A Girl Like Me by Ginger Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenoreo_small

Never Let You Go by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
25653505Regret, betrayal, kidnapping, loss, madness, abuse, passion, love.

In this modern retelling of Hansel and Gretel, thirteen-year-old foster children Griselda and Holden escape from their abductor after three years of brutal captivity, and try to cross the Shenandoah River on foot. Tragically, one of them makes it to safety, but the other is left behind.

Ten years later, Griselda’s boyfriend drags her to a fight club grudge match, and her world is turned upside down when she watches Holden step into the ring.

Though the connection between them is fierce, bitter regret, simmering rage, and a tangle of physical and emotional scars lie between them, just as dangerous as the white water of the Shenandoah.

Never Let You Go is a story of fear and hope, defeat and survival, and two people–once profoundly broken–who discover that love is the only thing that can make them whole again.

***

This is a standalone novel inspired by Hansel and Gretel.

New Adult Contemporary Romance: Due to profanity, scenes of physical abuse and very strong sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18. (Note: Children are not sexually abused in this book.)

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

My Review:
4.5 stars — OK, I adore this author, so much so that I flew across the country to meet her this past weekend at an author signing, hence why I was trying to read her books beforehand.  But as yet that love had only been concentrated on her Blueberry Lane series.  I hadn’t been enthralled by the previous two Modern Fairytale stories I’d read of hers, despite the rave reviews — which bummed me out big time.  But in all honesty, when I initially bought these ebooks a few years ago, this is the story that grabbed my attention the most.  I’m not sure if it’s the tragedy of it all, the horror of a kidnapping, or just the uniqueness of doing a spin on the Hansel and Gretel fairytale (which you have to admit, does NOT get retold very often), but I was drawn to this story.  So to say that I was relieved that I fell in love with it is kind of an understatement.  I know it’s probably silly to put so much thought and angst into loving every story by an author, b/c even with my all time favourite authors I haven’t loved EVERY story, but I really loved the concept of contemporary fairytale retellings, so I *WANTED* to love these stories.  AND FINALLY I found my match!!

So after that long winded introduction, what did I fall in love with?  Oh it’s all Holden and Griselda.  From the many flashbacks, both good memories and nightmares, to the truly long and arduous journey to their HEA.  I’m not a huge fan of HIGH angst, and I wouldn’t say this is HIGH, but it is higher…  But there was just something about their obvious connection and love for each other that kept drawing me back in over and over again, cringing every time they hit a setback, and praying that their HEA was just around the corner.

I even understood all of their emotional turmoil, like Gris’s inability to trust the people she loves not to leave her, and her attempts to isolate herself.  And Holden sort of isolated himself as well, but in a bit of a different way.  In all honesty, they both behaved badly at times to those around them, but I forgave them for it because of all they went through.  And they both grew and changed and made really good choices in the end.

And come on, Holden was extremely swoonworthy.  I can’t even tell you how many times he made me rip my heart out and offer it to him on a silver platter.  He was that intriguing mix of sexy aggressive protective boy with this wounded puppy who just wants to be loved, his devotion to Gris was just unmatched.  And I felt like his stammer added something to his character and their experiences.

I loved the emotions that this book wrung out of me.  The desperation, the grief, the despair, the way they would latch on to each other.  OMG, I was just totally all in.  And I loved that we got periods of bliss throughout, so that it wasn’t all hardship over and over again.  We really got to see their relationship change and grow depending on what was going on in their lives.  I even loved the few sideplot loose ends that got tied up, that was an unexpected bonus.

So yeah, not my best review…that’s what happens when I read a book on holidays.  Not only do I have less time to read, so it takes me a few days to get through a book, but then I also find it hard to pin down my thoughts to more specifics, instead of just “I LOVED IT!”  I did find that the book dragged in places, but because of not being able to devote time to the book, I wasn’t sure if that was actually the case or more the circumstances of my reading.  Ah well, you get what you get and you don’t get upset.  H+G Forever baby.

Lenoreo_small

Hook by Elisabeth Grace

Blurb:
29379163From USA Today Bestselling Author, Elisabeth Grace, comes her most suspenseful, sexy, and thrilling book yet!

Women loathed me without even knowing my name. Men coveted the very idea of me.

Escort. Call girl. Prostitute. Hooker. Wh*re.

I’d heard it all. Done it all.

Over the years I’d felt a lot of things about my occupation…but not regret–never regret. I had my reasons for doing what I did and nothing and no one had ever made me question them.

UNTIL MARCO VALENTI.

He’d changed me and I’d naively fed into the fairy tale.

But Marco wasn’t my Prince Charming. He had secrets of his own. Secrets that would eventually rip away everything I held dear.

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

My Review:
3.5 stars — OK, so I will admit that I tend to shy away from mob/mafia feeling books, and with a name like Marco Valenti and a guy with secrets, I had a hunch something like that would appear.  It’s the same as I shy away from Motorcycle Club books, I just have a hard time falling in love with a hero who does questionable things.  But the hooker part intrigued me.  And since the author is going to be at a signing event I’m attending, and gave away this book for free, I figured I’d give it a shot.  And I must say, I was actually pleasantly surprised for the first more than half!!

For one, it was nice to have a woman in a questionable profession who isn’t some virginal girl, but who owns the choices she’s made to get where she’s at.  And who doesn’t regret them.  And when you learn why she’s chosen this path for her life, I could buy it.  A son with MD can NOT be an easy financial burden, especially as a young single mother.  And I think that’s particularly where our heroine shines, in her love for her son Daniel.  I really felt her love for him, her worry, and you could see the different choices she was making to truly give him the best life possible.  And I LOVED that she had goals outside of that too.  Like, with the amount of money she was making, she could have just coasted, but she was going to school, and she had dreams of something more.  It really made her a more interesting and 3 dimensional character.  That caught me by surprise, and I was impressed with that.

Marco was a bit harder to love, but I also didn’t hate him.  He had some spectacular moments (such as how he handles Daniel), and I loved how forceful he was about reminding our heroine that she is not just her profession.  I thought the balance was good.  He could be a bit…emotionally volatile?  Or something.  That wasn’t really a turn on for me.  But he had lots of sweet moments as well.

Honestly, I almost rated this one a full 4 stars because I really enjoyed the first part, even despite some reservations…  But I started to get a bit impatient/bored near the end of the book, b/c I had forgotten that it was a duet, and so I was wondering when we were going to get some resolution.  Answer?  We weren’t.  Cliffhanger.  Which is fine.  It was my fault for forgetting.  And so it just lost a bit of the good steam it had going.

So what were my reservations?  Well, what exactly drew Marco to her in the first place?  He was quite infatuated.  That was mitigated in that at least we got to see them get to know each other, so I could accept the development of the relationship past that point.  The name thing was a bit weird too…it went on longer than I was anticipating.  And it did pull a few things directly from Pretty Woman, which I didn’t feel like it had to be so close (the kissing thing, the opera).

And then we get to the ending.  Well, I’m a bit of a skeptical girl, so I don’t buy it all.  It felt a bit like a cheap play on emotions.  And I REALLY don’t like where that takes our heroine and hero.  In fact, the ending didn’t make me super keen on continuing on (despite the fact that having a cliffhanger is supposed to do the exact opposite).  So I read a few bad reviews for the next book, and I know darned well that my personal tastes are going to run towards that end of the spectrum, so I think I’ll just leave it at this.  Once that decision was made, I read some spoilers so I could at least have a question answered.  No regrets.  Enjoyable book, just not quite in my wheelhouse enough to continue on.

Lenoreo_small

It Had to Be You by Lizzy Charles

Blurb:
34995954James Parson has a problem. His military dad is going to yank him out of his expensive boarding school if James doesn’t prove he’s no longer hooking up, pulling pranks, and charming his way out of consequences. What better way to show he’s now responsible than becoming the committed boyfriend of a U.S. diplomat’s daughter?

Level-headed, book-smart Edelweiss may have traveled the world thanks to her dad’s job, but when it comes to friends and boys, she knows exactly nothing. Newly enrolled in boarding school, Edel is now on a mission to learn it all. James says he’ll help her experience the ultimate high school life—if she’ll be his fake girlfriend. And fake is perfect, because he’s exactly the kind of player she’d never date.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains red-hot romance, all the feels, and a soul-mate bad boy.

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

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

I will wholeheartedly admit that there were a few things in this book that on another book would probably have bothered me more, but I just couldn’t help but devour this book and end it with a big smile on my face.  And I think that’s because there were just that many things to love, and that I got enough pleasant surprises that it made me gloss over the things that usually annoy me.

So let’s get the lamesauce stuff out of the way.  The niggles:
a) Lack of communication.  Yeah, there was some of that, but it didn’t bother me quite as much for some reason, maybe because I was getting other stuff from the romance, and it didn’t last like the whole book?  But it did bother me a little…it’s frustrating when assumptions are made on both sides and that’s what prevents the couple from getting together.
b) Over the top evil/witchy with a b girl.  Emma was seriously over the top.  I’m not a fan of that.  I didn’t even see any depth in her to explain why she was that way, she was just a straight up mean girl.  I guess those girls exist in real life, but I’m kind of tired of that.
c) The situation with Emma became a bit implausible, and I’m not sure I enjoyed how that all played out and was handled.
d) A few little things were dropped or not followed up with how I expected.  Like we’d suddenly be a week later, and I kind of wanted to know how things developed in between time (like after the hair, or even right after they agree to fake date).
e) Some of the twists felt a bit convenient, especially since we’d find them out at convenient times as the story went on (Julie, some of the Ainsley stuff including the Foster Mom).

OK!  That’s done!  I know that seems like a lot, but please remember they were little niggles that only slightly detracted from the awesome.  So what was the awesome?  Great characters that surprised me at different turns!  I enjoyed the fact that James wasn’t a horrible bad boy, but more of a guy who made some poor choices, or got pulled into the “need to impress” that many teenagers feel in high school.  He was seriously so much deeper than I had been anticipating.  I LOVED that we got to see how his family life affected him (having a military father, no mother), how his race affected him, how being biracial with a white father affected him.  I appreciated those little touches and that they weren’t glossed over.  I loved that we got to see real emotion in him, particularly wrt his father.  I loved that he made some monumental mistakes, which I know sounds weird, but I loved that he owned up to them and tried to make amends.  I loved that he really was genuinely trying to change.  I LOVED that he was a literature nerd, I would have enjoyed even more from that.  Basically he really impressed me with how much we got from him in just a short novel.

Then there’s Edel.  Not to be left out, Edel was pretty well rounded as well!  I enjoyed her unique situation, and how her life growing up shaped her, and how she desired normal teenager experiences.  I loved that she was pretty naive, it really fit with what I expected from her.  But she was also brave and strong at times too, and I thought she grew as the book went on.  She had typical teenage girl feelings, and they still existed right to the end.  I loved that we got to see bits of her relationship with her parents.  And she also made mistakes, one big one in particular.  I did enjoy how she stepped up and did the right thing eventually, and didn’t shy away from it.

And the two of them together were super adorable.  I LOVED the tummy tingles I got just from the hand holding.  And I loved the way they stuck up for one another, particularly how Edel championed James.

I also really enjoyed the secondary characters, though I wouldn’t have minded a bit more.  But I wonder if we didn’t get more because this is going to be a series and we’ll eventually get their own stories?  I sincerely hope so.

So yeah.  May have had a few pitfalls, but the good just made me so happy that it was a success!!

Lenoreo_small

Confessions of a Former Puck Bunny by Cindi Madsen

Blurb:
34733602Confession #1:
I used to be a puck bunny, but after a hockey player broke my heart, I gave up all things hockey. Now I’m just focused on finding a way to pass my math class so I can graduate college.


Confession #2: Ryder “Ox” Maddox’s deep, sexy voice sends fuzzy tingles through my entire body, and I’m powerless to stop it. Which is a big problem since the hot, surprisingly funny hockey player is my new math tutor.

Confession #3: I can’t stop thinking about how ripped Ryder is from all his hockey training, and how fun it’d be to cross lines with him.

Confession #4: I kissed a hockey player and I liked it.

Confession #5: If I’m not careful, I might relapse and fall for Ryder, and then I’ll be totally pucked.

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

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

OK, so I will admit that because of shifting priorities in reading, I have not yet had a chance to read books 2 and 3 of this series, but other than getting spoiled that those couples have a HEA (which duh), I don’t think it spoiled my reading experience in the slightest.  All it did is make me want to go back and read those books NOW NOW NOW, so let’s hope that I can fit them in before the year is out (especially Dane, he made me laugh).  And quite honestly the “family” of players and girlfriends added so much to this story, I LOVED having them there.

Now that that’s out of the way, OMG SWOON!!!  And you know who that swooning is for?  Oh yeah, it’s all for Ryder.  That boy is a perfect mix of sweet/funny and sexy/aggressive.  Like could there really be a more potent combination??  I love me a beta boy, and while I would NOT call Ryder a beta boy in the slightest, I felt like he had some of those qualities you know?  He was just so sweet and attentive and I felt like he surprised me at many turns (just as he surprised Lindsay).  And the way he pursued her with such single-minded determination?  Holy hot balls!!  (is that a saying?  I’m making that a saying)  ANYWAYS, he was the perfect omega boy, with a healthy dose of alpha traits mixed in as well.  I honestly can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with him.  Or maybe I just can’t get out of my own head, and I’m in love with him.

I also really enjoyed his backstory, and how it shaped him and the decisions he made.  I thought that his growth was realistic, because while I was in love with him, he did need a smack or two along the way.  But it made it satisfying to see him do what he could to prove his feelings.  And that was another thing I enjoyed, I appreciated that the forgiveness wasn’t easy (because he really did f* up), and he had to fight for her a bit.  That paint gun scene was immensely satisfying, as was the way the ending played out (sorry can’t elaborate, it would be spoilerific to the extreme).

Now don’t be fooled, I’m not done with my gushing.  Why?  Because we don’t just get a smoking hero, we also got a fabulous heroine to match him.  Lindsay was sassy, and vulnerable, and had a lot of depth.  I LOVED being in her head and seeing her fight through her instincts honed by her bizarre upbringing.  She had such a journey to go on, I can’t even tell you.

And this brings me to the most surprising thing about this book that seriously just won me over, mostly b/c I was expecting something different.  This book totally could have gone down judgemental lane, but Ms. Madsen hit it out of the park by avoiding that pitfall.  I mean, come on people, Lindsay was a former puck bunny!!  And so many authors just love to throw those girls under the bus, but Ms. Madsen tried to give us a different perspective of why they might do what they do.  And not only that, but Lindsay even admitted that they all had their own motivations, and she tried hard not to fall into the trap of judging girls who might enjoy one night stands.  I know I can fall into this trap myself, even if I try not to, so I just really appreciated this sooooo much.  Lindsay was unhappy with her former life because of her *own* reasons, not because it’s inherently shameful.  I loved the lack of double standard that showed.  Right on Lindsay, right on.

So I’ll end this review with a Confession of my own: I watch quite a bit of hockey (heck, my Oilers are in the playoffs as we speak and I’m GLUED to the TV for it), so I love a good hockey romance.  But damn, do these books give an unrealistic representation of the number of good looking hockey players.  I’m not saying they don’t all likely have amazing bodies, but when I look up and down the bench, I’m really not seeing teamfuls of gorgeous guys…or at least not gorgeous to me.  No offense hockey players, I’m sure it’s me and not you.  😛

Lenoreo_small

In Your Dreams by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
29353356Casey Coffield has a growing list of personal flaws he keeps locked away in his head:
He’s never on time.
His list of IOUs to his best friend is endless.
Money is always short.
Goals are never in reach.

Oh, and he’s decided to add college drop-out to that list, too. He doesn’t really think that last one’s such a bad thing, but his family insists it is, so it stays on the list.

On paper, he’s a zero. But in person, when he’s mixing tracks for a sea of bodies at the hottest clubs and parties, he’s downright irresistible. Just-right stubble on his chin, body of a boxer and a smirk that stimulates all the right nerves—women have never been a problem. They flock to his swagger and fall for his charm…fast.

All except for this one.

Purple hair, gray eyes, a raspy voice and sass, Murphy Sullivan is a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll. And her and Casey? They have history. He can’t remember it, but she wrote a song about him—and it’s not exactly a love song. But it is good. Damn good. And uncovering her inspiration just might be the key to solving a few of his shortcomings—not to mention open doors to his own big break in the music industry.

But sometimes dreams get messy when they collide. Sometimes life changes patterns. A past paints the wrong picture and futures get cloudy. The only question that remains is who will you choose when the dust settles—you? Or the girl of your dreams?

** This book is a Falling Series spin-off. It can be read as a standalone. **

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

My Review:
5 stars — I don’t even know why this one is a full 5 stars for me, I just feel it in my bones, you know??  I just loved this whole book, I really really did.  It just made me feel good and happy and squeezed my heart and made me feel all those things that Ginger Scott has always makes me feel with her books.  I don’t know why it took me so long to get to Casey’s book, I should have read this right after release!!  *sigh*  Makes me want to go back and reread the whole Falling series.  It’s the series where I fell in love with Ms. Scott.

This one is going to be really hard to review, b/c I’m not sure how to accurately express exactly what it was about this book that just got to me so much.  I think Casey just surprised me a whole heck of a lot.  Now, my memory is crap when it’s been a bit since I’ve read a book, so I didn’t have detailed memories of him, but I don’t remember being particularly enamoured with him…not that I didn’t like him, I just didn’t have strong feelings one way or another.  And Casey was really complicated and flawed.  I think maybe that’s where the surprise came in.  He had way more depth than I had been expecting.  He was such a strange combination of a bunch of different personality quirks that somehow worked together, and I was still left in love with him.  Like really in love.  He could definitely be cocky and arrogant and an a-hole, but there was so much going on inside his head too.  He was sensitive, and easily hurt, and WANTED to be more.  But almost afraid of it too, you know?  He was shaped by the environment in which he grew up, and even that was strange and unique.  Not full out horrible, but not awesome either.  I LOVED the way he soaked up the love from Houston’s family and eventually Murphy’s.

And Murphy was fricking awesome too.  Her story and history with Casey were not at ALL what I was expecting, and I really appreciated that it didn’t follow the typical formulas, you know?  It shaped her, but there was a LOT that shaped her that had nothing to do with Casey.  And she was just someone I could empathize with, she reached to my heart as well with her mix of sass and shyness.  She just fit with Casey so well, and I was invested in her story all on her own.  Casey may have been my shooting star in this story, but Murphy held her own.  I LOVED her songs too.

And Lane was such a surprise.  He brought out the best in both Murphy and Casey.  I LOVED the way he fit into the story, he really brought a lot of heart.  And I loved Murphy’s parents too, they made me laugh and love.

And hot damn!  The chemistry was fantastic, and while the physical component came later, holy smokes was it hot when it came!  DAMN, the dancing scenes killed me.  I want to go to a club where Casey is DJing.

*sigh*  Yup, it was all just so nicely balanced with difficult topics, hard situations, heartwrenching scenes, sexy time and humour.  And Casey just may be the most surprising book boyfriend on my list, he won me over hook, line and sinker, even despite his flaws.  *happy sigh*

Lenoreo_small

Wicked Restless by Ginger Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenoreo_small

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.

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

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.

Lenoreo_small

Back Piece by L.A. Witt

Blurb:
34442289Colin Spencer is a tattoo artist with a past he’d prefer to keep a secret. Actually, he has a few secrets that he’d rather people didn’t know about, which is why Colin doesn’t do commitment. But when a shy sailor approaches him at the gym, Colin finds this guy pushing all his buttons.

Growing up in a conservative family, then escaping with the Navy, Daniel Moore is an unsure virgin who feels like he can’t share his true self with anyone. Seeing Colin—and his tattoos—at the gym are the sign Daniel needs to finally get those tattoos he’s always wanted, and maybe try his hand at flirting.

As Colin and Daniel spend more time together, their awkward hesitations turn into a deep passion neither expected. But with both men harboring secrets, will their relationship be able to survive their insecurities and become something beautiful?

Back Piece is a sexy, emotional journey of two people learning to love and finding acceptance for who they really are.

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

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

I have lots of mixed feelings about this one.  I honestly finished it and was just completely uncertain how I felt.  And not necessarily in a bad way, there was so much I genuinely enjoyed.  I just knew there was another part of me that was hankering for a bit more.  But I think the things I enjoyed outweighed my nitpicks this time so I’m totally rounding up.

This book dealt with a crapload of odd and intriguing issues.  You have Daniel, shy, sweet, and incredibly naive.  A virgin in SO MANY ways, occasionally his naivete would make me a bit skeptical, but at other times I felt like it was intriguing and refreshing.  I could really feel his panic and worry about not knowing what to do.  It wasn’t the sex naivete that threw me off, I totally got that and thought it was handled really well.  It was the relationship stuff.  It was so odd that he felt so unsure about how relationships worked.  I’m not entirely sure I buy into that, but I can’t completely convince myself that it couldn’t happen with the way he was brought up…that he would somehow assume that gay relationships would work any other way than every other romantic relationship.

I really appreciated the struggles he went through with his parents, and that the author showed that just because they were homophobic didn’t mean they didn’t have great qualities.  And inevitably Daniel had to make the decision about what was important to him.  I thought that was handled rather well.

And I even enjoyed his introduction to sex, and the strange amount of detail we got as a result (about pitfalls of bottoming or topping for the first time).  To be frank, there was a LOT of sex in this book, but I didn’t mind that so much as that I wanted a bit more on the relationship side.  The steamy scenes were quite delicious, and the chemistry between Daniel and Colin was awesome.  I just found myself occasionally puzzled about the relationship progression, and why some choices were made, and even if I guessed the reasons, why did they not ever discuss it and any hangups they might have had?  I needed some more depth there.

And then there’s Colin.  I can’t decide if I want to spoil the “secret” or not, I’m not sure if it really affects the enjoyment of the book to know here…you find out pretty early on (or at least there’s hints from the first chapter).  So if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip to the next paragraph in this review.  Still with me?  OK, I LOVED that Colin struggled with an eating disorder.  I felt like it was given so much authenticity and realism, and I could really FEEL his struggle.  I thought it was respectful, and I appreciated its addition to the story.  I also LOVED that his being a former porn star wasn’t some horrible shameful thing.  It added a strange layer onto the story.  I will say that while I LOVED Daniel’s reactions to learning these secrets, I kind of wished he considered Colin’s struggles more often.  I know he was overwhelmed with his own issues, but Colin was there for him with his family and thinking about him, why didn’t Daniel give more thought to how he could help Colin cope?  I wanted some development there that I didn’t get.

There were the occasional parts where some of their conversations got a little repetitive.  I’d be thinking “didn’t they have a similar conversation” (like Daniel comparing Colin’s situation to friends who came home with PTSD), and I get that that happens in real life especially with important stuff, but in romance books it feels kind of odd and unnecessary.

I enjoyed the tattoo stuff, and the meanings behind the back piece.  I would love to see it, even as I understand it doesn’t exist in real life.

My only other nitpick is that I would have liked to see more of an epilogue.  I was totally anticipating seeing how things fell out with Daniel’s family, and particularly the sister and maybe other siblings.  I’m not sure if the next book will be Daniel and Colin again or other characters.  If it’s other characters, then I definitely wish we’d gotten that bit more since the ending came kind of quickly.

So yeah.  It was a mixed bag, but definitely more to love.  Will be intrigued to see what’s next in the Skin Deep Inc series.

Lenoreo_small

Who She Was by Stormy Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenoreo_small