The Difference Between Us by Rachel Higginson

Blurb:
35002568I’m cursed.

At least when it comes to finding Mr. Right.

I’m tired of men that only want one night stands or blind dates that are nothing but awkward and uncomfortable. I’m tired of avoiding inappropriate text messages and the constant disappointment of always meeting Mr. Wrong.

After all these years of dates that lead nowhere, I can admit that it’s me. I’m the problem. I’m shy and picky and cursed. Definitely cursed.

So I’ve decided two things.

The first? I’m giving up dating and relationships and men in general. Maybe, possibly, forever.

The second? I’m going to have to try harder to avoid Ezra Baptiste.

If I couldn’t hack it in the kiddy pool of dating, I certainly can’t swim in his deep end. He’s too successful. Too intense. He’s all man when I’m used to nothing but boys pretending to be grownups. He’s everything I’m afraid to want and so far out of my league we might as well be different species entirely.

So he’ll need to find a different artist to paint his mural. And a different graphic designer to help him with his website. He’ll need to find someone else to glare at and flirt with and kiss.

It can’t be me.

We’re too different.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I did receive an earlier copy of this book as a beta, in exchange for my oh-so-amazing opinions, and stellar typo catching (yes, there is some sarcasm there).  But I’m obviously going to write out my honest opinion, b/c I have one of those too (and it’s wholeheartedly unbiased).

There’s a reason Ms. Higginson is one of my favourite authors of all time.  While there may be elements here and there that don’t always jibe with me personally, I ALWAYS get a story where I fall in love with the unique and VERY REAL characters, and where I spend an inordinate amount of time smiling unexpectedly, truly laughing out loud (usually accompanied by snorts), and swooning left, right and center.  And isn’t it weird how you forget all about that enchantment in between your favourite author’s releases?  Like, you convince yourself that they’re not as good as you remember, or you’ve blown the memory out of proportion.  And then you get a few paragraphs in and it’s like coming home to an old friend.  THAT is what this book was for me.  I totally get that I *just* read The Opposite of You a mere 4 months ago, but from that first snort of laughter, I’m right back where I want to be.  And where I want to be is in Molly’s head.

I have wholeheartedly admitted in the past that my heart generally lies in dual POV books, so it always amuses the crap out of me that one of my favourite authors writes almost exclusively in single POV.  But again (because I feel like I’m repeating myself from my review of TOOY), she manages to convey so much through the heroine’s story, that I don’t even feel that gypped.  I’m still absolutely able to fall in love with the hero too, even without being in his head (though I would never sneeze at a bonus POV scene, *hint hint*).

Molly is exactly as hilarious and sassy and snarky as I expected her to be, but she’s also so much more.  Honestly, I really connected to her because I feel like she is a soul sister.  She’s a bit shyer, outside of her inner circle she prefers to blend into the background, she loathes confrontation, and she has a hell of a case of imposter’s syndrome (which my hubby constantly tells me I have).  And you know what?  I wanted to high five her for each of those characteristics, because she really felt like me.  I know strong forceful heroines are all the rage, but there is also something to love about a girl who has moments of meekness and insecurity.  And I really loved the glimpse we got into her family, and how her upbringing influenced her in so many ways.  It made it so that at parts where I was cringing for her decisions, I also got how she got there.  You know?

Molly’s story has so many elements, and not all of them were easy to read.  Particularly the sexual harassment she endures at work.  It’s so easy as a reader to be able to see what’s going on, but it’s SOOOO much harder to deal with it in real life when you’re faced with consequences and uncertainty when it involves your livelihood.  I had a REALLY hard time with that part, I wanted to scream at Molly so many times and it all made me feel very uncomfortable.  But at the same time I felt like it was really brave of Ms. Higginson to confront this issue, and shine a light on how complicated it is…and have Molly NOT make the black and white decisions.  It made the situation more REAL you know?

And then there’s the romance, which was a slam dunk for me.  I absolutely loved that Ezra managed to bring out a completely different side to Molly.  Their courtship made me laugh, it made me swoon, and it tugged at my heartstrings.  It was seriously just so odd you guys, but I was in love practically from the first e-mail.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of Ezra, b/c he’s kind of hard to pin down…but I thought Molly got to the heart of him, and we got to see what made him tick, and why he appears the way he does.  And their chemistry was amazing.  My only niggle is that I’m not huge on the flip-flop, and Molly did have a bit of that.  That would be what caused the half star loss for me.

Of course the secondary characters were beyond amazing.  My heart was so happy with the reappearance of all my favourites (Vera, Killian, Wyatt, and Vann), and I totally fell in love with Ezra’s half-sister Dillon as well.  Their addition just takes a great story and levels it up.  I tried petitioning for a certain pairing, but apparently I got the matches wrong.  To say I’m excited for more from this crew is an understatement.

And there you have it.  Essentially a fangirl review.  What are you gonna do?  We all have our favourite authors for a reason, and I’m a sucker for Ms. Higginson’s characters, and she writes banter that has my highlight finger going crazy.  It’s as simple as that.

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Pillowtalk by Cassie Mae

Blurb:
33401722In this heartfelt romance from the author of the All About Love series, two people who thought they’d given up on passion turn to each other for emotional support—and maybe something a little more physical.

 
Kennedy Walters has had a tough year. Now she’s come to the lakeside town of Lyra Valley to finally say goodbye to the memory of her first love. But while she’s staying at his sister’s B&B, Kennedy is shocked to find herself undeniably drawn to a handsome local heartthrob—especially since she isn’t  sure if she’s ready to move on.

Aaron Sheppard returned to Lyra Valley because he was fed up with the big city and everything it didn’t have to offer—like the beautiful, down-to-earth girl staying at the B&B. Aaron’s enjoying a little flirtation until he realizes that she’s Kennedy Walters, the girl who was dating his best friend. But after a power outage strands them together, Aaron and Kennedy wind up sharing some intimate conversation. And over the course of a night that neither will ever forget, they learn just how compatible they could be—if only they knew how to let go and fall into each other’s arms.

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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.  (and actually, I sort of alpha/beta read this story as well)

I was kind of worried about rereading this one, just because it does pack an emotional punch, and sometimes when I know that going in I’ll avoid it (I do this with movies and TV shows too — *cough*Season 3 of Rectify*cough*).  But I hadn’t written a review after beta-reading this one (which I normally do), b/c I knew parts of the story were going to change and I wanted to read the final version before giving my final thoughts.  I’ve also been in a really picky reading mood, so I didn’t want that to affect my reading either…but alas, with release day coming up (and being here today) I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer! Unfortunately I feel like my mood did affect my reading a tiny bit, so I’m trying to channel my earlier thoughts as well to compensate.  Because I truly adored this story BOTH times I read it, and I want to do it justice.

So that sounds like I’m going to say something bad about this book, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Ms. Mae is one of my favourite authors because she always manages to give me very *real* characters, and she has done it once again with Kennedy and Aaron.  What I mean by real is that I feel like these are real human beings out in the world, that they are inherently flawed, but are the kinds of people I’d like to know.  And in this story they BOTH go through a whole gamut of emotions, and some of the most difficult ones: grief, betrayal, and guilt.  Ms. Mae didn’t just sluff off her responsibility while giving them the love story they deserve, she sucked out all my feels.

I could understand Kennedy’s grief so much.  Even just imagining losing the love of my life to that hateful disease, I’m not sure how I’d ever pull myself out of that grief.  I felt like the road that she traveled in this book was one that I could empathize with.  Yeah, she’s under a very silly misapprehension for much of the book, but I can honestly see my brain making such weird assumptions when in the thick of that grief.  Perhaps if you’ve never experienced grief, you might not understand how consuming it can be, but as someone who’s lost her father as a teen, I can wholeheartedly say that it can mess you up big time, and that everyone deals in different ways and at different speeds.  And so I felt for what Kennedy was going through, and how much she struggled between what she thought in her head and what she felt in her heart.

When I first heard of the concept of this story from Ms. Mae, I hadn’t understood just how impactful *Aaron’s* story would be.  I kind of thought the heartache would mostly be centered around Kennedy’s side.  But oh no, we get so much more in this story.  I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be Aaron and living with his own guilt and remorse and never feeling like he had the chance to resolve it.  I felt just as many feelings for him as I did for Kennedy.  And I felt his grief over the loss of his best friend too.  I thought it was kind of perfect that they were able to share that, it wasn’t something I had anticipated, but it was something that I loved about their dynamic.

And hoo boy, Aaron is MEGA book boyfriend.  Quiet, unassuming, a bit more nerdy?  DAMN.  I want him.  I do.  I want him.  And his dog, Charlie, too.  And his glasses.  GAH!

And their chemistry together really worked for me.  Not just in the steam section (which OMG, from the laundry room to the boathouse to the bedroom, DAMN), but I really felt their connection as friends too.  I felt the intimacy of their bond.  It happened pretty fast, but it worked for me somehow.  But I don’t mind insta-love sometimes, especially when people are older and know what they want.

There were a million favourite scenes in this book for me.  From the tree party to the dirt biking to the lake party for making me smile and swoon.  And then there’s the moment in the closet and on the dock for making me cry.  I felt everything, from light to heavy.  And it flowed seamlessly in the book, just as it did for Kennedy and Aaron.  And the ending was sweet and perfectly satisfying.  Which pretty much sums up how I feel.  It may have taken me on a rollercoaster of emotions, but it left me feeling sweetly satisfied.

And that’s what I have to say about that.

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The Opposite of You by Rachel Higginson

Blurb:
33932353I’ve sworn off men.

All men.

Famous last words, right? You’re expecting some epic tale of reluctant love and my dramatic change of heart? Well, you’re not going to get it.

I’m stubborn. And headstrong. And I’ve just survived the worst three years of my life. After escaping an abusive boyfriend to live in hostels and cheap hotels while I worked my way across Europe, I’ve come to two conclusions.

The first? Now that I’m back home, I’m going to squander my expensive culinary degree on a food truck that caters to the late night drunk crowd.

The second? I’m going to prove to the bastard across the plaza that my street food is better than his fussy five course monstrosities.

Killian Quinn might be Food and Wine’s Chef to Watch Out For. He might have a Michelin Star. He might have every food critic in the city wrapped around his too-large fingers. But he’s also pretentious and unbearably arrogant and the very opposite of me.

So he can keep his unsolicited advice and his late night visits and his cocky smiles. I want none of it. Or him.

I want the opposite.

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My Review:
4.95 stars — I got to beta read this book!!!  And I was seriously just floored, I have SO MUCH LOVE for it, I can’t even tell you.  My hubby would come home from work to find me in my reading chair, with the biggest grin on my face.  Like seriously you guys, I could have highlighted all of the dialogue in this book…it was just everything I love about a Rachel Higginson book.

And the thing is, it’s not just the smart witty banter.  (but I will come back and rave about that in more detail in a second)  Ms. Higginson also writes some of the most beautiful lines I have ever read…even just a sentence that captures my imagination and really brings home whatever she’s trying to convey about how Vera is feeling and seeing the world and herself.  Because while I would say the predominant emotion I felt in this book was snortfully gleeful happiness and so much giddiness, there is a darker undertone to the story that addresses an important topic that face so many people (often women) — mental/emotional abuse in a relationship (that can bleed into domestic violence on occasion).  I think it’s something that is hard for people who don’t experience it to understand, and even harder for the victims to understand and make sense of.  And I really believe that Ms. Higginson gives it a voice in Vera.  While I don’t personally have experience with this, I felt like Vera’s journey was an authentic one.  It was hard at times to be in Vera’s head, and see how she felt about herself, but I thought it felt realistic.  As with any story dealing with hard topics, it won’t be everyone’s journey, but one possible journey.

So that was long.  ANYWAYS…what I think I was trying to say is that the story had a really nice balance between heavy topics and glorious light and sassy interactions.  They blended perfectly, giving us a story that GIVES SO MUCH.  And don’t even get me started on the romance!!  Seriously, I was gleeful.  I’m neither here nor there on “enemies to lovers” type stories, but this one just…seriously, I can’t even…it was just…LIKE SO MUCH tension and laughter and sass and adorableness and did I mention tension??  AHHHH!!!!

I wasn’t sure what to think of Killian when we first met him, b/c wow…first impressions were not strong with this boy.  But OMG, when you start to figure out as a reader what is going on with him, and where his heart is at, it’s just so swoony!  Especially b/c Vera is kind of oblivious (but it fits with her history and where her self esteem is at).  But I so wanted to hug the crap out of that boy so many times.  He’s not my typical book boyfriend, but I’m seriously in love.  What an odd, stoic, somewhat closed off, but capable of so much feeling guy….

It’s funny, b/c I am a die hard lover of dual POV stories, but Ms. Higginson somehow manages to make me love a story with just one POV.  I think a lot of that is because Vera has such a journey to go on, and so we needed to see her take that journey.  But the other major part is that she’s able to convey to me enough of what Killian is feeling that I don’t feel like I missed too much not being in his head.  Does that mean I don’t want bonus scenes from his POV?  Heck no!  I DO.  I REALLY REALLY DO.  But they weren’t necessary for me to fall in love and get where he was coming from.

And if you couldn’t guess from all of the above, the star really is Vera.  She made me laugh.  She made me ache.  She made me want to high five her all over the place.  She made me want to hit my head against a wall.  She made me love her.

The supporting cast in this story really helped in Vera’s growth too, it wasn’t just Killian.  Her family is amazeballs, you could just feel the love.  And Vera and Vann were such perfect siblings (again, so much laughing).  And then there’s Molly, the BFF.  Oh Molly, you are da bomb.  I am so intrigued where your own story will go, but I loved what you added to this story.  And then there’s Wyatt.  Oh Wyatt, you freaking killed me.  ❤ ❤ ❤

So why not full 5 stars?  Just a tiny personal preference.  I’m super greedy and impatient about wanting to know everything IMMEDIATELY.  And the details of her previous relationship were given in tiny bits as the story went along.  Which is a valid storytelling choice, just not my personal preference.

(Oh, and this book had one of the best descriptions of how hard reviews are for the creator, regardless of whether they know that reviews are subjective and affected by the consumer’s personal experiences/preferences).

And damn!  The food!  I don’t even like peppers and I wanted those tacos (though she had me at grilled cheese).  I know that makes no sense, but I totally believed the foodie stuff in this book.  And at this point I’m just talking about everything.

So yeah, I know, gushy review.  It’s my right, I am a mega fan.  But I’m an honest mega fan, and I can honestly say that this is everything I love about Rachel Higginson.  And….mic drop.

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Sweet Tea and Summer Love by Regan Claire

Blurb:
sweettea_finalcoverIt’s been more than a decade since Anna Lynne graced the home where she spent every summer of her childhood. Now, she’s back and overwhelmed by memories of her last summer there. One defined by loss, love, growth, and change. A few short months that changed her forever.

Anna Lynne was mourning her father while most of her friends were thinking about college, making her question everything about the life she used to live, and the person she no longer wanted to be. She felt isolated in her grief—until she met Will and his sister, outcasts far outside her normal social circle. Through them, she learned about sacrifice and strength; about loyalty and love. Ultimately, they taught her that tragedy comes in more ways than one.

As she recalls that fateful summer and the reason she stayed away from the only home she ever knew, Anna Lynne can’t help but wonder how the people she left behind managed to navigate the heartbreak she helped create—and if they can ever forgive her.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — BETA READ!!  So much of what I love about this author from her paranormal series abounds in this fabulous contemporary romance.  Fabulous characters, some great sass, and so much growth and depth.

While this is an amazing (mature) young adult romance, it is also a bit of a coming of age story as well.  I loved the unique way in which it was told, with adult Anna Lynne telling the story of her summer of first love to her younger sister.  The narrative jumps back and forth between Then and Now, and it felt seamless, b/c you got to see Layla (her sister) reacting to the story, and occasionally see hints of what was to come.

Anna Lynne was an intriguing character in herself, b/c she’s struggling with her grief, and changes in her family, and we’re sort of seeing the aftermath of some earlier rebellion.  Her world has been changed, and not just that, but the way she sees the world and what she wants out of life.  So she wasn’t what I was expecting in the beginning, but I grew to love her and how she grew over that summer, and even beyond.

Will was super swoony.  Just, I can’t even describe it, he was just sweet, and charming, and protective of his sister, and admirable.  He wasn’t without his flaws, but he was just a guy on the cusp of manhood dealing with way more responsibility than he should have.

The romance between Will and Allie (as he calls her) is just spot on perfect.  It gives you all those young adult butterflies.  You can just feel them falling in love.  And it’s not all perfect, Anna Lynne is awkward at times, and it’s just funny and satisfying and all the good stuff.  All of it.

And the story is not without its share of heartbreak that turns everything on its head.  And there are hints that something happens to suddenly end the summer, but even with the foreshadowing, it still hits you right in the feels.

And finally, the secondary characters!!!  Ms. Claire knows how to nail secondary characters so that you want to hear more from them as well!!  Her grandmother and her younger sister were fantastic, and so fun and sassy in their own right.  Will’s pretend cousin (you’ll get it when you read it) Landon was just HILARIOUS and I could just picture him perfectly.  And Will’s sister Jill played just as important a role in Anna Lynne’s summer, and I loved seeing their friendship develop as well.

So basically awesomeness.  Go forth, buy, read, enjoy.  Thank me later.

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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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Crazy About Love by Cassie Mae

So I meant to reread this book before posting my review, but since the book comes out tomorrow, that’s not going to happen!!  But I can honestly say that I doubt my feelings have changed one iota since then.  So happy almost release day Cassie Mae!!

Blurb:
51LFpQGxntL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Single again on Valentine’s Day, struggling actor Alec Tucker agrees to help out his longtime friend—and unrequited love—Theresa Jones by filling in as one of the bachelors for her company’s charity auction. Alec figures it couldn’t hurt to meet someone new. Still, working with Theresa reminds him of all the reasons he never got over her. So it feels a little bittersweet when, out of nowhere, a beautiful young street artist buys a date with him for a whopping four grand.

Little does he know, Theresa’s had a major change of heart. She’s crushed when someone else wins a date with Alec—but she isn’t going down without a fight. After a pep talk from her best friend, Theresa makes a desperate move that goes against her better judgment . . . and things only get crazier from there. But with Alec ready to move on and Theresa afraid she’s pushed him away for good, maybe a little crazy is exactly what they need—before they both miss their shot.

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My Review:
5 stars — Who’s the luckiest beta reader in the whole world? Oh yeah, it’s this girl….

I went into this book with absolutely no clue how this story was going to play out, but with high expectations after the teaser of Theresa and Alec in Doing It For Love. And I can honestly say that their love story blew me out of the water!! And a great deal of the credit for that goes to the way the story unfolded onto the pages, it was a stroke of genius! But I kind of loved having that be a surprise to me, so much to (I’m sure) your consternation, I’m not going to explain what I mean by that. Just know that I felt the format for the story was absolute perfection.

I can’t get around saying that the story is told in both the present and a series of past flashbacks…it would just be too hard, so I’ll let that cat out of the bag. And this was a key to making this story pure gold. While you’re following the action in the present, you get to learn about their history as you go along…you get to see feelings develop and change, and it makes what’s happening in the present feel more real and dire in some cases. I LOVED the story that’s told in the present, but my heart was truly captured and forever enslaved to this couple in the past.

The romance is almost a little slowburning, but you really feel their feelings with them. And when we do get intimate scenes, holy wow…just seriously, holy wow. B/C you’ve been invited into their intimate bubble, you end up feeling every *single* moment with them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Cassie Mae writes the most amazing kissing scenes, and that has extended into the steamy scenes. It only added to my unhealthy crush on Alec, b/c I felt as if he was kissing me…and more…*SIGH*

So now we get to the character portion — and no one was more surprised than I to learn I have a new number one book boyfriend. I am in total and complete love! Alec is just EVERYTHING. He’s shy and nervous and a bit insecure, but just GORGEOUS inside and out. I mean, I knew that he was someone special from his moments in Doing It, but I honestly had no idea how much he was going to capture my heart (and break it on occasion). I don’t even think I could do him justice by describing him, but the way Cassie Mae portrays him is just GAH!!! I just want him for myself. I want to be his Theresa.

And so you would think I would hate Theresa for snagging my guy right?? But I LOVE HER!! How did that happen?? How in the world did Ms. Mae write a girl that just fits him so perfectly? Watching the two of them together…well I’ll get back to that. Theresa was just everything I had loved from Doing It — with this bold personality that hides a vulnerability I wasn’t expecting. The things that make up her past and have shaped her into who she is — I just wasn’t expecting it. You really feel for the choices she’s had to make in her life. And her best friendship with Liz is story telling gold. They feel so real, like I can imagine them together — and it’s not all sunshine and roses. But they made me laugh so much in this story, I can’t even tell you…

So back to Alec and Theresa as a couple…I LOVED the playful nature of their friendship — I could vividly imagine these two gorgeous individuals playing and laughing together. While there was some major heartbreak in the flashbacks, there was also a lot of lighthearted fun and closeness and understanding.

You’re thrown right into the deep end from the start of the book, and I was immediately gripped from the first sentence. This book made me tear up, it made my heart clench, it made me laugh out loud, and it made me sigh in extreme giddiness. I’d have to go back and read them all again, but I’m feeling like this may be my new fave of the series. Though, truthfully they all have something completely different to offer. I’m going to miss these friends. Maybe I should start a petition for a surprise novella with all of them together….hey, it could happen!

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Get Lucky: a YA Anthology

As of the writing of this review, this fantastic anthology is still on sale for just 99 cents!  Definitely worth one-clicking this baby, there’s something for everyone!

Synopsis:
29366714A YA anthology featuring some of today’s hottest Young Adult authors!

Doubles Love by Ali Dean – Mackenzie Bell loves two things: tennis and the Kendrick family. She doesn’t want to be anything like her mother, who hops from one husband to the next. It’s one of many reasons why she’s never dated. The other reason? She’s in love with her best friend’s older brother, Jesse Kendrick.

She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not by Kristen Kehoe – Kennedy Russo has had it rough. She’s become a pro at being invisible. But when she’s paired up for a 5 week assignment with golden boy, Gage, she starts to realize that anonymity may not always be the best option. Gage is on a mission to make her his friend, but will their tentative friendship bloom into something more?

Stroke of Luck by Cassie Mae – Jensen is well on his way to the PGA, if only he could focus. Getting stuck with his best friend as co-counselor at the golf camp will help—Penny’s always been one to push him. But when their alone time turns romantic, Jensen wonders if she’ll just be another distraction.

Someone I Used to Know by Tessa Marie – Charlotte was not looking forward to Spring Break. No technology and a boy she can’t stand. But when she realizes the boy is actually a hot guy now, and wants to hang out with her (!) she cant help but think this break may turn into something pretty awesome. But, is he harboring a secret that will challenge their budding relationship?

16 Kisses by Kelly Oram- All Cassie Caldwell wants for her sixteenth birthday is to finally be kissed. When Cassie’s older brother and his best friend—the lovable, sexy cowboy, Jared—discover her secret, Jared takes it upon himself to make sure her birthday wish comes true.

Four Letter Words by Ginger Scott – Dakota Wright has been making Jace Padgett look good for years…and she’s tired of it. What started as a favor has turned into a habit—one that she’s justified in her mind because Jace also happens to be six feet of gorgeous hunky quarterback, green eyes and a smile that can swing a girl to the moon. But the last favor she did for him may have finally tipped the scales, and Dakota’s ready to call it quits. One small hiccup—her heart can’t seem to let her. And when Jace starts to share pieces of the real him, Dakota begins to think her heart might just be smarter than her head after all.

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My Review:
Overall rating of 4 stars — a fantastic selection of great YA short stories.  There’s everything from sweet to a bit angsty in here, something for everyone to love.  And so many fantastic first kisses…definitely a lot of swooning.

Doubles Love by Ali Dean — 3.5 stars.  This one started off really solidly and sucked me in.  I thought for a short story that Mac and Jesse had some great chemistry.  I felt bad for Mac’s home life, and I enjoyed the sports aspect (even though I’m not a sporty girl).  I was a little disappointed in how it played out after the first kiss though.  The conflict I expected, but it resolved overly quickly, and I guess I just felt like it was a build up for no reason.  I did have to put the story down and get errands done, so maybe I just lost the flow of the story too?  Still, a sweet YA with a fantastic first kiss.

She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not by Kristen Kehoe — 3 stars.  I had a hard time getting sucked into this one.  Mostly I just could not empathize with Kennedy very well.  I could see what the author was trying to do with her, but it just wasn’t working for me…but I think that might have been a personal thing.  Gage didn’t capture me right away either, but he got more adorable as time went on.  And eventually I did start to enjoy Kennedy, so the story ended better than it started.

Stroke of Luck by Cassie Mae — 4.5 stars.  Penny and Jensen were so adorable together, they had me smiling all over this story.  They had such fantastic friend chemistry, and I loved seeing them both start to see each other as more than just friends — it gave me the tingles.  You could feel the tension of this last summer together, and I was on pins and needles at the end.  Thank the baby jesus for the epilogue.  Jensen has definitely been added to my book boyfriend list, I love me a goofy adorkable guy.

Someone I Used to Know by Tessa Marie — 3.5 stars.  Definitely a cute YA.  Sometimes the choices that both characters made annoyed me.  I guess they were just immature and that did fit with their ages, but I wasn’t in the mood for that.  But I loved the moments of closeness (like at the dock and the boathouse) — you could feel the chemistry in those moments.

Sixteen Kisses by Kelly Oram — 5 stars.  Yup, this book had everything for me.  I loved Cassie — she was a little bit unsure, but oh so spunky and sassy.  I love reading about kisses, and I loved how different all the kisses were.  And Jared was just epic swoon.  I liked how he played his cards so that she would realize what was real and what was just fun.  It was the perfect short story for me, all wrapped up from beginning to end with great fun and chemistry.

Four Letter Words by Ginger Scott — 4 stars.  A part of me was epically sucked into this story.  My heart just hurt for Dakota, seeing her impossible crush and watching her get used again and again.  I couldn’t help but want to see more of why she was attracted to Jace.  It just felt kind of shallow, since for the most part he seemed to be quite the jerk.  A teeny part of me was hoping that some other nice boy was going to come along and show her what it would be like to be treated right.  Jace was redeemed a bit at the end, and my heart did break for what he was going through and his secrets.  But I guess it was just the kind of short story where I ended up wanting more b/c so much was going on.  I wanted to see what happened when they got to school again.  I wanted to see some consequences for Jace.  I wanted to see more of what brought them together.  So I was torn…b/c I really did gobble it up.

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The Artist’s Love (The Artist’s Touch Book 2) by S.H. Pratt

the artists loveSynopsis: Rissa Daniels is being stalked. Spencer St. George’s life is in danger. Their families refuse to tell them the secrets of the past that haunt their present and affect their future. With every passing day and each new discovery, Spencer and Rissa grow closer to each other and to the truth until Rissa’s stalker becomes larger than life, forcing Spencer to reevaluate their relationship and his place as a St. George.
Knowing that they will never be free from the dark menace that hovers over them without taking matters into their own hands, Rissa and Spencer make a decision that will forever change the future of their relationship. Long-buried secrets come to light, long-dead ghosts are allowed to rest in peace, and long-festering wounds are able to heal… but they are not without cost. Together, Spencer and Rissa face their fears head-on in the hope that their actions will stop their families’ pasts from destroying their future.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1U0q2gJ

Add it your TBR list on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26887783-the-artist-s-love?from_search=true&search_version=service

5 Stars

The story continues….. Dun dun duuuuuun.

This is when things get intense folks.  And it is pretty spectacular.  Rissa is like a bloodhound with a scent, she keeps digging deeper and deeper into her and Spence’s past.  I must say that I was a bit confused in the beginning about all the people in the past.  There were so many people involved.  The plot is pretty involved guys.  And the author really strings you along till the last minute, which made the ending that much more surprising.

I love Rissa’s self-confidence, she may show some nervousness a bit (particularly when meeting Spence’s grandparents), but in the end her courage and snooping skills really shine through.  She is able to maintain a femininity about her while at the same time not taking any shit from people.  A talent that is hard to achieve in my opinion.

Spence, ahhh Spence, he is such a great guy.  He seemed to always know what to say and rarely lost control; which to me is super attractive in a male lead.  He was like a beta-alpha.  I just made it up.  But it fits him.  Not very aggressive, but controlled and he knows what he wants and what he doesn’t. The man is one of the most loyal characters I have ever read; another attractive attribute in a male.

This isn’t just a love story, although I could have been content to just read about the evolvement of their relationship.  This story had intrigue, danger and suspense.  It was like a mystery and a love story all rolled into one!  I really can’t go in to detail because this is the second book and I am not really a fan of spoilers.  (cue the River Song tagline, “Spoilers”)

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The Artists Touch by S.H. Pratt

The Artists TouchSynopsis: Exhausted, disillusioned and disgusted with her life in Los Angeles, Clarice “Rissa” Daniels leaves a successful acting career for the comforts of home in Olympia, Washington. Embracing a simpler life without the overabundance of testosterone that she’d dealt with in California, she works to recover and rebuild her life without the “Hollywood craziness”, away from the toxic presence of her ex-boyfriend, and far from the paparazzi. When a walk in the park drops her into the lap of Spencer St. George, she finds herself drawn to his quiet, unobtrusive demeanor, but Rissa quickly realizes that there is much more to the bespectacled middle-school art teacher.

Spencer St. George prefers the quiet life far from the hassles created by his family. Known as “Saint” to his students, he creates his own sense of peace with a paint brush in his hand while standing behind an easel. When Rissa Daniels crashes headlong into his life, Spencer is sent reeling. Unsure of her intentions, but drawn to her gregarious personality, he finds himself stepping out from behind his easel and daring to hope for more than his quiet life.

But as Spencer and Rissa grow closer, history threatens to destroy them. Met with righteous reticence from his family and stubborn pride from hers, the couple sets out to discover the events that turned their families against each other. As the past begins to surface, the present becomes dangerous, creating an uncertainty that could bind Spencer and Rissa together… or drive them apart forever.

Order it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1MYqEiL

Add it to you TBR list on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26887765-the-artist-s-touch

4 Stars

This was a nice change of pace for me. I really liked both MC’s in this book.  Rissa has an outgoing and slightly aggressive personality that I can identify with.  She sees something and went after it.  And when you throw a ‘no’ her way she want to know why.  Her inquisitive personality appeals to me.  She is a good match for Spence’s oft times passiveness.  Spencer is a rigid opposite to her easy going manner.  It reminded me of left brain and right brain.  Controlling and order meets fly by the seat of her pants.  Both halves work together seemlessly.  Spence has this artsy yet over planned outlook that was quite attractive to me.  I love me some control.  And his control wasn’t just for the public, his appetite in the bedroom was… Gah, it was super sexy.

But this story isn’t just sexy scenes and opposites attract. It had another dimension that I truly thought felt was necessary for it to give it more layers. There is a fantastic mystery from their pasts that threatens to come between their newfound romance.   Old wounds are re-opened and family secrets don’t stay buried for long with Rissa’s detective skills. Spences steadfast support of her is what really made me fall for him.  Their relationship evolves and develops steadily throughout.  I gotta say I really enjoyed how natural SH Pratt made it feel while I read it.  It had a maturity to it that I appreciated immensely.  
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes romance. It’s totally worth it.  

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Bound by Prophecy by Stormy Smith (lenoreo edition)

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY STORMY!!!!!!

Synopsis:
BBPAmelia Bradbury is finally free from Queen Julia and Cresthaven, but she isn’t safe yet. The Keeper power runs rampant inside her and it will take an ultimate act of selflessness to contain the darkness that threatens Amelia’s sanity and the future of the Immortal race.

Aidan Montgomery refuses to give up on Amelia. Once she’s rescued from the Keeper’s hold, he intends to prove his love is more than a side effect of the prophecy, even if doing so leads him away from his pack and on a journey that will irrevocably change them both.

When the past and the present collide and the shocking origin of the Immortals is revealed, Amelia and Aidan are forced back to Cresthaven to end a war that never should have started.

Find it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26237985-bound-by-prophecy
Order it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1PqpphT

My Review:

4.5 stars — Another fabulous beta read!!

Solid conclusion to the Amelia/Aidan trilogy! I really appreciated all the little tie-ins with things from the previous 2 books. And holy cow did some things go in a completely different direction than I was expecting! Totally kept me on my toes.

I always find it difficult to review the final books in a series, b/c I don’t want to give things away!! Plus, at this point I think my reading slump has instead turned into a review slump where I’m just not sure what to write to convey my feelings.

So my feelings…. Well, this book picks up right where we left off at the end of Bound by Spells. The chemistry between Amelia and Aidan is still delicious. Amelia wasn’t always my favourite heroine, she could be a bit too…stubborn? No, that’s not it. Regardless, she’s still that Amelia in this one, but she’s tempered a bit more with patience and thoughtfulness. I appreciated the consistency in her character but showing that growth as well. Aidan was actually a bit more alpha male than I was expecting. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it caught me off guard here and there.

You know who was the surprise winner for me?? MICAH!!! I have been transformed into a card carrying Micah fan. That boy just walked in, grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go. Even when his story went in a slightly different direction than I was expecting, I was still all in. And Baleon became so much more too!! Definitely my surprising fave characters of this book. It didn’t hurt that we got a few chapters from Micah’s perspective.

All in all this was a winner for me. And if my guess is right, then I can’t wait for a spin off!!

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