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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Waking Up Alive by Emma Shortt

Blurb:
28012875After surviving the zombie apocalypse for two years, Tye LeBow never expected to be saved from a hungry gang of zombies by a geek with a bad attitude and a penchant for explosives. Tye can’t quite work out why scientist Polly Parker saved him. She doesn’t want his protection, and she certainly doesn’t want his company. But Tye has no intention of leaving the beguiling geek behind.

Polly doesn’t want to leave her home, but when the wakers begin to show signs of a burgeoning intelligence, heading south is the only option. With a car packed full of homemade explosives, and Tye’s very large axe, they are ready for the road trip of their lives.

Bombs and blades aren’t the only keys to survival–they’ll need to rely on each other, in a way that neither could have imagined…

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I moved this book up on my TBR b/c I’m trying to read books featuring black characters for black history month, and from the cover I assumed Tye was black.  I feel like there are different reasons for having diverse characters, and if your reasons are to see things from the perspective of someone of a different race (in this case black), then I’m afraid you’d be disappointed.  It really didn’t come into play at all.  Perhaps because it’s the zombie apocalypse, and race is the least of anyone’s worries.  It’s also just nice to have representation, which is the other reason to have diverse characters, and this would have worked for that.

So after that long winded paragraph, I was definitely entertained by this novel, but it never succeeded in truly sucking me in.  Everything was just good for me, but not great.  Well, except maybe Tye.  He was such a sweet but still badass guy.  Polly was a bit harder to fall in love with, an I must say that I don’t think I ever really did.  I enjoyed her, she was likable, but I tend to gravitate towards snark and sass, and Polly lacked most basic social skills.  There was one point where Tye talks about her sense of humour, and I thought to myself “what sense of humour?”  I guess I like to see it, rather than be told it exists.

If you’re looking for a romance, I would say that Polly and Tye’s may not quite satisfy you.  It was definitely sweet, and I really did feel a connection between them, but it didn’t give me butterflies.  And it’s not because there were only maybe a few light kisses, it was more just that Polly is such an odd character internally that I was just never swept off my feet and believed her tummy flips.  I will say that their connection as companions is FANTASTIC.  I really felt how much they needed each other and cared for each other.  Not sure if I’m making any sense, b/c that probably sounds contradictory.  It was like more than friends, but I didn’t quite get any sexual chemistry (which can exist even in clean reads).

Now as far as a zombie book goes, I thoroughly enjoyed the action, suspense, and overall questions of how one would survive and what would that do to the people left.  I will note that I don’t read many zombie books, so I cannot give a comparison to what is out there.  And I also did not read book 1 in this series, but other than making me a bit curious about Jackson and Luke’s story, I didn’t feel I missed anything.

I enjoyed the different reactions to the zombies that both Polly and Tye had, and how they viewed those people.  I was actually intrigued to see a view into the zombies thought processes, I hadn’t been expecting that, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel, but in the end I felt it worked for the book.

I’m not sure if I will read more in the series.  If I didn’t have a HUGE TBR, I definitely would.  But given I do have too many books to read, if I don’t get to it I won’t be heartbroken.

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Grin and Beard It by Penny Reid

Blurb:
23337863USA TODAY Bestselling Romantic Comedy Series

Sienna Diaz is everyone’s favorite “fat” funny lady. The movie studio executives can’t explain it, but her films are out-grossing all the fit and trim headliners and Hollywood’s most beautiful elite. The simple truth is, everyone loves plus-sized Sienna.

But she has a problem, she can’t read maps and her sense of direction is almost as bad as her comedic timing is stellar. Therefore, when Sienna’s latest starring role takes her to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park she finds herself continually lost while trying to navigate the back roads of Green Valley, Tennessee. Much to her consternation, Sienna’s most frequent savior is a ridiculously handsome, charming, and cheeky Park Ranger by the name of Jethro Winston.

Sienna is accustomed to high levels of man-handsome, so it’s not Jethro’s chiseled features or his perfect physique that make Sienna stutter. It’s his southern charm. And gentlemanly manners. And habit of looking at her too long and too often.

Sienna has successfully navigated the labyrinth of Hollywood heart-throbs. But can she traverse the tenuous trails of Tennessee without losing her head? Or worse, her heart?

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My Review:
5 stars — My wonderful co-conspirator, Curly Carla, loaned this book to me through Kindle (which we both didn’t think was going to work since I’m in Canada and we Canadians can’t loan books, BUT IT DID!)!!  And I adored it so much I immediately upon finishing went out and bought it so I didn’t lose my multitude of highlights…

YOU GUYS!!!  I’ve been so worried that something was wrong with me, since my previous Penny Reid reads (*snort*) have not been stellar successes.  But it appears I just hadn’t found my match as yet.  Apparently I’m picky or something.  I don’t know, it just seemed that there was so much good in her writing, but I would inevitably be rubbed the wrong way by something or other.  BUT NOT IN THIS BOOK!!  This book was a delight from fricking beginning to end.  It was full of happy sighs and goofy grins and tummy tingles and great guffaws.

I actually own book one but have not read it yet, but I really needed a book for my Platypire Diversity Challenge since the theme for the month of January was “Body Positivity”, and I *knew* Sienna was a plus sized girl, so I thought SCORE!  Plus, extra bonus points since she is also a person of colour!  So it was kind of a lame reason, but I can’t believe how well it worked out for me.  I was honestly sucked in from the very first page.  Or rather, I had previously been sucked in by the first page because I’d read an excerpt (and promptly wishlisted this book), but it just continued to suck me further and further as the book went along.

Sienna was a delight.  She was silly and sassy and confident but with a hint of vulnerability.  Her internal monologue about being a plus sized actress had me immediately highlighting and wanting to high five her.  She also had an interesting family dynamic, that while it didn’t come into play a LOT, it made an impression on me.  And her first encounter with Jethro is just so….well, quite frankly, I swooned right along with her.

Jethro was just EVERYTHING I was needing in a hero.  He was this bizarre mix of confident, sweet, flirty, charming, damaged, vulnerable, complicated and deep.  But I’m right there with Sienna, the thing that drew me to him was just how genuinely and effortlessly good he was.  This is not to say that he doesn’t have his flaws, but I understood them.  And I just can’t gush enough about him.

And quite frankly, while they were both amazingly unique and intriguing individuals, it was their dynamic with each other that had me just glued to the pages.  They were exactly as Sienna described them — so EASY with each other.  They fit like puzzle pieces.  And even the conflict that arose between them made sense and ran its course and didn’t overly frustrate me, but allowed me to see their relationship grow and change.

I ADORED Ms. Reid’s note at the end about how Sienna Foster became Sienna Diaz.  I really appreciate that she took the time to try to make Sienna as authentic as possible, and it really shows.

I’m definitely excited to read more in this world.  I don’t know if I’ll have quite the same luck as with this book, because these two were just tailor made for me, but I’m so intrigued with all of the brothers (and Ashley) and their love stories, either already told or still to come.

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It’s You, Book Two by K.P. Kelley

Blurb:

33387588The second book in New York Times bestselling author Katy Regnery’s first duo of paranormal romances!

HAPPILY EVER AFTER…
To some, they’re just words signifying a fairytale ending.
For me, Jack Beauloup, they represent an unyielding desire:
Forever with Darcy Turner, the unexpected love of my life.
A love that has placed her human life in danger.

According to Pack Law, my binding is an abomination that must be severed.
It’s ignited a fiery hatred that I must confront and control.
But what is bound cannot be broken.
I will keep Darcy safe.
Even if it means giving up on my dreams.
Even if it means giving up my life.

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

Well hmmm…this is a tough one.  As I’m writing this up, I still don’t know whether I will round up or down.  I enjoyed a lot of this book, was hooked into the romance and action and mythology of the paranormal aspect.  But I also had a few qualms, a few niggles.  It wasn’t quite as satisfying as I’d hoped, and some parts went in directions that I wasn’t entirely happy with (from a personal taste perspective).

So what was I happy with?  I still really loved how unique this take on a shifter story was.  I enjoyed the concept of the Roux-ga-roux and the way Ms. Kelley really made it her own, and blended in the Métis culture and superstitions.  It extended from what was in the first book and remained fairly consistent.

I also really enjoyed that the immediate conflict which ended book one on a bit of a climax was actually dealt with pretty quickly in book two, and was not dragged out.  I loved that we got more good, loving, romantic time with Darcy and Jack, and not just conflict.

What was I less than happy with?  A bunch of little things that kind of added up.  1) There were a few spots (particularly in some steamy scenes) where the POV jumped from Darcy to Jack from one paragraph to the next.  When I’m reading dual POVs, I’m happiest when it’s very clear whose POV I’m reading, and there are clear delineations between them (like chapters or at least breaks).  2) I wasn’t happy with the eventual explanation of the time loss.  I felt it was kind of cheap and didn’t make sense, and if the author wasn’t going to delve into it and make it more clear, then it should have been left out altogether.  There were enough interesting and unique paranormal aspects that it wasn’t needed.  I almost felt similarly about the rash/burns, but I can live with that one.  It just kind of felt lost in the shuffle of book two.  3) I wasn’t happy with the resolution with Willow and Amory…did they tell Amory?  Is he in the dark?  How did they explain everything????  4) I wasn’t happy with the glossing over of Willow’s Enchanteresse stuff.  If you’re going to make it part of the plot, give it some lip service, otherwise it feels very plot device-ish.

SPOILERY PARAGRAPH!!!!  I will hide this on Goodreads, and remove from my Amazon review, but please just don’t read unless you’ve read the book!!!!  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!  5) I was a little disappointed the biology/moss stuff didn’t go anywhere.  It was so foreshadowed, and I really thought she was going to have some breakthrough.  That could have been cool.  6) I really wanted Jack to take out Saint Germain, or show them there was another way, and more clearly break from the pack, though I suppose that would be too dangerous.  7) I wasn’t happy with the amount of sexual propositioning that seemed to happen between unbound Rougs (Julien with Willow, even though he had feelings for Lela, and Tombeur reacting to Darcy, even though he loved Tallis).  I guess this goes along with 6 a bit, in that I kind of thought they were just broken, and Jack and Darcy were the new way (what with all the cheating even in bound couples). 8) I WANTED LOUVETEAUS DAMNIT!!!  ie that epilogue was not nearly satisfying enough.

SPOILERY PARAGRAPH FINISHED!!!

I still wasn’t a big fan of Darcy.  I loved Jack way more, so I was constantly mad at Darcy’s actions.  Although at least Jack kind of screwed up going too far with the keep his distance stuff, so he wasn’t perfect.  But I was never quite happy with how she saw the Roug stuff, and how disgusted she was even by the animals.  I never fully believed that she accepted him (and I guess he didn’t really either).  And I am not a fan of couples that are so bad at communication.  Seriously, I get that neither of you have had much for relationships, but COME ON!!  *sigh*  It’s just a personal taste thing, not my favourite.

So yeah, it looks like a lot of bad, but they’re honestly not big things in the grand scheme of things, just annoyances, you know?  But there were just so many…round up, round down, round up, round down.  But OMG people the emotions in this book were actually pretty amazing!!  My heart broke for Jack on so many occasions, he just grabbed your heart and twisted it!!  *sigh*  My life is so hard.  This one really is a solid 3.5 stars.  I’ll decide on a whim I guess.

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Hooked on Trouble by Kelly Siskind

Blurb:

31359036Reality bites. Hard.

The last time Raven did “real” was sixteen months ago, when she spent one unforgettable night with the tattooed, impossibly sexy Nico, and then he disappeared the next day. Since then, she’s kept her guard up and her feelings to herself. She doesn’t have time for relationship drama when she’s busy searching for her long lost sister.

Nico hasn’t stopped thinking about Raven—her sultry curves, inked skin, or the fact that he ditched her after their night together. Now that they’re living in the same city, he knows this is his chance to make things right. What better way to prove to Raven he’s for real than helping her find her sister? But when the lines between right and wrong start to blur, putting his job on the line, Nico has to decide if the risk is worth the ultimate reward.

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

This review is going to suffer b/c I wasn’t able to immerse myself in this book like I normally would…it actually took me an unprecedented week to read, and it had NOTHING to do with the story.  But as such, I don’t have my thoughts all nicely gathered as I normally do.  So bear with me.

I find I’m really loving Ms. Siskind’s writing and characters.  While I’ve only read book 2 in this series of hers, I still feel like I can say that with confidence.  What’s funny to me is that I just finished reading my review for that book, and I gave it the same number of stars, but it wasn’t because I was as in love with Nico as I was with Sawyer.  I just enjoyed the story, and thought it was a solid romance with a lot of depth, and flawed characters that seem to grow over the course of the book.  There were little things that left me a bit unsatisfied, but nothing egregious, you know?  So it’s kind of funny to give it the same star rating, but for this one it was just an overall feel, whereas for book 2 it was a balance of one amazing character and one meh character.  Annnnndddd you really didn’t want to hear all that, did you?

ANYWAYS.  So both Nico and Raven were actually super cool characters, but in kind of opposite ways.  They are both so damaged by troubling childhoods, but it shaped them into completely different individuals.  But I kind of still understood what drew them to each other.  It’s like they balanced each other off, you know?  Raven is kind of jaded, and edgy, and standoffish, and not exactly a rule follower.  Whereas Nico is very soft, and gentle, and goes all in, and is ALL ABOUT THE RULES.  They’re sort of extremes on their own.  And it was interesting to see how that all kind of clashes and results in the ultimate climax of their relationship.  I wasn’t expecting it, and yet looking back I kind of should have, you know?  I was initially a bit put off by both of their mistakes, but in the end I was happy with how it played out…it felt true to both of their characters, even if it made me temporarily mad at them.  But it made the learning feel more authentic I guess.  Like neither changed, but they both learned to compromise.  Nicely done Ms. Siskind, props.

I will say that although I enjoyed their banter, I did miss the lightheartedness that came with Sawyer’s ridiculous personality.  That boy shone even in this book in his little appearances.  I LOVED seeing the group all together, they really made me laugh and I wished they really existed somewhere out in the world.  That epilogue was basically ALL OF THE THINGS.  And now I want to read book one even more, I need to figure out how to squeeze it in.  *SIGH*

So yeah, solid final book in the series.  Dealt with some difficult issues on both their ends, but in the end I was missing falling deeply in love with the MCs to really push it over the top (*groan* pun not intended) for me.  Will be watching for more from Ms. Siskind in the future, especially since she gives good Canadianness.

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Make Lemonade by Cassie Mae

Blurb:
Make Lemonade.jpgBeth’s dream has always been Disneyland, and with the way life has been going, a trip to the magical world was just the ticket she needed. But with a broken transmission halfway there, Beth and her boyfriend Ben get stranded in the town of Hope Falls, and she is not in the best of moods.

As things continue to take a dive, Ben is determined to turn this situation around. With a knack for fixing cars and a ring in his pocket, he prepares to turn the sourest lemon into the sweetest lemonade, all for the woman he loves.

But the problem might just run deeper than a broken down car and a delayed vacation.

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My Review:
5 stars — I beta read this book, which sometimes makes it hard to review, but not in this case.  It was basically a masterpiece as written and I just spent a lot of my time swearing at Cassie for making me cry (for realz, poor girl took some abuse in the comments).

So how does she do it?  I don’t get it folks.  I don’t get how Ms. Mae writes these masterpieces of realism and awesomeness, but she’s done it again.  Honestly I shake my head.  It’s like she has a direct line to my consciousness and thoughts and feelings and decided to put them all in a novella, and rename the heroine Beth.  You know what that shows?  It provides incontrovertible proof that I’m not alone.  That all these feelings I feel, are shared by so many.  That depression is a stupid jerk that should be taken out back and shot.

Seriously though, this little novella took me through the wringer.  And part of that is because it hit so freaking close to home.  I highlighted so many passages and commented with “I’ve felt that!” and “I’ve been here!”  For that reason alone this book was a masterpiece for me.  Because it made me feel validated, and represented, and even loved.  And through Beth’s relationship with Ben (we’ll get to him), it reminded me that the dark times are sprinkled with awesomeness.  That experiencing depression does not preclude you from having these amazing moments.  Heck, Beth and Ben reminded me of my hubby and I.  They really and truly are the epitome of relationship goals.  And not because everything is easy, but because it’s NOT.  Because they struggled.  But they made it through.

And it was so heartbreaking to watch Ben struggle with his side of Beth’s depression.  To see how it could bring out his own insecurities.  I just wanted to hug him to freaking death.  He is pretty much the most amazing guy (though not without his own flaws), and I just can’t even right now.  Seriously.

So enough with the heavy.  Because while there is heavy, there is a heck of a lot of light in this novella too.  And I cannot even tell you how much I laughed and smiled and just lit up inside reading about Beth and Ben’s romance.  I LOVE that Ms. Mae is not afraid to give us an established couple and show us that even they still have a story to tell.  From the bowling to the whole Disney day, my heart was just FULL.

I hate saying this, b/c it feels disloyal, but I do believe I have a new favourite Cassie Mae couple.  Beth and Ben were amazing.  And even though it’s not a full blown book, I’m pretty sure it’s trying to take top place as my favourite Cassie Mae book.  I don’t know if it’s because it hit so close to home, or if it’s because she basically just wrote awesomeness personified, but it was a treat.  It was everything my heart was wanting and needing.  I know I always sound like one of those people who’s being disingenuous with my effusive praise, but I guess Ms. Mae just writes what I want to read.  I’m never afraid to state my whole opinion, but in this case I have nothing but good to say.  *happy fulfilled sigh*

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Why Not? by Carey Heywood

Blurb:

33139808He doesn’t love me.
Our relationship wasn’t supposed to have strings.
Now he’s almost all I think about.
He changed everything.
I’m not ready to tell him.
There’s a chance he’ll blame me when I do.
I don’t know if I can trust him but I’m afraid to face the future alone.
Will he ever love me, or will he always love me not?

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

Oh dear.  This book did not have a good start for me.  Not the prologue, that was cute.  But chapter 1 dives right in to the steamy scenes, and it was just too abrupt for me.  I felt like I was missing something, and since I haven’t yet read the previous two books in the series, I initially wondered if I should have read them first to get the full value.  After finishing the book, I don’t think that’s the case, I think it just wasn’t a beginning that worked for me personally.  Diving into sex so quickly, I had absolutely NO connection with the characters, and thus I personally did not feel any chemistry in that scene whatsoever.  I guess I’m just the kind of girl who likes to see the MCs interact a bit, maybe talk a bit, before getting into things.  *shrugs*  I like hot sex, but when it happens before we’ve even seen them have much of a conversation, I just can’t get into it.  It’s just sex then, nothing more, which is OK for eroticas, but not a romance.  So yeah, it just did NOT work for me.  I was seriously dismayed and it was hovering at a 2 star or less at this point.

But I kept reading, and it slowly got better.  I think I see why Ms. Heywood went with a beginning like that.  It was quite intentional that their relationship start as a hookup turned friends-with-benefits turned more kind of thing.  In the end it was kind of an intriguing developing relationship to watch, it just might not be for *me*, you know?  While I did start to feel their connection more and more as the book went on, there is still a part of me that felt like I wanted more of what drew them together.  Because it was insta-lust, and so much of what had them together at the beginning was the amazing sex, I felt like I was later told about what they liked about each other more than seeing it.  Part of that had to do with the skips in time.  We’d be going along, seeing some development, and then bam it would be a few weeks or months later.  This happened a few times, and I felt like we ended up losing out on seeing their relationship develop a bit.

So how did I get to a 3.5 star (rounded down) when it started off so badly for me?  Well like I said, the book got better.  I found that the bits we did get to see of Trip and Reilly together were quite cute, and I really loved the way Trip eventually was with Reilly.  He became very swoonworthy as the book went on.  And the secondary characters and the MCs relationship with those secondary characters were absolutely top notch.  I’m actually very curious to catch up on the first 2 books now, b/c I loved seeing Jake and Kacey and Sydney and Heath together.  And Gavin was just the most swoonworthy boy, his blushes have ruined me for life.  And quite frankly I adored Trip’s Mom and Sadie and the whole compound they have.

And hoo boy did I cry in this one.  I was not expecting the tragedy, and it seriously fucking killed me.  I’m so glad no one came to the door while I was reading that part b/c I was exercising at the same time and I probably looked like a read-eyed, snot-nosed, messy haired freak.  And I adored the aftermath of the tragedy, and Reilly’s healing.  Seriously well done.  AND DUDES!  We got a fantastic huge long pre-epiloguetastic ending.  I love seeing HEAs, so I really loved that we got all that.

So the second half of the book was basically 4 star goodness for me, with a couple of little quirks that make it want to dip down, and a few amazing bits that want to make it tip up.  So I settled with 3.5 rounded down.  This really seems to be a case of it’s me, so I can’t honestly say how everyone else will feel about it.  All I can say is that if you’re struggling with the beginning, please do as I did and hold on.  I definitely think it was worth it.  ❤

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Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen

Blurb:

30307297From the USA Today bestselling author of Rookie Move comes the second novel in the series that’s hot enough to melt the ice.

 
He’s a fighter in the rink, but he’s about to learn that playing nice can help you score…
 
As team captain and enforcer, Patrick O’Doul puts the bruise in the Brooklyn Bruisers. But after years of hard hits, O’Doul is feeling the burn, both physically and mentally. He conceals his pain from his coach and trainers, but when his chronic hip injury becomes too obvious to ignore, they send him for sessions with the team’s massage therapist.

After breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, Ari Bettini is in need of peace of mind. For now, she’s decided to focus on her work: rehabilitating the Bruisers’ MVP. O’Doul is easy on the eyes, but his reaction to her touch is ice cold. Ari is determined to help O’Doul heal, but as the tension between them turns red hot, they both learn that a little TLC does the body good…

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

This was a solid followup book in this series!!  I’m still anxious to find out what’s going on with Nate and Becca, but I actually really loved Ari and Patrick’s love story.  I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I had more dedicated time to read it, and wasn’t constantly interrupted…a bookworm’s nightmare, am I right?

I think I’d read a teaser for this one at the end of the first book, and for some reason I thought there would be something more specifically devastating in O’Doul’s past, particularly with his dislike of being touched.  So often that screams of abuse that’s more than just physical.  So I kind of kept waiting for that to be revealed at the beginning, but then I figured out it wasn’t quite that.  But in the end his dislike of being touched wasn’t really explored in any great detail, and while I was a bit disappointed to not delve into his past, it was kind of interesting that it wasn’t given specifics, b/c sometimes people can’t explain why they feel like that, just that that’s the way life has shaped them, you know?  It’s not always sexual abuse or something like that.  And sometimes sexual abuse trumps the horrors of just plain physical abuse.  Not sure if I’m making sense.  Basically I was conflicted about the amount of background we got on Patrick.  I’m a background kind of girl, so I can always dive in for more.  🙂

I really enjoyed the depth we did get on how Patrick felt being the enforcer.  I’m not sure if Ms. Bowen interviewed some enforcers to get their thoughts on their role, but I was fascinated to see the dread he felt, but also how he felt it was so important to his career.  I’m not big into the hockey fights myself, and must say I agree with Nate: I sincerely hope they are going out of style.  There’s just too much danger in them for the benefits we get out of them.

Ari was an intriguing heroine for me.  I loved how she was a bit of a contradiction with her yogi lifestyle, but her inability to give herself a break for some of the mistakes she made in the past.  But I thought she grew over the course of the book, and it was believable for me.  I loved seeing her friendships develop with Becca and Georgia as well.

For those who are a fan of the Ivy Years series, there were some awesome glimpses of past characters in this one…some just tiny, but it was nice all the same.

Patrick and Ari had some great chemistry as well, I was definitely enjoying both the steamy moments, and Patrick’s sweet attempts to woo her.  That moment when he enlists the help of his fellow players had me just laughing.  Loved it.

My one complaint would be with how what could have been a major obstacle in their relationship was sort of left to the epilogue and then just resolved super quickly.  It was almost like the author forgot about it, and had to do something with it at the end.  Not super impressed with that.  Also, what happened in the playoffs??  You can’t just have a count down for the chapter headers for the whole book and then bam, 3 months later…bit cheesed.

All in all really enjoying this series, and the romance in this one was top notch.  And I totally called Beacon having the next book!  But his heroine surprised me, even though it shouldn’t!  Can’t wait for more in this series.

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It’s You, Book One by K.P. Kelley

Blurb:

30037207From New York Times bestselling author Katy Regnery comes her first duo of paranormal romances!

ONCE UPON A TIME…
the most beautiful boy in the world kissed me.
I’ve never been able to forget.
Perhaps it was his jet-black hair,
or the changing copper-color of his eyes,
the intense way he looked at me…
or the fact that he awakened my passion for the first time,
at once otherworldly yet heartbreakingly real.
After that kiss, I never saw him again.

His name was Jack Beauloup.
Jack, my “Beautiful Wolf.”

Twenty years passed. He has returned. For me.

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

I think I picked the wrong time to start reading this book, but with the release date coming up I didn’t have much choice.  But reading it over Christmas with a bunch of company over so I couldn’t remain engrossed just wasn’t ideal.  When I started the book I was totally sucked in.  I LOVE books that while being for the adult audience, give you the teenage perspective too…when there’s a past, I don’t just want to know it happened, I want to be there and experience it.  And Ms. Kelley totally gave that to us, and I am in love with the past parts.  I could feel the chemistry drawing Darcy and Jack together, and Darcy’s anguish over the loss of that love when found was just perfect.  And I totally felt her confusion over why it should have such a profound effect on her for so long.  Seriously, the emotions in those sections were just spot on perfect.

But back in the present, I had an up and down relationship with Darcy and Jack…but mostly Darcy.  I had moments where I really enjoyed her…she was smart, she was sassy, she was fairly down to earth.  I liked her relationship with her bff Willow, and I am totally intrigued by that little side story with Amory btw….hope we get more in book two.  But while I enjoyed the continuing chemistry between Darcy and Jack, I wasn’t quite as enthralled as I was in the past parts.  Basically the steamy parts were good, but I wasn’t necessarily blown away.  And I was a bit dismayed with how long the discovery process took…ie, how long it took Darcy to accept that something was up with Jack, and put the pieces together.  I don’t know how it could have been done faster, but it was hard to see all the clues going together, and remember that normal people wouldn’t assume that shifters really exist.

I did THOROUGHLY enjoy the mythology in this one, and how Ms. Kelley chose to present the paranormal aspect.  As a Canadian, I was a bit confused with the way she initially described Métis, but that could have been me reading into things that weren’t there, because in the end it sounded correct.  I just never thought of them as a tribe per say.  But I’m not an expert, so I assume she did the appropriate research and it’s me that has it wrong.

I was a bit saddened by the way Part One ended (trying not to give spoilers).  I can’t help but have wanted Darcy to react differently.  She hurt my heart.  It’s funny, b/c it’s not that I don’t get it…but at the same time, it wasn’t what my heart wanted.

Jack was completely swoon.  I really enjoyed how sweet he was, and the choices he made throughout his past wrt Darcy.  I really enjoyed Part Two from his perspective, I was totally missing his POV and was so happy when we got it in the end.  It filled in so many blanks that I had, and yeah…just supremely satisfied.  I wasn’t quite as sucked in, but that could have been because of life stuff, and not necessarily the book, you know?  Or maybe I was still just mad at Darcy.  😛  Who knows.  I’m also not a Lela fan, I’m not sure how she’s going to be redeemed at this point.

All in all, really interesting paranormal take on the shifter story…love the backstory and mythology, love Jack, and had some amazing set up for the love story.  I enjoyed that there was a lot else going on besides the Jack and Darcy love story, and I’m super curious how it’s all going to end.  Hopefully when I get book two, I’ll have more dedicated time to devote just to reading and devouring it.

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