The Director and Don Juan by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
32721297The Director and Don Juan is the second of four books about the Philadelphia-based Story sisters who are all on the look-out for love.

Heiress Alice Story left her father’s company three years ago in a blaze of glory, inviting all of his employees to jump ship and join her, but only one accepted her offer: mail room clerk, Carlos Vega.

While Alice spent the next three years getting her own company off the ground, Carlos became her indispensable right-hand man — executive assistant and office manager, loyal counsel and trusted co-worker.

And all the while, they were quietly falling in love with each other.

When Alice is offered a lucrative business deal in Puerto Rico, island-born Carlos is the perfect person to accompany her on her trip as translator, but as they travel together from Philadelphia to Santo Domingo to Ponce, two unlikely co-workers will discover that during their three years working together, their feelings for each other have grown far deeper than they ever could have guessed.

And though business-minded, proper Alice will try her very best to ignore the longings of her heart, scorching hot, insanely sexy Boricua, Carlos, has no intention of letting her go.

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

I love it when you dive into a favourite author’s new book and she reminds you that YES you do love reading, and YES that last book just wasn’t right for you!  Because I can wholeheartedly say that I was sucked into Alice and Carlos’s story from the first page.  It’s funny how it’s hard to articulate what style of writing you love, but you just know it when you do…and Ms. Regnery’s writing is always just smooth like butter, I can just consume it and devour it and I’m captivated instantly.

One of the things she does so well is chemistry between characters.  And Alice and Carlos definitely had that going for them in spades.  It’s funny, b/c this one is a bit more of a slow burn romance, we don’t get to the steam until like 70% I believe.  But all that anticipation is pretty delicious in itself, and then once the romance delivers, it’s beautiful and tummy tingling!  I loved the way the romance between Alice and Carlos developed, from a deep abiding trust and respect, with a side of friendship, to acknowledging that more had developed, sometimes without them knowing.  And then just facing that moment where you couldn’t ignore it any longer, and it was time to go for what you wanted.  While there was a bit of angst and drama, it wasn’t drawn out for the sake of being drawn out, and it resolved as I would expect it would in real life.

I LOVED Carlos’s patience with Alice.  I loved that he knew not to push it too fast, but that he wouldn’t give up.  I loved his optimism in the face of potential obstacles.  I loved how clearly he cared about Alice and was thoughtful over her needs.  I loved that he was charming as can be, but not too much of a dog (though perhaps I would have liked a better resolution with Leticia and Lena).  I loved that he had a multi-faceted personality — alpha when he needed to be, but happily beta in other aspects of his life.  And I really felt like that juxtaposition was well placed, b/c Ms. Regnery was not afraid to address the gender roles and pressures that men face as well (and in this case, particularly in the latin community).  As a romance reader, we often see the struggles that women face in their professional lives (and I love that), but how often do we see a man deal with criticism for somewhat less ambition, or being happy serving a strong woman.  I don’t know if I’m making sense, but I just really loved that.

And on the other side of the coin, I loved Alice’s ambition, and her unwavering desire for both a career and a family.  She was such a strong heroine, and someone to be admired.  But I also loved that she needed someone like Carlos to take the reins in their intimate settings, so she could just feel and experience.  They were such a great match.  I kind of appreciated that she was a bit awkward socially, b/c she had spent so much time trying to live up to her father’s impossible expectations, and focused on her professional pursuits, that she had let some of her personal relationships slide (like with her sister’s).

And that is the crux of why I love Ms. Regnery’s Blueberry Lane series.  EVERY SINGLE ONE has a completely different set of characters.  We get to see and fall in love with all types of people, and we get to learn of each of their struggles.  From the shy to the bold, from the family oriented to the career oriented.

Honestly my only problem with this novel is that it *felt* short.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it was because I was interrupted in the middle of my reading, and couldn’t get back to it for a whole day, and so I fell out of the pacing?  Or maybe b/c I wanted to see more at the end after they were together.  I LOVED the epilogue we got, but a part of me was curious to read the scenes with her sisters when she told them about her new relationship, or at the office once they were back, or again, what happened with Lena (is their relationship strained now?).  It just ended with me wanting a tiny bit more.  Hence my 4 stars instead of more.

So yeah.  It’s so nice to read a book and get what you’ve been missing.  It feeds my reading soul or something.  Can’t wait to see what happens with Elizabeth and Jane.

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Stay by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Blurb:
34080660Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never even met?

Hailey Taylor Emery has a hunch that her favorite client at Fetch–an anonymous virtual assistant service–is actually hockey star Matt Eriksson.

Although it’s against the rules for her to check his file, she’s 95% sure she spends at least part of each day texting with her lifelong crush and catering to his every need. Still nursing a wounded heart thanks to her recent breakup, Hailey is perfectly content with some harmless online flirting…until she has to meet her client. Face to face. Cue: utter panic.

Matt Eriksson is no stranger to heartbreak. He’s still not over the destruction of his marriage, and it sucks to be the only guy on the team who knows the truth–that hockey and long-term relationships are a toxic mix. He barely sees his kids, and dealing with his ex makes him feel insane. The only person in his life who seems to understand is someone who won’t show her pretty face.

But it’s nothing that a pair of fourth row hockey seats can’t fix. Hailey can’t resist the offer. Matt can’t resist Hailey. Good thing he doesn’t have to. Fire up the kiss cam!

Warning: Contains rabid hockey fans, misunderstood dick pics, hockey players at the opera and exploding ovaries.

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

Oh you guys! Matt and Hailey were my kind of characters.  They were both dealing with something, be it insecurities or other damage, but they were also full of sass and it made for such a fun courtship to follow!!  I totally fell in love with them both, and with them together.

Hailey was my kind of girl, just the kind of female character that I gravitate towards time and time again.  I loved that while she was a bit worse for wear following her divorce, it wasn’t horribly damaging.  She just lost her hutzpah, you know?  She was thrown for a loop, and was taking a while to figure out how to get back to *her*.  But I loved that her relationship with her ex wasn’t toxic.  In fact, this book was interesting in that it showed two completely different relationships that declined, in different ways.  And that it can be hard no matter what.  I always appreciate when we don’t always hate an ex, you know?  As a reader I mean.  It’s refreshing.  And Hailey was just sweet, and sassy, and so smart and driven!  I loved that about her.  And I loved that she didn’t put up with too much crap.  She picked her battles, and with some encouragement from friends, she pushed back when she needed to.  I was totally rooting for her.

Matt was adorable to the extreme.  My heart hurt for how damaged he was following his divorce…he definitely had a toxic relationship with his ex.  It made him unsure of himself, and it was nice to see an alpha male suffer from his own insecurities too.  I was so mad at Kara, and yet Ms. Bowen and Ms. Kennedy made just the right moves to resolve that in a way that felt real.  I love that.  No black and white evil characters (well, except maybe Mr. Emery), but *flawed* characters.  And I loved seeing Matt finally get a hint and stand up.  WOOHOO!!!!  So much cheering.  And on the other side, he was sweet, sensitive, patient and caring, a fantastic father, and his dirty talk was spot on!  😛

And with two fabulous characters, we get a fabulous romance/relationship.  I didn’t even mind all the uncertainty about what kind of relationship they had, b/c it made sense for their characters.  And the two of them together just made me laugh, right from the first date.  I really felt like they matched up perfectly.

And you know what else I loved??  The tiny side plots!!  MrEightInches!!  BWAHAHAHA…  And seeing all the characters we’ve fallen in love with!!  And the extra development of the WAGs!!  I love those girls!!  And Jenny was a fantastic friend!  And I’m even intrigued about OC, which part of me expected, b/c these authors know how to make you love even the most awful characters.  But I didn’t expect to be clamouring for his book!  And even the girls were cute and not annoying (which is a bonus for me)!

So yeah, not only did we get a fabulous romance, we got just a great all around, FULL story.  Can’t wait for more in this series (because there has to be more!).

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Paper Cranes by Jordan Ford

Blurb:
35151232Tristan Parker is lost.
After living through his parent’s bitter divorce, Tristan surprises everyone when he decides to uproot his life and move across the country with his dad. Disenchanted, Tristan deals with his pain by shutting out the world… until one day, when trying to retrieve a lost baseball, he climbs a tower and meets a girl.

Helena Thompson is like no one Tristan has ever encountered. She’s quirky, weird, and lives in an imaginary world—her only way of coping with the bizarre life her paranoid mother forces her to lead. Drawn by Helena’s magical view on life, Tristan finds himself returning often to the unique girl with the long golden hair. But spending time with her is not an easy task, especially because their relationship must be kept a secret.

When Helena’s mother discovers the truth, can Tristan find the strength to fight for the girl who has awakened his heart? Or will the paranoid woman who keeps her daughter under lock and key stop their dreams from coming true?

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

So, as with all my reads this week, I was very distracted while reading this book, and had a hard time getting sucked in.  But somewhere after the halfway point, this book took hold of my heart and didn’t let me go, making me stay up until 4:30 am to finish it.  To say this book finished in an amazing fashion is a bit of an understatement.  I arrived at the end with tears on my cheeks and my heart full to bursting.  I can’t even begin to describe how happy this book made me.

So I’ll start at the beginning and say that Tristan’s character threw me off at first.  I’m not sure why exactly, but his voice was completely unlike what I had been expecting.  He felt a bit younger maybe.  But honestly, I’d just finished a run of adult books, so it could have been the juxtaposition, you know what I mean?  He was also less stereotypical guy-y than what I was used to, and what I was assuming I would get.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about him initially, but as the book went on, these unique traits made me fall in love with him.  He had such a sweetness to him, a sensitive side that I wasn’t expecting.  I really appreciated that he didn’t fit into any boxes.  He could occasionally be very stereotypically teenager-y, a bit whiny at times, a bit overdramatic at others, definitely moody.  But while those traits are hard to read sometimes, I appreciate that it made him more real you know?  And you really felt his growth throughout the book as a result.

I was also completely surprised that this book was entirely from Tristan’s POV.  BUT I LOVED THAT.  I didn’t expect to, I’m a dual POV lover.  But it worked for this book.  Partly because Tristan had such a journey to go on, and I appreciated having a boy coming-of-age type novel.  I appreciated that we got the unexpected, a Rapunzel retelling that wasn’t about Rapunzel so much as her hero.  And I still felt like I knew Helena enough, just through Tristan’s eyes.  I understood her struggle.  I understood how she came to be the beautiful light that she was.  I understood why she made the choices she did.  I fell in love with her sweet soul and her innocence.  And my heart broke for her even if we didn’t get to see what she went through when they were separated…by that point I knew her well enough through Tristan’s eyes to understand what she would be going through.  I loved how well developed she was, that while she had such a beautiful outlook on life, it did not make her immune to the bad things.  She wasn’t perfect.

While this book is a beautiful sweet YA love story, Ms. Ford also delved into some pretty deep topics that really got me thinking.  I thought her portrayal of the impact a divorce and cheating parent can have on a child to be spectacular, especially in the beginning.  I felt for Tristan, and the choices he had to make, the feelings that he couldn’t help, and how that was tearing him apart.  I will admit that I wish we had a bit more resolution with his mother, but I loved the development in his relationship with his father.

And I ADORED the spin she took on Helena’s mother’s character.  It made the situation so believable, and so UNBELIEVABLY heartbreaking.  It wasn’t black and white, and there were no easy answers.  There were only long, HARD solutions.

I know I said above that this was a sweet YA love story, but I really only meant the love part.  This book is full of so many emotions and angst.  I can’t even tell you how many times I cried.  Be prepared.  There were moments where the drama and romance felt a bit over the top, but I honestly didn’t care.  I was all in.

As a side note, I adored what Miss Warren and Mikayla added to the storyline.  I appreciated that Tristan had them in his life, and I loved how they added to his development.

So yeah.  I may have started my reading experience a bit shakier, but by the time I was finished I felt like my heart had been through the wringer, broken and put back together.  I loved it.  End of story.

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I Knew You Were Trouble by Lauren Layne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Royal Treatment by Parker Swift

Blurb:
34323416All this duke needs is his duchess…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Nanny Arrangement by Rachel Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All the Stars Left Behind by Ashley Graham

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

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

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

She just doesn’t know it yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Perfectly Oblivious by Robin Daniels

Blurb:
35276925Cameron Bates (Cam) could have almost any girl at Franklin High School…except for the one he wants. Unfortunately Bebe seems to be immune to his flirty charm and good looks, which means one of two things: a) she’s completely oblivious to how he feels, or b) she’s just not into him. If that’s the case, declaring his love would be disastrous for their friendship.

Bianca Barnes (Bebe) has a huge problem: the universe hates her. Every time she admits feelings for a boy, he ends up falling for her sweet, popular, and beautiful sister Beth. To avoid a broken heart, Bebe has sworn herself to secrecy. Nobody can know how she feels about Cam…Ever!

Neither person wants to confess their feelings, but the universe has its own plan. Out of the blue, Bebe is courted by a secret admirer. Cam has to step up his game and Bebe has to make a choice. Play it safe and accept the affections of her mystery man or challenge fate and take a chance on the boy she loves.

Content Description: This is a stand-alone YA contemporary romance with companion novels to follow. It contains minor language, innuendo, crude humor and steamy tension but is generally very clean. No sex. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

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

This was a wonderful debut, and a super cute YA.  Honestly, if it hadn’t been for my personal tastes, I would have rated this book higher.  As you can tell from the blurb, the entire premise of this book is based on not communicating…it’s what drives the plot.  Cam is afraid to tell Bianca about his feelings for fear of losing the friendship and being rejected, and Bianca refuses to tell ANYONE about her feelings for Cam b/c of what boils down to self-esteem issues.  Both are super valid feelings for teenagers, and it definitely felt realistic.  But I still have a hard time reading it personally, b/c it can result in a really frustrating book.  As far as books with “near misses” go, this one wasn’t horrible for me.  I think I was OK with it up to about 70%, and then I started to get tired and want more.  What it can provide is some great tension between the characters, and I thought that Cam and Bebe had that.  But if I’m (personally) not given enough growth and development of the characters, then I tend to be left with more frustration than I can handle.  I need something to balance it out, you know?

Now, with all that being said, I was honestly sucked in and hooked for a good portion of the book.  I’m not sure if it was great characters, or just me loving the double unrequited love trope (where they both secretly love each other, but assume the other doesn’t feel the same), but I was invested in seeing how their story would unfold.  I found both characters to be equally ADORABLE, CUTE, QUIRKY on one hand, and FRUSTRATING as all get out on the other.  You have no idea how many times I huffed in annoyance when something would get in the way and delay my gratification.  I know a lot of readers enjoy that, so I know not everyone will feel the same as me.

Bianca had a lot of traits that draw me to a heroine…I find it so easy to empathize with heroines that have self-esteem issues, and don’t see their own worth.  What I enjoyed about her is that it wasn’t all that she was about.  I LOVED how strong and confident she was in her basketball skills, and how sassy she could be with Cam and the other people she hangs out with.  I thought the relationship with her sister, Beth, really added to Bianca’s depth…her feeling conflicted b/c Beth was her best friend, but also the source of her feelings of inferiority in some ways.

Cam could be soooooo freaking cute, and I ADORED what he did to show Bianca his feelings.  Seriously, he gave me total tummy tingles, and I just wanted to hug him so many times!!  I loved seeing what he would do next.  And the pickup basketball game scene??  SWOON!!  BUT.  But.  Sometimes when he was going overboard with his jealousy, I was a bit disappointed in him.  I had to keep reminding myself he was a 16 year old boy…  So he didn’t quite get put in my top book boyfriend lists, but he still made me smile.

There were some great secondary characters as well.  I loved that there weren’t any stereotypical bad characters either, you could see hints of depth in a few of them (I’m intrigued by Michael, and even Angelica surprised me).  So many times authors will cop out and make characters overly evil, so it was refreshing that Ms. Daniels did not go there in this novel.  And of course Brady and Beth were fantastic additions.  It would have been so easy to make both of those characters too good to be true, you know?  But they weren’t.  They had depth as well, they made mistakes (particularly Beth), and they both won me over.  I loved how each of their little stories played out.  Honestly the only characters I could have stood to see more of were parents…they were noticeably absent (both BeBe’s and Cam’s).

All in all a solid debut.  If it hadn’t been for my personal aversion to lack of communication, it would have been an even bigger hit with me.  Will definitely look forward to seeing more from this author.

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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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Stage Kissed by Cassie Mae & Kelley Lynn

Blurb:
35223581Sixteen-year-old Kate knows how to juggle. From basketball practices to her shifts at Jamba Juice, Kate flies through her days wondering if she got a decent meal. When she lands a role in the school play, adding yet another task to her already full schedule, Kate starts fumbling through her routine, resorting to desperate measures to get the grades expected of her.

Co-worker and classmate Seth isn’t much of a juggler. Crowds and attention? Not his thing. So witnessing Kate’s ability to handle it all leaves Seth in awe. He could never do it. But then one of the leading actors in the play gets tonsillitis days before opening night, and Kate volunteers Seth to replace him. With his eidetic memory and killer dance moves, Seth’s the obvious choice—if it weren’t for his social anxiety.

With Seth’s growing—and unwanted—popularity and Kate spreading herself too thin, they start to wonder if their friendship will even last through the performances. But putting these two into a romance on stage has an effect neither of them could predict.

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My Review:
4 stars — Technically I did receive an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review/opinion, but yet again I was behind so I only read half of the ARC and then switched over to my preordered copy when it showed up on my Kindle.

You guys, this book was just all sorts of young adult goodness.  It contained two very *real* characters dealing with teen problems that really do NOT get addressed that much in young adult books — how to deal with being so busy!!!  Honestly, I don’t know how Seth and Kate did it.  I still don’t, even after finishing the book.  But I guess that’s the point, they *didn’t* deal with it that well.  But seriously folks, when was the last time you read a book that dealt with a seriously relevant and not over the top topic?  I LOVE it!  It was so frustrating to read about too, b/c you just want to shout “SAY NO!” but at the same time both authors made me believe in how hard it was for both Seth and Kate (mostly Kate).

One of the other aspects that I adored about this book is that both main characters were extremely likable but very different.  Kate fascinated me.  She was uber popular because she was super nice and friendly to EVERYONE, but at the same time she avoided deep friendships.  And in some ways, her “niceness” became a bit of her downfall.  Honestly it’s been a long time since I’ve adored a character while simultaneously being ridiculously frustrated with the same character.  She made me want to bang my head on a wall, but I could also honestly see how things in her life spiraled so out of control.  My heart broke for her every time her life got overwhelming and she couldn’t see a way out.  I have no doubt that there are many teenagers who can relate (heck many adults can relate).  And while I hated that she made some of the choices that she did, I kind of got it.  A part of me wanted her to learn and grow faster than she was.  I missed some of that internal enlightenment I think.  I got some of it, but I wanted a bit more from her.  But she made me cry TWO SEPARATE TIMES in this book, she made me feel just so much.

And then there’s sweet Seth.  How can I not love a shorter, shy cutie??  I mean, seriously.  Seth was such an interesting counterpart to Kate, and yet I could see what drew them to each other.  And again, he was such a great guy!!  Not without his own flaws, though he frustrated me a lot less than Kate.  Honestly, the book felt a little less balanced b/c he didn’t seem to have quite the same struggles.  I know he had the social anxiety and shyness to overcome, but I felt like his development got a bit lost in favour of the struggles Kate was going through.  So again, I wanted just a bit more depth from him.  But despite that, I still loved him.  I loved how he took care of Shelby and helped out his family, and how completely oblivious he was to his own attractiveness (both physical and personality-wise).  I loved how he cared for Kate and really paid attention to her and noticed her struggling and tried to be there for her, pushing past her natural barriers.  And it was awesome to see him embrace the role of Will!!  And OMG his kiss made me swoon!!

So yeah, this book is great to put a smile on your face.  I think I wasn’t quite in the mood for a YA book right now, b/c you kind of have to be in the right frame of mind to read about teenagers being typical teenagers.  But it made me smile giddily, giggle, and of course cry big tears, so it was definitely a success.  🙂

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