The Prince & The Player by Tia Louise

Blurb:
34305655Let the games begin…

Runaway Zelda Wilder will do whatever it takes to secure a better life for her and her sister Ava. Crown Prince Rowan Westringham Tate will do whatever it takes to preserve his small country.

“Playboy Prince” MacCallum Lockwood Tate will do whatever it takes to steal Zelda’s heart…

When Zee is blackmailed into humiliating the brooding future king, she never expects to be pulled into a web of international intrigue–or to fall for Rowan’s naughty younger brother Cal.

Cal is determined to capture the sexy player, but Zelda is in over her head with very dangerous men. Time is running out, and it may be too late for the prince to save this player.

Cinderella meets Ocean’s Eleven in this CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE featuring secrets, lies, royal high jinks, scams and double-crosses; breathless, swooning lust, cocky princes, dominant alpha future-kings, and crafty courtiers, who are not always what they seem.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — This one started a bit slower for me, I was enjoying it, but it wasn’t blowing me away.  It ended with a blast though!  It just sped right up and kind of overwhelmed me!  But strangely, even though it ends on a cliffhanger, I haven’t decided if I’ll continue.  Probably not.  While I thought the plot/action was very intriguing, I wasn’t completely sold on the romance and characters, which are kind of the things that most draw me into a story.

I had a few problems with the romance, and I think one of those problems stems from the fact that there are TWO love stories in this book, and that while it is dual POV, we get to read from the heroine of ONE COUPLE and the hero of the OTHER COUPLE.  Which is kind of cool and unique, but ultimately not satisfying for me.  Basically I didn’t really get to focus on either couple well enough, and since I didn’t get to see both sides of each love, I didn’t really buy into the emotions necessarily.  Obviously some romances are written in single POV, so you don’t need to see both sides to buy a love, but then the author really needs to show me what the other half is feeling through our POVs eyes, kwim?  Does that make sense?  And I really did not get a feel for what Cal or Ava were feeling…  Ava maybe a bit moreso, but honestly I felt like I didn’t really get much from that love story at all, it felt more pushed to the background.  So it kind of felt unnecessary.

And BOTH couples suffered from a lot of lust that didn’t transform into love for me at all.  I guess Ms. Louise was trying to go for insta-love or something, and I definitely felt the lust, but I have NO IDEA what drew them to each other (BOTH COUPLES) other than physical attraction.  I guess I don’t mind that quite as much if we get that development later in the relationship, like I’ll give it a pass.  But I NEVER really got a feel for what they were so infatuated with wrt their partner, besides the physical attraction.  I really needed more emotion.  Maybe it’s because the love story I felt I got more of was Zee and Cal, and he was just so blunt and dirty talking and kind of forceful, that I didn’t understand what made Zee different to him than the others.

And I guess that’s the other thing.  While I didn’t dislike any of the main characters, I also did not fall in love with any of them.  They were all ok, but maybe because the narrative was split between 4 main characters, I never really got a lot of development of any of them.  And I must say that they all acted a lot younger than their ages.  The girls felt like teenagers (particularly Ava, who is supposed to be 21), and the boys felt like college age.  *shrugs*  Which, some people really do behave that way at those ages, but I don’t understand why in their particular case.

And while I felt like Zee was a bit naive with Reggie, I did end up enjoying the suspense and action that the book ended with.  I was on the edge of my seat wanting to see how it was going to play out.

So yeah.  Not a bad book, just didn’t have enough of what *I* personally enjoy the most in my favourite books to keep me captivated.  Oh well, not every book is a match for every reader.

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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.

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

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.  😛

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Remember Me Forever by Sara Wolf

Blurb:
32507774Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, forty-three weeks, and two days. Or so she thinks.

The boy she maybe-sort-of-definitely loved and sort-of-maybe-definitely hated has dropped off the face of the planet in the face of tragedy, leaving a Jack Hunter–shaped hole. Determined to be happy, Isis fills it in with lies and puts on a brave smile for her new life at Ohio State University.

But the smile lasts only until he shows up. The menace from her past—her darkest secret, Nameless—is attending OSU right alongside her. And he’s whispering that he has something Isis wants—something she needs to see to move forward. To move on.

Isis has always been able to pretend everything is okay. But not anymore.

Isis Blake might be good at putting herself back together.

But Jack Hunter is better.

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

Huh, I just read my review for book 2 and realized I’m feeling the exact same way!  I really really enjoyed the book, but I don’t have an immediate gut feeling for rating.  I don’t get it.  It’s so weird.  This time I assumed it was just my mood, but maybe it’s just something about these books.  There’s just so much to them, and they’re kind of odd, and so they don’t give you that immediate feeling for how to rate them.  Or maybe it’s just me.

So yes, babbling concluded, I really did enjoy the finale to this trilogy.  Isis was still the Isis we fell in love with in the first two books.  She is so wonderfully odd, like so odd you can’t even describe her (b/c you know I totally tried to describe her to my husband), but she just enchants me with her wit mixed with horribly childish humour.  I know, it’s a terribly weird combination.  And then you add in her vulnerability and totally skewed sense of self, and she just gets to me you know?  She made me laugh laugh laugh, and then cry too…

And we got just a wee bit more of Jack than even in the second book.  I shouldn’t love that boy, he is his own realm of broken.  Like he should have a whole planet to hold his broken.  But maybe that’s why he gets to me too, you know?  Because you see how the choices he’s made really have affected him too.  And even though he kept making HORRIBLE choices, I still rooted for Jack and Isis.  I still wanted the ending that I got.  OK, I will admit there was a moment where I kind of wanted a super big twist ending with Kieran, but it was like a fraction of a second.

The plot type things that happen in this series can be a wee bit outside of believability, but they entertain me anyways.  I had a bit of a hard time with the revenge aspect.  Don’t get me wrong, what happened totally fit with Jack’s and Isis’s personalities, it was VERY CONSISTENT with what we knew about both of them.  But it doesn’t make me feel good.  I think that’s what makes this book (and this series) so odd too.  Isis and Jack aren’t the most morally awesome characters.  It makes it hard to cheer for everything they do, you know?

I enjoyed some of the new secondary characters, and I’m so glad we still saw Wren and Kayla a bit.  Again, as with the rest of the series, the secondary characters play a role, but not as big as I sometimes like.  It’s like we get teased with them, but I’m always left wanting a bit more.

I found a few little things got dropped in the narrative.  Like Isis’s Mom.  I needed more there.  And the plane ticket.  What was the point of that?

But yeah, I’m super satisfied.  I’m so happy that it really lived up to what I was expecting of it, even if I had no idea where it would go.  I’ll definitely be looking for more by Ms. Wolf in the future.

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Anti-Stepbrother by Tijan

anti-stepbrotherBlurb: He told me to ‘settle, girl.’
He asked if ‘something was wrong with me?’
He said I was an ‘easy target.’
That was within minutes when I first met Caden Banks.
I labeled him an *sshole, but he was more than that. Arrogant. Smug. Alpha.

He was also to-die-for gorgeous, and my stepbrother’s fraternity brother.

Okay, yes I was a little naive, a tad bit socially awkward, and the smallest amount of stalker-ish, but if Caden Banks thought he could tell me what to do, he had another thing coming.

I came to college with daydreams about being with my stepbrother, but what if I fell for the anti-stepbrother instead?

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4 stars

I love me some Tijan. This is her best work so far in my opinion. I was expecting a step-brother romance even though the title clearly states it’s the anti-stepbrother. And we kinda-sorta get a little something.   I loved the slow burn of this novel.  It isn’t as fast and intense at The Fallen Crest Series and it definitely doesn’t have nearly the drama.  You almost don’t realize when they fall.

And the step-brother!  He was a great jackass! Head of a big fish but poor kid didn’t seem to realize he was in a little pond.  I almost felt sorry for him.  But then he would go and say something and ‘Bam’ I’d remember why I didn’t like him.  He was almost unredeemable…almost.  I think the author did a great job of giving you the mixed emotions regarding his character.

And I really liked Caden.  Yeah, he may have been a bit stereotypical when it comes to frat boys: alpha, muscle-filled, arrogant, and dominant.  But then you get to see the underneath and you are are all, “Damn, this is why you don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” He has a way with words my friends.  That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

Summer was a bit flat as far as female leads go.  With her stubborn, yet soft side and her blind attraction to her step-brother. She couldn’t seem to be alone, and her lack of dealing with shit was pretty lame to me.  But she redeemed herself by the end of the book.

Now, I must say that the ending was a bit anti-climatic for me.  But the overall story was so good I was able to overlook it.  This is my second read through and I don’t think it will be my last, in fact, I’m kinda itching to re-read it again right now.

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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. **

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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*

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Pucked by Helena Hunting

Blurb:
25422262With a famous NHL player for a step-brother, Violet Hall is well acquainted with the playboy reputation many hockey stars come with. She’s smart enough to steer clear of those hot, well-built boys with unparalleled stamina. That is until she meets the legendary team captain—Alex Waters.

Violet isn’t interested in his pretty, beat-up face, or his rock-hard six-pack abs. But when Alex inadvertently obliterates Violet’s previous misapprehension regarding the inferior intellect of hockey players, he becomes more than just a hot body with a face to match.

In what can only be considered a complete lapse in judgment, Violet finds out just how good Alex is with the hockey stick in his pants. But what starts out as a one-night stand, quickly turns into something more. Post-night of orgasmic magic, Alex starts to call, and text, and e-mail and send extravagant—and quirky—gifts, making him difficult to ignore, and even more difficult not to like.

The problem is, the media portrays Alex as a total player, and Violet doesn’t want to be part of the game.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — HUGE thanks to my girl Kelly for loaning this book to me!!  I’ve seen this book around quite a bit, and I’ve been so torn on whether to read it or not.  See, I LOVE sports romance.  And I f-ing LOVE hockey romances in particular.  BUT.  And this is a big BUT.  I am NOT a fan of over the top comedy.  It’s not that I don’t understand why others enjoy it, it’s HONESTLY just a personal taste thing.  And I’d heard that this one was pretty OTT, so I was hesitant to pick it up.  And quite honestly, it both surprised me and didn’t.  I DID find the OTT very annoying, and it’s ultimately what has me giving this a 3.5 star and *wanting* to round down.  BUT, unlike other OTT comedies I’ve read (most of which I’ve cringed through and even DNFd) this one had a lot of redeeming qualities to it — and *that* was the surprise (and is what’s making me want to round up…we’ll see what wins).  So even this review will be kind of 2 sided.

So let’s start with the annoyances.  I had heard about the overuse of “Beaver” and “Monster Cock”.  And it was just as bad as I’d been told.  That was a bummer.  It’s funny, b/c I don’t mind crass, I enjoy certain parts of it.  But the overuse was too much.  It was humorous for the first maybe 20%, then it just got tiring.  And cooter?  Really?  I mentioned it to my husband, and he was like “are they 12 year old boys?”  And the way she played with “snuffie” when he was sleeping actually just disturbed me.  That was the side of the humour that *didn’t* mesh with me at all.

The ultimate problem for me with OTT comedies, is that the balance is off.  I guess I don’t really want pure comedies.  I need the heart too.  I WANT both.  I don’t think I’m meant to read about characters that feel like caricatures.  And quite honestly, that was what Violet ended up being for me.  I didn’t see any depth to her character, and I didn’t even really empathize with her as much as I was probably meant to when the big climax/breakdown happened.  I was just annoyed with her…though not majorly annoyed, just minorly annoyed.  Because here’s the thing…there were parts of her that I actually found quite amusing.  Her crass mouth wrt swearing and saying inappropriate things actually *did* work for me.  The moment when Buck first sees them kissing and asks what they’re doing and she says she’s sucking his dick?  And then proceeds to talk about mouth f*ing?  Hilarious to me.  I even embarrassed my husband by explaining the scene when we were on a date at the Melting Pot.  He was wondering how many more times I was going to say f*.  So I guess I can vibe with Violet on that one.  It was the more childish stuff that didn’t work for me with her.  And I was kind of sad with how judgey she was wrt Buck and his intelligence.  Not cool man.

So what worked for me then?  Cause that probably seems like a lot of negative.  Well, while the balance may not have been…well, balanced enough for me, it wasn’t completely one-sided either.  I did get to see some romance between them.  OK, let’s stop joking around.  You know what worked for me?  Alex worked for me.  BIG TIME worked for me.  Like, I’m a beta hero LOVER and while Alex wasn’t strictly a beta hero, he had a lot of beta in him.  Give me an unsure, nerdy/smart, awkward, trying too hard, bumbling guy and I’ll fall in love with him EVERY SINGLE TIME.  The single-minded and purposeful way he pursued her?  The sweet way he checked with her EVERY STEP OF THE WAY during their steamy encounters?  The way he kind of put his heart on the line?  OMG, yes baby, that’s my kind of man.  I even got why he allowed the playboy rep to spread…it was disappointing, but I got it.  And all the Canadiana (Tim Horton’s, The Hip)?  YES!  Love it.  And I loved that he balanced it out with his own bit of pervy boy, I enjoyed how fascinated he was with Violet’s tits, and I loved how grrrr he could be once given the full go ahead.  I mean damn, what a strange combination of aggressive and awkward.  Yup, works for me.

And if you could overlook all the beaver and MC comments during EVERY SEX SCENE, then they were actually pretty steamy and enjoyable as well.

So there you have it.  Not my fave heroine, but I didn’t dislike her…she just annoyed me.  Mixed with a total BOOK BOY WIN for me with Alex.  And…yup, going to round up.  Alex is just that worth it for me.  However, I’m not sure I can handle the comedy stylings going forward.  I’m definitely skipping Buck’s book, b/c I read some reviews that pointed out things that will annoy the crap out of me.  Still debating about Randy’s book.  And super intrigued by Lance’s book…that sounds like it might have more of my kind of balance.  Thanks again to Kelly for the loaner!!  I got to indulge in my curiosity without committing to buying.  😉

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180 Seconds by Jessica Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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?

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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)

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Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas


31437918Blurb: 
“We were perfect together. Until we met.”

Misha

I can’t help but smile at the words in her letter. She misses me.

In fifth grade, my teacher set us up with pen pals from a different school. Thinking I was a girl, with a name like Misha, the other teacher paired me up with her student, Ryen. My teacher, believing Ryen was a boy like me, agreed.

It didn’t take long for us to figure out the mistake. And in no time at all, we were arguing about everything. The best take-out pizza. Android vs. iPhone. Whether or not Eminem is the greatest rapper ever…

And that was the start. For the next seven years, it was us.

Her letters are always on black paper with silver writing. Sometimes there’s one a week or three in a day, but I need them. She’s the only one who keeps me on track, talks me down, and accepts everything I am.

We only had three rules. No social media, no phone numbers, no pictures. We had a good thing going. Why ruin it?

Until I run across a photo of a girl online. Name’s Ryen, loves Gallo’s pizza, and worships her iPhone. What are the chances?

F*ck it. I need to meet her.

I just don’t expect to hate what I find.

Ryen

He hasn’t written in three months. Something’s wrong. Did he die? Get arrested? Knowing Misha, neither would be a stretch.

Without him around, I’m going crazy. I need to know someone is listening. It’s my own fault. I should’ve gotten his number or picture or something.

He could be gone forever.

Or right under my nose, and I wouldn’t even know it.

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4 stars

I purchased this book on the recommendation of an author friend that I have. Hi Caylie! I’ve read PD books before, a few times actually.  But there was always something that really kept me from turning into a full fledged superfan.

This book was great and I really liked the penpal aspect of it. It’s actually kind of funny because my daughter has three penpals herself so it was kind of cool how it parallelled my real life.  The only thing that I didn’t like I gotta say was how they went from friends to enemies to lovers. Also, there was a lot of deceit in this book.  This is a bit if a deal breaker for me so I think that’s one of the reasons I can’t five star this. Yet, I keep coming back to her books so obviously it doesn’t ruin the whole story.

If you read her other books you’ll notice a trend with regards to the chemistry between the two main characters.  A lot of their sexual tension is based in very intense, passionate emotions but the emotions are negative.  They’re rooted in fear, anger and hate and I think that if I had to pinpoint something that pulls me back from being a super fan, that would be it. Because I cannot relate to having those feelings and then turning them around into a physical, sexual, love filled relationship.

But again, I keep coming back to her stories. Maybe I’m again glutton for punishment. Her stories always have depth and originality and as long as she keeps those coming, I’ll continue to keep reading them.

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Can’t Stay Away by Lilly Avalon

cant stay awayBlurb: Piper Winchester is fresh out of college. With only three weeks until her father remarries and five weeks until her first business venture launches, she’s got her hands full. She certainly doesn’t need any distractions to get in the way of building the future her father’s always wanted for her. But when a familiar boy with bright green eyes walks back into her life, she’s thrown for a loop.

Four years ago, Chase MacKenzie left for college without looking back. He didn’t mean to disturb the peace then, and he definitely doesn’t want to do that now. Once he lays his eyes on Piper again, there’s no way he can leave without fixing what went wrong in the past. Although she’s more determined than ever to push him away, he still manages to get under her skin. Regardless of what happens between them, there’s one thing that will always be standing in their way…

He’s about to become her stepbrother.

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3 stars

I do love me some step love! This one was different in the fact that the male MC was NOT an alpha, which was lovely.  He was a bit of a beta boy.  And while this story had the ‘traditional’ sex scenes, it was tempered with deep emotion.

One of my favorite things about this story is that they were friends in the beginning, not enemies. This really stood out because anyone who reads these types of stories knows they are mostly enemies to lovers.

I also like how the parents were more present in this book. Being aware and involved in the family.  Plus they were both out of the house and living on their own.  These may seem like little nuances but added all up helped to create a vibrant background that really sucked me in.

This was a quick read that I really enjoyed.

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