#FinishLine by Cambria Hebert

Blurb:
34384215
Every race has a finish line.

Where you go after you cross it is what matters most. And sometimes, that’s the most intriguing.

Here at GearShark, we’ve featured lots of drivers. All of them are well acquainted with the finish line. And as race fans, we’re well acquainted with cheering as they cross it. What we aren’t privy to is riding shotgun, seeing where they drive once the race is over.

Our interviews barely scratch the surface, offering just a glimpse of the men and women behind the wheel. The discovery of vanished Motocross sensation Jayson Hamilton, who has been right under our noses for years, proves secrets abound.

It’s time to dig deep. Look beyond the racetrack at the drivers who continue to pique our interest. In addition to scoring an exclusive, all-access interview with the elusive Jayson Hamilton (his first and only since the death of his fellow racer and partner Matt Lewis), we’ve caught up with some of our most popular featured men and women in the racing world.

Where are they now?

Who are they now?

What do these hot commodities do when they escape the spotlight?

Rumors of weddings, babies, and new tattoos swirl through the media on a weekly basis. And though we’re headlining the hashtag #Finishline, we’re far from finished. In fact, we’re just getting started.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I think I might have enjoyed this one a bit more if I’d had dedicated time to read it, instead of it being broken up in little pieces whenever I had time in between other stuff going on in my life.

That being said, remember how I LOVED #Bae because it was so much more than *just* a huge epilogue??  Well, this one is basically just a huge epilogue.  I kept waiting for twists and turns and more character development, and I really didn’t get it.  We did get a few answers about Hopper’s past, but in general I felt underwhelmed…like I wanted more.

And honestly, while I love Hopper and Arrow together, things got a bit overdramatic in their relationship…over the top declarations and stuff like that.  And I couldn’t help but be a bit uncomfortable with the co-dependency that was their relationship.  In some ways I can see how these two damaged characters might form that kind of relationship, but it’s not my favourite, if that makes sense.

Now, it was not all over the top and crazy, don’t get me wrong.  If it was, I wouldn’t be rounding up.  I do LOVE epilogues, so it was super fun to see them together, loving each other, putting each other first, and actually getting to see the happily ever after.  I loved Hopper and Jace’s conversation near the beginning, I loved the proposal, I loved Arrow’s surprise for Hopper in Las Vegas…well surprises (honeymoon too).  I loved the wedding.

I do remember seeing people mention that this was not just an Arrow/Hopper story, so I wasn’t completely taken by surprise when their story finished at 70%…I kind of still wanted more, but I was satisfied.  And I do remember people mentioning that there is no more Trent and Drew story (though they do have cameos), so I wasn’t surprised about that either (though there was a tiny piece of my heart that held out hope for some reason).

And I actually enjoyed Josie and Jace’s extra bit of story.  I thought they had a bit more to say, and I actually almost got more out of their story than I was expecting.  Though their little bit of conflict was resolved fairly quickly in the end, but I still appreciated that we got to see them hit a stumbling block.  I loved the proposal, I loved Jace’s conversation with Josie’s Dad and the way it played out after that, I LOVED the wedding (and seeing Josie get some girlfriends in Rimmel and Ivy, Trent’s da bomb), and I thought that the hospital scene at the end was hilarious and a perfect end to their story.

So yeah.  I enjoyed it.  Just not as much as I was hoping to.  Trent and Drew remain my faves, but I’m glad that Ms. Hebert didn’t just slap something together for them just because fans were asking.  I hope she gets inspired, but I will wait for gold if it comes, and be satisfied if this is all I get if inspiration doesn’t strike.

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#Blur by Cambria Hebert

Blurb:
32856045Nothing but a #blur…
There’s a new kid in town, and he’s hell on wheels.
From what we’ve heard, it may be because
he knows exactly what hell’s like.
Lonely.
Scorching.
Unforgiving.
You may know his brother, the NRR hotshot
(and former GearShark cover model)
Lorhaven.
It’s only natural a driver with his background and family connections
has sped his racecar into the newest, hottest division.
But that’s not all.
Arrow may be following in big bro’s tread marks,
but he doesn’t plan to stay there.
He’s swerving onto the road less traveled…
and a lot more controversial.
He’s opening up about his private struggles with sexuality
to tell a story that’s gone unheard until now.
One thing’s for sure; Arrow may have a painful past,
but his foot is heavy on the accelerator.
With speed like this, he’s bound to leave everything behind in
nothing but a #blur.
Check out the full feature article inside…

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I will start off by saying that this book should contain a HUGE trigger warning.  I don’t have triggers, but I really don’t get why more authors aren’t putting them on books.  You can be vague, you can just say trigger warning and not explain what kind, but give people who have triggers at least a mini head’s up.

This book broke me, particularly the past sections.  I was trying so hard to contain my bawling in bed because my hubby was sleeping, but even though I wasn’t making any noise, I was shaking so hard he woke up anyways.  And didn’t even comfort me, the bastard.  So yeah, be prepared for a bit of an emotional rollercoaster in parts.

I’ve been fascinated by both Arrow and Hopper from previous books.  And their book was both really fulfilling and left me wanting a bit more at the same time.  We’ll see how I feel after #FinishLine, but this book was a strange dichotomy.  It’s why I’ll end up rounding down, even though I had mega feels while reading it.

I loved both characters.  I felt like we really got to delve into what their shattered souls were like, and I loved seeing them develop strength both on their own, and derive it from each other.  I really loved them together.  There were so many lines that just got to my heart, I loved how they recognized the brokenness in each other, but weren’t put off by it…rather they were drawn to each other almost because of it.

I freaking stood up and cheered with Arrow’s confrontation with his father at the end.  That was ridiculously satisfying.

There were so many scenes that just pulled me in and grabbed hold of me.  I loved the way they loved each other, how they both resisted, were unsure, were afraid, but the connection was powerful enough to keep drawing them back.  I even enjoyed that they had stumbling blocks, but that they overcame them.  And I really felt their chemistry, I especially enjoyed their first explorations of each other.

I will admit that there were things that didn’t quite work for me.  I thought the stuff Arrow dealt with from his father at the beginning was a bit over the top.  I was disappointed that we didn’t really get any resolution on the aftermath of Arrow’s past (I really thought we’d find out more details on what happened when Lorhaven found him, and what happened to the guys).  And similarly I was disappointed that we got NO resolution from Hopper’s past.  What happened to those two guys?  What happened to Arrow’s mother?  She just kind of fell off the radar, that seemed odd.  And while I loved the connection between Arrow and Hopper, it felt a bit rushed at the beginning…  And quite frankly, I thought the development of their physical relationship moved too fast to be believable with Arrow…I wouldn’t have minded something more there.  It seemed like a missed opportunity.  I know people heal in different ways, but…

So yeah.  Those are some mega missed opportunities, but I guess that goes to show how much I loved the parts that I loved.  They overshadowed those things that on a different book would have brought my rating down much farther.  Super curious to see what we get from the final book…

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Misconduct by Samantha Kane

Blurb:
33100746The Birmingham Rebels play both sides of the field, proving that the hottest action isn’t always in the arena.

Rookie running back Tom Kelly loves the perks of football stardom. Men, women—there’s no shortage of companionship for a pro athlete who’s hot, young, and willing, and Tom is definitely willing. But deep down he wants a committed three-way relationship, especially if the female in the middle is Carmina de la Cruz. The undeniably sexy Army veteran may not say much, but her body speaks loud and clear.

After a traumatic tour in Afghanistan, Carmina is struggling to regain her speech and rebuild her life. More than anything, she wants to feel like a woman again. Tom may be a wholesome All-American, but he knows just how she needs to be touched—and he’s not the only Rebel who arouses her interest. With his scorching intensity, Tom’s best friend leaves her wondering if two players might be better than one.

Danny Smith is no stranger to his team’s kinky reputation. He gave in to temptation once, but he’s not going down that road again. Sure, Carmina’s curves promise pleasure, but her eyes guarantee it comes with baggage—and Danny has enough of his own. Still, giving up control can feel so good. And when it comes to everything Danny craves, Carmina and Tom make the perfect team.

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

*heavy sigh*  So, I enjoyed this book.  I enjoyed it more than the previous book in the series (and I’ve only read books 3 and 4, not the first 2).  I came out at the end of it entertained, I thought the character development was pretty good, and I thought the steamy scenes were deliciously…well…steamy.  I even initially pegged this one as a 4 star for me.  And I’m going to round up, b/c I’m trying to keep true to *my* personal feelings at the end of it.

I thought all the characters had something to offer, and I particularly liked the goofiness and just, well, like-ability of Tom.  Like seriously, I really loved him, and his humour, and he was just so adorable.  And I loved the way he pushed both Danny and Carmina, recognizing what he wanted was a relationship with both of them (all three of them together), and after recognizing interest from both of them, I enjoyed how he pushed them out of their comfort zones to get them to that place together.

I thought Carmina’s storyline was interesting, particularly since I didn’t see her past with Richie coming.  I had been looking forward to learning more about her brain injury, b/c she fascinated me in the previous book, and I was a bit bummed that besides putting herself down about it, we didn’t really get as much out of that as I’d wanted.  But I did like seeing her grow more confident, and I appreciated a glimpse into some of the challenges that she faces (particularly in trying to reenter the workforce, and dealing with well-meaning friends/family).

I thought Danny was probably the one I learned the least about, and probably had a few reservations about.  He came across kind of homophobic (even though he ended up being bisexual), and while I understood his hangups about his sexual preferences in light of his past with Marian, I still had a hard time with it…I always have a hard time reading about characters that feel ashamed of what they like, even though I think it’s a valid storyline b/c I’m sure many people go through this.  I’m not sure how much I liked the scene between Tom and Danny in the hotel room, particularly consent-wise, but I let it pass…and I’m not sure what that says about me.

And here’s where the sigh comes in.  I decided to glance at other reviews of the book.  And I realized that, as a white woman, I didn’t see a lot of things surrounding the race of Danny and Carmina that others might.  I subscribe to the philosophy that everyone’s a little bit racist, and I was bummed that I had yet again failed to see the far reaching consequences of some of the elements in the story.  Also, while I am trying to be more conscious of slut-shaming, consent, and all the other little sexual tidbits that crop up in books, I tend to forget about them in eroticas sometimes…is it suspension of disbelief?  I don’t know.  So I guess what I’m trying to say is that while reading other critical reviews, I could see some of the points that they were making, but they hadn’t bothered me while reading, and so I’m going to maintain my rating, b/c it’s how I felt and I’m reviewing my personal experience.  But if you are sensitive to these issues, then you might want to read some other reviews to help you make a better decision.  And hopefully you won’t judge me too much.

Anyways, I do want to say that I did enjoy how the football game against the Rough Riders went at the end there.  I was proud of all the boys for growing and learning and eventually helping each other to do the right thing in such a hard situation.

So yeah.  There you go.  I enjoyed the book.  *shrugs*  I guess I just don’t think as hard as other readers, especially when it comes to eroticas.  And here I was excited that we got so much diversity in this story.  Whatcha gonna do?  Learn and grow I suppose.

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The Director and Don Juan by Katy Regnery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vanishing Act by A.M. Madden

Blurb:
32502728In this captivating standalone romance from the USA Today bestselling author of Stone Walls, Hollywood’s hottest actor meets his dream woman: a free spirit who has no idea who he is.

After personal heartbreak and professional setbacks, Landon Price is running on empty. If he doesn’t take a break from the public eye soon, he’ll risk becoming another cautionary tale in a town that’s full of them. So in between film projects, Landon asks his agent to clear his schedule and then he simply . . . vanishes. Renting a discreet home on a remote Hawaiian beach for the summer, Landon begins to recharge. And in the process of finding himself, he meets a beautiful, feisty local who challenges everything he thinks he knows.

Zara Jobert has no interest in being a conquest for a cocky playboy from the mainland—even one with undeniable charisma and movie-star good looks. So she’s pleasantly surprised when the handsome newcomer’s persistent advances mellow into cozy banter and a sneakily seductive intimacy. When Landon reveals his true identity, Zara’s hurt that he lied, but she doesn’t care that he’s famous. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. And falling for Landon might come with a heartbreaking choice—between Zara’s old life, and a new love.

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My Review:
DNF @ 40% — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I really tried with this one.  I will say one thing right from the start, this was not a *bad* book.  It just wasn’t capturing my attention AT ALL, and I just have too much to read to spend my time reading something that’s not captivating me.  Basically I was bored.  And when I looked at my Kindle’s prediction of time left in this book and it said 4.5 hours, I said I’M DONE!

If the book kept going as it was going, I probably would have given it a 3 star.  Like I said, it wasn’t bad.  But I’m behind on things as it is, so I gave up.  The first bit until we meet Spike/Marshmallow was really slow, and I did not get a great feel for Landon at all.  He didn’t have personality traits that bugged me, but I really had no idea what he was like, other than self-important.  There really just didn’t feel like there was any depth there.  I was already considering DNFing it at that point, b/c I think the writing style just wasn’t jiving with me either.  I know it was just an ARC, but the tenses felt funny, and I kept getting tripped up on sentences because of the weird way the words were organized sometimes.

BUT!  Then we met Spike/Marshmallow.  AND OMG HE STOLE THE SHOW!  And it wasn’t just because he was freaking ADORABLE, but b/c he brought out something that I had been waiting for in Landon — a personality!  Landon was HILARIOUS when he was interacting with Spike.  Like, he was funny, and sassy, and I just started to love him!!  Things were looking up!!

And then we met Zara.  And again, nice girl, but she felt a bit flat.  And part of that is because Landon concentrated so much on how beautiful/hot she was, it really felt like the physical aspects were the main ones in their attraction.  And even at 40%, I still wasn’t feeling them together.  We were *told* that he liked other aspects of her, but not shown really.  I enjoyed his teasing, and I thought we were getting a wee bit more depth, but for some reason I was just bored.  Too slow?  I don’t know.  But I wasn’t even remotely invested.  OK, I was like 1% invested, b/c that part of me wants to know what happens.  If anyone wants to spoil it for me, please feel free.

Honestly, in that entire 40%, the bits where Spike/Marshmallow were present were the absolute highlights for me.  But an awesome dog is not enough to make a book great.  Good?  Yes.  Great?  No.  And so I gave up.  Ah well, they can’t all be matches right?

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The Hard Count by Ginger Scott

30827273Blurb: Nico Medina’s world is eleven miles away from mine. During the day, it’s a place where doors are open—where homes are lived in, and neighbors love. But when the sun sets, it becomes a place where young boys are afraid, where eyes watch from idling cars that hide in the shadows and wicked smoke flows from pipes.

West End is the kind of place that people survive. It buries them—one at a time, one way or another. And when Nico was a little boy, his mom always told him to run.

I’m Reagan Prescott—coach’s daughter, sister to the prodigal son, daughter in the perfect family.
Life on top.
Lies.
My world is the ugly one. Private school politics and one of the best high school football programs in the country can break even the toughest souls. Our darkness plays out in whispers and rumors, and money and status trump all. I would know—I’ve watched it kill my family slowly, strangling us for years.

In our twisted world, a boy from West End is the only shining light.
Quarterback.
Hero.
Heart.
Good.
I hated him before I needed him.
I fell for him fast.
I loved him when it was almost too late.

When two ugly worlds collide, even the strongest fall. But my world…it hasn’t met the boy from West End.

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Favorite Quotes:

I’m a girl-freaked, dream-puncher!

That girl? Her name is Lexie, and she thinks you’re too white to deserve the boy she likes. She’s from West End. He’s from West End. You’re…not. How could you even begin to get their world?” my friend says. “I know…” I begin, set to agree with her, but she shakes her head, cutting me off. “No, that’s not it. Reagan, your world…Nico’s world…same fuckin’ world. You come from different parts, but who cares? You meet in the middle.

“We failed to learn from the stories that warned us that if we create environments that perpetuate poverty, that force the people in them to beg and steal, then we’re equally to blame for many of their outcomes.”

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5 stars!!!!

Lenore bought me this book cause she loves me! I had mentioned I wanted to try  a book by this author since she raved about her.  

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read! It was so good I immediately re-read it.  I loved both Reagan and Nico’s characters equally.  They each brought something different yet equal to the story making it easy to see their perspectives.  One side, a privileged life, the other, unfairly stereotyped.  Each side valid yet difficult to see past the labels.  

Reagan had a quiet strength that she wielded with precision. Doling it out in small increments giving it that much more weight.  I’m not sure she was aware of her power of influence.  She was not afraid to let her thoughts be heard and she had a powerful sense of right and wrong.  I noticed she had a excellent filter on her responses, particularly ones that had the capacity to change a persons outlook. Her artistry was a firm presence in this book and was one of my favorite things about her character.  She had a gift to make others see things through a different view.  It was beautiful.    

Nico had a chip on his shoulder that he was all too aware of.  It seemed as if he was looking for a reason to get rid of it but just couldn’t seem to find anyone strong enough to help him lift it.  He, also was not afraid to speak his mind and sometimes he said things that were blatant but needed.  He didn’t pull punches and could be stubborn at times. Although I love how he humbled himself when he knew he had erred.  He was respectful and masculine without coming off as an alpha or a bully.  He was a classic underdog that found a reason to keep fighting in his family, the team and Reagan.  One of my favorite parts is when he tells her to keep looking at him.  It made me literally gasp you guys. Both times I read it.  The emotions I felt while reading this book guys, deep, very deep. Its been awhile since a book has made me feel this way.  

Now you must go read this book. 

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Bulletproof by Melissa Pearl

Blurb:
23846788Morgan Pritchett doesn’t need anyone. Strong-willed and confident, she’s the master of organizing and looking after everyone around her. In her mind, she’s bulletproof.

But she has one weakness – men. She can’t seem to live without them, yet is unable to find her perfect match. After yet another break up, Morgan promises her sister and best friend that she’ll write off men for the rest of the year…but then she meets Sean Jaxon.

Sean Jaxon has worked hard to become a Hollywood actor, scoring minor roles and slowly making a name for himself as an action sidekick. After a chance encounter with the stunning Morgan Pritchett, he decides to take a risk and put his dancing skills to the test by signing on for the lead role in Superstar, a TV musical. He never thought he’d reconnect with the girl who urged him to ignore his manager and be honest with himself, but when Morgan shows up on the set as a production assistant, he realizes he’s found his ultimate weakness – her.

Their passion for dance and music will bring them together, but will their relationship be able to withstand the forces determined to pull them apart? As Morgan comes face-to-face with her long-buried demons and Sean decides just how much he’s willing to risk for love, these two songbirds discover something…they’re not as bulletproof as they thought.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — OMG, I was sucked into this one right from the start.  I had just finished trying to read a different book and was super frustrated and cranky, so even though it was after midnight I knew I needed a different taste in my mouth in order to fall asleep, so I started Bulletproof.  MISTAKE!  Then began an endless stream of “just one more chapter, just one more chapter.”  GAH!  And while my tired eyes failed me and I only got a few hours in, I gobbled the rest of the book up the next day.

Morgan intrigued the heck out of me in Fever.  She was this strong, forthright girl who seemed very confident in everything she did.  And she honestly was everything I thought she was, but she was also more.  She is honestly one of the most unique heroines I’ve read.  She was vulnerable in a way I don’t think I read about a lot.  We really get a great glimpse into what has made her into the girl she is today, someone who honestly feels as though they have to be “bulletproof”, has to contain their emotions, and who went from having responsibility thrust upon them too young to not being able to function without taking charge.  She was so conflicted within herself, so damaged, but so determined that that was her lot in life.  I also enjoyed that she was a very sexual girl who truly enjoyed sex, but also used it as a means of feeling self-worth.  Because I honestly think that a girl can be both of those things; so often we see the damage, and it makes it seem as though a girl can’t enjoy sex.  I wish she’d had a smoother road on that one, but then it wouldn’t be Morgan you know?  She really had a crazy journey to go on, and my heart ached for her.  She made some very poor choices in this book at times, but that just made her more real I guess.  I think her one choice near the end would have turned me off in any other book, but for some reason I was ok with how Morgan got to that point.  It fit her character, as much as it pains me to say that.  She was flawed.  And maybe she needed to hit that point in order to wake up and confront her demons.

Wow, sorry, that got long.  All that to say, while I really am nothing like Morgan, I really loved her in the end, despite all her flaws.  And as a fellow tall girl, I LOVED having a tall girl as a heroine.  We have our own unique challenges, and I loved that she wasn’t self-conscious about it.  I also loved that she was a dancer, and a great one, because so often dancers are always petite.  Nicely done Ms. Pearl.

And then we get to Sean.  Damn, but he had his own flaws too.  I feel like again, as in Fever, I felt more for the heroine’s journey than the hero’s.  He did have his own journey to go on, but I felt like we didn’t get to dive quite as deep with him.  I loved that we got to see him struggle with his poor upbringing, and that he was easily swayed and influenced about his own worth in the industry.  It shows that while he may look confident to the outside world, he is struggling to believe in himself as well.  He disappointed me as well, but like with Morgan, I kind of understood why he made certain poor choices.  He had his own journey to go on, to grow and come into his own.

And I ADORED their courtship.  I loved that circumstances meant they actually were forced to go slow and get to know each other.  I LOVED how nervous Sean was, but how instantly drawn to Morgan he was.  And holy cow, their chemistry!!  Seriously, reading about them dancing was just hot (even if I couldn’t always picture the moves that were described)!  But yeah, you could really feel what drew them together, and while there was a strong physical attraction component, I felt their connection in other ways too.

I can’t decide how I feel about Rhonda and Travis.  It’s not that I don’t honestly believe there are people out there like that, but occasionally they felt a little over the top.  I believed Rhonda a bit more, but with Travis, I couldn’t help but wonder why no one else wanted to intervene.

I LOVED seeing Ella and Cole happy together.  I’m very intrigued about Jody’s story, and I appreciated how Morgan had to deal with stepping back from her usual Mother role as well.  And I LOVED Isabella, for both Sean and Morgan!!  I also loved the advice that Morgan got from Grandma Deb, and Sean got from his Mom.

So yeah.  Definitely a hit.  This book may have had its moments that broke my heart, made me cringe for the characters, but I think that made the end of the journey that much more satisfying!

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All the Stars Left Behind by Ashley Graham

Blurb:
31450972Relocating to Arctic Norway would put a freeze on anyone’s social life. For Leda Lindgren, with her crutches and a chip on her shoulder the size of her former Manhattan home, the frozen tundra is just as boring as it sounds. Until she meets her uncle’s gorgeous employee.

Unfortunately, no matter how smoking hot the guy is, Roar comes with secrets as unnerving as his moving tattoos. And Leda doesn’t trust him.

Roar shouldn’t be drawn to the moody human girl with eyes that leave him weak in the knees. But when Leda gets shot by one of his enemies and survives, Roar finally understands why he’s drawn to her: Leda is exactly what he was sent to Earth to find. A weapon of immense power capable of saving his planet.

She just doesn’t know it yet.

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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.

OK, this was a frustrating read for me.  And I’m having a hard time judging what all comes into play in my final assessment.  There is definitely a component that is a bad match writing style for me I think.  But there’s also bits that were honest to goodness not written as well too.  And this is where it gets complicated: the part that doesn’t match with me style-wise is that things aren’t spelled out for me in a clear manner, and I really really hate that (I’ll explain in a second).  But the problem with disliking that, is that I have a hard time judging what was bad writing versus just not a match, you know??

OK, I’ll attempt to explain…  Well, did anyone else see that movie The Arrival?  My husband loved it, whereas that movie made me SOOOOO angry and annoyed and frustrated and mad.  And while I could enjoy so many aspects of the movie, if I can’t have my theories confirmed on what was happening, then I just don’t like it.  Like, I need things to be closer to black and white, I don’t play well in gray area and subtlety.  I’m probably not making any sense.  *sigh*  Regardless, this book was kind of like that.  I’m left at the end of the book thinking I have a pretty good idea of what happened, but I’m not sure.  And I want to be sure.  I don’t understand what the point is if I’m not sure.  So was it bad writing, or style??  I DON’T KNOW!!

There were definitely parts of this book where I can categorically say that it needed better editing and needed to be cleaned up.  There were quite a few TINY continuity issues (like the showers on the ship were supposed to be ionized air, but then Leda talks about her hair being wet from her shower; or the drug that was supposed to put that guy to sleep for about 40 hours, and less than 24 hours later he’s wide awake; or how did the pain meds work on the tethered cord surgery, but not for the bullet wound?).  See?  Tiny, but I noticed them, and it annoyed me.  But it probably only annoyed me because I was having other problems.  The book just felt…for lack of a better word, fragmented.  From individual sentences that were probably trying to be too pretty, but then I would have to read them over again to understand them; to the overall plot and the way I would feel like I missed something from one section to another.  It was just kind of choppy in places, and didn’t make for a nice read.  And then there was the tiny plot thread that was completely dropped at the end of the book (what Enren said about Toovu and the Woede — purposely being vague to avoid spoilers), which I suppose could have been ok if there was going to be a sequel or something and they’d tackle it there, but I don’t get that impression.

So yeah, frustration.  The book needed a bit more clean up and definitely needed to be smoothed over.  Things happened so fast, I kind of couldn’t follow what people were talking about sometimes, or the conclusions they were coming to.

And then there’s the characters and chemistry.  *sigh*  This review could get so long if I really went into detail on those parts, but I’ll try to keep it brief (*snort* yeah right).  Quite honestly, I didn’t dislike the characters, but I wasn’t totally enamoured with them either.  Like none of them.  And hence I didn’t find my emotions engaged at any of the potentially heartbreaking parts.  It was a little bit insta-lovey between Leda and Roar, which I don’t always mind if I get something else out of it.  But there was so much else going on, I never really did understand why they were in love…  I got the draw and the connection, but not the emotions I guess.

And there were a ton of potentially intriguing side characters with potential little side plots, but we never got to learn about them or dive into them.  They were so many moments where the author could have delved deeper, but chose not to in favour of action I suppose.  Which is not horrible, but I hate getting teased with depth and then not getting it.  We could have learned so much about Aurelite society, how it was, how it affected people, how it shaped them.  From Stein to Petrus to even Roar.  And Nils!!  What about Nils and his mom??  And why tease us with those things and not go into them?  Why say them at all and make them part of the story and not go further?  I think the author tried to do too much with the story, and had to cut back, and didn’t really get the right focus back.  Or not.  Honestly, that’s conjecture, I shouldn’t say I know anything.

*sigh*  So yeah.  It had a lot of potential.  And despite the way this review sounds, there were interesting moments!  I even enjoyed the kisses between Roar and Leda.  I loved the inclusion of some diverse elements, and how Leda always had Spina Bifida, regardless of whether she was some fabled weapon or not.  But she pushed through it.  And there were some really quotable pretty lines!!  When the author hit her mark on those, they were really beautiful!

And that is that.  I’m sad.  Reading books that don’t match me is really taxing on my reader’s brain.  Ah well.  Onward and upward!

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Undercover Fan by Jennie Bennett

Blurb:
34025880A Stand-alone Novel from the BESTSELLING Kpop romance series.

Corrine Miller-Hayden has a secret. As captain of the cheer team and a Texas beauty queen, she wouldn’t dare tell anyone about her closet K-pop music obsession.

That is, until she runs into her Minji, her ultimate bias, at a fan gathering. She never dreamed she’d touch Minji, let alone accidentally take his phone.

When they meet again at a pep-rally, it’s not like Corrine imagined. She thought she’d be showing off, but instead she becomes the target of a dye-filled water balloon attack. Abby was supposed to be her best friend, not the girl who openly shamed her in front of the whole school.

Minji saves her, not only from embarrassment, but from her own stuck-up self.

Can she love Minji openly, and keep her fangirling a secret?

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My Review:
4 stars — OK, I’m totally reading these backwards, but I don’t even care.  I just had to dive into another of these K-Pop romances because they’re so cute and fun.  And this one felt really different from Kidnapped Idol too!  Less danger and villains, more of an authentic YA feel with some Korean flare.

Before I go further, can I just say I liked the old cover better?  This one feels…sexier or something.  The old one had a more cute YA feel somehow.

OK, cover aside, I loved this one too.  It was fun, and the romance was freaking on point!!  That was the highlight for me for sure.  I loved Corrine and Minji even more than Woon and Jemica!!  I just really felt their chemistry, and I could feel the way their feelings developed.  How Corrine went from a secret crush/obsession to really falling in love with the real Minji.

I was a bit worried that I wasn’t going to like Corrine.  I mean, I liked her at first, but then a bit of her mean girl came out and I was disappointed, and I had a hard time judging her sincerity, but then I felt like I believed in her growth, you know?  It’s kind of a weird life that she lived.

I will say that the friendship with Abby, and how that all played out didn’t work for me.  I don’t think I really understood why Abby went that far, it was really really mean.  I feel like as a reader I didn’t get enough to figure out how she could go that far in the prank, and so I had a harder time with how that worked out than Corrine did.

BUT, since I was so in love with Corrine and Minji, I didn’t care that much.  If I didn’t have that adorable romance, I probably would have been more bothered by that side plot, but I’ll give it a pass.  Seriously, the whole Galveston Island outing was like romance gold.  LOVED IT!!

If you’re looking for something light and quick to read, that gives you good feelings, I definitely say give these a try.  They’re a tiny bit cheesy, a little hard to believe, but at the same time really satisfying.

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Kidnapped Idol by Jennie Bennett

Blurb:
34577754A Stand-alone Novel in the BESTSELLING K-Pop Romance Series.

Woon is abducted by a Chinese entertainment agency and forced into a life of pop-star slavery. Jenica is visiting China to study abroad. When the pair meet by chance Jenica must save Woon, but at what cost?

 

 

 

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My Review:
4 stars — OK, this book was just fun.  I went into it fully understanding that this was kind of a k-drama fan fiction type shorter novel, and while I don’t watch k-dramas or listen to k-pop, I feel like I had the right expectations.  It’s kind of like a less salacious soap opera.  And this book delivered for me.  Was it over the top in places?  Oh heck yes!  Did I care?  Nope!  Not one bit.

The other thing I kept in mind while reading this was that it was a shorter novel, so I was more tolerant of the quick move from crush to love.  If you can’t check your realism at the door, this might not be the book for you.  It kind of reminded me of my days of reading Harlequins…without any of the sexy times (seriously, this is a VERY CLEAN read).  But it satisfied my need for a sweet romance you can root for, you know?

And I LOVE me a celebrity romance!!  Especially when they meet up with a regular girl and feel that connection!  I might have wanted a bit more connection at times, but there was enough to keep me happy.  The other thing I kind wanted a bit more of was from Jenica — why was she so insecure and down on herself?  I needed a bit more background on her I think.

Honestly though, it was just kind of fun to be in a world where stars are kidnapped by evil corporate big wigs, and there is chases, and hostages, and possible corruption.  And cute pop stars who just want to be loved for who they are.

AND it totally fulfilled my diversity requirement!  I felt like I got to see a bit of what life was like for both Jenica and Woon, and it was fun to have it set in Beijing.

So yeah.  I totally enjoyed myself.  It was like a fun sugar-filled candy.  Sometimes you just need a treat of uncomplicated fun.

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