Unloved by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
35700589My name is Cassidy Porter…

My father, Paul Isaac Porter, was executed twenty years ago for the brutal murder of twelve innocent girls.

Though I was only eight-years-old at the time, I am aware – every day of my life – that I am his child, his only son.

To protect the world from the poison in my veins, I live a quiet life, off the grid, away from humanity.

I promised myself, and my mother, not to infect innocent lives with the darkness that swirls within me, waiting to make itself known.

It’s a promise I would have kept…if Brynn Cadogan hadn’t stumbled into my life.

Now I exist between heaven and hell: falling for a woman who wants to love me, while all along reminding myself that I must remain…

Unloved.

**NOTE: This book is intended for readers 18+**

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lgAmazon link coming soon (releases Oct 8th)

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

LOVED it.  Like, LOVED it.  It wasn’t as dark as I was expecting, I don’t know why I thought it would be.  So if you’re looking for a really dark read, this probably won’t fit.  But it was an emotional ride right from the prologue (especially since I started it 2 days after Vegas, hit a bit close to home).  I bawled off and on through the first few chapters.  I really do believe Ms. Regnery is trying to collect torn out bloody hearts for her collection…maybe she stores them with the tears of her readers…

OK, so I’m not usually an insta-love kind of girl, but there are occasions where it just works for me and is kind of a guilty pleasure.  And this book contained that kind for me.  I think it’s because we start off meeting Cassidy and Brynn on their own…I got to know them, I fell in love with them, my heart ACHED for them both (for completely different reasons).  They both have such tragedy in their lives.

I truly empathized with Brynn and what she was going through post-Jem.  I can’t relate, but I can only imagine how I would react in those circumstances…and I have a feeling it would be remarkably similar.  I feel like we got a really good look into her character…even if we mostly see her in mourning.

And Cassidy…oh my sweet boy.  My heart HURTS.  IT HURTS.  He just has such a sweet nature, and it was so hard to see it constantly existing beneath a cloud.  I really ended up loving him.  And he was strangely believable.  Like I could see how he turned out the way he did.  And he just stole my whole heart with his innocence, and his longing, and his forced isolation, and just…everything.  He was almost kind of a beta boy…and we all know how much I love my beta boys.

And while I may have had to suspend my disbelief a tiny bit once Cass rescued Brynn and she woke up, I was willing to do it.  I realize in real life most people wouldn’t have reacted as calmly as she did, but I was OK with it.  And there were moments where I expected certain reactions that didn’t come to pass (like Cass using the cell phone at the store, I expected someone to question him later, but it didn’t happen).  But I was OK letting those things just sort of slide by.  Because I was absorbed in the story, and I was OK just letting it play out as Ms. Regnery wanted it to.

I will admit I expected more steamier scenes than what I got.  Again, I think I expected a more risque novel.  But the steamy scene we did get was full of love and reverence, and it totally worked for me.  And Cass and Brynn together worked for me.  I was rooting for them, and dreading the moment when I knew things weren’t going to go well.  And you know what?  The climax surprised me!  I was so certain it was going to go one way, and it didn’t!  And then there were twists!!!  Like super twists!  And while I’m not sure I buy into all that gene/DNA stuff, I appreciated the way the ending played out anyways.  And I got me a beautiful epilogue!

So yeah.  This was a Lenore book.  It just hit all the right spots with me, and parts of it were a bit guilty pleasure, and I highlighted the crap out of the book…  I always worry when I’ve been looking forward to a book, that it will somehow let me down.  So I was so ridiculously happy when this one wasn’t one of those.  Now I need to read something light so I can recover…

Lenoreo_small

Advertisements

The Princess and the Pizza Man by Cassie Mae

Blurb:
36255092Matchmaking, mansions, and murder – just another Tuesday for this princess. 

Twelve years of tossing pizzas in his hometown in Alabama is like a dream come true for William Monroe, but his sister is ready to leave the Podunk place, desperate to find herself a man and get hitched. He’s not too thrilled to hear about the mansion she’s dragging him to, claiming it’s haunted with the spirit of Cupid, and it’s his job to make sure she doesn’t fall for the first guy who looks her way.

Winter’s been running the Frostville Murder Mysteries ever since she inherited a hefty sum of cash, wanting to give back in a fun and profitable way for her home city. Noticing a lot of puppy-eyed patrons, she gives herself the job of matchmaking, picking out the ones who seem best suited for one another. But when the outspoken and grumpy man from Alabama arrives with his eager-to-be-matched sister, her focus starts to falter, and she wants nothing more than to prove to Will that her mansion can feel like home, too.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

This was an adorable little story.  I will admit that I started off on the wrong foot with it…partially b/c I had a terrible cold that was making concentrating hard, and partially because I’m not really a huge fan of spelling out accents…it’s a stupid pet peeve, but there you go.  I was a little concerned that I wasn’t going to fall in love, but I got sucked in like I always do with a book by Ms. Mae.

I was concerned when we first met Will and his sister Maybelle (Bells) that they would be too stereotypically southern.  I should have had faith.  While they do have some stereotypical southern quirks, they fleshed out into really intriguing characters to me.  I loved how easily embarrassed Will could get, especially given how supposedly loud he was.  I also loved hearing the story about how his passion for cooking started…  And I really appreciated how much he loved his sister, and how he went above and beyond for her.

And Winter was just delightful to me…quirky and odd and not at all what I was expecting.  She just sounds delightful, I felt like I could really picture who she was, and I’d want to be her friend.  She has a really big heart.

And Winter and Will were so adorable together.  It was a truly sweet romance, and I loved how it played out at the end.  It fulfilled everything my romantic heart was hoping it would.

I also enjoyed the murder mystery, and the cast of goofy actors and guests at the mansion.  I will say I didn’t solve the mystery, I was totally surprised by that one!  And I didn’t quite peg what was going on with Bells…that’s one bit I wouldn’t have minded learning more of what happened.  She was a fun character in her own right, almost a caricature, but pulled back into realism with her feelings and conversations with Will and Winter.

So all in all, while it may have had a bit of a bumpy start for me, I was utterly delighted with how this little story played out in the end.  Made me a happy camper.

Lenoreo_small

If Ever by Angie Stanton

Blurb:
35901365Fiercely independent Chelsea Barnes has caught a rare break and been cast as the first non-celebrity on the hit show Celebrity Dance Off. Chelsea is coined ‘America’s Chance to Dance,’ but her partner planned on an A-lister, not a nobody.

Clashing with her partner, she’s ready to go home; but during an emotional dance, her heart-breaking past as an abandoned, homeless teen is revealed. Not only do the viewers fall in love with her, so does the flirty British guest singer, Broadway star Thomas Evan Oliver.

Tom is struck by this feisty girl who complicates his over-structured life, and pursues her in a romantic cross-country courtship until she’s voted off and joins him. Their sexy whirlwind love affair blossoms in New York as she navigates the big city and his exhausting eight shows a week, but most important, her scarred heart begins to heal. Perhaps happily ever after might be a possibility after all.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.  Though I was delayed in getting to my ARC, so I actually read the copy I purchased instead.

OMG you guys, it didn’t take me long into the book before I knew I was going to love this one.  I’ve loved so many of Ms. Stanton’s YA books, and this one felt like Dream Chaser for adults.  I honest to goodness laughed out loud, silently cried, squealed in delight, and last night before bed I got so hyped up that I was singing “Don’t Stop Believin” to my husband, and he was cursing my caffeine intake, but it was really just excitement over this book.  And honestly, if it wasn’t for the ending, this would have been at least a round up if not a full 5 stars.  The ending is the reason for rounding down.  I’ll get to that later, I want to gush first.

I will admit to being a Broadway fan (we always go to at least one show each time we visit NYC), and while I don’t watch any of those reality dance shows (b/c I’d always rather be reading), I do love the world of dancing as well…probably b/c I have like no grace or coordination myself (although I did attempt ballroom dance lessons when I was in University).  So this book really was almost tailor-made for me.  But what makes it stand out is not just that these settings were present, but that the author does an amazing job of really making you believe it, and really giving you all the little bits to immerse you into both worlds.

The book is really split into two halves, and the first half is where we’re immersed into the world of dancing, and it just made my heart so happy.  It was grueling and exhilarating all at the same time.  I felt how hard Chelsea worked, what a toll it took on her body, and how it really showed a true appreciation for dancing as almost a sport.  I was so concerned with how her relationship started with her dance partner, Dominic, and so was ridiculously pleasantly surprised with how that relationship developed.  It could have gone in a cliche direction, and it didn’t.  I LOVED that.  And I adored Chelsea’s interactions with Hank.  He was definitely another favourite secondary character.  I really appreciated that her progression through the weeks was believable too.  And I loved how we got to see Chelsea’s character really develop and become stronger in this first half.  I was so proud of her when we got to the finale and all the work she put into it.

The second half was about her time in NYC with Tom, and really the development of her romantic relationship with him.  This is where we got to dive into the world of Broadway, and what it’s like to be an actor trying to make it work on Broadway.  It honestly opened my eyes to the challenges and rewards of such a career.  And I felt the magic of his performance…I wanted it to be real!  I wanted to see him perform and hear his beautiful voice!  Damn you Ms. Stanton!  Make it real!!  I couldn’t hear him sing, but it didn’t matter…it felt like I could.  I felt Chelsea’s emotions when he finally got Stay right.  It helped me to imagine her dance as well…I felt like I could see it.  It was very emotionally impactful.

Tom was RIDICULOUSLY swoon.  Like, added to my top book boyfriends list swoon.  Like, I had tummy tingles almost from their first interactions.  And he was more of a beta boy, and you know how I love me a beautiful beta boy!!  I loved that he was technically the celebrity, but he was really very down to earth, humble, and at times insecure.  If you couldn’t tell, I ADORED him.

I LOVED their romance.  The chemistry was off the charts, and they just made me giddy and happy.  My highlight was definitely Tom’s teasing, and the way they would banter with each other.  I can’t even describe to you how many times that boy made me laugh.  I loved that we got to watch their romance go through all the stages, from crush to early relationship honeymoon phase to honest struggles and missteps.  My heart hurt for the challenges that they faced, and I thought it was very realistic.

I had a bit more of a rollercoaster ride with Chelsea.  I loved her, and my heart ached for everything she went through in her past, and how it shaped her into the woman she is today.  I really believed it too.  She was hard to read, b/c she was so insecure and damaged and afraid, and self-sabotaging at times.  I think what made her character really hard to read is that in the first half we got to see her really develop and become stronger, and I was rooting for her all the way.  But in the second half we saw her fall and fall hard.  That’s hard to take.

And this is where my rounding down comes into play: I wasn’t satisfied with how the book ended with her character.  She fell, and we really didn’t get to see her climb back up and become strong on her own again.  I needed to believe that she was going to be OK, that she was getting stronger, and without Tom.  I didn’t want her strength to be completely dependent on Tom.  It wasn’t enough to ruin the book, it just bummed me out a bit.

And honestly?  The ending was extremely abrupt.  Like turn the page and do a double take when it’s the note from the author and not an epilogue.  I’m always a sucker for an epilogue, but I really felt that this book needed one.

So, as seems to be the case with me lately, there is my short novella of a review.  While the ending wasn’t as satisfying as I wanted, it was really a small blip on what was an otherwise perfect book for me.  I’m so happy right now, and don’t even want to read another book, I just want to bask.

Lenoreo_small

Hello Forever by Sarina Bowen

Blurb:
34223444A basketball game changed both their lives.

When they were only teenagers, Axel and Caxton were caught making out in the woods at church camp. And afterward, Cax had disappeared from all the youth group activities.

Six years later, Axel is astonished to spot his first love’s face in the crowd of a college basketball game he’s watching on TV—at a school which has just offered him a job. It’s a thousand miles away, in a tiny rural town. But suddenly, he can’t wait to get there.

Cax can’t believe his eyes when Axel appears in the same Massachusetts town where he now lives. And he’s still just as drawn to Axel as ever. But he can’t let himself go there again, because loving Axel will mean giving up everything else he holds dear.

Both men have so much to lose. But as far as their love is concerned, it’s Hello Forever.

Hello Forever was previously published as It’s Never Over. This is a stand-alone novel with no cliffhangers. Readers of Goodbye Paradise will get to check in on Caleb and Josh and their clan.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

Another solid M/M romance from Ms. Bowen!!  While I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as Goodbye Paradise (which is a really hard book to live up to since it was a 5 star read for me and contained so many little things that made it a perfect Lenore book), I was still sucked into this story and stayed up until 2:30 in the morning finishing it.

The POVs in this story weren’t structured in the same way as the previous book, this one was more close to alternating chapters (with some exceptions, as it made sense for the story).  I didn’t mind the change.  It made more sense for Cax and Axel’s story, and I felt like I got what I needed as a reader as the plot progressed.

There’s something about the different struggles that LGBT folks face when deciding when to come out that just rips open your heart, you know?  And Cax in particular had a tough road to walk.  I can’t imagine having to survive an abusive father no matter who you are, but especially as a gay kid when he is ridiculously homophobic and bigoted.  And I really got how his upbringing and experiences and the state of his family influenced his choice to remain mostly in the closet, especially if he wanted to maintain a relationship with his brothers.  Do I believe that he couldn’t have found another way?  I’m not sure.  But for who Cax was, it made sense…he was flawed, but doing the best he could with what he knew.  I enjoyed seeing him grow stronger over the course of the book, with setbacks here and there, but eventually standing up and accepting himself with no apologies.

While Cax’s journey was perhaps more heartwrenching in some ways, I felt closer to Axel in this story.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have his own struggles to go through, even as someone who was able to come out of the closet with support from his Mom.  He really showed that you can be “out and proud”, but still fear the backlash that may come from people he meets.  And how that fear can make for a lonely existence sometimes.  AND how loving someone in a closet can really have adverse affects on you as well.

I loved Cax and Axel together, and loved hearing about their past as children.  If I had one complaint, I wish we’d gotten a bit more from the romance.  It’s not that it wasn’t deliciously steamy, or that they didn’t have chemistry, but it just felt like something was missing to really push it over the top for me.  Honestly, it could just be that it’s hard to follow up the love of Caleb and Josh from the previous book.

The plot took a few twists and turns I wasn’t expecting.  Like, something would happen and I would assume that I knew how it was going to play out, but then it would go in a slightly different direction.  I like that, it felt authentic to the characters.  That’s not to say that there weren’t some things that were definitely foreshadowed and didn’t shock me, but it was nice to be surprised on some things.  Wow, that was really vague and confusing, sorry.  😛

Again, this story is strong in secondary characters, with so many playing important roles.  And I loved so many of them, from the reappearance of Caleb and Josh (squee!), to Boz who was so funloving, to Amy (though I wish we could have seen her a bit more), to Jason (perhaps we’ll see his story in the future?), to even Cax’s brothers.  I love when a book has a great supporting cast.

So yeah.  I always hate writing these last paragraphs, I never know how to end a review.  Obviously I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and what more can you ask for?  OH!  And can I just say that Caxtastrophe and Axeldental were the most hilarious email names??  Loved it!

Lenoreo_small

The Director and Don Juan by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
32721297The Director and Don Juan is the second of four books about the Philadelphia-based Story sisters who are all on the look-out for love.

Heiress Alice Story left her father’s company three years ago in a blaze of glory, inviting all of his employees to jump ship and join her, but only one accepted her offer: mail room clerk, Carlos Vega.

While Alice spent the next three years getting her own company off the ground, Carlos became her indispensable right-hand man — executive assistant and office manager, loyal counsel and trusted co-worker.

And all the while, they were quietly falling in love with each other.

When Alice is offered a lucrative business deal in Puerto Rico, island-born Carlos is the perfect person to accompany her on her trip as translator, but as they travel together from Philadelphia to Santo Domingo to Ponce, two unlikely co-workers will discover that during their three years working together, their feelings for each other have grown far deeper than they ever could have guessed.

And though business-minded, proper Alice will try her very best to ignore the longings of her heart, scorching hot, insanely sexy Boricua, Carlos, has no intention of letting her go.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

I love it when you dive into a favourite author’s new book and she reminds you that YES you do love reading, and YES that last book just wasn’t right for you!  Because I can wholeheartedly say that I was sucked into Alice and Carlos’s story from the first page.  It’s funny how it’s hard to articulate what style of writing you love, but you just know it when you do…and Ms. Regnery’s writing is always just smooth like butter, I can just consume it and devour it and I’m captivated instantly.

One of the things she does so well is chemistry between characters.  And Alice and Carlos definitely had that going for them in spades.  It’s funny, b/c this one is a bit more of a slow burn romance, we don’t get to the steam until like 70% I believe.  But all that anticipation is pretty delicious in itself, and then once the romance delivers, it’s beautiful and tummy tingling!  I loved the way the romance between Alice and Carlos developed, from a deep abiding trust and respect, with a side of friendship, to acknowledging that more had developed, sometimes without them knowing.  And then just facing that moment where you couldn’t ignore it any longer, and it was time to go for what you wanted.  While there was a bit of angst and drama, it wasn’t drawn out for the sake of being drawn out, and it resolved as I would expect it would in real life.

I LOVED Carlos’s patience with Alice.  I loved that he knew not to push it too fast, but that he wouldn’t give up.  I loved his optimism in the face of potential obstacles.  I loved how clearly he cared about Alice and was thoughtful over her needs.  I loved that he was charming as can be, but not too much of a dog (though perhaps I would have liked a better resolution with Leticia and Lena).  I loved that he had a multi-faceted personality — alpha when he needed to be, but happily beta in other aspects of his life.  And I really felt like that juxtaposition was well placed, b/c Ms. Regnery was not afraid to address the gender roles and pressures that men face as well (and in this case, particularly in the latin community).  As a romance reader, we often see the struggles that women face in their professional lives (and I love that), but how often do we see a man deal with criticism for somewhat less ambition, or being happy serving a strong woman.  I don’t know if I’m making sense, but I just really loved that.

And on the other side of the coin, I loved Alice’s ambition, and her unwavering desire for both a career and a family.  She was such a strong heroine, and someone to be admired.  But I also loved that she needed someone like Carlos to take the reins in their intimate settings, so she could just feel and experience.  They were such a great match.  I kind of appreciated that she was a bit awkward socially, b/c she had spent so much time trying to live up to her father’s impossible expectations, and focused on her professional pursuits, that she had let some of her personal relationships slide (like with her sister’s).

And that is the crux of why I love Ms. Regnery’s Blueberry Lane series.  EVERY SINGLE ONE has a completely different set of characters.  We get to see and fall in love with all types of people, and we get to learn of each of their struggles.  From the shy to the bold, from the family oriented to the career oriented.

Honestly my only problem with this novel is that it *felt* short.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it was because I was interrupted in the middle of my reading, and couldn’t get back to it for a whole day, and so I fell out of the pacing?  Or maybe b/c I wanted to see more at the end after they were together.  I LOVED the epilogue we got, but a part of me was curious to read the scenes with her sisters when she told them about her new relationship, or at the office once they were back, or again, what happened with Lena (is their relationship strained now?).  It just ended with me wanting a tiny bit more.  Hence my 4 stars instead of more.

So yeah.  It’s so nice to read a book and get what you’ve been missing.  It feeds my reading soul or something.  Can’t wait to see what happens with Elizabeth and Jane.

Lenoreo_small

Stay by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Blurb:
34080660Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never even met?

Hailey Taylor Emery has a hunch that her favorite client at Fetch–an anonymous virtual assistant service–is actually hockey star Matt Eriksson.

Although it’s against the rules for her to check his file, she’s 95% sure she spends at least part of each day texting with her lifelong crush and catering to his every need. Still nursing a wounded heart thanks to her recent breakup, Hailey is perfectly content with some harmless online flirting…until she has to meet her client. Face to face. Cue: utter panic.

Matt Eriksson is no stranger to heartbreak. He’s still not over the destruction of his marriage, and it sucks to be the only guy on the team who knows the truth–that hockey and long-term relationships are a toxic mix. He barely sees his kids, and dealing with his ex makes him feel insane. The only person in his life who seems to understand is someone who won’t show her pretty face.

But it’s nothing that a pair of fourth row hockey seats can’t fix. Hailey can’t resist the offer. Matt can’t resist Hailey. Good thing he doesn’t have to. Fire up the kiss cam!

Warning: Contains rabid hockey fans, misunderstood dick pics, hockey players at the opera and exploding ovaries.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

Oh you guys! Matt and Hailey were my kind of characters.  They were both dealing with something, be it insecurities or other damage, but they were also full of sass and it made for such a fun courtship to follow!!  I totally fell in love with them both, and with them together.

Hailey was my kind of girl, just the kind of female character that I gravitate towards time and time again.  I loved that while she was a bit worse for wear following her divorce, it wasn’t horribly damaging.  She just lost her hutzpah, you know?  She was thrown for a loop, and was taking a while to figure out how to get back to *her*.  But I loved that her relationship with her ex wasn’t toxic.  In fact, this book was interesting in that it showed two completely different relationships that declined, in different ways.  And that it can be hard no matter what.  I always appreciate when we don’t always hate an ex, you know?  As a reader I mean.  It’s refreshing.  And Hailey was just sweet, and sassy, and so smart and driven!  I loved that about her.  And I loved that she didn’t put up with too much crap.  She picked her battles, and with some encouragement from friends, she pushed back when she needed to.  I was totally rooting for her.

Matt was adorable to the extreme.  My heart hurt for how damaged he was following his divorce…he definitely had a toxic relationship with his ex.  It made him unsure of himself, and it was nice to see an alpha male suffer from his own insecurities too.  I was so mad at Kara, and yet Ms. Bowen and Ms. Kennedy made just the right moves to resolve that in a way that felt real.  I love that.  No black and white evil characters (well, except maybe Mr. Emery), but *flawed* characters.  And I loved seeing Matt finally get a hint and stand up.  WOOHOO!!!!  So much cheering.  And on the other side, he was sweet, sensitive, patient and caring, a fantastic father, and his dirty talk was spot on!  😛

And with two fabulous characters, we get a fabulous romance/relationship.  I didn’t even mind all the uncertainty about what kind of relationship they had, b/c it made sense for their characters.  And the two of them together just made me laugh, right from the first date.  I really felt like they matched up perfectly.

And you know what else I loved??  The tiny side plots!!  MrEightInches!!  BWAHAHAHA…  And seeing all the characters we’ve fallen in love with!!  And the extra development of the WAGs!!  I love those girls!!  And Jenny was a fantastic friend!  And I’m even intrigued about OC, which part of me expected, b/c these authors know how to make you love even the most awful characters.  But I didn’t expect to be clamouring for his book!  And even the girls were cute and not annoying (which is a bonus for me)!

So yeah, not only did we get a fabulous romance, we got just a great all around, FULL story.  Can’t wait for more in this series (because there has to be more!).

Lenoreo_small

Paper Cranes by Jordan Ford

Blurb:
35151232Tristan Parker is lost.
After living through his parent’s bitter divorce, Tristan surprises everyone when he decides to uproot his life and move across the country with his dad. Disenchanted, Tristan deals with his pain by shutting out the world… until one day, when trying to retrieve a lost baseball, he climbs a tower and meets a girl.

Helena Thompson is like no one Tristan has ever encountered. She’s quirky, weird, and lives in an imaginary world—her only way of coping with the bizarre life her paranoid mother forces her to lead. Drawn by Helena’s magical view on life, Tristan finds himself returning often to the unique girl with the long golden hair. But spending time with her is not an easy task, especially because their relationship must be kept a secret.

When Helena’s mother discovers the truth, can Tristan find the strength to fight for the girl who has awakened his heart? Or will the paranoid woman who keeps her daughter under lock and key stop their dreams from coming true?

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

So, as with all my reads this week, I was very distracted while reading this book, and had a hard time getting sucked in.  But somewhere after the halfway point, this book took hold of my heart and didn’t let me go, making me stay up until 4:30 am to finish it.  To say this book finished in an amazing fashion is a bit of an understatement.  I arrived at the end with tears on my cheeks and my heart full to bursting.  I can’t even begin to describe how happy this book made me.

So I’ll start at the beginning and say that Tristan’s character threw me off at first.  I’m not sure why exactly, but his voice was completely unlike what I had been expecting.  He felt a bit younger maybe.  But honestly, I’d just finished a run of adult books, so it could have been the juxtaposition, you know what I mean?  He was also less stereotypical guy-y than what I was used to, and what I was assuming I would get.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about him initially, but as the book went on, these unique traits made me fall in love with him.  He had such a sweetness to him, a sensitive side that I wasn’t expecting.  I really appreciated that he didn’t fit into any boxes.  He could occasionally be very stereotypically teenager-y, a bit whiny at times, a bit overdramatic at others, definitely moody.  But while those traits are hard to read sometimes, I appreciate that it made him more real you know?  And you really felt his growth throughout the book as a result.

I was also completely surprised that this book was entirely from Tristan’s POV.  BUT I LOVED THAT.  I didn’t expect to, I’m a dual POV lover.  But it worked for this book.  Partly because Tristan had such a journey to go on, and I appreciated having a boy coming-of-age type novel.  I appreciated that we got the unexpected, a Rapunzel retelling that wasn’t about Rapunzel so much as her hero.  And I still felt like I knew Helena enough, just through Tristan’s eyes.  I understood her struggle.  I understood how she came to be the beautiful light that she was.  I understood why she made the choices she did.  I fell in love with her sweet soul and her innocence.  And my heart broke for her even if we didn’t get to see what she went through when they were separated…by that point I knew her well enough through Tristan’s eyes to understand what she would be going through.  I loved how well developed she was, that while she had such a beautiful outlook on life, it did not make her immune to the bad things.  She wasn’t perfect.

While this book is a beautiful sweet YA love story, Ms. Ford also delved into some pretty deep topics that really got me thinking.  I thought her portrayal of the impact a divorce and cheating parent can have on a child to be spectacular, especially in the beginning.  I felt for Tristan, and the choices he had to make, the feelings that he couldn’t help, and how that was tearing him apart.  I will admit that I wish we had a bit more resolution with his mother, but I loved the development in his relationship with his father.

And I ADORED the spin she took on Helena’s mother’s character.  It made the situation so believable, and so UNBELIEVABLY heartbreaking.  It wasn’t black and white, and there were no easy answers.  There were only long, HARD solutions.

I know I said above that this was a sweet YA love story, but I really only meant the love part.  This book is full of so many emotions and angst.  I can’t even tell you how many times I cried.  Be prepared.  There were moments where the drama and romance felt a bit over the top, but I honestly didn’t care.  I was all in.

As a side note, I adored what Miss Warren and Mikayla added to the storyline.  I appreciated that Tristan had them in his life, and I loved how they added to his development.

So yeah.  I may have started my reading experience a bit shakier, but by the time I was finished I felt like my heart had been through the wringer, broken and put back together.  I loved it.  End of story.

Lenoreo_small

Perfectly Oblivious by Robin Daniels

Blurb:
35276925Cameron Bates (Cam) could have almost any girl at Franklin High School…except for the one he wants. Unfortunately Bebe seems to be immune to his flirty charm and good looks, which means one of two things: a) she’s completely oblivious to how he feels, or b) she’s just not into him. If that’s the case, declaring his love would be disastrous for their friendship.

Bianca Barnes (Bebe) has a huge problem: the universe hates her. Every time she admits feelings for a boy, he ends up falling for her sweet, popular, and beautiful sister Beth. To avoid a broken heart, Bebe has sworn herself to secrecy. Nobody can know how she feels about Cam…Ever!

Neither person wants to confess their feelings, but the universe has its own plan. Out of the blue, Bebe is courted by a secret admirer. Cam has to step up his game and Bebe has to make a choice. Play it safe and accept the affections of her mystery man or challenge fate and take a chance on the boy she loves.

Content Description: This is a stand-alone YA contemporary romance with companion novels to follow. It contains minor language, innuendo, crude humor and steamy tension but is generally very clean. No sex. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

This was a wonderful debut, and a super cute YA.  Honestly, if it hadn’t been for my personal tastes, I would have rated this book higher.  As you can tell from the blurb, the entire premise of this book is based on not communicating…it’s what drives the plot.  Cam is afraid to tell Bianca about his feelings for fear of losing the friendship and being rejected, and Bianca refuses to tell ANYONE about her feelings for Cam b/c of what boils down to self-esteem issues.  Both are super valid feelings for teenagers, and it definitely felt realistic.  But I still have a hard time reading it personally, b/c it can result in a really frustrating book.  As far as books with “near misses” go, this one wasn’t horrible for me.  I think I was OK with it up to about 70%, and then I started to get tired and want more.  What it can provide is some great tension between the characters, and I thought that Cam and Bebe had that.  But if I’m (personally) not given enough growth and development of the characters, then I tend to be left with more frustration than I can handle.  I need something to balance it out, you know?

Now, with all that being said, I was honestly sucked in and hooked for a good portion of the book.  I’m not sure if it was great characters, or just me loving the double unrequited love trope (where they both secretly love each other, but assume the other doesn’t feel the same), but I was invested in seeing how their story would unfold.  I found both characters to be equally ADORABLE, CUTE, QUIRKY on one hand, and FRUSTRATING as all get out on the other.  You have no idea how many times I huffed in annoyance when something would get in the way and delay my gratification.  I know a lot of readers enjoy that, so I know not everyone will feel the same as me.

Bianca had a lot of traits that draw me to a heroine…I find it so easy to empathize with heroines that have self-esteem issues, and don’t see their own worth.  What I enjoyed about her is that it wasn’t all that she was about.  I LOVED how strong and confident she was in her basketball skills, and how sassy she could be with Cam and the other people she hangs out with.  I thought the relationship with her sister, Beth, really added to Bianca’s depth…her feeling conflicted b/c Beth was her best friend, but also the source of her feelings of inferiority in some ways.

Cam could be soooooo freaking cute, and I ADORED what he did to show Bianca his feelings.  Seriously, he gave me total tummy tingles, and I just wanted to hug him so many times!!  I loved seeing what he would do next.  And the pickup basketball game scene??  SWOON!!  BUT.  But.  Sometimes when he was going overboard with his jealousy, I was a bit disappointed in him.  I had to keep reminding myself he was a 16 year old boy…  So he didn’t quite get put in my top book boyfriend lists, but he still made me smile.

There were some great secondary characters as well.  I loved that there weren’t any stereotypical bad characters either, you could see hints of depth in a few of them (I’m intrigued by Michael, and even Angelica surprised me).  So many times authors will cop out and make characters overly evil, so it was refreshing that Ms. Daniels did not go there in this novel.  And of course Brady and Beth were fantastic additions.  It would have been so easy to make both of those characters too good to be true, you know?  But they weren’t.  They had depth as well, they made mistakes (particularly Beth), and they both won me over.  I loved how each of their little stories played out.  Honestly the only characters I could have stood to see more of were parents…they were noticeably absent (both BeBe’s and Cam’s).

All in all a solid debut.  If it hadn’t been for my personal aversion to lack of communication, it would have been an even bigger hit with me.  Will definitely look forward to seeing more from this author.

Lenoreo_small

Stage Kissed by Cassie Mae & Kelley Lynn

Blurb:
35223581Sixteen-year-old Kate knows how to juggle. From basketball practices to her shifts at Jamba Juice, Kate flies through her days wondering if she got a decent meal. When she lands a role in the school play, adding yet another task to her already full schedule, Kate starts fumbling through her routine, resorting to desperate measures to get the grades expected of her.

Co-worker and classmate Seth isn’t much of a juggler. Crowds and attention? Not his thing. So witnessing Kate’s ability to handle it all leaves Seth in awe. He could never do it. But then one of the leading actors in the play gets tonsillitis days before opening night, and Kate volunteers Seth to replace him. With his eidetic memory and killer dance moves, Seth’s the obvious choice—if it weren’t for his social anxiety.

With Seth’s growing—and unwanted—popularity and Kate spreading herself too thin, they start to wonder if their friendship will even last through the performances. But putting these two into a romance on stage has an effect neither of them could predict.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

My Review:
4 stars — Technically I did receive an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review/opinion, but yet again I was behind so I only read half of the ARC and then switched over to my preordered copy when it showed up on my Kindle.

You guys, this book was just all sorts of young adult goodness.  It contained two very *real* characters dealing with teen problems that really do NOT get addressed that much in young adult books — how to deal with being so busy!!!  Honestly, I don’t know how Seth and Kate did it.  I still don’t, even after finishing the book.  But I guess that’s the point, they *didn’t* deal with it that well.  But seriously folks, when was the last time you read a book that dealt with a seriously relevant and not over the top topic?  I LOVE it!  It was so frustrating to read about too, b/c you just want to shout “SAY NO!” but at the same time both authors made me believe in how hard it was for both Seth and Kate (mostly Kate).

One of the other aspects that I adored about this book is that both main characters were extremely likable but very different.  Kate fascinated me.  She was uber popular because she was super nice and friendly to EVERYONE, but at the same time she avoided deep friendships.  And in some ways, her “niceness” became a bit of her downfall.  Honestly it’s been a long time since I’ve adored a character while simultaneously being ridiculously frustrated with the same character.  She made me want to bang my head on a wall, but I could also honestly see how things in her life spiraled so out of control.  My heart broke for her every time her life got overwhelming and she couldn’t see a way out.  I have no doubt that there are many teenagers who can relate (heck many adults can relate).  And while I hated that she made some of the choices that she did, I kind of got it.  A part of me wanted her to learn and grow faster than she was.  I missed some of that internal enlightenment I think.  I got some of it, but I wanted a bit more from her.  But she made me cry TWO SEPARATE TIMES in this book, she made me feel just so much.

And then there’s sweet Seth.  How can I not love a shorter, shy cutie??  I mean, seriously.  Seth was such an interesting counterpart to Kate, and yet I could see what drew them to each other.  And again, he was such a great guy!!  Not without his own flaws, though he frustrated me a lot less than Kate.  Honestly, the book felt a little less balanced b/c he didn’t seem to have quite the same struggles.  I know he had the social anxiety and shyness to overcome, but I felt like his development got a bit lost in favour of the struggles Kate was going through.  So again, I wanted just a bit more depth from him.  But despite that, I still loved him.  I loved how he took care of Shelby and helped out his family, and how completely oblivious he was to his own attractiveness (both physical and personality-wise).  I loved how he cared for Kate and really paid attention to her and noticed her struggling and tried to be there for her, pushing past her natural barriers.  And it was awesome to see him embrace the role of Will!!  And OMG his kiss made me swoon!!

So yeah, this book is great to put a smile on your face.  I think I wasn’t quite in the mood for a YA book right now, b/c you kind of have to be in the right frame of mind to read about teenagers being typical teenagers.  But it made me smile giddily, giggle, and of course cry big tears, so it was definitely a success.  🙂

Lenoreo_small

A Girl Like Me by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
35166507I’m not supposed to be here.

Death has come for me more than once, and each time it’s been a boy who’s stood between me and my final breath.

I called him Christopher when he saved me as a child. When he came into my life again, only months ago, I knew him as Wes. Just as he did the time before, he disappeared the moment he made sure I was out of harm’s way; as if I didn’t need any more saving.

This time, though, death left me with a reminder of how powerful it is. I know it meant to strip me of my spirit again, but it failed.

Even so, I know I need Wes to survive. Our souls are woven together somehow, our every breath in sync. I feel it, even though everyone says I shouldn’t.

The world thinks he’s missing.
His loved ones don’t want to believe he’s dead.
Only I know just how special he is.

I’m going to find him and bring him home, where he belongs. Together, we’ll face impossible—we’ll rewrite our ending.

And when the bad guys come calling, we will always win.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

My Review:
4.5 stars — Technically I did receive an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review/opinion, but since I was so behind, I just read the copy that I preordered and showed up on my Kindle.  🙂

I ended up rereading book one before diving into this book, hence why I was behind on my ARC reading, but it was so nice to be fully immersed in this book universe again so I remembered absolutely everything.  I’m just that kind of girl.  I always worry that the sequel is not going to live up to the first book, especially when the first book blows you completely away.  I’m happy to say that for *me*, this book did NOT let me down!!  While I did find it to be a slightly slower read than the first book, I was still so ridiculously satisfied with all the answers I got and where the story ended up going.

For those readers that are curious about the paranormal aspect, I can definitively say that this is not a strictly contemporary read.  I’ll leave the rest for the book to dive into, but the hint of paranormal/sci-fi is definitely there.  I know that’s not everyone’s bag, but I actually really enjoyed how it felt very natural to the story, but also didn’t take OVER the story.  It’s hard to place this fully into a paranormal/sci-fi genre, b/c it still had a very contemporary feel despite that aspect.  It was, in some ways, a bit of a coming-of-age story, or a story about a character’s growth and struggles with some very real life problems.  So take from that what you will.  I can see folks who are strictly contemporary maybe not enjoying this, and I can see folks who are all-paranormal-all-the-time not enjoying it either.  But for those readers that like to cross into both, it was a delicious mix.  There is a part of me that maybe was still left with a whole schwak of questions as a result, but for some reason I was OK with that.  It fit the story.

Joss was entirely inspiring in this book.  You really get to see her shine, and I was raising my hands in solidarity for her choices for most of this book.  I honestly had no idea where this book was going to go after the ending of the last one.  And it honestly surprised me a LOT with the different twists and turns it took.  Certain plot aspects that I thought would be the main ones ended up being somewhat resolved and we were plunged into the next obstacle.  Other side plots I had never even considered were presented and really added to the story as a whole (Grace).  But I particularly loved what Ms. Scott did with Joss, and how Joss handled some of the revelations.  She reacted just as I expected her to, even if I didn’t realize it until after I read it.  It was like “yup, that’s Joss.”  The thing that I really love about this character is that she’s NOTHING LIKE ME.  Like, nothing.  I would have totally reacted in completely different ways, but because of the way she was written, I fully bought into every decision and action she made.  I empathized with her, and genuinely LIKED her.  That’s good writing yo.

And then there’s Wes.  Oh Wes.  You know what I loved about him in this book?  He wasn’t perfect.  He made bad choices, decisions that hurt the people he loved.  He was vulnerable, and afraid at times.  He was confused.  He had a lot going on in his own story.  But through it all I still loved him.  And I still rooted for him.

And I loved Wes and Joss together.  They make my heart so happy.  Their journey is just so fraught with obstacles that I really feel like Ms. Scott owes it to them (and us) to write them a little short story where everything is happy and awesome and we get to just revel in the fun that is them for like 50 pages.  I realize most people would find that boring, and thus it will never happen, but a girl can dream.  They’re so sassy and snarky with each other, but also so ridiculously sweet, and just REAL with each other too.

I LOVED the developments we got with Joss’s Dad.  I fully bought into his growth, and the growth of their relationship.  He still broke my heart, but I was all in.  And I loved that we got to learn more about Joss’s Mom, often through Grace, and that the answers weren’t all Hollywood/storybook clean and good, but that they felt real and believable and shed some light on other topics.  I loved Grace and what she added to the story (as I’ve already said).

And as always, I LOVED our secondary characters.  Kyle, Taryn, TK and Levi were da bomb dot com.  Even Bria had a tiny moment.  I love when a book gives us not only fabulous main characters to love, but an amazing supporting cast.

So yeah.  There’s my novel of a review.  This book left me happy and satisfied.  The only reason it’s not a full 5 stars is because I felt like the pacing could have been tightened up in places.  But I was so satisfied with so many other aspects, that it really didn’t affect me as much as it might have in another novel.  And on a strange final sidenote, I do not have any interest in baseball as a sport whatsoever.  But this novel actually made me consider watching a game with my Mom…that’s a miracle folks, a miracle.

Lenoreo_small