Lucid (Brightest Kind of Darkness #2) by P.T. Michelle


51nxggdxa4l-_sy346_Blurb: 
 Once Nara combines her prophetic ability with Ethan’s power to outsmart Fate at his own deadly cat-and-mouse game, she’s more determined than ever to help Ethan learn the meaning behind the raven sword tattoo that suddenly appeared on his back after their confrontation with Fate.

During her quest to uncover the tattoo’s secrets, Nara enlists the help of some new friends and discovers her own surprising connection to Ethan.

While Nara digs deeper into the mystery, her desire for answers leads her down a dangerous path full of powerful and ruthless enemies. Swept into an age-old battle, Nara quickly learns that keeping one’s enemies close can be a necessary evil, making an intangible enemy she can control far more preferable to the human enemies she can’t.

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5 stars

This one is my favorite book in the series so far in my re-read.  I didn’t realize I’d forgotten so much.  The cover has been changed which is a shame because I really liked the original one better.

This is a great follow-up to the first one and not at all where you would expect the story to go.  I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve followed this series for so long.  I really liked how her powers evolve. In fact, her whole character evolves.  One of the things that stuck out for me in this YA is the fact the fact that her life didn’t become so entwined with the romance she had with Ethan to the exclusion of most else.  It was nice to see her deal with everything without him in the picture for most of the story.

Don’t get me wrong, he may be gone, but he certainly isn’t forgotten.  It was just nice to see it really focus on the main plot with very little romance.  Most paranormal’s that I read have a very strong romance sub-plot.  In exchange of that, we see the MC evolve and get a better sense of depth.  This story is very intense so it was easier to follow without the added romance and the added drama that it brings.

And her family is not one-dimensional in this.  Again, in the YA’s that I read, parents have very little presence in the story but in this one her bond with her family is strong and consistent throughout.  Not just her parents but her aunts too,  it brings another layer to her and the story.  I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

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Pillowtalk by Cassie Mae

33401722Blurb: Kennedy Walters has had a tough year. Now she’s come to the lakeside town of Lyra Valley to finally say goodbye to the memory of her first love. But while she’s staying at his sister’s B&B, Kennedy is shocked to find herself undeniably drawn to a handsome local heartthrob—especially since she isn’t  sure if she’s ready to move on.

Aaron Sheppard returned to Lyra Valley because he was fed up with the big city and everything it didn’t have to offer—like the beautiful, down-to-earth girl staying at the B&B. Aaron’s enjoying a little flirtation until he realizes that she’s Kennedy Walters, the girl who was dating his best friend. But after a power outage strands them together, Aaron and Kennedy wind up sharing some intimate conversation. And over the course of a night that neither will ever forget, they learn just how compatible they could be—if only they knew how to let go and fall into each other’s arms.

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5 stars

I’m running out of ways to say I love CM’s writing! It just doesn’t get old for me. Her stories have such originality and this one was no different. And the cover is lovely too.

She nailed both characters feelings of guilt and attraction.  The warring emotions took me on a roller coaster ride that I’m still feeling the high from. I loved how Kennedy stepped outside her comfort zone with Aaron. Especially when they didn’t have the answers to why they were feeling this way.  They accepted the not knowing and just went with it. They both had some defining moments that I can’t share because of spoilers but suffice it to say, it was beautiful.  Aaron seemed to really struggle with his worthiness of receiving love and happiness.  I identified with that so hard!  (Really who doesn’t at some point in their lives) But I kinda wanted to strangle him when he tried to ignore or suppress his feelings.

The whole story had an undercurrent of meant to be or an outside force in play.  And while I struggle with believing those kinds of situations happen, it was cute none the less. I loved how she ended the story.  The sex scenes were very juicy and I’d love to see more of that from CM. I think she could do well in this genre.

I received this e-book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest/unbiased opinion.

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Catch and Release by Laura Drewry

Blurb:

31572324The irresistible O’Donnell brothers return in a charming novel from the bestselling author of Off the Hook (“The perfect balance of sweet, sexy, and wonderfully romantic.”—Lauren Layne).

Hope Seaver is an up-and-coming TV producer tackling the hardest gig of her career: a reality show set at the Buoys, a scenic fishing destination owned by three handsome, stubborn brothers. Liam and Finn O’Donnell are willing to tolerate her crew for the sake of the business, but Ronan would rather chew off a limb than open up on camera. Somehow Hope has to convince him of her good intentions—and stop herself from swooning every time Ronan walks into the frame.

Ronan knows that he’s the reason his brothers gave up their old lives to run the Buoys, and he needs to make it worth their while. So if this out-of-towner with the kind eyes and dazzling smile wants to give them the free publicity they desperately need, Ronan can’t say no. He just won’t let himself get burned again by a double-dealing woman. But what if Hope’s good-girl routine isn’t an act? When Ronan lets his guard down long enough to catch a glimpse of the real Hope, he likes what he sees—enough to give love another shot.

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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 did not expect Ronan’s story to be my favourite.  And I’m still not entirely sure he does beat out Finn, but holy cow did he at least tie Finn.  I really couldn’t get a feel for Ronan at all, in the previous books, and so I guess I didn’t quite know what to expect.  Not only that, but you don’t meet the heroine until this book, so I was just coming in blind to this story.  And I ended up with the sweetest romance that just had me grinning all over the place.  And then, because that’s the way Ms. Drewry rolls, she had to get me crying at the end too.

Hope sold me on this story from the first line.  And it wasn’t just that it was because she was referencing a town in my home province of Saskatchewan, it was all her nervous fact-spouting.  She was just quirky and adorable, and I could really vibe with her.  I liked how she was an intriguing mix of shy and unsure at times, but bold and take charge/go after what she wants at others.  I know that sounds too contradictory, but it really worked for her.  It was like she wasn’t afraid to acknowledge what she wanted, and then pull on her big girl panties and give it a go.  And it made sense given her backstory.  And she maintained that inner conflict right to the end.  I wanted to stand up and cheer with how she dealt with Ronan at the end…Hope is my hero.

And Ronan.  Yes, Ronan was gruff and grumbly and a bit short-tempered, and inarticulate…but OMG, he was just so freaking adorable inside.  He made you want to hug him.  You could almost feel his confusion, and the inner conflict going on inside of him.  Each O’Donnell boy just surprises me with how much hurt they held inside, and I guess I just never really anticipated how hard it was for him as the eldest.  And I LOVED that he was the cook!!  I could just picture him in that apron, baking pies, and *drool*  And then there’s the addition of JD.  Could you get any cuter??

But it was how he felt about Hope that really sold him for me.  He was just as enthralled with her as she was with him, and watching them dance around each other, and blush and get flustered, and just GAH!  It’s everything I love about a sweet romance you know?  And it’s not that we don’t get some steamy stuff, but it actually takes them quite a while to get there, and you really feel the love that develops between them.  I think that moment on the boat fishing is what sold it for me.  Well, the whole fishing scene.  It really showcased who they each were, and how they would work together.

And it’s funny, I wasn’t getting too choked up with the backstories and was wondering if this would be less angsty (I do kind of wish that Hope’s backstory had gotten more time or something…it was heartbreaking, but it was told so quickly that it wasn’t as impactful).  So I’m going along, and then BAM!  Ms. Drewry hits you right between the eyes and I’m crying away (much to my husband’s dismay and worry).  So wait for it readers, it’s a doozy.  And I loved the way that twist hit.  I didn’t see it coming, and yet it was so necessary for the whole series.  And I loved the explanation.  It confirmed my suspicions, and was so real and accurate and heartbreaking.

So yeah, while this series may not have grabbed me from the first book, it really ended with a bang.  My only complaint is that the cover does not look like the Ronan in my head at all…too young or something.  😉

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Jordan Reclaimed by Scarlett Cole

Blurb:

31688253Jordan Steele’s life began when he was ten. When he was taken from his parents and a house that was never a home. When he met his brothers, the other lost and abandoned boys in his group home. When he learned what friendship and family and love looked like.

Now he’s made good, touring the world with the band he and his brothers formed in that crowded group home. No one but his found family really knows the man under the fame and fortune, the scars he hides behind the rockstar lifestyle. Until he sees her through the windows of the National Ballet, dancing, and suddenly the world doesn’t seem so dark.

Aleksandra Artemov ticks all the ballet boxes. Father a legendary Kirov dancer. Check. Prepping since birth for classical ballet. Check. Compulsive control over the food she eats. Check. Principal dancer at The National Ballet of Canada. Check. But what she craves is freedom.

She craves Jordan.

Everything about him should terrify her. His size, his tattoos, his edge. But he doesn’t. He stirs her very soul. Jordan has nothing but himself to offer her, and he’s never been good enough for anyone. Can he figure out how to face his own demons before he loses his light for good?

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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.

While you can totally read this without reading the Second Circle Tattoos series that this series spins off from, I will say that I regret not reading Dred’s book before starting on this one (I’ve read 1 and 4, but not 3).  Not that I won’t likely still go back and enjoy that book, but you do get little mini spoilers in this book.

This was so much more…heartbreaking and involved and sweet and uplifting than I was expecting.  I mean, yes and no.  It’s not that I don’t know that Ms. Cole can write stories with harrowing backstory.  But both Jordan and Lexie really got to me.

Since I hadn’t read Dred’s book, I didn’t quite know what to expect from Jordan, but his backstory is just gut wrenching.  And the ways he copes now, and how it has affected him…it just felt so real, and sucked me in and gave me all the feels.  He was an extremely interesting character.  Because he could be both sweet and innocent as well as dirty and even volatile.  He was kind of a conundrum.  Sometimes I wondered at the many aspects of him, but I can’t decide if it his growth was too much too soon, or just right.  Sometimes life gives you a trigger that your brain has been waiting for, that allows you to see more into yourself and finally get over your stumbling blocks.  And occasionally I wanted a deeper look into how it is affecting him now, but maybe the bits we got at different times were just right.  But anyways, regardless, I definitely wanted to hug the shit out of him.

And while Jordan’s story is perhaps a bit more heartbreaking, Lexie has her own horrible issues to deal with.  You feel it right from the start, and you just feel sick for her, and what she’s living with, and how it has affected her.  I was worried, at one point in the story, that her own struggles would be minimized, or not dealt with in the appropriate way and with sensitivity…but I should have trusted Ms. Cole.  And in the end, the way that all went really made sense for her and Jordan.  I kind of wished I’d been able to read more of how she was going to cope, but that’s probably just me being greedy.

I did absolutely adore the look into the ballet world, even if hers was a bit skewed by her father.  I’ve always admired the crap out of dancers, and my hubby and I have season tickets for our provincial ballet.  I have the grace of a bulldog, so it’s something I always envy…but I definitely don’t envy the toll it takes and the hours of hard work they put into their craft.

And their chemistry together was pretty fantastic.  It was a lot more blunt and straight talking than I was expecting at times, but it worked for them.  I loved seeing Jordan struggle with how to have a relationship, and how he second guessed everything he did.  Again, so sweet.  And then he’d say something dirty, and it just balanced.

AND I LOVED THE BITS OF CANADIANNESS!!  I mean, YES!!  I’ve never lived in Toronto, but I did recognize street names, and stupid little things like the No Frills grocery store, the Canadian Tire bag, and shopping at The Bay, and Karen Kain, and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (been there)!  It’s the little things that make this girl happy.  *high fives Preload for being Canadian*

And finally, there was the secondary cast.  While they weren’t there all the time, the scenes where they were just showed me the connection between the guys, and how they lean on each other in small ways.  And OMG, they brought such levity!  “She’s the phone!”  Just so much love.  Cannot WAIT to read more books of these boys.  Though I am scared, b/c if Lennon is more f’d up than Jordan, I just don’t know if I can handle his story.

Honestly, the only reason I’m rounding down instead of up is just a me thing…I’m still in that strange bubble where I’m not quite getting sucked into the books fully.  Were I in a different mood, I can totally see myself rounding up.  OHHH!!  And there were some areas where the POV changed without a break.  I’m not a fan.  Especially since it was pretty consistent throughout the rest of the book, so it was what I had come to expect.

If you’re a medium angst fan like me, who likes some heart wrenching, but not too much to be overwhelmed, then you need this series in your life.

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Off the Ice by Julie Cross

Blurb:

25538649The NY Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Whatever Life Throws at You kicks off a brand-new series perfect for fans of Miranda Kennealy and Abbi Glines.

Next season was supposed to be his year. Junior Tate Tanley had big plans to ride the varsity bench most of the season, but when the Otters star goalie storms out of the arena during the first home game of the season, Tate is in the spotlight and under the gun.

Enter Claire O’Connor, the girl Tate’s admired for years, his sister’s best friend. Claire’s back from a year away at school to take care of her father and help keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. One semester off, that’s what Claire promised herself.

And then straight back to school, out of Juniper Falls. And she has dozens of reasons for wanting to get the hell out. Again.

Last year, the night before Claire left, she came to Tate’s rescue and what could have been a secret that distanced them ended up drawing them closer the moment she returned to town. For Claire and Tate, leaning on each other feels as natural as breathing but with Claire trying her best to leave again and Tate more rooted to his town than ever, it seems like the worst time to fall in love. Assuming either of them can stop it from happening.

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

Wow, this book had so much depth and heart.  I think I get used to the Entangled Crush line of books, and I forgot this wasn’t one of those.  This book has two characters dealing with some pretty heavy stuff, and I really loved how the author took us through that and the reactions and actions all made sense to me.  It was just really well done.  It made me feel for both of them, and I was intrigued with how they were dealing with it and how their relationship with each other would either benefit or hinder them.  So it was kind of a coming of age story too…not super overt, but you do see these characters grow and come into their own more.

Before I go into more of what I enjoyed about each character, I will say that the ages in this book were kind of confusing.  At the very beginning Tate says that Claire is only a year older than him, but she’s his sister’s best friend, so I’m going to assume they are around the same age.  But for the majority of the book Tate is in his Junior year of high school, while his sister is in her first year of University.  So isn’t that like 2 years?  And so I never really understand Claire’s year at Northwestern.  Had she graduated high school a year early and gone to University?  Or was she at some special program that was neither high school nor University?  It’s not like it’s a big deal I guess, but it was just something that nagged at me throughout the book.

Claire’s situation was just freaking heartbreaking.  And the author did such a fantastic job of showing the many day to day struggles that a family would undertake in such a situation.  I could totally empathize with what Claire was going through, and how she was feeling about her future, and how torn she was.  Seriously, it was just so spot on.

And Tate gave me all the feels too!!  Seriously, I could totally understand how he was feeling, and why he dealt with things the way he did.  I couldn’t imagine what that must have been like, especially in that town.  And can I just say that he was seriously swoony?  Like kind of a beta boy…or if not beta, omega?  Is that a thing?  He was just so sweet and there was so much there there.

And Claire and Tate together definitely had interesting chemistry.  Normally there on again off again thing would have bothered me more, but it kind of fit for what they were both struggling through in their lives.  I was sometimes a bit disappointed in the time jumps though, b/c I kept wondering what happened in the interim: were they hanging out?  What was the development?

And all the side stuff!!  You guys!  Normally I don’t like a book to be too cluttered up, but it all just fit nicely for me!  I loved the stuff with Mike.  I loved the little bits we saw of Leo and Jamie.  I’m very excited to see if the next books in the series will be books about these other hockey boys.  I even enjoyed the way the Haley thing played out.  It was so much more real, and not over dramatic.  Where it could have devolved into familiar tropes, I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

And the PARENTS!!  I love it when parents play a role in YA stories.  And there are good role models!  I mean, yes, bad stuff too, but just some great stuff there!  Especially with Rodger.  Big thumbs up.

Honestly, the only reason I’m rounding down is because of the mood I’m in.  I didn’t get that 5 star feel at the end, and I think I’m just a bit distracted in my reading right now.  Oh, and the time jumps I guess.  But I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to more in this world.

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Sweet Tea and Summer Love by Regan Claire

sweettea_finalcoverBlurb: It’s been more than a decade since Anna Lynne graced the home where she spent every summer of her childhood. Now, she’s back and overwhelmed by memories of her last summer there. One defined by loss, love, growth, and change. A few short months that changed her forever.

Anna Lynne was mourning her father while most of her friends were thinking about college, making her question everything about the life she used to live, and the person she no longer wanted to be. She felt isolated in her grief—until she met Will and his sister, outcasts far outside her normal social circle. Through them, she learned about sacrifice and strength; about loyalty and love. Ultimately, they taught her that tragedy comes in more ways than one.

As she recalls that fateful summer and the reason she stayed away from the only home she ever knew, Anna Lynne can’t help but wonder how the people she left behind managed to navigate the heartbreak she helped create—and if they can ever forgive her.

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4.5 stars

This is miss Claire’s first dip into the contemporary romance genre.I think she did beautifully and am excited to see where she goes from here.  I was lucky to get a last minute slot to beta read this book.  In fact, if I’m able, I will always volunteer to beta for this author cause she is so talented.  Oh my gosh, I just realized, she was the first author I ever beta read for!

I really like the timeline of the story.  The flashbacks broke it up in to little bite size chunks for me.  And I love that we get to see the past catch up to the present, I was getting giddy to see how it would play out.  I may have mentioned this before but RC has a way of bringing levity to a serious story without losing the impact of it. It’s not easy to do. The climax really stands out to me as one of her best sequences.  It was just written fantastically.

I totally identified with Anna Lynnes rebelliousness and her anger.  I felt betrayed with her.  I kept thinking, “Its like I’m reading about myself” And I loved how she was affected by Will. In a positive way.

He was such a great influence on her.  Will was solid.  That’s the best word for him I think. He was not afraid to tell you how he felt and while sometimes he came across a bit over-cautious, I admired his convictions.  It’s just a sweet story about second chances at first love.  And it is a prefect read for V-day!

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Kentucky Bride by Norah Hess

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Blurb: Fleeing her abusive uncle, young D’lise Alexander trusts no man—until she is rescued by trapper Kane Devlin. There, amid the simple pleasures of cornhusking and barn raisings, she comes to recognize that the deep affection she holds for her savior is true love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3.5 stars

I know. The cover right?  Sometimes I love these cheesy romances.  This was kinda one of those times.  This book was soooo slow.I mean, I liked the story, especially the slow simmer.  Which would have been required due to the early content in this book but it was like watching paint dry in some parts.  And the constant misunderstanding started to grate on my nerves.  I received this book for free through my Kindle for Samsung app. (great app!)

I’m partial to historical romances and equally partial to rescuees falling for rescuers, which is obviously one of those stories.  This was my first trip into Norah Hess’ work and also into this time frame.  I would absolutely read more in this time frame but I don’t think I have the patience to get through another long descriptive book like this  one right now.

It seemed each day was described and he timeline didn’t vary; i.e. flashbacks or others POV’s.  It was very linear and there wasn’t much of a subplot or it was so predictable as to seem non-existent. Which caused me to take many breaks while reading this.  It was also very predictable and while I do love those from time to time, this one kinda fell flat for me.

I think in the end the predictability of the book is what saved it for me.  Since I knew how it was going to go, I finished it.  And as I got through the second half the time seemed to pick up a bit too. Like I said I liked the story, it just took a while to get to the meat of it.

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There’s Something About Nik by Sara Hantz

Blurb:
34261193Nik Gustafsson has a secret: He’s not really Nik Gustafsson.

He’s not a spy. He’s not crazy.

He’s just the son and heir to one of the most important families in Europe—one where duty always comes first. And his posh, too-public life is suffocating him. So when he gets the chance to attend boarding school in America, pretending to be an average exchange student is too big of a temptation to pass up.

Then he literally runs into Amber on campus. And she hates him at first sight.

It’s kind of exhilarating to be hated for who he is, not for his family name or his wealth. Maybe if he turns up the charm and turns down the aloof mask he habitually wears, he can win her over. Even though a bad past experience has made her swear off dating this year.

But the more he gets to know her, the more uncomfortable he is keeping things from her. Because Nik Gustafsson has a secret. And it’s a big one.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hot boy who’s the strong and silent type, a studious girl who refuses to believe in fairy-tale romance, and one epic secret that could be disastrous if it comes to light.

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

I’m usually a sucker for royalty undercover stories, but this one fell a little flat for me.  It had all the makings of a great book, but the characters weren’t endearing enough for me to fall in love with them.  Amber has this incredible backstory, but it really didn’t play that much of a part and so seemed superfluous.  And she was kind of mean sometimes to Nik…like it was supposed to be teasing, but I just found it kind of rude.  Like I got what was supposed to be happening, but it just went too far and lacked empathy.  (Her BFF Lauren was kind of rude too quite frankly, and gave some really bad advice at times)

And Nik was so back and forth, I kind of had a hard time figuring him out.  He honestly was kind of arrogant and cold.  And he didn’t just appear that way, it came across in his inner thoughts sometimes too.  Which is not a horrible thing, it can make sense with his upbringing.  But then there would be these quick moments of vulnerability, and I felt them, but they were both so extreme, I just wished there was more in between Nik.  Not sure if I’m making sense.  It just became hard to imagine him as a person because his reactions were so…well, extreme.

Part of this could be just me being out of touch with teenagers and their hormones. There is definitely a bit of that going on.  But I did feel like there could have been more subtlety for both of these characters.

And then, quite frankly, the story just happened really fast.  It was like, no Amber didn’t like him, to all of a sudden she did, to oh look they’re kissing.  I missed the transitions.  And it even ended rather quickly.  And I can’t help but wonder where in the world their relationship is going to go.

So while that all sounds bad, it wasn’t…it was just ok.  It had some cute moments, but I just inevitably wanted more.  And on a strange sidenote, the blurb says he literally runs into her.  He doesn’t.  I hate it when people use literally wrong.  Maybe he did in a previous version?

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Don’t Speak by Katy Regnery

Blurb:

33222262From New York Times bestseller Katy Regnery comes a new twist on a beloved fairytale.

A fisherman’s daughter.

The governor’s son.

Two very different worlds.

In this modern retelling of The Little Mermaid, a fisherman’s daughter from an Outer Banks island untouched by time, meets the son of North Carolina’s governor at a fancy party where she’s working.

Laire, who wants so much more from life than her little island can offer, is swept away by wealthy, sophisticated Erik, who is, in turn, entranced by her naiveté and charm. The two spend a whirlwind summer together that ends on the knife-point of heartbreak and forces them to go their separate ways.

Years later, when fate leads them back to one another, they will discover the terrifying depth of the secrets they kept from each other, and learn that shattered hearts can only be healed by a love that willfully refuses to die.

All novels Katy Regnery’s ~a modern fairytale~ collection are written as fundraisers. 10% of the e-book sales for in March and April 2017 will be donated to P.E.O. International, a non-profit organization that celebrates the advancement of women, awards scholarships and grants, and provides motivation for women to make their dreams come true.

**Contemporary Romance. Due to profanity, adult themes and very strong sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.**

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

Well darn.  I just didn’t connect to this book like I was expecting to.  I love Ms. Regnery’s Blueberry Lane novels, but this is the first of her Modern Fairytale stories that I’ve read.  I’ll still give the others a try, but I think I had some expectations for it from seeing people gush about those stories, and so I kind of set up roadblocks against myself if that makes any sense.  I’m not sure how to explain it.  It’s like, I wasn’t sure how the retellings would play out since they are contemporary stories, but I guess I just kept expecting one major plot point in this particular story, and didn’t quite get it.  I can’t really say more without giving minor spoilers.  While I have never read the original Little Mermaid fairytale, I do adore the Disney movie and I do know the basic gist of the original story…and I guess I felt that the absence of that major plot point was disappointing.

And those anticipations and expectations hindered my enjoyment in other ways too.  I kept trying to guess when certain things would happen or how certain parts would play out, and so I was never fully absorbed in the story.  Again, that was my fault.  Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood for a retelling.  Perhaps the pace of the first half just didn’t work for me, it was a lot longer than I was anticipating, and I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

One of the little things that threw me off were the many subtle references to the Disney film.  It’s funny, b/c while I adored the movie, it felt odd to me that there should be such obvious references (from character names, to subtle song nods).  This is TOTALLY a personal preference thing, but I often found those references, and even some of the ways in which Laire thought of Erik as the “Prince of Utopia Manor”, or Erik thought of Laire as a “little mermaid”, to be kind of forced, or contrived.  That doesn’t mean they were, that’s just how they felt to me.

I spent a lot of my reading time thinking that all the building blocks for a great story were there, but I just couldn’t connect with the characters.  And there weren’t any obvious reasons why, I’m not entirely sure if they were flat or if it was just me.  But while they did most things really right, I didn’t swoon as much as I expected, or get as many tingles, or even bawl in the places where I should have been crying…I didn’t shed a single tear.

I think part of my problem is that I felt a personal disconnect with Laire’s extremely sheltered upbringing, and those conservative views that often result in women being shamed just rub me the wrong way entirely.  It really fit well and made SO MUCH SENSE for how naive the little mermaid is supposed to be.  That was soooo well done (seriously, the set up of a sheltered island girl and a Governor’s son was a perfect way to make the story work in a contemporary setting).  But I didn’t end up feeling ANY good feelings towards her family, and perhaps I needed a little something to love about her father to understand her reactions later on.  But maybe that’s because they made me so angry that I didn’t care for her family at all.

OK, so I know…this review is ridiculously long.  I just…I like to understand what went wrong for me, especially when so many felt differently.  I DID love the romance.  I think I held myself back from Laire because of how naive she was, and so it made it harder to connect to both of them as fully as I might otherwise.  I LOVED that while Erik looked like he would be a party boy or something, he was not what I expected at all.  It was definitely a lot of strong feelings in a short amount of time, but young love can be like that sometimes so it didn’t bother me.  And can I just say that I love that he called her Freckles?  SO CUTE.

And I actually really enjoyed the part after the Interlude.  I felt like that was paced really well, and I adored a certain major character in that part.  I felt a lot more feelings in the second half, and started to connect more.  It definitely started hitting me in the feels more, but of course that part was shorter.

So yeah.  There you have it.  My thoughts.  *sigh*  *shrugs*

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Sweet Tea and Summer Love by Regan Claire

Blurb:
sweettea_finalcoverIt’s been more than a decade since Anna Lynne graced the home where she spent every summer of her childhood. Now, she’s back and overwhelmed by memories of her last summer there. One defined by loss, love, growth, and change. A few short months that changed her forever.

Anna Lynne was mourning her father while most of her friends were thinking about college, making her question everything about the life she used to live, and the person she no longer wanted to be. She felt isolated in her grief—until she met Will and his sister, outcasts far outside her normal social circle. Through them, she learned about sacrifice and strength; about loyalty and love. Ultimately, they taught her that tragedy comes in more ways than one.

As she recalls that fateful summer and the reason she stayed away from the only home she ever knew, Anna Lynne can’t help but wonder how the people she left behind managed to navigate the heartbreak she helped create—and if they can ever forgive her.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — BETA READ!!  So much of what I love about this author from her paranormal series abounds in this fabulous contemporary romance.  Fabulous characters, some great sass, and so much growth and depth.

While this is an amazing (mature) young adult romance, it is also a bit of a coming of age story as well.  I loved the unique way in which it was told, with adult Anna Lynne telling the story of her summer of first love to her younger sister.  The narrative jumps back and forth between Then and Now, and it felt seamless, b/c you got to see Layla (her sister) reacting to the story, and occasionally see hints of what was to come.

Anna Lynne was an intriguing character in herself, b/c she’s struggling with her grief, and changes in her family, and we’re sort of seeing the aftermath of some earlier rebellion.  Her world has been changed, and not just that, but the way she sees the world and what she wants out of life.  So she wasn’t what I was expecting in the beginning, but I grew to love her and how she grew over that summer, and even beyond.

Will was super swoony.  Just, I can’t even describe it, he was just sweet, and charming, and protective of his sister, and admirable.  He wasn’t without his flaws, but he was just a guy on the cusp of manhood dealing with way more responsibility than he should have.

The romance between Will and Allie (as he calls her) is just spot on perfect.  It gives you all those young adult butterflies.  You can just feel them falling in love.  And it’s not all perfect, Anna Lynne is awkward at times, and it’s just funny and satisfying and all the good stuff.  All of it.

And the story is not without its share of heartbreak that turns everything on its head.  And there are hints that something happens to suddenly end the summer, but even with the foreshadowing, it still hits you right in the feels.

And finally, the secondary characters!!!  Ms. Claire knows how to nail secondary characters so that you want to hear more from them as well!!  Her grandmother and her younger sister were fantastic, and so fun and sassy in their own right.  Will’s pretend cousin (you’ll get it when you read it) Landon was just HILARIOUS and I could just picture him perfectly.  And Will’s sister Jill played just as important a role in Anna Lynne’s summer, and I loved seeing their friendship develop as well.

So basically awesomeness.  Go forth, buy, read, enjoy.  Thank me later.

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