Wicked Restless by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
26821969Andrew Harper grew up in a house marked by tragedy. His older brother Owen did his best to shelter him, but you can only be protected from life’s pain for so long. Eventually, you end up just feeling numb…and isolated.

Loneliness was the one constant in Andrew’s life. Until one girl, met by chance in a high school hallway, changed everything. Emma Burke was a mystery and all that was beautiful in this world, the only air Andrew ever wanted to breathe. She took the lonely away, and filled it with hope and color, and Andrew would do anything to keep her safe, happy and whole.

But sometimes, what feels good and right is what ends up hurting us the most. And when Andrew and Emma are faced with an impossible decision, Andrew is tested to see just how far he’s willing to go for the girl who owns his heart.

Cuts are deep.
Scars are left behind.
And revenge beckons.

When Andrew finally gets his chance, in college, five years after his first love broke him completely, he finds out old feelings don’t really disappear just because you say you hate someone. The more he tries to avenge all that he believes he lost, the more he uncovers the real story of what happened years before.

Love is wicked. But a restless heart is never satisfied beating on its own. Can Andrew and Emma make it right before it’s too late, or will the ties that bind them now destroy their only chance at a future?

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My Review:
4 stars — OK, this one is a harder book to review and rate too, but the successes were much clearer and more impactful for me, so they definitely weigh more heavily in my opinion.  So I can definitely say that Andrew’s book was a hit for me, even if I did have some reservations.

I think my problem comes in that I was SO in love with Andrew in Wild Reckless, or at least what I could see of him.  He was sweet, and felt more beta boy, and yet lonely too.  I was curious where his story would go.  AND I FELL IN LOVE with him in Part One!  OMG, that boy was everything I was hoping he would be!!  He gave me tummy tingles, and made me giggle and swoon.  I ADORED Part One of this story (and yes, all the way through the letters too).  It made me so happy and so sad all at once.  I’m not always happy with being in the dark for long periods about certain aspects, but I did at least know there was more to Emma’s story based on comments made here and there (and actually had a pretty good guess, though it turned out to not be quite right).  I really loved that love story between them.  I felt their infatuation with one another, I felt how strongly their feelings came on.  And because of the Part One “climax” of sorts, I could understand how those feelings could be made even more impactful when you go through something difficult together.  I understood why Emma was scared (even without knowing the details of her story), and I totally believed in Andrew’s sacrifice.  So if I’m not making myself clear, I LOVED both characters in Part One.

And thus, my heart HURT for who Andrew became 5 years later.  And I actually got it.  I think the reason Ms. Scott succeeds in making me believe in Andrew and how he got to where he did is that I saw inside his head (LOVE dual POV books), AND I saw who he was before, I saw some transition in the letters, and eventually we learned a lot of the things that fundamentally changed him for the worse.  I TRULY GOT IT.  But I wish I didn’t.  My ultimate problem with this book, and the reason it’s a 4 star and not a 5 star, is that I hate Andrew’s choices for 30% of the book.  He was HORRIBLE.  To Emma yes, but mostly to Lindsey.  I think it went too far for my delicate sensibilities.  I don’t want to be *that* disappointed in a boy I love.  I honestly think the only reason I can forgive him is because I knew who he was before, who he *still* could be inside, and because I got to see some remorse.  But I’m still sad.  I would have appreciated it more if he made some initial bad decisions, but then distanced himself.  Ah well, we can’t always get what we want.

And I didn’t expect all the drama that found our hero and heroine in this story, but I was hooked on the ride.  I saw a few things coming, and I had all the feels for Emma and the struggles she goes through.  I thought that side plot was particularly impactful, and I enjoyed the journey she went on.  I think everyone’s journey is different, but I believed in the paths she took.  And I was satisfied with the way Andrew handled the situation.  I think that’s where we begin to love our hero again and forgive him.  It’s too bad it takes that, and maybe it’s a bit convenient, but I’m ok with that.  I actually felt like the Emma struggle from Part One (I’m trying to be vague and not give anything away) kind of got lost in Part Two.  I thought it would get more limelight, but it didn’t really seem to impact her life or come into play between her and Andrew.  I was a bit disappointed with that.  Again, sometimes there’s too much difficult stuff, and so you can’t spread the focus to all of it.  Ah well.

My absolute FAVOURITE part was the first date in Part Two.  OMG, could Andrew be anymore adorable?  And the way Emma hugged those presents, OMG OMG OMG.  LOVED them both.

AND, I’m totally onboard with another reviewers suggestion of a story for Trent.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!  That boy was so sweet, and it was nice to see Andrew have a good friend.

So yeah.  I had some struggles, but the good stuff wins this time.  (on a side note, I don’t get the cover…particularly the ferris wheel)

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Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas


31437918Blurb: 
“We were perfect together. Until we met.”

Misha

I can’t help but smile at the words in her letter. She misses me.

In fifth grade, my teacher set us up with pen pals from a different school. Thinking I was a girl, with a name like Misha, the other teacher paired me up with her student, Ryen. My teacher, believing Ryen was a boy like me, agreed.

It didn’t take long for us to figure out the mistake. And in no time at all, we were arguing about everything. The best take-out pizza. Android vs. iPhone. Whether or not Eminem is the greatest rapper ever…

And that was the start. For the next seven years, it was us.

Her letters are always on black paper with silver writing. Sometimes there’s one a week or three in a day, but I need them. She’s the only one who keeps me on track, talks me down, and accepts everything I am.

We only had three rules. No social media, no phone numbers, no pictures. We had a good thing going. Why ruin it?

Until I run across a photo of a girl online. Name’s Ryen, loves Gallo’s pizza, and worships her iPhone. What are the chances?

F*ck it. I need to meet her.

I just don’t expect to hate what I find.

Ryen

He hasn’t written in three months. Something’s wrong. Did he die? Get arrested? Knowing Misha, neither would be a stretch.

Without him around, I’m going crazy. I need to know someone is listening. It’s my own fault. I should’ve gotten his number or picture or something.

He could be gone forever.

Or right under my nose, and I wouldn’t even know it.

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4 stars

I purchased this book on the recommendation of an author friend that I have. Hi Caylie! I’ve read PD books before, a few times actually.  But there was always something that really kept me from turning into a full fledged superfan.

This book was great and I really liked the penpal aspect of it. It’s actually kind of funny because my daughter has three penpals herself so it was kind of cool how it parallelled my real life.  The only thing that I didn’t like I gotta say was how they went from friends to enemies to lovers. Also, there was a lot of deceit in this book.  This is a bit if a deal breaker for me so I think that’s one of the reasons I can’t five star this. Yet, I keep coming back to her books so obviously it doesn’t ruin the whole story.

If you read her other books you’ll notice a trend with regards to the chemistry between the two main characters.  A lot of their sexual tension is based in very intense, passionate emotions but the emotions are negative.  They’re rooted in fear, anger and hate and I think that if I had to pinpoint something that pulls me back from being a super fan, that would be it. Because I cannot relate to having those feelings and then turning them around into a physical, sexual, love filled relationship.

But again, I keep coming back to her stories. Maybe I’m again glutton for punishment. Her stories always have depth and originality and as long as she keeps those coming, I’ll continue to keep reading them.

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Silver Bastard (Silver Valley #1) by Joanna Wylde

silver bastardsBlurb:  Fourteen months. For fourteen months, Puck Redhouse sat in a cell and kept his mouth shut, protecting the Silver Bastards MC from their enemies. Then he was free and it was time for his reward—full membership in the club, along with a party to celebrate. That’s when he saw Becca Jones for the first time and set everything in motion. Before the night ended he’d violated his parole and stolen her away from everything she knew.

Five years. It was five years ago that Puck destroyed Becca and saved her all in one night. She’s been terrified of him ever since, but she’s even more terrified of the monsters he still protects her from… But Becca refuses to let fear control her. She’s living her life and moving forward, until she gets a phone call from the past she can’t ignore. She has to go back, and there’s only one man she can trust to go with her—the ex-con biker who rescued her once before.

Puck will help her again, but this time it’ll be on his terms. No more lies, no more tears, and no more holding back what he really wants…

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4 stars

This is another audio book that I chose from my Overdrive account. (An amazing app that allows you to listen to books for free through your library card) And I  know I’m not supposed to start new series but I needed another book to listen to.  And I liked the cover. I have a kinda sketchy past with MC books.  There was only one MC book that I recall liking.  So I figured I’d try a different format.  This was my last ditch effort before I threw in the towel on this genre.  I can gladly say that it worked.

This book was f-ing amazing! The voices are what really pushed it over the edge.  This book was a dual POV and it was read by a male and female.  These fucking readers you guys…  IDK who read them but I’m gonna look them up.  They read it so well.  I felt the characters, I felt the anger and the betrayal. I felt the chemistry and sexual tension between the characters.

The woman especially did a really good job I think.  Each voice was distinct and had a unique pitch and accent.  Even the male voices sounded real and it was astonishing how many inflections she could do. I’ve never heard so many different voices come out of one person in my life.

The guy was great to. I’m not trying to knock him but there’s only so high a males voice can go.  So when he did the females voices it wasn’t as seamless a transition.

The story itself was a predictable read…except the ending.  I totally bought into the story, but there was one point at the end that really shocked me.  Kudos to that author for that. The cool thing about it is it tied up all the loose ends so I don’t have to read anymore in the series.  And I’m not going to because I’d had my fill of this story line and world and have no interest in returning.  The beginning was very graphic and intense so people who are not into that kind of stuff I would not recommend this for you.

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Noticed Me Yet? by Anyta Sunday


28423328Blurb: 
 Jacob’s in a pickle. He needs a new flatmate, and soon. And what better way to advertise than on the noticeboards around campus?

Trouble is, someone is taking down his ads.

Jacob writes to the offending thief, little expecting to be answered—and soon he finds himself in a deeper pickle: who is this Mr. X that he keeps writing to?

And how can Jacob be falling for him?

 

 

 

 

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4 stars

I really liked how they didn’t use electronics to communicate but did the old school way of note passing.  I love passing notes, especially in HS, we used to fold them into cool shapes like hearts and stuff. That was what we did in high school so this was right up my alley.  I did think the notes seemed a bit too pubic for me though.

The mystery of who it was was fun and had just enough oomph to keep my attention.  I kept trying to figure out who it was right along with Jacob.  The only thing that I had an issue with was how did either of them know what their sexual preference was? It seemed intuitive to me and that’s not really something that I think would be apparent by passing a few notes. but hey, I can suspend my belief for a short novella.

Their banter was easy going and flirty.  Just what I needed in between my series reading funk and a number of DNF’s that I have been going through. If you are looking for a quick, cutesy, romantic m/m romance, this is the one to pick up.

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Who She Was by Stormy Smith

Blurb:
34515672Trevor Adler loathes the music he used to love, but it’s the key to his full-ride scholarship and the ticket away from his dysfunctional parents. To kick off their freshman year, Trevor’s roommate drags him to a frat party, where he ends up face-to-face with his childhood best friend and finds himself entrenched in memories he’d rather forget.

Unable to let Charlie go again without understanding the truth of why she disappeared from his life and chose to become the type of person they always hated, Trevor is relentless in his pursuit of the girl he once knew.

Charlotte (Charlie) Logan is broken. Under her perfectly-crafted exterior are the shards of a shattered heart. A handful of angry words changed her life completely and Charlie’s never been able to forgive herself for the truth she’s hidden from everyone.

While Trevor pushes Charlie to remember the music that lit her soul and the laughter they shared, they find themselves reverting to a banter-filled rhythm that feels all too familiar, yet different now. When Trevor’s own secrets come to light, it becomes clear he and Charlie both must face their tragic pasts if they have any hope at a future together.

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

There is SO much to love about this story, but the highlight for me is most certainly the characters.  They were so full of depth, quirky, EXTREMELY lovable, but also with epic flaws that made them feel real (and made you occasionally not like the things they were doing, even as you still loved them).  And since characters are a highlight for me, this played a huge part in why I enjoyed this book.

Trevor was seriously swoony.  He pursued his friendship with Charlie with a single-minded determination that had you cheering for him…most of the time.  It was interesting to see a character that put so much thought and care into another human being, but at the expense of himself and sometimes without realizing that a true friendship has the give and take, and to expect someone to let you in, you also have to let them in.  So occasionally I would want to smack him into learning that lesson faster…but again, that’s where that depth of character and flaws part comes in.  He had his own growing and learning to do (and not just because of what was happening in his own life, and the struggles he was dealing with).  But he was honestly so sweet and understanding with Charlie, and I loved the way he knew when to push her and when to back off.  And he seriously had some of the swooniest lines I’ve ever heard, I was melting right along with Charlie (and Darcy).

Charlie was strangely easy to love as well.  Strange because we don’t get to hear her thoughts much in the first half, and the way she behaved could be very offputting.  But maybe its because you get such a strong hint that something awful has happened to hurt her and force her to put on that mask.  And I will admit that I had a strong hint (and I’m not sure why, maybe it was from the first chapter, or I saw something that spoiled it?), of what might have happened.  So I was waiting to see inside her mind.  I loved the growth her character went through, and the conclusions that she comes to about what she needs.

And the chemistry between Charlie and Trev was pretty fantastic…especially friendship wise.  They had this amazing flow between them, a banter and a way of interacting that just made me want to know them in real life.  And some of the swoony moments between them gave me such freaking butterflies.  I will admit to being a little bummed we didn’t get more romance.  I’m a romance lover, and after some of that build up, I really wanted the payoff to be bigger.

Speaking of characters, Sam and Darcy were the sh*t.  Seriously.  Some of the best secondary characters I’ve seen in a while, I loved the way they were there in the background, offering support, and going through their own struggles.  They were SO fun and offered some of the best advice.  I adored them.

In the end this book delved into some pretty hard topics, but I felt like it did so with realism and heart.  My heart broke for both characters and the struggles both in their past and present.  I really thought that their personal developments moved at a real pace.  It wasn’t something that could be changed overnight, but that took time and a lot of steps.  Sometimes I feel like other books rush this, and so it was really refreshing.

So why not 5?  Some little reasons, and a bigger one that has me a bit baffled.  I can’t put my finger on why, but I kept avoiding reading this book, even while reading it.  I would find other things to do.  I even got snagged by another book in the middle.  Was it that I was avoiding the tough topics?  Maybe.  But I think I might have been a bit bored on occasion, I needed just…something more.  Or maybe that there was just SO much that Ms. Smith tried to pack into this one novel, and I felt like one or two things then got shortchanged.  In particular I felt like I needed more of a connection with the music.  It was supposed to play this large role, but often times I would find it got forgotten and then just brought up here and there.  It’s hard to explain.  I really enjoyed the lyrics that they wrote to one another nearer to the beginning, I thought those were beautiful.  I was a little confused on some of the later ones, but I’m kind of dense when it comes to lyrics, so that was probably just me.

I felt a bit let down with the ending too.  The developments with Charlie’s family COMPLETELY threw me, and I couldn’t really reconcile the changes.  It’s not that I didn’t expect some development and change, but what we got felt too neat and tidy and unrealistic (at least for me).  It sort of felt that way for a few things, like we had this real and gritty book, and then the ending fell flat (the grand gesture left me confused) and a bit rushed.  I might have just been tired though.

So there’s my novella of a review.  There were just so many things that I loved about this book, but I just can’t shake that other feeling.  I hate when I can’t articulate (even in my own head) what I’m feeling.  I sincerely hope its just a me thing, b/c this book has so much power and love to share.

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Witchcraft by Jayne Ann Krentz

WitchcraftBlurb: Mystery writer Kimberly Sawyer lives alone and likes it that way. But when she is threatened by a hooded figure, and a blood-red rose with a needle thrust into its heart is left on her doorstep, she knows she needs protection. So it seems like perfect timing when Napa Valley vineyard owner Darius Cavenaugh returns to Kimberly’s life, offering help and a place to stay. But how did he know she needed him? Was it the deep, intuitive intimacy of a soulmate…or was it witchcraft?

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4 stars

This is a stand alone audio book. It was really good. I liked the cover, the title was intriguing and the blurb was well written. Those are the things that pulled me in. But I gotta say the content of the book had almost nothing to do with the title. And it was kinda irritating to me because I was looking for something more paranormal than what was represented. So for me to spend all that time listening…(You know how long it takes to listen to a audiobook, like 14 fucking hours.) Time that I don’t get back. Then to get to the climax and be soooo disappointed that it wasn’t more paranormal.  Yeah, I was a bit mad and it really sticks out in my mind.

The build-up was really good though and the audio was excellent. I’ve never really listened to romance audiobooks before. Generally I lean more toward the Sci-fi/Fantasy genre. It was one reader and she did all the voices with accents. I felt it gave the book more depth of feeling than if I was to read it myself. This was a romance novel that had just a smidgen of mystery.  I felt it was a bit misleading as far as marketing the book went.

It was also predictable as far as the big bad is concerned. As soon as the character was introduced I knew they were it. I think the author may have intended it to be that way though since it was a love story.

I’d read more from this author if I knew what I was getting into.

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Crazy About Cameron by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
25848928Crazy about Cameron is the third of four books about the Philadelphia-based, wildly-handsome Winslow brothers who are all on the look-out for love.

(Say what? Not so much…Brooks and Pres are OFF. THE. MARKET, and Chris is so distracted with his campaign, he can’t see what – or who – is right under his nose.)

With her stiff posture, black-rimmed glasses and chestnut waves in a tight bun, Cameron Winslow’s downstairs neighbor, Margaret Story, has long been the unaware star of his filthiest dirty-librarian fantasies. But with a floundering business eating up all his time, Cam doesn’t have the open road he’d need to date a lady like Margaret.

Margaret, who grew up down the road from Cameron, has always thought of him as a cross between a bully and a tease, as likely to pull her braids as pull her leg. But he’s grown up to be a smokin’ hot businessman, and Margaret can’t help daydreaming about what it would feel like to be under, um, with someone like him.

When hot-headed Cameron and buttoned-up Margaret start using the same shady contractor for apartment renovations, Margaret may find herself in some unexpected trouble, which forces long-hidden feelings to come out of hiding…and might just make way for two unlikely fantasies to finally come true.

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:
4 stars — OK, because I can’t seem to get over it, I’m going to get one of my annoyances out of the way at the beginning, and then commence the gushing.  If you choose to binge read this series (The Winslow Brothers section in particular) as I’m doing since I have the box set, and you have a mind for details, this series is going to bug you at least a little bit.  Because there are continuity errors.  A few little, one a bit bigger.  I first noticed one in Proposing to Preston, when the age of Preston was wrong and inconsistent with what we learn in Bidding on Brooks (he should have been 31 in Part One and 33 in Part Two).  But I didn’t say anything in my review, b/c it’s only something someone who pays attention to details would really notice, and really didn’t influence the story.  But the bigger continuity issue we run into in this book is kind of annoying since it’s what had me anticipating this story in the first place.  We first glimpse Cameron and Margaret in Bidding on Brooks at the auction, and there seems to be this playful war going on wrt the contractor.  Margaret even has a conversation with Brooks before the auction.  That part of the timeline in this book goes QUITE differently.  We never see her talk to Brooks, Cameron is not hiding from Margaret (and actually purposely approaches her), and the whole signing for tiles things doesn’t ever happen.  In fact the contractor war really doesn’t happen how I anticipated.  And there were a few other little ones (like when they moved to England)…  So if you have a mind for details and this kind of thing would annoy you, I suggest spacing out the reading of this series so that you forget that stuff by the time you get to this book.  Or at least be forewarned and forearmed.

OK.  Sorry.  That was a big ole pile of word vomit.  But I needed to get it off my chest before I could get to the good stuff, b/c my brain is, quite frankly, stupid.  It doesn’t help that I’ve recently finished two beta reads, so that switch was still on in my brain.  And, shake it off…

So while this book did not go how I was anticipating, I really actually LOVED the way direction it took instead!!  Like I would have enjoyed the story that was hinted, but I was equally enamoured with the story I got.  And part of that is just good ole likable characters.  Cameron was NOT what I expected.  Not that I knew much about him, but he was…DIRTY, and thoughtful, and FOCUSED (on Margaret), and vulnerable, and initially unhappy, and so sweet!! and protective, and even his impulsiveness came out in ways I wasn’t expecting.  Because he may have been impulsive, but it was like he wasn’t afraid to go after what he wanted once he figured out what that was…  And he went for it WITH ALL ENGINES FIRING.  Sexy as f*ck.  Like seriously, I just loved the way he saw Margaret, and wanted her, and how he resolved the things going on in his personal life, and how involved he became with the new direction and with his new relationship.

And Margaret broke my heart in places.  I’m a sucker for a shy, vulnerable, somewhat wounded heroine that has a core of strength, and we definitely get that in Margaret.  OMG, I had not anticipated her Father, and I seriously cried for her in places.  And while I may not have understood her desire for approval in spite of certain things, I bought it from her.  And I really appreciated that we saw how she would be when she could be the self she wanted to be.  I loved her passion for wine (even though GROSS), and just all the little bits that made up the real her.  She wasn’t what I was anticipating either, but I loved her all the same.

And I really enjoyed the romance that played out between her and Cameron.  It may have been fast at times, but it developed at a pace that made sense for these characters and their histories.

The bit of suspense and mystery that played a small secondary part really didn’t work for me, as it was fairly obvious from the start, and easy to put the pieces together.  And, I don’t know, I guess I was less impressed with the way it played out.  Not sure if it was necessary.

So honestly, despite the few little things that might have brought it down, the characters just drove this story home.  One more book!!

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Rumpel’s Prize (Kingdom #8) by Marie Hall

Rumples prizeBlurb:  Imp, deceiver, villainous mastermind… Rumpelstiltskin’s been called all these names and more, and for the most part, they’re entirely true. But there is more to the brooding, blond haired Adonis than brokering deals for the devil. He’s hiding a terrible, hideous secret. One that threatens to fray the already delicate strands of his sanity and reason. A secret that he’s desperate to make right, to see whole again, and there is no one and nothing that will stand in his way of getting what he wants—no one except a slip of woman with hair like fire and skin like finest porcelain. Something about Shayera Caron calls to the beast inside him and makes him question his motives for the first time in his life.

Shayera Caron is the daughter of the infamous Gerard Caron, former lothario of Kingdom but now a reformed rake and settled husband and father. She can go nowhere in her tiny hamlet without seeing the sneers of women and hearing the murmurings of their disdain for the blood that runs through her veins. Shayera is desperate to get away from the gossiping hens, so when Rumpelstiltskin rides into town, she doesn’t think twice before going wherever he leads. Only thing is Shayera is not as innocent as she might seem, for she hides a secret too. One that will bring the most feared man in all of Kingdom to his knees…

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4 stars

I like this one way more than the others.  It might be because the Gerald is one of my favorite bad guys in this series so since his daughter is in it I paid extra close attention to it.  And she had her own demons to deal with, so to speak.  She was a bit of a firecracker and I really loved her protectiveness of her family.  

Also I’m also a huge fan of Rumpelstiltskin.  I absolutely loved his backstory, it gave a lot of insight into his present character and made me love him even more. He is one sexy demon.  

This love story was more drawn out than the others as well so I got a bit of simmer before the boil if that makes sense.  And the plot twist at the end was unexpected.  I was pretty shocked at the things Rumple was willing to sacrifice to get what he thought he wanted. 

I enjoyed this one and since I had previously read the next one I’m very excited to finish this series.  

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Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

Blurb:

31375784An unforgettable story about autism, sisterhood, and first love that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Sophie Kinsella, and Sarah Dessen. New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things Julie Buxbaum raved: “I couldn’t put it down.”

Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.

Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own so Chloe and David have to tag along.  Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

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

OK confession time!  I got this one a few months ago, and when I decided to start reading it, I kind of forgot exactly what it was going to be about.  So in essence, I kind of went into the book a bit blind.  Like so blind that I forgot her sister was on the autism spectrum, and then I was like “oh yeah!!”  So it took me a bit to really get into the story, but once I did I was seriously sucked in.

At the beginning, Chloe isn’t necessarily that endearing, and it takes a bit to really get a feel for who she really is…and part of that is that you start off seeing the facade that she shows to her peers, and not necessarily all of who she is inside.  And she’s not the only one I was unimpressed with, I really didn’t fall in love with many characters at the beginning, from her family to her friends and boyfriend.  In fact, I felt more antagonistic towards many of them, particularly her stepfather.  But I’ll get back to that.

As the story progresses you get to see why Chloe chooses to put on the persona and maintain her status in the popular crowd, with the “hot” boyfriend.  I actually think this is one of the best depictions I’ve ever read of a teenager going along and trying to fit in.  With all that she struggles with at home, I could see how she would want to be liked and how much easier it would be for her to just keep her opinions to herself.  You could see a bit of that internal struggle for her, but ultimately she didn’t want to make waves, and she kind of just wanted to feel what she perceived to be “normal”.  It’s always disappointing, for sure, but I *got* it.  Not sure if that makes sense.  But it also makes her development as a character that much more satisfying.  Seeing her start to feel like “enough is enough” and that perhaps other qualities are more important in friends and boyfriends than what she was initially seeking just really felt natural and believable.  That it’s OK to have different priorities, and to stand up for yourself against the norm.  Seriously, I really ended up loving Chloe by the end of the book.  It’s actually kind of nice to see a main character who is popular not because she’s secretly a nerd and tired of being bullied, but because she just likes being liked.

David, Ivy and Ethan were the other stars of this show.  If you’re looking for a book with a grand romance, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one.  The romance with David is very slow building, and while I adored it, it’s really not the primary focus of the story.  It kind of gets shuffled to the background.  In the end I appreciated their developing friendship and banter more than the romance, which kind of felt rushed and tacked on in the end.  But seriously people, the developing relationship was SOLID.  I enjoyed that David wasn’t all sunshine and roses, that he was kind of a difficult character to love, but you could understand him as well, and how he came to be the way he was.  And he didn’t lose all those antagonistic qualities at the end, he was still kind of a dick to people, but you love him anyways.

And Ivy and Ethan were depicted so well.  I mean, I haven’t really had many encounters with folks on the autism spectrum, but I really thought that this was a fantastic representation of some of the unique attributes that can make them up…particularly because they were even different from each other.  And I really enjoyed the conversations that Chloe and David had, and the representations of the encounters they had with different types of people when out with their siblings.  It was heartbreaking, but unfortunately realistic.  And I loved that the story was from the siblings perspective, and showed the different challenges that they can face.  They’re not perfect, but you could really feel their love for their siblings.

Chloe’s mother and stepfather were challenging characters.  I really hated so many things about her stepfather.  He’s not evil, he’s got many shades of gray…in that way he’s really realistic.  And I know we’re seeing him from Chloe’s perspective, but damn he made me mad sometimes.  I’m up in the air with how his role played out in the story…I guess because he really is realistic in that he’s still got these really bad qualities, but he’s not all bad, and he can have some good moments too.  Sometimes I can’t deal with so much real, you know?  It’s so much easier when people are black and white.  In fact, many of the characters in this book are that real…from James and Sarah, to David’s parents, to Chloe’s parents.  I admire it as much as it vexes me as a reader.

OK, I’m getting seriously verbose here.  And I haven’t even talked about everything.  I enjoyed the Ivy twist in the middle of the book…I kind of saw it coming, but I thought it was another piece of diversity that was handled really well.

My only real complaint with the story is that the ending was odd to me.  It just kind of ended.  I didn’t feel that normal story flow, with a solid and clear ending.  And I guess my one other niggle is that occasionally we would encounter scenes that seemed meaningless in the overall scheme of the plot (like a moment in Camp’s class would just happen, and then we’d be onto lunch, and I didn’t really understand the point of it being included).

So basically if you’re looking for a diverse read with a fantastic look at life with someone on the autism spectrum, you NEED this book.  If you just love good YA coming of age tales, I would really recommend it as well.  Despite the few things that niggled me, I really really enjoyed this book and highlighted so many of Chloe and David’s interactions.

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Swinging at Love by Kendra C. Highley

Blurb:
34387362Outfielder Tristan Murrell has a problem. As the number two slugger for the Suttonville Sentinels, his team is counting on him to make their very first run at the state championship. But he has a secret—his swing has totally deserted him. As in, he can’t hit anything. He needs to fix the issue, and fast, but how?

Ballerina Alyssa Kaplan has a problem, too. The shiny new sports complex in town has left her family’s batting cage business on the verge of going under. Nailing her audition for a prestigious dance company is everything, but there’s no way she’s letting her some shiny big-box company destroy her family’s livelihood.

Tristan needs a miracle. So does Alyssa. And maybe, just maybe, Tristan’s secret weapon might be the girl of his dreams…

Disclaimer: This book contains hot, shirtless baseball players, kisses that bring a ballerina to her knees, and a lot of baseball smack-talk.

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

OK, this was a solid next book in the series that I didn’t know was going to be a series!!  And while I’m a little disappointed Faith and Kyle’s BFFs weren’t the focus of this story, Tristan and Alyssa were a pretty freaking spectacular consolation prize.  😉  And no, you don’t have to read book 1, but honestly, why wouldn’t you?  Shoot, I’m not even a baseball fan, or really a big muscular arms on a guy girl, but DAMN.  Ms. Highley knows how to make me swoon.  This is exactly what I love from a young adult romance…a fun quick read, lots of lightness and sweetness and swooning, but with just enough depth to give me more.

I think the thing I love most about both this book and the previous one is the sweetness of the heroes.  Tristan was just adorable!  He didn’t have the same background that Kyle did, but he was just really down to earth, and he knew what attracted him.  He had his own struggles coming from a family with completely different interests to him, and I could really appreciate that aspect to his story.  I liked that while he did feel like the odd man out in his family, his family was still good peeps…just lost in the world of baseball.  It’s an interesting facet that I don’t necessarily read a lot, where you have that dichotomy, but still have the love you know?  Not that that makes it any easier.  It was nice that he had Keller too.

And Alyssa was just awesomesauce.  I loved her sass, her insecurities, her straight talking, her confidence in certain things.  If I swung that way, I would totally be intrigued by her.  And I loved her own family dynamic.  I loved how close she was, how much her family influenced her, and it was nice to see a story where it wasn’t rich guy with poor girl (or vice versa), but there was a money/lifestyle disparity. But it wasn’t really the focus.  It was about how her family was struggling with their local business in an economy that’s hurting everyone.  I loved how important Swing Away was to her, and what she was willing to sacrifice for it.

And oh wow, Tristan and Alyssa’s chemistry was fantastic.  Right from their first interaction, you could just feel it.  I enjoyed that.  I was SERIOUSLY concerned with the way things would play out with Dylan and Lauren, and I was kind of disappointed in how it went initially, but it didn’t drag on like I thought it would, and it resolved better than I expected.  So phew.

And now, this girl who has no interest in baseball whatsoever, is seriously hoping for more from this series.  I love book baseball.  It’s way more exciting.  And I want more swoony guys from Ms. Highley, she seriously excels.

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