Cross Check by Kelly Jamieson

Blurb:
32934382A party girl and a clean-cut college hockey player discover that they’re not so different in this sexy, soulful Bayard Hockey novel from the bestselling author of Shut Out and the Heller Brothers series.

Ella Verran has three goals this semester: get off academic probation, repair her relationship with her friend Skylar, and take some responsibility for her life. All of which are hard enough without hot, snobby hockey player Ben Buckingham around to distract her. Ella can’t stand Ben, and she knows the feeling is mutual. But he’s best friends with Skylar’s boyfriend, so he’s always around—taunting and tempting Ella in ways she never thought possible.

As the star forward of the Bayard College hockey team, Ben has goals too, like playing well enough to land a spot on an NHL roster. Ben is perfectly poised on the ice, so why can’t he keep his cool around Ella? Her wild behavior rubs him in all the wrong ways—and a few of the right ones. But as they skate around each other, Ben learns that there’s more to Ella than her bad reputation. And when the line between love and hate starts to blur, he can’t resist crossing over and sweeping her off her feet.

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

I love it when an author surprises me with a character!  We didn’t really get that great of an impression of Ella in the first book, but I really enjoyed her in this one.  I thought she really redeemed herself and getting a look inside her head made me understand her more.  Plus we just got to see more of what she’s about, you know?  I really appreciated her storyline of going off the rails after her friend’s suicide, and then having to rein it in and settle down after going on academic probation.  I enjoyed how Ms. Jamieson took a hard look at slut-shaming, and while Ella regretted some choices she made in partying/sleeping around, it wasn’t all “down with the promiscuous girls” as you often see in some books.  Ella really struggled with the labels she was given, and I thought we got an honest and refreshing look at the double standards between men and women, and how it’s not the actions that she regretted so much as the reasons she was doing it, and how it made her feel.

I also really loved that the author took a good hard look at mental health, and that we got to see Ella’s sessions with her therapist.  I will admit that while I LOVED that this was all looked at, occasionally it felt a little heavy-handed.  Which is funny, b/c this issue is really important to me.  Or maybe not heavy-handed so much as not as natural to the story…I don’t know, I don’t know how to explain it.

Ella was spunky, but also really vulnerable and insecure.  I really did feel for her, even if her penchant for pushing people away made me want to throttle her.  It made her growth more satisfying though.

And then we get Ben!!  We also got to see the slut-shaming from his perspective, and I loved that it really opened his eyes as well.  I honestly thought we were going to get more from his background and past, but that wasn’t as prominent as I’d expected.  But I loved how we got an even deeper look at what it might be like for a hockey athlete looking to get drafted.  I loved how vulnerable and scared and overwhelmed he was, and I guess that’s sort of where we see the effects of his past.  He felt so alone at times, and my heart broke for him.  But I also really admired his dedication and determination, and I loved how Ella really showed him parts of himself to be proud of.

Their romance was cuter than I expected.  I guess because I never really understood why they were enemies, since it was based on assumptions about the other person.  But Ben was so adorable in his pursuit of Ella.  He kind of made me swoon at times.  Maybe because he was kind of vulnerable, but he still put himself out there.  And I really loved their chemistry…holy heck could you feel it right from that dance scene!

I loved having more fun scenes with their group of friends!  They often made me laugh out loud at their strange conversations and antics.

I will admit that occasionally certain transitions didn’t feel smooth to me…but that could be in my head too.  (Like those strange conversations with their friends didn’t always flow as naturally for me)

So yeah, I was surprised that I enjoyed this one even more than the previous book!  And again, if you love hockey, or love sports romances that actually showcase the sport, I think Ms. Jamieson is one of the best I’ve ever read for that!  And now she’s made me want to check out her Aces series!!

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Home by Melissa Pearl

Blurb:
26026392Rachel Myers never meant to stay in the small town of Payton. Her eyes are set on bigger things than waitressing at Clark’s Bar. She wants to perform on a stage of her own with bright lights, fame, and fortune. But her dreams seem too far out of reach and so she stays put, content with the love of her boyfriend, Joshua Clark. He’s a good man, a solid rock she can depend on. She wants that to be enough, but it hasn’t quelled her yearning for the big city.

Josh has never loved anyone the way he loves Rachel and he dreads the day she might leave him. He’s happy in his small town home. Running the bar that has been in his family for two generations is a dream come true. He couldn’t be happier with his life… until one night, a city boy from Hollywood promises Rachel a record deal and destroys everything.

Jumping at a chance she never thought she’d have, Rachel leaves Payton. And Josh. But the sparkle of Los Angeles is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Rachel quickly figures out that some sacrifices are not worth the risk. Is she too late? Will Josh forgive her, or has her desire for fame ruined the best thing she’s ever had?

Sometimes you have to say goodbye before you can say forever.

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My Review:
3.75 stars — While these books are all standalone, you do get something a bit extra when you read them all.  And I actually skipped over 2-4 the first time around, so after reading True Love and Rather Be, I was hella interested in finally reading Josh and Rachel’s story.  And it’s funny, b/c while I’m a romantic at heart, this wasn’t a typical love story for me.  Which is not a bad thing, it’s more that there were many other aspects that drew me into this story, and for once the romance wasn’t the biggest part.

Both of our characters are hecka flawed, with a lot of growing to do, and in this story we see them as an established couple at the beginning, and then they end up on separate paths to do their own growing before finding their way back to each other.  The problem with this is that I didn’t necessarily feel *quite* the same investment in them as a couple as I normally do in my romance novels.  It wasn’t that they weren’t super cute together, or they didn’t make me smile…or that I wasn’t rooting for them.  But it just felt a bit different than my normal romances.  I was rooting for them not because I knew much about what they were like together, but because I believed them when they told me that the other was their “person” and that they were their true love, and so I wanted them both to find their happiness.  Does that make sense?  Probably not.

As with most of the Songbird novels, I felt a smidgeon more for Rachel’s story than for Josh’s.  It wasn’t that Josh didn’t have his own path to go on, but I just felt more invested in Rachel’s path.  Maybe it’s because Josh was so bad with open emotions, I always felt like I wanted just a bit more from him.  BUT he really was the perfect big intimidating man with a marshmallow center.  I loved that he was so quiet and reserved, but would not take crap from anyone.  I loved the way he was protective of Rachel.  So many of his reactions felt just very young.  He was an interesting dichotomy in that sense, in that he had all this responsibility with the bar, but I felt like he still had a lot of growing to do with relationships.  Not that I could blame him with the heartaches he experienced in his past.  I really did understand why he was so quick to jump to conclusions, and why he turtled to protect himself.  And while I wouldn’t have minded a bit more groveling on his part for the mean words he said to Rachel, as a man of few words I understand that was probably more than could be asked for.

Rachel also suffered from being young and naive.  It was PAINFUL to see her get taken for a ride…it’s so hard being a reader and seeing all the pitfalls, and wanting to yell at your character “OPEN YOUR EYES!!  DON’T SIGN THAT!!!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING???”  But I could totally see how this probably happens every day to young girls with more dreams than common sense…  But it hurt to read.  And while it sucked to see her believing the threats, they felt real to me, and I could see how she would assume she didn’t have another out.  I felt like the time it took her to figure things out was realistic too, even if it sucked.  I was happy with the turns that story took, and it was actually really gratifying to see her figuring herself out, what she was capable of, and what she wanted from life.

And I think that’s where this story wins.  It’s a love story where the couple really *needed* to separate and learn to stand on their own, so they could really understand what they needed from each other.  And it made that moment where she sings, and then the whole phone call part just so gratifying, I wanted to whoop out loud!!  I love when a climax is that satisfying.

I also ADORED the cameos from Jody, Leo and Angel.  That was so satisfying.  I’m sure it would be interesting even if you’d never read Everything, but it was like awesomesauce after reading it.  AND!  I loved seeing more of what happened between Nessa and Josh!!  That always felt a little bit unfulfilling in True Love, so while these are all truly standalones, you really do get more out of the experience if you read them all (and in order).  Now I’m going to reread til the end of the series!!  It’s so fun seeing the little glimpses of where characters weave in and out of each book, connecting them all in some way.

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Campaigning for Christopher by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
26159697Christopher Winslow, the youngest of the four Winslow brothers, was born with a silver spoon in his privileged mouth, which has made it difficult for him to establish his credibility in the fast-approaching congressional race. Working against the clock to assure Pennsylvania voters that he is forthright, trustworthy and able has been an exhausting challenge, but Christopher’s chances at beating the incumbant look good.

Julianne Crow, a plus-size model struggling to make ends meet, jumps at the chance to make a little extra cash on the side. What does she have to do? Slip something into Christopher Winslow’s drink and take some very naughty pictures with him.

But Christopher is nothing like Julianne expected, and when her actions sabotage his hard-earned campaign only a month before the election, her guilt is overwhelming. She offers Christopher her help in an effort to repair the damage she’s caused, but can anything change the fact that he sees her as an opportunist and a mercenary? When she starts campaigning for Christopher, he may find out there’s more to her than meets the eye.

Return to the world created in the English Brothers books with this fresh foursome of scorching hot Winslow Brothers!

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My Review:
3.75 stars — OMG you guys, I was having such a hard time coming to terms with how I felt about this book, and honestly my skepticism started with the Note From the Author at the very beginning.  She talks about doing research and choosing to go with American Indian or Indian to refer to Julianne based on what she learned, and my whole being just rejected that.  I wondered if she actually talked to anyone, or if she’d had someone of that race read the book and gut check it.  And even though it’s really not super important to the overall story, it caused me to do my own research after I finished the book.  And I discovered one VERY important thing (besides discovering that it’s an extremely complicated issue, and that Ms. Regnery did not make a bad choice as I’d thought): the term Indian is considered much more offensive in Canada (where I live) than in the US.  AHHHH!!!  I feel so much better!  So my whole being rejected it b/c it’s different up here!!  I wish I’d looked into it right away from the beginning, b/c I’m not sure how much that coloured my reading, you know?   But anyways, you gotta love when a book causes you to learn something new for yourself.  Yay for knowledge!

ANYWAYS.  As seems to be the case with so many of my reviews for this series, I start off with a related, but not necessarily helpful piece of babbling.  The thing is, I really love reading diverse books, but I’m often wary of them as well, particularly when the author does not share that diversity…can I trust that they got it right?  As a white woman, will I even know?  But at the same time, I WANT to see this diversity.  I want to see characters that reflect the varied world that we live in, so I applaud Ms. Regnery for giving us Julianne, of the Lakota tribe of South Dakota.  And for not just having it be a throw away element of her character, but something that really defined her and the story that she tells.  I felt for her and all that she went through growing up, and I thought that while she had her struggles, she was also a very strong and admirable character.  Which is funny considering how the story begins.  She’s not so admirable at the start.

I can honestly say that I was SOOOOO leery of this aspect of the story (that’s hinted at in the blurb).  Maybe it’s because drugging a person is so anathema to everything in me, that I could not imagine what would transpire to make it OK for Jules to resort to that.  And the great thing is that while we saw her motivations, it *wasn’t* a good enough reason.  Why is that great?  Because she doesn’t excuse it for herself.  She made a HORRIBLE mistake and decision.  And she never backs down from that or plays it off.  From the moment she gives herself time to think, and then investigate, she does what she can to make it right.  Because you know what?  People do make very bad decisions from time to time, based on a multitude of reasons, but still bad decisions in the end.  And every time she lifted her head and sucked it up and quietly apologized and forged ahead, but also didn’t take too much sh*t as time went on, I just wanted to applaud.  Because I can love a flawed character that understands their flaws and works on them.  I admire that.  She was honestly my favourite character of this story, I LOVED her growth and change, I loved that she was forthright about her feelings, I loved that she didn’t play games.  And I loved that she respected herself and made hard decisions that were right for her.

Christopher wasn’t bad either, but I’m not entirely sure I had the same level of connection to him.  He had so much rage after being taken advantage of, and honestly, RIGHTFULLY SO.  But it was hard to fall in love with him.  Because *we* as the readers could see inside Jules’s heart, but he couldn’t.  So when he would snipe at her and same horrible things, it was just hurtful and hard to remember the context of where he was coming from.  I wanted him to be better.  And don’t get me wrong, he did get better.  But it was hard to reconcile his own development with the development we were seeing in Jules.  And I’m not sure what you could have done to make that work better, b/c it made sense.  But maybe I’m just not cut out for the enemy to lovers trope.  I don’t deal well with conflict.  Especially when it’s not born of sexual tension, but where the tension is there in spite of the conflict.  It was hard to get into.  And I kind of wanted to know more about Christopher’s campaign…or maybe not that so much as to see HIS passion.  We saw Jules’s passion, and we saw how much she admired his passion based on his platform.  But I wanted to see him get all riled up and passionate about things he believed in.  I think that would have endeared him earlier.

OK, so we have a heroine that I adore, and a hero that I liked, but took me longer to love.  Which would probably have had this book at a solid 4 stars for me (what? it’s my review, I’ll rate how I want).  But there were some niggles, hence the loss of a quarter star.  Who was the black hat man?  Why was that never resolved?  And why bother making Jules plus-sized if it’s never going to come into play?  I mean, it’s nice to have a plus sized girl, but it’s honestly mentioned like twice the whole time, so why put it there if you’re not going to give it some play.  Heck, we never even know if Chris likes plus sized girls.  It’s not bad, just a bummer.  And where was Alex?  I LOVED seeing Elise and Preston, and even a bit of Margaret and Skye.  But why was Alex never with his wife?

So that’s it, that’s all folks.  Imma gonna go pre-order me a set of Winslow Brothers paperbacks for the signing in May.  As much as I dissect these books and how I feel, I really do enjoy them.  They entertain, they give me a solid romance, and sometimes they even make me think and learn.  Sweet.

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The Cranberry Hush by Ben Monopoli

the cranberry hushBlurb: Vince Dandro might be going through the quietest quarter-life crisis of all time. He lives alone, works in a comic book shop, and has a crush on his coworker he can’t seem to act on. Like an old comic book, his life’s colors have started to fade. Everything brightens when Vince’s long-lost friend Griff appears on his doorstep in the middle of a blizzard. They were roommates in college, so close back then that Griff’s girlfriend called them “lifebuddies” — but Vince’s love for Griff had ended the friendship, he thought, forever. They haven’t spoken in years. Why has Griff shown up again? And, more importantly, can Vince handle his return?

Vince and Griff are two twentysomethings struggling to find their places in the world and in each other’s lives. This is a story of friendship and love, both unrequited and requited, and of learning how to fly through the post-college void, which just might hold more than a cranberry hush.

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Favorite quotes

The tiny pessimistic devil who usually sat on my shoulder and who’d warned me not to even bother with Griffin in the first place suddenly conjured himself in my stomach and began crawling up my throat, making it tight.  I wasn’t sure whether to cry that fucker out or throw him up.  I thought I might do both, and collapse in a puddle of tears and puke.

“But doesn’t it feel weird to have the potential to fall in love with every person you meet?  All your friends?”  “I don’t think so,” I said. “I think it’s weirder to only be able to fall in love with half the people you meet.”

I lived in tones and inflections, in glances and winks and stupid little taps.  I analyzed and sought meaning from stupid meaningless things.  It was a constant tug-of-war between what I wanted and what was reality

3.75 Stars 

This book is weird. This book is about nostalgia and basking in what could have been. It’s also about not being able to move forward until you deal with what’s behind you. It’s also about love.  It’s kind abstract honestly.  All these words are floating through my head, you know, and none if them are really tangible. Its not like one event or a turn of events you can pinpoint and say, “Oh, thats what this book is about.”  Its not like that at all.  The whole book itself is about the intangibles, and being able to move past them. It’s just very weird for me because I am not used to reading these kinds of books.

This book is about everything and nothing at the same time for me.  The love that was written into the story was just very oddly worded for me. I didn’t become emotionally involved with it.  I was kind of detached while reading because the way this was written came off as clinical to me.  I had a hard time getting into the book because of that style. But for some reason I could not put it down.  The transitions between flashbacks and present day were choppy to me.  I found myself going back and having to re-read them to make sure I was in the right time frame.

It seemed that every character had dual representations for Vince.  Griff repesented his past, comfronting it and moving forward.  Zane represented his present and not being able to move forward with it until he dealt with his past. At least that’s how it came across to me.  I’m glad I read it, I just don’t know if I would recommend it. This is one of those books that you have to be very clear on what the persons reading interest are.

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Shifters After Dark 6 book box set

shifters after darkUnfortunately, this set is no longer available to get on Amazon. Sorry guys.  I have tried to see if it was on B&N and Kobo but have had no luck. If you know of a store that carries it I would love to know.

You can find it on Goodreads though, not that that is any help: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23456673-shifters-after-dark

Of Wings and Wolves by S.M. Reine

Synopsis: When 20-year-old Summer Gresham, a coed with a secret shapeshifting ability, is singled out for a prestigious internship, she’s stunned to discover Nash Adamson emphatically requested her. A rebel angel in exile, Nash has more than a few secrets of his own. With an angel war in the making and Summer at its crux, Nash has to choose what matters most: their love, or his freedom.

3 Stars

 This book was pretty slow for my tastes.  And the storyline was kinda hard to follow, like it wasn’t very cohesive if that makes sense.  The love portion was decent and the writing was technically sound, but things happened a bit too fast for me and I didn’t connect with the characters on a deep level that I usually do. I don’t think I will be reading the next one.

Seven Years by Dannika Dark

Synopsis: Lexi Knight hasn’t seen Austin Cole since her brother’s funeral seven years ago. Now a dangerous bounty hunter, Austin reveals he’s also an alpha Shifter. But there’s another shocking twist, putting Lexi’s family in danger. Can their relationship be salvaged from the ruins of their past? Book One in a bestselling series about family, second chances, and finding that person who completes you.

4 Stars

I liked this one a lot.  It had struggle both internally and externally.  Lots of action that I love with shifter stories.  And the steamy scenes were very well written.  The only think I will say that didn’t blow me away was the fact everyone wanted her.  It was like some super scent that permeated off her in waves that drove everyone wild with lust.  It didn’t sit well with me for some reason.  I would read the next one.

Hood’s Obsession by Marie Hall

Synopsis: Lilith Wolf, daughter of the Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood, is in heat–and being handfasted to the first male in her village to tame her wolf isn’t an option. So when Giles Damien comes calling, she journeys off with him to Fyre Mountain, crossing paths with an angry water dragon, a pub full of Merry Men, and rock dwarves with a taste for flesh … and maybe falling in love. These are the fairy tales no one ever told you about…

4 Stars

I am a huge fan of Marie Hall and have read most of these books already so I immediately liked this one as well.  I fell hard for Giles as soon as he appeared in this book.  Their conversations had a wide range of simple and easy going to intense and heartfelt.  I need to catch up on this series.

Bloodsick by Melissa F. Olson (box set exclusive)

Synopsis: Sashi’s mother warned her not to get involved with werewolf problems. But Sashi, a witch who uses her magic to help cancer patients, has never made a habit of ignoring pain. When she meets an abused shapeshifter, Sashi will risk everything–including her fledgling relationship–to save a woman who can’t save herself. An Old World novella from the author ofDead Spots, Trail of Dead, and Hunter’s Trail.

4 Stars

I think this one is a prequel that was written after the fact.  This one had me a little twitchy. I usually don’t have any triggers when I read but this book is very violent. Extremely violent I would say.  I may have got a little nauseous reading it.  She is very descriptive in her details.  The plot is very intense and a bit complicated. It has so much going on in it and I had to take my time reading it because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with all the storylines going on.  But it has lots of paranormals in it. Witches, werewolves and vampires to name a few.  I like when a book focuses on more than one species.  Like paranormal diversity. J  I am def going to read the next one because I liked it.

The Dark of Twilight by Kate Danley (box set exclusive)

Synopsis: Ever since she was a child working in his kitchen, Aein always longed to join Lord Arnkell’s army. When that day comes and she is sent on patrol with fellow warrior, Lars, it seems her dream has come true. But something has followed her home. When Arnkell’s wedding is interrupted by a werewolf attack, the dream shifts into a nightmare… Book One in the brand-new epic fantasy series Twilight Shifters.

4 Stars

This book took a bit for me to get into.  It had a steady pace and I got a little impatient reading it honestly.  The story is very original though and that’s what kept me from giving up.  It had political intrigue and action along with a bit of romance.  All great things for a well-rounded book in my opinion.  I want to say I will read more of this series but I have so many that I may have to put this one aside for a but and come back to it later.

Heartsong by Kate Danley (box set exclusive)

Synopsis: By night, as a Gabriel Hound, the fae Brinn runs with The Wild Hunt.

3.5 Stars

This book wasn’t bad but it didn’t hold my attention for very long at a time.  The story was good but it moved a bit slow for me.  The details were many and sometimes over abundant for my tastes.  I liked how they were able to share so much of themselves with each other without letting jealousy or vanity get in the way.  And there personalities were more serious than I usually read so that may have made me loose interest as well.  I don’t think I will be reading the next one in this series.

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