Proposing to Preston by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
25361685Proposing to Preston is the second of four books about the Philadelphia-based, wildly-handsome Winslow brothers who are all on the look-out for love.

(Except Brooks… he’s probably sailing around the world with Skye by now. And Christopher, who’s only on the look-out for a congressional seat and absolutely. nothing. else.)

Preston Winslow has a heart as open as the sky and room in his life for someone special. When he falls in love with Broadway actress, Elise Klassan, he holds nothing back.

Elise, who has made tremendous sacrifices to forward her career, is swept off her feet by handsome, charming Preston…but the stage has been her first love for so many years, she doesn’t know if there’s room for Preston in her life. When the day comes that she must choose between her ambition and her heart, she profoundly hurts the one man who could have made her happy.

Two years later, Elise has become a world-famous actress and Preston is a very successful lawyer. But fame has not equaled happiness for Elise, and Preston is much too bitter and cynical to ever consider falling in love again.

Is it possible that the only person who can mend Preston’s heart is the one who originally broke it? Only if Elise can figure out a way to make him believe in love all over again.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — THIS!!!  After being a bit bummed about not enjoying the Modern Fairytale books I’ve attempted by Ms. Regnery, I decided to go back to the series where I fell in love with her and read my box set of the Winslow Brothers from her Blueberry Lane series.  I’d already read the first book a while ago, but I reread it first (and was reminded of my love), and then I started on this one and was just utterly captivated…much like Preston was with Elise.  There’s just some magic there, you know?  I felt all these feelings of attraction at first sight, and just how bewildered Preston was when presented with those immediate feelings.

And OMG, these two were so adorable together!!  There was just so much chemistry!!  And it was sweet, and I appreciated the backstory that came with Elise and how her upbringing shaped her.  So her reactions often felt very authentic, and I could just imagine how overwhelmed she was when faced with so many of her dreams coming true, but also with the exhaustion of all the work that went into making her Broadway dream come alive…and how conflicted she was with how she felt about this new love of hers.

And Preston was just so unbelievably sweet, and he tried so hard.  He was so patient, it was just…GAH!  I really loved him.  But I’d seen glimpses of him in Bidding on Brooks, and I knew that something happened to take him from this sweet endearing boy, to a jaded cynical man (even though it was only 2 years), and so I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, you know?  Like I couldn’t fully relax, wondering what was going to happen.  And I just kept thinking, OK I’ll read until the end of Part One and then go to sleep, and read the second half in the morning.  And then HOO BOY, we got there, and I just had to read a bit more, until my eyes wouldn’t cooperate.

I LOVED the way that all played out.  Even though it was heartbreaking, it honestly fit with who they each were, and I could just see them both making those horrible mistakes and reacting badly, b/c in so many ways they were just so young.  Not in age, but in experience.  I really appreciated that.  I really appreciated that while I wanted to smack them both, I could accept the way it played out.

And Part Two really compelled me right away too.  My heart was sooooo broken for Preston, I could just feel how broken he was.  And Elise too.  To realize what you’ve done, and not understand how to fix it.  And I was a bit concerned when Elise seemed to be the only one who had thought of the mistakes she’d made, but thankfully Preston didn’t let me down…though I wish he’d expressed to Elise what mistakes he made as well, so she wouldn’t feel the burden of all the blame.  But at the same time, their reconciliation was very satisfying and I enjoyed the way they worked things out every step of the way.  And I liked the development with her family as well, even if that all made me cry.

All in all this book was super satisfying for me.  Both characters were very sweet and earnest, but also very flawed, and so it was so rewarding to see them grow and eventually grow together.  I will say, the epilogue was NOT satisfying for me.  It’s just not my style, and it didn’t give me enough of them, which is what I loved.

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Forever Mine by Erin Nicholas

Blurb:

31684529Maya Goodwin doesn’t believe in holding back. Ever. As a cop, she never hesitated to throw herself into harm’s way to save someone. Even after an injury on the job forces her to retire, she’s not afraid to keep risking it all to get the life she wants. With a new career teaching martial arts to kids already underway, she’s looking forward to the future – and taking a chance on the unbelievably hot Dr. Alex Nolan.

Maya – daring and spontaneous – is the exact opposite of what Alex always thought he wanted. But when a nine-year-old daughter he never knew existed shows up on his doorstep, Maya is the one who helps them hold it together. With love on the line, will the guy who’s always played it safe be willing to take the biggest risk of all?

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

OK, this was a fantastic addition to this series!!  And no, you most definitely do NOT have to read the first book to enjoy this one, but it’s super adorable as well, so I definitely recommend it.

I can honestly say that I loved both characters, and thought they both had some really unique aspects to their personalities, and were really well developed.  Both Maya and Alex were extremely likable, but not without flaws.  And because of those two aspects, it was so satisfying to see their growth over the course of the story, even if there were the occasional bits I wish we’d seen more of.

Maya was seriously badass, but also so satisfyingly nerdy.  She was just ridiculously one of a kind…I can’t even figure out how to describe her.  She’s completely unlike me, but I could really see liking her.  And admiring her.  I kind of wish we’d seen a bit more of her development wrt her future goals…because they kind of changed over the story, but we didn’t see her working that out, it just kind of happened along the way…one of those things that disappointed me.

And Alex was so cautious and meticulous, and eager!  He just kept surprising me along the way.  I loved seeing the little steps he was making forward, even if he was moving a little slower than I’d like, and even if occasionally I wanted to smack him.  But I kind of liked that he was not quite alpha, but not quite beta.  He had his strengths and weaknesses, and he admired the crap out of Maya’s strengths.

And the chemistry between Maya and Alex was smoking and very enjoyable.  But I could also see the relationship that developed between them that was more than just chemistry and lust.

I loved the nerd aspect, and loved some of the introspective commentaries made about the nerd community and why we love superheroes and all that stuff.  It just really felt…I don’t know, intelligent?  Is that insulting to other books?  Or maybe it’s insightful.  Like not just the nerd aspect, but the story as a whole — looking at why people help others, what that says about them, overcoming perceived weaknesses, all that good stuff.

I also really loved the secondary characters in this one.  I loved Maya’s group of friends, and that they are important to her and an integral part of her life.  I enjoyed Rachel, and was surprised that I did.  She was a bit too good to be true at times, but I actually enjoyed that it wasn’t a big dramafest and she really added to Alex’s life.  And Charli was pretty cool.  I loved how important she was to Alex, and how he was just so enthralled with her, but he eventually learned the importance of the dad role.

I did notice that occasionally things would happen that didn’t make sense in the timeline that was in my head, but perhaps that will change in the final copy.  It’s just that sometimes some events would be only days apart when I’d been given the impression it was more like a few weeks.

On a weird side note, I was surprised that none of the girls knew what hemophilia was, since I did…but I did an internet poll, and while the majority of my friends did know, there were a few that didn’t so I can accept it.

All in all I’m really loving this series.  I sincerely can’t wait for Sophie’s story if it’s anything like the first two.

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Operation Prom Date by Cindi Madsen

Blurb:

33224662Kate ships tons of fictional couples, but IRL her OTP is her and Mick, the hot quarterback she’s crushed on since, like, forever. With only one semester left of senior year, it’s now or never if she wants to land him in time for prom. Since she’s flirtationally challenged, she enlists Cooper Callihan, the guy who turned popular seemingly overnight but who used to be a good friend.

Cooper lives and breathes rowing, but his partner just broke his wrist. When he remembers Kate’s good with a set of oars, he strikes a deal: help him train, and he’ll make sure her crush notices her. Only he didn’t know how addicting spending time with her would be. Or how the more successful the Operation is, the more jealousy he experiences.
The mission has been set. The troops have their marching orders. But what if the target is the wrong guy all along?

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains stargazing, accidental swimming, and poker swindling. This kissing practice will melt your ereader…and give you a new couple to ship.

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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 am shipping Kaper so freaking hard, I can’t even tell you.  Like seriously, this book was just everything my little YA-loving heart was looking for.  It was fairly light, with just enough depth to give it interest.  And while I don’t think you have to be a fandom lover to enjoy this book, if you are, I think you will definitely fall in love with Kate.  I’m not even a major fandom lover, but I totally get shipping couples, and wanting them to be together, and being angry at the writers for drawing it out.  And in some ways Ms. Madsen kind of fulfilled that longing and irritation and GAHness with Kate and Cooper.  You could just tell that they were perfect for each other, but of course she had to put them through the wringer on the way to HEA.  I’m not always a fan of misunderstandings and all that jazz, but it really fit in this storyline and worked for the story that was being told (if that makes any sense at all)…or at least it did for me.

And you know how my favourite part of any story is the characters?  Well Kate and Cooper were amazeballs.  Not without flaws for sure, and not without feeling like authentic teenagers, but I just really loved them both.  My heart broke for Kate and how she came to be the person she was.  Not just with her father, but also the circumstances with her friends.  I’ve been that girl with no friends b/c I wasn’t willing to change myself to fit in.  It’s all well and good to be solid with who you are and to put that above other things, but it can be very lonely.  And she was just so freaking quirky and adorable!!  She made me laugh so much.  Seriously though, she really reminded me a lot of myself (right down to the lost father).  And I enjoyed that what really drew her to Mick was her perception that he was more sweet than he seemed, based on his moments of kindness.  It was a bit of a bummer that she didn’t catch on as quickly to how changing herself wasn’t the way to go, and that maybe he wasn’t worth it, but sometimes we see what we want to see and we want things so badly that we don’t make the connections until later.

And then there was Cooper.  OMG, book boyfriend city man.  He was just so sweet and thoughtful, and dealing with his own set of struggles, and just trying to survive in a way.  I loved being in his head and reading about his thoughts.  He was an interesting guy b/c he had this popularity in some ways, but didn’t seem to realize it.  And I adored his little bit of nerdiness, talk about swoon!!  My only real complaint with his story was the resolution with his father.  It didn’t feel authentic, b/c his father really felt borderline mentally abusive to me…or just too toxic anyways.

Honestly though, the star of this book was Kate and Cooper together.  Seeing them experience the tummy tingles for each other, and those breathless moments, and the friendship that developed…GAH!  It was just perfect.  My romance loving heart was so freaking satisfied, I had tingles just reading about them.  And the climax was perfection.  It just read exactly as I wanted it to.  And then we even got some delicious epilogueness!!  I love epilogueness.  It was so satisfying.

So basically this story was just tailor made for me.  Love.  Adore.  So much shipping.

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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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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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Hot Licks by A.M. Arthur

Blurb:

33238136Benji Moore is living his dream traveling as the lead singer of his band. His life would be perfect if he could get his boyfriend, Josh, to commit to an exclusive relationship.

Even though Josh loves Benji, he has good reasons not to trust in long-term relationships. So Josh decides to take some time to himself and sublets a room at a friend’s beach house. But when he walks into the nearby Off Beat bar, he finds a bartender who may be a good distraction from his relationship problems.

Van Holt doesn’t do anything deeper than sweaty one-night stands. But when Josh sets his sights on him, Van is surprised by their connection. Except Van also doesn’t do complicated, and the situation between Josh and Benji defines complicated. But the more time Van spends with them, the more he’s realizing how hard it would be to let Josh and Benji go.

Can the three of them find a way together, or will they all end up going solo?

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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.

Well damn, that was even better than I was anticipating.  Again, with this series I dove in to the 2nd book without reading the first, and I had some conflicting feelings about that story and the amount of angst it contained.  So when I was offered a widget for this book, I took it with some trepidation.  Because I don’t mind angst, but I don’t seek it out as some do.  But I was really intrigued finding out that this was Van’s story, and while I didn’t really know much about Benji and Joshua b/c they were probably more heavily featured in the first book that I missed, I still really wanted to find out what their story would be like.

And can I just say before I get to the meat of my review that the blurb really doesn’t give a good feel for the story and what all in contains?  Because it’s really just a taste of the very beginning of the story, but there is so much more to it.  And as another side niggle, they usually called him Joshua, rarely Josh.  And also, can I just say I’m not a fan of the guy on the cover?  I’m assuming that’s supposed to be Benji, but I really didn’t get the impression that he was that cut.  Van’s really the only one that would fit that physical description for me.  OK, enough with the superficial.

So while this book still had the problem of having angst up the hoo-ha, it didn’t have a lot of the side story angst that the previous book was bogged down in.  I still feel like it seemed a bit much for each main character to have their own tragic childhood story, but I could deal with it a bit more for some reason.  Maybe because I expected it?  Or maybe it just was because at least there wasn’t outside tragedies happening as well that we had to encounter.  And even though Van’s tragic story was left til the end, it fit with his character and I wasn’t surprised by this.  I thought each of their childhood traumas were given the proper respect and resolution within their relationship.

I had no idea that this story was going to deal with the gray asexual spectrum, and I actually found that it was dealt with quite well, b/c it is really complicated and all over the place, and Benji’s story gave us a flavour of someone within the spectrum.  I ADORED that part.  And I was satisfied in the way it played out in the story.  I was a bit disappointed that Van’s pansexuality was never explored, but I guess it didn’t really need to be.

I also really loved the way the story addressed poly relationships, and how much time and thought all 3 men took when considering it for themselves.  I was especially intrigued since this story contained an established couple, but I never felt like I missed out on anything.  It all flowed really nicely, and I loved the way it all expanded when Van was added to the mix.  I felt the chemistry between all 3, and the steamy scenes were fantastic.

Honestly, I have no idea why it doesn’t get full 5 stars.  Just a gut feeling.  Probably because of my personal preference away from angst.  But yeah, it was nice to see all the things that bothered me about book 2 not becoming a problem in this book as well.  And it was nice to see glimpses of the characters we knew from the other stories, I always love that.  One tiny note: if you read this book first, you will get a bit of a spoiler for book 2.  But I don’t think it would spoil it enough that you couldn’t go back and read it and enjoy it.

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A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe

Blurb:

30376044Sora’s life was full of magic–until she discovered it was all a lie.

Heir to Mt. Fuji’s spirit kingdom, Sora yearns to finally take on the sacred kami duties. But just as she confronts her parents to make a plea, a ghostly army invades the mountain. Barely escaping with her life, Sora follows her mother’s last instructions to a heart-wrenching discovery: she is a human changeling, raised as a decoy while her parents’ true daughter remained safe but unaware in modern-day Tokyo. Her powers were only borrowed, never her own. Now, with the world’s natural cycles falling into chaos and the ghosts plotting an even more deadly assault, it falls on her to train the unprepared kami princess.

As Sora struggles with her emerging human weaknesses and the draw of an unanticipated ally with secrets of his own, she vows to keep fighting for her loved ones and the world they once protected. But for one mortal girl to make a difference in this desperate war between the spirits, she may have to give up the only home she’s ever known.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I’m a day late, but I started reading this book to fulfill the January theme for one of my Diversity challenges, which was “Stories based on/ inspired by diverse folktales/culture/mythology.”  This book fit that theme PERFECTLY and I’m so glad I picked it up with this challenge in mind, b/c I was thoroughly entertained by Sora’s story!  This is not a book that typically piques my interest, as I tend to go for either contemporary or more modern paranormal/sci-fi.  But after reading a review from Lillian @Mom With a Reading Problem, it sort of just stuck with me.  So when I saw it go on sale, and noticed it matched the diversity theme, I snatched it up.

So after that long-winded explanation…ahem.  I really loved that this one introduced me to some mythology from Japan.  It was all so enchanting, and I loved the blending of the world of the Kami with the modern world in Japan.  I’m not really a huge fantasy reader b/c I enjoy the linking back to the real world, so I loved that this was both…I guess kind of urban fantasy then, eh?  If you couldn’t tell, I’m really not that familiar with the genre.

I loved the uniqueness of Sora’s journey.  So often we read about a seemingly ordinary girl who actually has extraordinary powers and saves everyone.  In some ways Sora’s story was kind of opposite.  She grew up thinking she was a being of extraordinary powers, but in the end she was a normal human.  But it was her normal humanness that helped save everyone (sort of).  I really LOVED that.  I loved seeing her struggle with the lies she had been told, and how she would deal with her new reality, eventually coming to embrace what it meant.  I enjoyed Sora as a narrator, I thought her struggles were relatable and she grew in a reasonable way.

And the plot kept me hooked!!  I enjoyed the journey the whole group went on to fulfill the prophecy and defeat the bad guys.  There was exciting fight scenes and intriguing plot twists.  I was up til 3am reading this bad boy, before I had to finally put it down.

I’m not a fan of love triangles, but this one only bugged me a little since it was pretty shallow, though I will admit that I fell for the first boy and didn’t give the second boy nearly enough of a chance, so I didn’t really get totally on board with the romance.  It’s funny, b/c I tend to require romance in the books I read, but I wasn’t super invested in this one.  It had some great butterfly moments, but I wasn’t always convinced of the feelings involved.  Perhaps I didn’t get what was drawing them together outside of attraction.

As for the side characters, I really enjoyed them and loved that they all had some depth, with both admirable qualities and flaws.  I thought Chiyo would annoy me, but I actually came to enjoy her and root for her (and I loved her romance with Haru).  I felt similarly about Haru, but he really surprised me, and I kind of loved that.  I almost wished I knew more about Takeo, b/c I really enjoyed him, and I felt like there could be more there.  And then there’s Keiji.  I had a harder time forgiving his flaws, but I also enjoyed his redeeming moments (and they made me bawl).  I also really liked that he was a bit of a nerd and beta boy.  I even kind of enjoyed the bad guy and the story surrounding him.

One of the things that has me rounding down instead of up is that I found I guessed a few major plot twists, and how to defeat the bad guy, quite early on, and so it was frustrating to wait around while Sora (or the others) figured it out.  Sometimes I get giddy when I figure things out, but this was just quite obvious so it wasn’t quite as fun.

Regardless of all that, I was fully invested in this story, and I LOVED that this was a standalone novel, and I felt like the story got everything it deserved in just one book.  And Sora is definitely one of my favourite YA characters, she deals with so much and I admire how she navigated her journey.

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