Perfectly Imperfect by Harper Sloan

Blurb:
27512229Mirror, mirror … who’s the fairest of them all?

I still cringe when I hear that line. A fairy tale that had girls pretending they were the fairest, the most beautiful, and the most entitled. A fairy tale most couldn’t grow out of turned my haunted childhood memories into a living nightmare. Girls who grew up believing that pile of garbage became the meanest of all ‘mean girls.’

And those mean girls were right – it was a line meant for all the beautiful people in the world – and I knew the answer would never be me.

The women with long legs, flat stomachs, and perfect chests.

The type of women Kane Masters gravitated toward.

Well, that’s definitely not Willow Tate.

No. That will never be me.

Because I’m completely imperfect.

And … I hate myself.

I have no idea what Kane could possibly see in someone like me when he could have them.

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My Review:
2.5 stars — So I should have DNFd this one.  Honestly, when I started reading the first chapter, I was a little bit put off by the style.  Not to be rude, but I got a little bit bored.  There was just a lot of the story taking place in the characters heads.  I forged ahead, b/c the premise of the story really intrigued me, and I wanted to know where it was going to go.  And there were little glimmers of things that I enjoyed, so you hold out hope that those parts will take over the story somehow.  But they didn’t.  By 60% I honestly contemplated DNFing, but by that point I wanted to know the mystery of Mia and Kane (even though I had my theories, and those actually came pretty close to the truth).  So I finished it.  But I will say, if you read the sample, and you’re reading the first chapter and you’re not really feeling it, then it might not be the book for you either.

Basically, as I told my husband, it was just too many words.  WORDS WORDS WORDS.  Talking and talking.  *sigh*  And if it wasn’t that, then it was sex.  But damn, I was excited after the first kiss (because that was hot), but then we got to the first more steamy scene, and even that got interrupted by words.  *heavy dramatic sigh*  I started trying to skim (which I’m terrible at).  I need more plot I guess.

As for our characters, they weren’t terrible, but I wasn’t enthralled either.  I could see good things, but I didn’t really get to feel their growth.  Willow talked and talked and talked about her changing and growing, but I didn’t get to see that growth happen in actions.  And I’m not saying that I didn’t love the scene where she went back to Logan Agencies, that was awesome.  But it was like one minute she has an eating disorder and hates herself, and then some conversation with Kane and then a month later she’s stronger.  That wasn’t satisfying for me, and it didn’t allow me to buy into the growth you know?  Kind of telling instead of showing I guess.

And then there’s Kane.  Yeah, he could be hot sometimes and sweet, but all the what is essentially soul mate talk just had me dibsing out.  It was over the top dramatic and kind of sappy.  Or maybe I’m just cynical, but I got tired of all that too.  (I didn’t even swoon over the epilogue, I rolled my eyes…so much cynicism in this girl apparently)

And then we get to their decisions about the scandal.  I can’t go into it, but I don’t understand how what they decided to do was any better for the situation, it just felt like unnecessary martyrdom.

And finally, if you’re the kind of person who gets annoyed by bad editing (in the proofreading sense), then unless it’s been changed since I bought it last year, this one is NOT proofed well.  So many sentences had mistakes and it made for a jarring read.

OH!  But I will give a huge nod to Kirby, Eddie, and even Kole.  Some funny moments with all of those secondary characters.  They’ve convinced me to round up.

So yeah.  This one wasn’t for me.  I had kind of higher expectations, which probably didn’t help.  Oh well.  One less author for me to visit at my upcoming signings.

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180 Seconds by Jessica Park

Blurb:
32739485Some people live their entire lives without changing their perspective. For Allison Dennis, all it takes is 180 seconds…

After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.

One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.

When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.

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

WOW.  Seriously, wow.  I knew I was going to enjoy this book, but I’m not sure I entirely realized HOW MUCH I was going to enjoy this book.  I was sucked in right from the start, and my love just grew in intensity as I continued to read it…  It was one of those books where you resent your life for interfering with your reading…or at least it was for me.

I am a sucker for a damaged heroine.  I wasn’t quite sure how damaged Allison would be, and while some of my suspicions were way off base, I really appreciated that we got to see some different effects of just being in the Foster system and bouncing around from home to home without an added other huge trauma.  Not sure if that makes sense, but sometimes I think just that basic concept of feeling unwanted and unloved and too much rejection does not get enough attention.  Allison honestly brought out all the feels for me, I HURT for past and present her.  I felt how much she wanted to close off the world, and how afraid she was of letting people in.  There’s a teeny tiny part of me that wonders if her transition was too fast, but that’s partly b/c there were time jumps in the story.  But quite honestly?  I was getting so much out of the story, I didn’t even care.  I LOVED seeing Allison slowly open up and accept love.  It was beautiful.

There were two shining stars for me in this story (besides our heroine of course).  Obviously there is Esben.  I wondered if he would be too good to be true, and I debated about whether that would annoy me, but you know what?  It really didn’t.  Especially because despite being such a good and kind and generous soul, we did get to see into his own damage, and see what shaped him into the person he was.  And he was not without his own flaws and bad decisions.  But I ADORED him.  EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.  I really expected a much different hero after reading the blurb and seeing social media star, and the glimpse we get before the experiment.  My preconceived notions were blown away.  He made me feel so many emotions all on his own, and he is totally my kind of book boyfriend material.  I want an Esben.

And I loved the way they grew together.  Their chemistry was palpable, and sweet, and slow burning, and gave me so many tummy tingles.  I ADORED the way their relationship progressed, it was all so satisfying for me.

The other star for me was Simon.  I’m not sure if it’s just because he’s a Dad, and I’m missing my own, but I LOVED HIM SO MUCH.  He made me cry in so many unexpected moments, just by being himself.  He was vulnerable, and honest, and tried so hard, and I was just always so happy that Allison had him.  And OMG, did he make me laugh!!  Right from that first chapter!!  I’m not sure I’ve ever loved a secondary character in quite this way before.  He added so much to the story.

Steffi was another intriguing character.  I knew there was more to her story, but for some reason I was still caught off guard.  I enjoyed what we learned about her, and what she brought to Allison’s own growth.

I did end up losing some of my steam nearer to the end, but I was also interrupted so many times, that I think that hurt it too.  If you can read it all in one sitting, I highly recommend that.

All in all this book made me laugh, smile big grins, get tummy tingles, silently cry some tears, and bawl like a baby.  That’s a pretty great spectrum.  Definitely one of my favourite reads of the year, it just hit all the right places for me.

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The Silent Waters by Brittainy C. Cherry

Blurb:
32070295Moments.

Our lives are a collection of moments. Some utterly painful and full of yesterday’s hurts. Some beautifully hopeful and full of tomorrow’s promises.

I’ve had many moments in my lifetime, moments that changed me, challenged me. Moments that scared me and engulfed me. However, the biggest ones—the most heartbreaking and breathtaking ones—all included him.

I was ten years old when I lost my voice. A piece of me was stolen away, and the only person who could truly hear my silence was Brooks Griffin. He was the light during my dark days, the promise of tomorrow, until tragedy found him. Tragedy that eventually drowned him in a sea of memories.

This is the story of a boy and girl who loved each other, but didn’t love themselves. A story of life and death. Of love and broken promises.

Of moments.

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My Review:
4.5 stars —  I saw this book on sale on one of my bargain book emails (BookBub I think), and while I haven’t read any by Ms. Cherry, I do have a few and I’ve heard great things.  And she’s going to be attending an author event I’ll be at in the fall, so that right there had my interest peaked.  And then, as I usually do when deciding on a book, I read the 1 star reviews.  😛  It’s basically so I can see if the things they’re complaining about are the kinds of things that would bother me.  It helps to temper the 5 star reviews (of which I’ll read a few, as well as any friends reviews).  Well damn, the 1 star reviews really intrigued me, and gave me the impression that if I read the sample I would see right away what they didn’t enjoy.  Well damn, challenge accepted!  And you know what?  I was SUCKED IN!!!  I NEEDED MORE!  So apparently I’m not like the 1-star reviewers, b/c this was sooooo my kind of book.  Like seriously, I knew darned well just from the blurb that this would fit as a guilty pleasure for me.

So yeah, that was a seriously long and pointless introduction, I just found it really amusing is all.  But you guys, this was just my kind of book.  I know it’s going to sound really stupid, but I am so attracted to books about damaged heroines.  I can’t imagine I’m the only one.  And add in a swoony sweet hero?  Oh yes please.

I actually just recently read a book about selective mutism, and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t blow me away.  That’s because *this* was the book I was looking for.  I’m probably going to completely fail this review quite honestly, I just really really really enjoyed myself.  Everything from the plot, to the characters, to the swoony romance, to the intrigue, to the depth and message.  I actually highlighted something that hit me so hard I shared it with my husband:

“Sometimes our minds acted as a form of kryptonite, and we had a responsibility to our own self-worth to aggressively tell it to fuck off with its lies.”

Oh Maggie May, you speak the truth.

I actually enjoyed the way the family dynamics played out in this book (which was one of the things others complained about).  I appreciated that they didn’t all handle it well.  It was actually a balance on how they coped with Maggie’s mutism and agoraphobia.  Her Mama broke my heart, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility you know?  People can be so easily influenced by others, and everyone has their own demons to face when confronting adversity.  I won’t say that I wasn’t occasionally baffled at how Maggie could maintain that level of fear for SO MANY YEARS, but trauma affects everyone differently and I was able to accept it somehow.

And speaking of family dynamics, I REALLY appreciated the way the Cheryl relationship worked out.  I wasn’t expecting that, I love when secondary characters surprise me.

And even the way the relationship with Brooks played out was satisfying to me.  I really felt their connection and chemistry and I swooned so hard.  Even if I will admit that I HATED Brooks’s taste in music.  😛  It was terrible.  To me.

There was a part of me that didn’t enjoy the time jumps in the middle.  I mean, I enjoyed the way they were presented, but I was saddened that so much time went by.  I wasn’t expecting that.

I totally called the mystery element.  Maybe I was supposed to, but I saw the way that was going to play out.  But I was happily surprised with how Maggie’s healing developed.

Anyways, I’m just babbling here and probably not being very helpful.  Essentially, this book was a Lenore book.  It hit all my buttons, and gave me so much of what I was craving.  So yay!  I’m excited to get to more of Ms. Cherry’s books, but they will likely have to wait until the summer.  But after reading the sample, I just couldn’t resist diving right in.

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Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Blurb:
33224718Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

 
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

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

This one left me a bit conflicted.  I am a self-professed geek, and really enjoyed all the geek references in this book (whether quotes or nods to real life fandoms, or just the overall feel of BEING in a fandom).  That was honestly the highlight of the book for me, b/c I really do love the whole world of nerd culture (even if I’m not the type to cosplay or go to cons).  And on the whole I was definitely entertained by this book, and don’t regret reading it, I was just a bit disappointed b/c it was missing some magic.

For me, characters are what make or break a story, and I just didn’t end up loving EITHER of our main characters.  Which is not to say I disliked them!!  I just didn’t love them.  And I kind of need to love at least one of them for me to really enjoy a story.  They both felt a bit weak and with less dimension than I would have liked.  I needed more from both of them.

Elle has a rather tragic childhood and current situation (consistent with the Cinderella tale), but I didn’t end up really feeling much empathy for her.  I didn’t really get a feel for her emotions on any of the events that shaped her.  She felt kind of flat.  I can’t even tell you why, what did I need to make it…just…more…  But I didn’t really *feel* her grief.  I didn’t feel her loneliness, or what did she feel after whatever happened the previous summer?  And I couldn’t vibe with how socially inept she was that it took her so long to understand when Sage was reaching out to her.  It felt…forced?  I don’t know, I’m probably mucking this all up.  She just wasn’t that interesting I guess.  Like she had some of the building blocks there, but never went anywhere with them.  She wanted to be a scriptwriter, but she had stopped writing (other than on her blog)?  How was that going to work out?

And Darien.  OK, I am all for a beta boy, but a beta boy still has to have some inner strength, you know?  Some quality that makes you root for him.  His development and backbone took entirely too long to come around.  Why was he so reluctant to take his career into his own hands?  Why did he let Mark boss him around like that?  Was he just apathetic?  I guess I can kind of see it based on things that had happened in his past, but it wasn’t enough to make me really get behind him.  Did he even like acting??

And for goodness sake, what race was he?  Was he Indian?  The only reason I would guess that is because he’s not a white-washed pick for Carmindor, and the previous actor’s last name was Singh.  Why bother having that element and not go into it?  I can’t even call this book diverse, b/c it’s NEVER EXPLORED.  What was it like to be a different race celebrity heartthrob?  Was he half?  ANYTHING!  JUST GIVE ME SOMETHING!  Or don’t make it an element at all!  That, apparently, really annoyed me.

And honestly, the chemistry between Elle and Darien wasn’t really there besides a bit of a friendship.  I didn’t really buy that development.  From the messages we saw, I’m not sure what drew them together.  I could have used a bit more.  Even when they finally interacted in person, they were both so distracted by other things, I didn’t get the magic I was looking for until the ball.  Bummer.

And in the end I was unsatisfied with the evil characters.  They were kind of caricatures.  And Catherine was abusive as heck, so I didn’t get a satisfactory resolution with her.  I guess it was realistic in some ways, but still unsatisfying.  Chloe’s was a bit better, but again, she was a stereotypical mean girl.  No depth there.  And I wasn’t always happy with how things happened along the way to stick with the plot (like bringing the costume back to the house, hiding the tickets in the house).  Not to mention the whole selling the house thing.  If it was left to Elle, then how can Catherine sell it?  Is there no law there?

Sage and Calliope were bright spots in terms of secondary characters.  I felt bad for both of them because Elle really took a long time to give them a chance.  But I liked that they each had more depth to their characters.  On the other side, I enjoyed Gail and Lonny, but felt like there could have been even more from them…I wanted more anyways.

So yeah.  That all reads like a bummer review.  But it’s really just me ruminating on why this book missed the mark between an entertaining read and a life-changing read.  If you enjoy nerd culture though, I think you will love all the nods in this one.  In the end it was a book with a LOT of potential that just failed to live up to it for me.

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Proposing to Preston by Katy Regnery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One Wild Night by Melissa Cutler

Blurb:

33025544Get ready for the ride of your life…

A cowgirl at heart, Skye Martinez has a rebellious streak she’s determined to shake. Especially since she’s poised to take the reins of her family’s business at Briscoe Ranch Resort. It’s time for her to settle down and get serious about her future…right after one last night of fun with a handsome stranger she meets in the resort’s stable. But when a midnight horseback ride turns into a red-hot weekend with one of country music’s biggest stars, Skye’s world is rocked beyond her wildest dreams…

Gentry Wells rode his bad boy image all the way to the top of the country music charts. But churning out hits has dried up his creativity, and he can’t remember the last time his life was his own. Skye is a sexy distraction he can’t resist, especially since she breathes new life into his music. They bring out the wild side in each other, which is great for Gentry’s career–but a major threat to Skye’s. Too bad he’s fallen in love with her. With their hearts and futures on the line, can Gentry convince Skye to turn their joyride into a real chance to ride off into the sunset together?

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

This is going to be another review that’s kind of choppy b/c it’s based on bulletpoint notes.  But basically the jist is that this was just not a book for me.  I have read one other novella set in this world, and I enjoyed that one, but this one did not have that same magic (and no, it is not required to read other books in the series, this one can stand alone).  I did not like the characters, I did not like the plot, and really, this book felt like a mediocre Harlequin.

The characters did not feel consistent AT ALL.  I mean, I didn’t like them that much either, but I really just didn’t believe their growth.  They both felt superficial and shallow, lacking the depth that really sucks me in.

I really did not appreciate the Catholic guilt in this book.  I get that they really feel that guilt and families are like that, but Skye’s mother was not even remotely redeeming.  It made it hard to understand why family was so important to Skye when you didn’t see that… Well, a little.  One good moment with Gloria, but for it to be so important to Skye, I expected to see it more.  Her father was awesome too, but I just felt sorry for him.  I REALLY needed the Mom to have more dimension so that I could understand why Skye felt so strongly about her family and the values she was raised with.

And the conflict Skye was under…I just didn’t quite get it.  I knew where the author was going in broad strokes, but I don’t think it was effectively achieved.  I guess I just didn’t feel her inner struggle, or understand how it all played out inside her head.

I didn’t get Gentry at all.  Maybe if we got to know his past a bit more, I would have known what drove him to be who he was.  It was like the author had these broad strokes ideas of who these characters were, but didn’t take the time to flesh them out and make them believable.

And I did NOT feel the spark between them past the first night in the stables (that night was hot).  In fact, the sex scene really didn’t have much emotion, it felt like an erotica scene (which is fine, but not how this book is marketed).  I want a connection between my lovers.  *shrugs*

And finally, I know this was an ARC and not the final copy, but it was riddled with mistakes.  Typos, wrong names, timeline inconsistencies…I sincerely hope that it had a major clean up before release.  Usually ARCs only have a few typos left to clean up, this one felt like an earlier copy.

So yeah.  It sounds really bad, but it was mostly just disappointing and meh for me.  Like I didn’t hate anything, I just wanted MORE from like EVERYTHING.

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Jordan Reclaimed by Scarlett Cole

Blurb:

31688253Jordan Steele’s life began when he was ten. When he was taken from his parents and a house that was never a home. When he met his brothers, the other lost and abandoned boys in his group home. When he learned what friendship and family and love looked like.

Now he’s made good, touring the world with the band he and his brothers formed in that crowded group home. No one but his found family really knows the man under the fame and fortune, the scars he hides behind the rockstar lifestyle. Until he sees her through the windows of the National Ballet, dancing, and suddenly the world doesn’t seem so dark.

Aleksandra Artemov ticks all the ballet boxes. Father a legendary Kirov dancer. Check. Prepping since birth for classical ballet. Check. Compulsive control over the food she eats. Check. Principal dancer at The National Ballet of Canada. Check. But what she craves is freedom.

She craves Jordan.

Everything about him should terrify her. His size, his tattoos, his edge. But he doesn’t. He stirs her very soul. Jordan has nothing but himself to offer her, and he’s never been good enough for anyone. Can he figure out how to face his own demons before he loses his light for good?

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

While you can totally read this without reading the Second Circle Tattoos series that this series spins off from, I will say that I regret not reading Dred’s book before starting on this one (I’ve read 1 and 4, but not 3).  Not that I won’t likely still go back and enjoy that book, but you do get little mini spoilers in this book.

This was so much more…heartbreaking and involved and sweet and uplifting than I was expecting.  I mean, yes and no.  It’s not that I don’t know that Ms. Cole can write stories with harrowing backstory.  But both Jordan and Lexie really got to me.

Since I hadn’t read Dred’s book, I didn’t quite know what to expect from Jordan, but his backstory is just gut wrenching.  And the ways he copes now, and how it has affected him…it just felt so real, and sucked me in and gave me all the feels.  He was an extremely interesting character.  Because he could be both sweet and innocent as well as dirty and even volatile.  He was kind of a conundrum.  Sometimes I wondered at the many aspects of him, but I can’t decide if it his growth was too much too soon, or just right.  Sometimes life gives you a trigger that your brain has been waiting for, that allows you to see more into yourself and finally get over your stumbling blocks.  And occasionally I wanted a deeper look into how it is affecting him now, but maybe the bits we got at different times were just right.  But anyways, regardless, I definitely wanted to hug the shit out of him.

And while Jordan’s story is perhaps a bit more heartbreaking, Lexie has her own horrible issues to deal with.  You feel it right from the start, and you just feel sick for her, and what she’s living with, and how it has affected her.  I was worried, at one point in the story, that her own struggles would be minimized, or not dealt with in the appropriate way and with sensitivity…but I should have trusted Ms. Cole.  And in the end, the way that all went really made sense for her and Jordan.  I kind of wished I’d been able to read more of how she was going to cope, but that’s probably just me being greedy.

I did absolutely adore the look into the ballet world, even if hers was a bit skewed by her father.  I’ve always admired the crap out of dancers, and my hubby and I have season tickets for our provincial ballet.  I have the grace of a bulldog, so it’s something I always envy…but I definitely don’t envy the toll it takes and the hours of hard work they put into their craft.

And their chemistry together was pretty fantastic.  It was a lot more blunt and straight talking than I was expecting at times, but it worked for them.  I loved seeing Jordan struggle with how to have a relationship, and how he second guessed everything he did.  Again, so sweet.  And then he’d say something dirty, and it just balanced.

AND I LOVED THE BITS OF CANADIANNESS!!  I mean, YES!!  I’ve never lived in Toronto, but I did recognize street names, and stupid little things like the No Frills grocery store, the Canadian Tire bag, and shopping at The Bay, and Karen Kain, and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (been there)!  It’s the little things that make this girl happy.  *high fives Preload for being Canadian*

And finally, there was the secondary cast.  While they weren’t there all the time, the scenes where they were just showed me the connection between the guys, and how they lean on each other in small ways.  And OMG, they brought such levity!  “She’s the phone!”  Just so much love.  Cannot WAIT to read more books of these boys.  Though I am scared, b/c if Lennon is more f’d up than Jordan, I just don’t know if I can handle his story.

Honestly, the only reason I’m rounding down instead of up is just a me thing…I’m still in that strange bubble where I’m not quite getting sucked into the books fully.  Were I in a different mood, I can totally see myself rounding up.  OHHH!!  And there were some areas where the POV changed without a break.  I’m not a fan.  Especially since it was pretty consistent throughout the rest of the book, so it was what I had come to expect.

If you’re a medium angst fan like me, who likes some heart wrenching, but not too much to be overwhelmed, then you need this series in your life.

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Hot Licks by A.M. Arthur

Blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grin and Beard It by Penny Reid

Blurb:
23337863USA TODAY Bestselling Romantic Comedy Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cinder & Ella by Kelly Oram

Blurb:
14495341_10154103515169353_1987216987004450545_nWhat would you do if your anonymous Internet best friend turned out to be Hollywood’s hottest celebrity?

It’s been almost a year since eighteen-year-old Ella Rodriguez was in a car accident that left her crippled, scarred, and without a mother. After a very difficult recovery, she’s been uprooted across the country and forced into the custody of a father that abandoned her when she was a young child. If Ella wants to escape her father’s home and her awful new stepfamily, she must convince her doctors that she’s capable, both physically and emotionally, of living on her own. The problem is, she’s not ready yet. The only way she can think of to start healing is by reconnecting with the one person left in the world who’s ever meant anything to her—her anonymous Internet best friend, Cinder.

Hollywood sensation Brian Oliver has a reputation for being trouble. There’s major buzz around his performance in his upcoming film The Druid Prince, but his management team says he won’t make the transition from teen heartthrob to serious A-list actor unless he can prove he’s left his wild days behind and become a mature adult. In order to douse the flames on Brian’s bad-boy reputation, his management stages a fake engagement for him to his co-star Kaylee. Brian isn’t thrilled with the arrangement—or his fake fiancée—but decides he’ll suffer through it if it means he’ll get an Oscar nomination. Then a surprise email from an old Internet friend changes everything.

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My Review:
ORIGINAL REVIEW: 5 stars — UNPUTDOWNABLE. Seriously. I started reading this b/c I was at the release party for it and there was a part where the author posted a video of her reading the prologue and first chapter of the book. Well, when I started bawling at the end of the prologue, I had to put aside the book I was currently reading and start reading it for myself even though it was after 10pm….ended up being up til 5am glued to my kindle. So does that tell you something? It tells me it was awesome. And then I proceeded to not write my review right away and thus this will not be up to my normal babbling standards….well, maybe.

LOVED the characters. Loved the whole very loose retelling of Cinderella. There was actually more to that than I was expecting. Loved how broken and yet strong Ella was. Loved watching her struggle in her new life, and struggle to survive. LOVED the heartbreaking themes that the story touched on (bullying, grief, survival, depression…I have more but I can’t think of them). Gosh, even Brian was so much more complicated than I was expecting. Ms. Oram’s characters are always so well-developed and three dimensional. Even the side characters were amazing and believable (yes, even Anastasia….I actually had a harder time justifying some of Jennifer’s (the stepmom) behavior from the beginning).

And I kind of wanted The Druid Prince to be real.

ASE is still probably my favourite of Ms. Oram’s, but let me tell you — this put in some amazing competition for top spot.

ON REREAD: 5 OMG OMG OMG stars!  We reread this book as part of a read-a-long in the Kelly Oram Reader Squad in September in preparation for the new cover and 2 year publish-a-versary.  And it was MAGICAL!  Everything I remember this book being.  I then didn’t write up my review YET AGAIN, so it will be lacking.  But I will say that I was reminded of one of my FAVOURITE scenes from a book of ALL TIME (for those who’ve read it, it’s the FantasyCon moment where realizations occur).  I could read that scene OVER AND OVER AND OVER again, kind of like how I could watch the end of Never Been Kissed OVER AND OVER AND OVER again.  It’s *that* good.  Seriously, “say car for me”…it shouldn’t produce chills, but it does.

And the pièce de résistance of the read-a-long?  Having conversations *with* the characters ABOUT the book they are in.  Seriously…made my whole day.

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