated how Morgan had to deal with stepping back from her usual Mother role as well.  And I LOVED Isabella, for both Sean and Morgan!!  I also loved the advice that Morgan got from Grandma Deb, and Sean got from his Mom.

So yeah.  Definitely a hit.  This book may have had its moments that broke my heart, made me cringe for the characters, but I think that made the end of the journey that much more satisfying!

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Fever by Melissa Pearl

Blurb:
22545700Singing in the shower takes on a whole new meaning in Melissa Pearl’s first New Adult Contemporary Romance.

Ella Simmons does not want to move across the country. But she is, because her boyfriend has persuaded her to join him at UChicago to finish out her college education. Never able to tell him no, she hops on a plane and makes the trek from LA expecting to adjust to life like she’s often forced to, but things are not that simple when she hears a luscious voice singing over her shower wall. His deep, sexy tenor makes her weak in the knees, spreading fire through her limbs and making her question everything about her life and relationship.

Can one voice really have that much of an impact?

Cole Reynolds is on his way out. In his final year at UChicago, the only thing he wants to do is finish school and get on with his life. But the sweet voice that interrupts his morning shower turns his world upside down. Compelled to find his shower songbird, he begins a search across campus. The only thing to distract him from this goal is his roommate’s gorgeous girlfriend who’s just arrived from LA – Ella Simmons.

Relationships are put to the ultimate test as future dreams are questioned and friendships are thrown on the line for love.

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My Review:
ORIGINAL REVIEW: 4.5 stars — OK, that was just about perfect. It’s hard to watch a meek character like Ella take so much time developing her backbone, but it does feel fantastic when she finally starts making the right decisions…..

You’d think that this would be a love triangle book….but it really wasn’t. It was more like a book about Ella finally figuring out who she was and who she wanted to be. I can’t imagine the devastation of the losses she suffered, so I could totally believe her desperate desire for safety and consistency. And this was the book where she finally realized she could let that go, and that sometimes safety can break your heart too.

I will admit, I didn’t really like David….but at the same time, I really hated that Ella couldn’t see what she was doing to him by trying to *not* hurt him. I thought their relationship was actually dealt with quite well….like a real relationship, and how things can change and grow and sometimes not change and grow together. I felt for David, and I was glad that he set her straight on some things in the end, and made her open her eyes.

OK, on to the good stuff. Ella and Cole together. Yeah, that was awesome. When Ella was with Cole (and not silently berating herself), she was really adorable and fun and I could totally see what drew them to each other (other than just lust). They had that connection from the start, and I believed it. And holy cow did they have chemistry. I was right there with Morgan and Jody at the swing dance….jaw dropping awesomeness. Even though the story was told from both POVs, I kind of felt it was more Ella’s story than Cole’s. He had some issues to work through, but I saw more growth from Ella all in all.

I loved EVERY SINGLE singing shower scene. It was filled with so much emotions but so much lightness at the same time. And that ending pretty much hit it out of the park. Can’t wait to read the epilogue when it’s posted, b/c this couple just sticks with you.

ON REREAD: 4 stars — Honestly, I pretty much agree with everything I said up there, some things just bothered me a bit more than the last time.  I guess we just change as readers you know?  It is a bit slower to start, I think I forgot that.  But once we get into it and start to see those changes in Ella, I started becoming really invested in the story.  And Cole and Ella just have so much chemistry.

Honestly, my slight change in rating is really just about a few little things.  I just had a harder time coping with Ella’s choices wrt David.  She frustrated me just a bit more than last time.  Though I would liken her to Pam in the Office (US), and that somehow made me accept her a bit more.  Sometimes people just become complacent and stick with what they know, resisting the scariness of change.  I’m also less keen on reading about Ella being *with* David, b/c it makes my romantic heart cringe.  And I didn’t always understand the friendship between Cole and David…you really didn’t get to see much of it, so I don’t understand what drew them together.  But it could be a case of Cole was David’s best friend, but not vice versa.  That might make more sense, b/c I really don’t think David understands relationships of any kind.

Despite all that, the slow burn, the angst, the feels, and the chemistry between Cole and Ella was just…GAH!  So worth it.  And I LOVED Ella’s friendships with Morgan and Jody.  I can’t wait to finally read their stories.

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Kidnapped Idol by Jennie Bennett

Blurb:
34577754A Stand-alone Novel in the BESTSELLING K-Pop Romance Series.

Woon is abducted by a Chinese entertainment agency and forced into a life of pop-star slavery. Jenica is visiting China to study abroad. When the pair meet by chance Jenica must save Woon, but at what cost?

 

 

 

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My Review:
4 stars — OK, this book was just fun.  I went into it fully understanding that this was kind of a k-drama fan fiction type shorter novel, and while I don’t watch k-dramas or listen to k-pop, I feel like I had the right expectations.  It’s kind of like a less salacious soap opera.  And this book delivered for me.  Was it over the top in places?  Oh heck yes!  Did I care?  Nope!  Not one bit.

The other thing I kept in mind while reading this was that it was a shorter novel, so I was more tolerant of the quick move from crush to love.  If you can’t check your realism at the door, this might not be the book for you.  It kind of reminded me of my days of reading Harlequins…without any of the sexy times (seriously, this is a VERY CLEAN read).  But it satisfied my need for a sweet romance you can root for, you know?

And I LOVE me a celebrity romance!!  Especially when they meet up with a regular girl and feel that connection!  I might have wanted a bit more connection at times, but there was enough to keep me happy.  The other thing I kind wanted a bit more of was from Jenica — why was she so insecure and down on herself?  I needed a bit more background on her I think.

Honestly though, it was just kind of fun to be in a world where stars are kidnapped by evil corporate big wigs, and there is chases, and hostages, and possible corruption.  And cute pop stars who just want to be loved for who they are.

AND it totally fulfilled my diversity requirement!  I felt like I got to see a bit of what life was like for both Jenica and Woon, and it was fun to have it set in Beijing.

So yeah.  I totally enjoyed myself.  It was like a fun sugar-filled candy.  Sometimes you just need a treat of uncomplicated fun.

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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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Never Let You Go by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
25653505Regret, betrayal, kidnapping, loss, madness, abuse, passion, love.

In this modern retelling of Hansel and Gretel, thirteen-year-old foster children Griselda and Holden escape from their abductor after three years of brutal captivity, and try to cross the Shenandoah River on foot. Tragically, one of them makes it to safety, but the other is left behind.

Ten years later, Griselda’s boyfriend drags her to a fight club grudge match, and her world is turned upside down when she watches Holden step into the ring.

Though the connection between them is fierce, bitter regret, simmering rage, and a tangle of physical and emotional scars lie between them, just as dangerous as the white water of the Shenandoah.

Never Let You Go is a story of fear and hope, defeat and survival, and two people–once profoundly broken–who discover that love is the only thing that can make them whole again.

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This is a standalone novel inspired by Hansel and Gretel.

New Adult Contemporary Romance: Due to profanity, scenes of physical abuse and very strong sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18. (Note: Children are not sexually abused in this book.)

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My Review:
4.5 stars — OK, I adore this author, so much so that I flew across the country to meet her this past weekend at an author signing, hence why I was trying to read her books beforehand.  But as yet that love had only been concentrated on her Blueberry Lane series.  I hadn’t been enthralled by the previous two Modern Fairytale stories I’d read of hers, despite the rave reviews — which bummed me out big time.  But in all honesty, when I initially bought these ebooks a few years ago, this is the story that grabbed my attention the most.  I’m not sure if it’s the tragedy of it all, the horror of a kidnapping, or just the uniqueness of doing a spin on the Hansel and Gretel fairytale (which you have to admit, does NOT get retold very often), but I was drawn to this story.  So to say that I was relieved that I fell in love with it is kind of an understatement.  I know it’s probably silly to put so much thought and angst into loving every story by an author, b/c even with my all time favourite authors I haven’t loved EVERY story, but I really loved the concept of contemporary fairytale retellings, so I *WANTED* to love these stories.  AND FINALLY I found my match!!

So after that long winded introduction, what did I fall in love with?  Oh it’s all Holden and Griselda.  From the many flashbacks, both good memories and nightmares, to the truly long and arduous journey to their HEA.  I’m not a huge fan of HIGH angst, and I wouldn’t say this is HIGH, but it is higher…  But there was just something about their obvious connection and love for each other that kept drawing me back in over and over again, cringing every time they hit a setback, and praying that their HEA was just around the corner.

I even understood all of their emotional turmoil, like Gris’s inability to trust the people she loves not to leave her, and her attempts to isolate herself.  And Holden sort of isolated himself as well, but in a bit of a different way.  In all honesty, they both behaved badly at times to those around them, but I forgave them for it because of all they went through.  And they both grew and changed and made really good choices in the end.

And come on, Holden was extremely swoonworthy.  I can’t even tell you how many times he made me rip my heart out and offer it to him on a silver platter.  He was that intriguing mix of sexy aggressive protective boy with this wounded puppy who just wants to be loved, his devotion to Gris was just unmatched.  And I felt like his stammer added something to his character and their experiences.

I loved the emotions that this book wrung out of me.  The desperation, the grief, the despair, the way they would latch on to each other.  OMG, I was just totally all in.  And I loved that we got periods of bliss throughout, so that it wasn’t all hardship over and over again.  We really got to see their relationship change and grow depending on what was going on in their lives.  I even loved the few sideplot loose ends that got tied up, that was an unexpected bonus.

So yeah, not my best review…that’s what happens when I read a book on holidays.  Not only do I have less time to read, so it takes me a few days to get through a book, but then I also find it hard to pin down my thoughts to more specifics, instead of just “I LOVED IT!”  I did find that the book dragged in places, but because of not being able to devote time to the book, I wasn’t sure if that was actually the case or more the circumstances of my reading.  Ah well, you get what you get and you don’t get upset.  H+G Forever baby.

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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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