Don’t Speak by Katy Regnery

Blurb:

33222262From New York Times bestseller Katy Regnery comes a new twist on a beloved fairytale.

A fisherman’s daughter.

The governor’s son.

Two very different worlds.

In this modern retelling of The Little Mermaid, a fisherman’s daughter from an Outer Banks island untouched by time, meets the son of North Carolina’s governor at a fancy party where she’s working.

Laire, who wants so much more from life than her little island can offer, is swept away by wealthy, sophisticated Erik, who is, in turn, entranced by her naiveté and charm. The two spend a whirlwind summer together that ends on the knife-point of heartbreak and forces them to go their separate ways.

Years later, when fate leads them back to one another, they will discover the terrifying depth of the secrets they kept from each other, and learn that shattered hearts can only be healed by a love that willfully refuses to die.

All novels Katy Regnery’s ~a modern fairytale~ collection are written as fundraisers. 10% of the e-book sales for in March and April 2017 will be donated to P.E.O. International, a non-profit organization that celebrates the advancement of women, awards scholarships and grants, and provides motivation for women to make their dreams come true.

**Contemporary Romance. Due to profanity, adult themes and very strong sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.**

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

Well darn.  I just didn’t connect to this book like I was expecting to.  I love Ms. Regnery’s Blueberry Lane novels, but this is the first of her Modern Fairytale stories that I’ve read.  I’ll still give the others a try, but I think I had some expectations for it from seeing people gush about those stories, and so I kind of set up roadblocks against myself if that makes any sense.  I’m not sure how to explain it.  It’s like, I wasn’t sure how the retellings would play out since they are contemporary stories, but I guess I just kept expecting one major plot point in this particular story, and didn’t quite get it.  I can’t really say more without giving minor spoilers.  While I have never read the original Little Mermaid fairytale, I do adore the Disney movie and I do know the basic gist of the original story…and I guess I felt that the absence of that major plot point was disappointing.

And those anticipations and expectations hindered my enjoyment in other ways too.  I kept trying to guess when certain things would happen or how certain parts would play out, and so I was never fully absorbed in the story.  Again, that was my fault.  Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood for a retelling.  Perhaps the pace of the first half just didn’t work for me, it was a lot longer than I was anticipating, and I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

One of the little things that threw me off were the many subtle references to the Disney film.  It’s funny, b/c while I adored the movie, it felt odd to me that there should be such obvious references (from character names, to subtle song nods).  This is TOTALLY a personal preference thing, but I often found those references, and even some of the ways in which Laire thought of Erik as the “Prince of Utopia Manor”, or Erik thought of Laire as a “little mermaid”, to be kind of forced, or contrived.  That doesn’t mean they were, that’s just how they felt to me.

I spent a lot of my reading time thinking that all the building blocks for a great story were there, but I just couldn’t connect with the characters.  And there weren’t any obvious reasons why, I’m not entirely sure if they were flat or if it was just me.  But while they did most things really right, I didn’t swoon as much as I expected, or get as many tingles, or even bawl in the places where I should have been crying…I didn’t shed a single tear.

I think part of my problem is that I felt a personal disconnect with Laire’s extremely sheltered upbringing, and those conservative views that often result in women being shamed just rub me the wrong way entirely.  It really fit well and made SO MUCH SENSE for how naive the little mermaid is supposed to be.  That was soooo well done (seriously, the set up of a sheltered island girl and a Governor’s son was a perfect way to make the story work in a contemporary setting).  But I didn’t end up feeling ANY good feelings towards her family, and perhaps I needed a little something to love about her father to understand her reactions later on.  But maybe that’s because they made me so angry that I didn’t care for her family at all.

OK, so I know…this review is ridiculously long.  I just…I like to understand what went wrong for me, especially when so many felt differently.  I DID love the romance.  I think I held myself back from Laire because of how naive she was, and so it made it harder to connect to both of them as fully as I might otherwise.  I LOVED that while Erik looked like he would be a party boy or something, he was not what I expected at all.  It was definitely a lot of strong feelings in a short amount of time, but young love can be like that sometimes so it didn’t bother me.  And can I just say that I love that he called her Freckles?  SO CUTE.

And I actually really enjoyed the part after the Interlude.  I felt like that was paced really well, and I adored a certain major character in that part.  I felt a lot more feelings in the second half, and started to connect more.  It definitely started hitting me in the feels more, but of course that part was shorter.

So yeah.  There you have it.  My thoughts.  *sigh*  *shrugs*

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Cheater by Rachel Van Dyken

Blurb:

31345293Lucas Thorn wasn’t born a cheater. All it took was a single moment—say, a certain disastrous incident on the night before his wedding—and boom. Reputation destroyed forever and always. So now he owns it. He has a lady friend for every night of the week (except Sundays—God’s day and all), and his rules are simple: No commitments. No exceptions.

But a certain smart-mouthed, strawberry blonde vixen is about to blow that all to hell.

Avery Black has never forgiven Lucas for cheating on her sister. And suddenly being forced to work with him is pretty much a nightmare on steroids. Of course, it does afford her the opportunity to make his life as difficult as possible. But no good revenge scheme comes without payback. Because he didn’t become the Lucas Thorn without learning a few things about women.

Now Avery’s lust for vengeance has turned into, well, lust. And if Lucas stops cheating, it’s definitely not because he’s falling in love…

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

Oh dear.  I’ve had a hot and cold relationship with books written by this author.  I’ve read books that I really loved, but I’ve more often read books that just rubbed me the wrong way.  Strangely, this one wasn’t a full on hate, but it’s just not a Lenore book.  It’s not that I can’t see why people would enjoy it, it just wasn’t a good fit for me.  I have a few other books by this author that I’ll give a shot, but I think I’ll steer away from her normal contemporaries, or romantic comedies, b/c I just don’t think I have that sense of humour.

Oh, and yeah, this was kind of a weird one to request for me b/c cheating is one of my button issues (I just don’t have a good tolerance for cheating in books, and it will likely make me dislike a book), but I thought perhaps in exploring the topic it wouldn’t be too bad.  And actually, the cheating wasn’t the part that really didn’t work for me.  The author didn’t delve as deep into the reasoning as I had hoped, but it still addressed some interesting questions.

So what didn’t work for me?  The humour in this book was cringe-worthy.  I’d been telling my husband about it, and quite honestly the two MCs were just too over the top for me.  So much yelling.  There’s quirky characters, and then there’s these two…particularly Avery.  I cringed through parts of this book.  It was like watching Meet the Parents.  I could understand why people would find it funny, but I just couldn’t.  And quite frankly, I ended the book and I couldn’t help but think that if these people existed in real life, the people surrounding them must be so exhausted.

And the crazy humour kind of got in the way of their chemistry with each other.  There just weren’t enough moments that got to my heart and made me feel for them.  And for *this* particular reader, that was a shame.  I like my humour mixed with more depth I guess.  I would see glimmers, and then one of them would say something outrageous.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t laugh at all in this book, or that I didn’t enjoy parts.  But I just got tired after awhile.  I guess I just do better with moderation.  *shrugs*

Oh, and on a strange side note, the author would use dramatic periods in weird ways.  You know, where someone is trying to emphasize their point and so they break. The. Sentence. Up.  But she would use them in places that didn’t make sense, at least to this reader.  Was I the only one that noticed that?  And mostly in the beginning of the book too.

So yeah.  I can see this book being popular, it just wasn’t the right fit for me.

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Royal Affair by Parker Swift

Blurb:

30364208One seriously sexy son-of-a-duke . . .

Behind the posh British accent, Dylan Hale possesses a down-and-dirty sexiness. Off-the-charts gorgeous, a ruthless architect . . . and did I mention he’s a future duke? Every time we touch, it’s wildfire. All need and lust and heat. But Dylan has rules: just sex, no one can know, and in the bedroom he gets complete control. All I have to do is follow the rules, because falling in love with Dylan Hale is all it would take to screw everything up . . . royally.

 

 

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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.

So I’m probably one of the few erotic readers in the world that still hasn’t read FSOG, or seen the movie.  It’s not the BDSM, it’s more that I’m a hipster that doesn’t tend to get into things that are especially popular.  I’ve read a lot of BDSM erotica, I couldn’t imagine what that story would give that I hadn’t already read.  So why am I even mentioning that book?  Because even having not read it, I couldn’t help but think to myself many times while reading this story “this feels like FSOG.”  It also gave me a Harlequin Presents line feel.  So if you’re the type of reader that doesn’t mind books that stick to well known tropes, and you enjoy either of those reading experiences, then this book is perfect for you.  If that’s not your bag, then you might want to proceed with caution.

So I’ll go with what was meh for me: I became a bit bored.  I hate to say this, but I wasn’t expecting it to be an erotic read, and so there was just way more sex than plot for me.  I’m not saying the sex wasn’t hot (it totally was, and OMG can Dylan dirty talk like no one’s business…*fans self*), but after awhile I just wasn’t as engaged, and I really wanted the book to hurry up and get back to the plot.  Which was kind of weird.

Also, I saw the conflicts coming a ways away, and they made me roll my eyes at times.  I’ve never been a fan of the misunderstanding thing, and Lydia (fabulous name btw) had a bad habit of jumping to conclusions.

And quite frankly, I hadn’t realized this would be a series all based on Dylan and Lydia, often times these series are about connected love stories.  But this is in fact a series of 3 books about Dylan and Lydia.  Which isn’t terrible by any means, but I felt like this one dragged a bit and could have been edited down, which makes me wonder how well the plot will be paced in the next two installments.

So saying all that, let’s get to the things I LOVED.  The chemistry and bantering between Dylan and Lydia.  THIS is where the author NAILS it.  I can’t tell you how delighted I was in Lydia’s sassy comebacks, pushing Dylan’s usual control.  That girl seriously made me laugh out loud.  And I enjoyed the bit of backstory about Lydia and how she came to be in the fashion industry, while not being super fashionable.  There is definitely some insta-love going on in this book, the relationship develops incredibly quickly, but I did feel like they had a connection outside of the sex, even if most of their connection WAS the sex.  I felt like we got to see them getting to know each other enough that I could believe there were deeper feelings involved.

And speaking of chemistry, while I did get a bit bored with all the sex, it was fairly smoking…particularly their first few encounters.  Heck their first kiss was just tingly.  And like I said, the dirty talking was very well done (especially given I recently read a book with unnatural dirty talking, I was like “THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!”).

My problem lies in how to round this.  My hubby just shamed me about wanting to round up, saying how could I 4 star a book that bored me.  But he doesn’t understand how GOOD the good parts were.  Or how much characters and banter really weigh for me personally.  But alas, he is kind of right.  It was a bit predictable.  GAH!!!  Stupid logic!  So there you go.  Rambly review complete, you’re welcome.

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Hot Licks by A.M. Arthur

Blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Imperfect Chemistry (Imperfect #1) by Mary Frame

imperfect-chemistryBlurb: Lucy London puts the word genius to shame. Having obtained her PhD in microbiology by the age of twenty, she’s amassed a wealth of knowledge, but one subject still eludes her—people. The pendulum of passions experienced by those around her both confuses and intrigues her, so when she’s offered a grant to study emotion as a pathogen, she jumps on the opportunity.

When her attempts to come up with an actual experiment quickly drop from lackluster to nonexistent, she’s given a choice: figure out how to conduct a groundbreaking study on passion, or lose both the grant and her position at the university. Put on leave until she can crack the perfect proposal, she finds there’s only one way she can study emotions—by experiencing them herself.

Enter Jensen Walker, Lucy’s neighbor and the one person on the planet she finds strangely and maddeningly appealing. Jensen’s life is the stuff of campus legend, messy, emotional, complicated—in short, the perfect starting point for Lucy’s study. When her tenaciousness wears him down and he consents to help her, sparks fly. To her surprise, Lucy finds herself battling with her own emotions, as foreign as they are intense. With the clock ticking on her deadline, Lucy must decide what’s more important: analyzing her passions…or giving in to them?

Audible button

 

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Favorite Quotes:  

Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.

“You’re totally grabbing her ass,” Freya whispers loudly. “Is that weird? Groping your ex’s ex?”

“I dropped out of school,” he says. “I’m going to go back, when I can afford it or when I can figure out how the whole student loan thing works. Until then, I’m going to live off of my art, and if that doesn’t work, I’m going to get a job. But I’m never going to give up doing what I love.” “That’s good. I’m glad.” I really am. He deserves every bit of happiness, whether I’m part of that happiness or not. He looks down at the couch, and his fingers fiddle with a bit of fabric that’s come loose on the old piece of furniture. “The thing is,” he says quietly and then clears his throat. “The thing is,” he repeats it louder. “I don’t want to do any of that.” His eyes meet mine again. “Without you.”

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5 stars

This ebook is free on Amazon!

I really liked this story.  Lucy was so fricking funny.  It almost seemed like she was deliberate in her responses but she just had no idea how to deal with people.  Her demeanor was crisp yet edgy.  She was completely obtuse when it came to her emotions, which made this book that much more awesome.  To see her thrive in academia but struggle with social settings.

I mean, emotions as a pathogen?  Think about it. A Pathogen.  Come on!  That’s funny, I don’t care who you are.

I think what really helped me to love this book was the fact that the side characters were just as deep and rich in their attitudes as the MC was.  Freya especially, was a favorite of mine.  She seemed the typical college student but she didn’t show disdain to Lucy (at least, not for long) for her lack of warmth and affection but instead realized that what she really needed was a friend.  And she was there for Lucy in a way that most people couldn’t or refused to be.  That says a lot about a persons character to commit to friendship when you really have no idea what they are saying half the time.  Haha.

Jensen was a very unexpected male lead for me. He’s creative and shy, attempting to squirm out from under his father’s thumb and expectations.  But my first impression of him came off as sexy and alpha, which he wasn’t at all!  I mean, he WAS sexy but not in that arrogant way.  It was more understated.  I loved that about him.  He had drive but lacked support and a bit of courage.  And I think that’s where Lucy helped him. They really helped each other. It was a true give and take relationship.

And the narration!  Rhiannon Engell nailed it.  Each character was easily discernible and had their own ‘voice’.  I found myself laughing at least once a chapter, her timing with the punchlines was perfect.  With the ebook being free and the audio only 1.99 to add, this book is a steal!  You should really go read it.  You’re welcome in advance!

I received a free audible code from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.

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Hold My Breath by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
32869404Fractions of seconds can do lots of damage. One decision can ruin lives. A blink can be tragic. And loving a Hollister…can hurt like hell.

I would know.

They say the average person can hold their breath under water for two full minutes when pushed to the extremes. Will Hollister has been holding his for years. The oldest of two elite swimming brothers, Will was always a dominant force in the water. But in life, he preferred to let his younger brother Evan be the one to shine.

Evan got the girl, and Will…he got to bury all of the secrets. A brother’s burden, the weight of it all nearly left him to drown.

The daughter of two Olympians, my path was set the day my fingertips first touched water. My future was as crystal clear as the lane I dominated in the pool—swim hard, win big, love a Hollister.

My life with Evan burned bright. He gave me arms to come home to, and a smile that fooled the world into believing everything was perfect. But it was Will who pushed me. Will…who really knew me.

And when all of the pieces fell, it was Will who started to pick them up.

In the end, the only thing that matters are those few precious seconds—and what we decide to do while we still have them in our grasp.

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

OMGOMGOMGOMG!!!  I swear to god, I spent an enormous amount of time smiling like a moron while reading this book.  No seriously, I feel like I need to get my husband to surreptitiously (and thank god for red squiggly line internets, b/c I am failing at spelling today) take a photo of my dorky reading grin, b/c I have a feeling it’s even more epic than I thought.  And this book…this book and Will….mostly Will, but also Maddy…and occasionally Uncle Duncan…well they just brought out the huge moronic grin in spades.

OK, so I will break in here for a brief moment and say that this book started off a bit slow for me.  I don’t know if it was the book (could have been), or me and what was going on in my life, but I just had a really hard time getting sucked into this one.  BUT OH MY GOD, when I did??  I was sucked…like a Hoover.  I mean seriously, I *just* finished the book, and I actually whooped and happy sighed a little, enough to get commentary from the hubby.  It was just so good feeling and happiness inducing, that I’m just beside myself.  So while that beginning is going to force me into rounding down instead of up, that ending is making me want to say SEVENTY BAJILLION STARS!!!  All the stars!

OK, I’ve calmed down…  I will try to make some of this a bit more coherent and thought provoking (HAH).  Obviously I loved the speed swimming aspect of the story, since I pretended to be a speed swimmer in my youth…I mean, I wasn’t any good at it, but I can at least say I did a sport when I was younger.  I even won my heats on occasion.  I was a bit saddened that there was no mention of the other strokes (other than free), since I’m a backstroke girl myself, but really it was an awesome spotlight on the sport otherwise.  And Ms. Scott really knows how to make you live and breath a sport, so that you can actually feel yourself pulling and clawing and grabbing the water along with them.  I mean, obviously there is a SHITTON more to the story than just the sport, but it was there, and it was nicely represented in my opinion.

But, as I alluded to up there in my gushing, the aspect that really shines in this story is the characters.  I really enjoyed Maddy right from the very beginning, but it took me a while to fall in love with her…but I kind of enjoyed that.  It felt like she fought for my love, you know?  She EARNED it.  I have mad respect for her.  I felt like I got to know what made her up, and what made her unique, and I really loved what we got to see from her.  She is a fighter.  And she had so much to overcome in her own right in this story.  I enjoyed her relationship with her parents too, mostly her coach Dad.  She pushed him to be better.  And she pushed herself too.  I felt like all her steps on the journey were believable, and she was a fantastic counterpoint to my new book boyfriend, Will.

Will.  *sigh*  Just breathe him in folks, he’s divine.  I ADORED that he wasn’t an alpha.  He wasn’t a beta necessarily, but he definitely wasn’t an alpha male.  He was just this quiet, sensitive, melt me with his thoughts kind of guy.  I LOVED the way he loved Maddy.  How he’d always loved Maddy.  But how that love grew.  My heart is just eviscerated over the obstacles he had to overcome.  Oh Ms. Scott, you were MEAN to him.  But you got him through it, so I’ll forgive you.  And you gave him good people, like Uncle Duncan…who made me laugh and smile (moronically) over the way he would quietly push him.  And like Tanya and Dylan.  I didn’t expect them.  What an intriguing twist to a story that I thought I had figured out.

And that’s the thing, Ms. Scott gives you great MCs, but she gives you great secondary characters too.  On all sides.  Fleshed out just enough, and always adding to the story.

And while she gives you a crapload of heartache, she gives you some amazing laughs and smiles.  So she balances it all out nicely.

So yeah.  Loved it.  Loved their love story.  It may have started a bit rough for me, but it made my heart so ridiculously happy in the end.  Awesomesauce.

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Beard Science (Winston Brothers, #3) by Penny Reid

beard-scienceBlurb:  Jennifer Sylvester wants one thing, and that one thing is NOT to be Tennessee’s reigning Banana Cake Queen. Ever the perpetual good girl and obedient daughter, Jennifer is buckling under the weight of her social media celebrity, her mother’s ambitions, and her father’s puritanical mandates. Jennifer is officially desperate.

And desperate times call for Cletus Winston.

Cletus Winston is a puzzle wrapped in a mystery covered in conundrum sauce, and now he’s in a pickle. Despite being convinced of his own omniscience, extortion by the exalted Banana Cake Queen of Green Valley has taken him completely by surprise. So… what’s a maniacal mastermind to do?

Likely, the last thing you expect.

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3 Stars (or 2.5 I’m still debating)

I don’t know what I think about this book. The ending seem disjointed from the beginning. I felt the transitioning from blackmailer to friend to love interest was a bit off. And it went downhill from there. I felt like I was reading two different books. The beginning stayed true to the characters but the second half….It was like reading a completely different book.

Cletus came off as arrogant, conniving and manipulative peppered with a loyalty and a fierce protectiveness towards his family. He also enjoyed when others misjudged him and used it to his already considerable advantage multiple times. I liked that about him and didn’t really want him to change, I was looking forward to his growing a bit more, but not really changing. But then he did like a 180 and I fricking lost it. Now I think of him as some weakling who can’t control his urges whenever his kryptonite walks in the room. Instead of seeming confident he comes off as vulnerable and insecure. And not in a good way. It was very unattractive to me.

Really I felt this story should not have been a love story. It should have been about Jennifer, not Cletus. Or at least Cletus as a strictly platonic friend. Jennifer had the most growth and her character stayed consistent throughout the book. I loved her a lot and think Cletus is no longer good enough for her.

I will say that we got a whole lot more background on the family in general and I feel like I know the siblings better, which was a concern of mine going into the series since they seem to focus on each brother but didn’t really show the family dynamic in the first two. This book really gave me a more in depth look into their lives and I now feel I know the other brothers more. Solid character building in that aspect.

Other than that, I was a bit disappointed in this one.

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Anti-Stepbrother by Tijan

anti-stepbrotherBlurb: He told me to settle.
He asked what was wrong with me.
He called me 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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5 Stars

I really liked this book.  It was better that Fallen Crest series in my opinion.  It seemed to be more polished and less choppy.  The friendship between Caden and Summer blossomed naturally and didn’t feel forced. It wasn’t attraction at first sight either.  They were just genuinely hanging out with each other.  It was very cool to experience.

Summer came off as incredibly naive in the beginning.  I like how she realized it and was able to adapt and learn as the story progressed.  I found her friends a bit catty and shallow though.  This book didn’t have as much depth as I usually enjoy, but it was still good.

Caden was the strong silent type, and once he let you in, you were part of a small group he trusted.  He kept a very tight circle, a fact that was not lost on Summer.  She knew he didn’t let anyone in and while she didn’t know what she did to deserve his trust, she didn’t abuse the power he gave her.  Honestly, I thought of them as Forest and Jenny. They were like peas and carrots.

Kevin (stepbrother) is a straight up a-hole of the highest caliber.  However, I think he has the most growth throughout this book.

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Wilder by Rebecca Yarros

Blurb:
31677595He’s Paxton Wilder.

Twenty-two-year-old, tattooed, smoking-hot leader of the Renegades.

Five time X Games medalist.

The world is his playground—especially this year—and for the next nine months I’m stuck as his tutor on the Study at Sea program.

He’s too busy staging worldwide stunts for his documentary to get to class.

But if I can’t get him to take academics seriously, I’ll lose my scholarship…if I don’t lose my heart first.

Six unlikely friends on a nine-month cruise with the Study at Sea program will learn that chemistry is more than a subject and the best lessons aren’t taught in the classroom…but in the heart.

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

Truthfully I think this book is actually a 4 star for normal me, but I haven’t had normal me this week.  I’ve had sleep-deprived, headache riddled me.  So I had a HELL of a time concentrating on this book.  I just couldn’t get sucked in, I kept having to reread passages.  I should have set the book aside truthfully, but then what would I have done?  I don’t know what to do without reading…

This book brought so much of what I love about Rebecca Yarros books…  Super sexy book boys, strong but damaged characters all around, a wee bit of angst (though angst that I can tolerate as a non-angst-loving reader), and a heap full of sass.  And this particular series is bringing some fantastic sports elements, a truly awesome travel-around-the-world vibe that has me wanting to visit so many sites, and even a bit of a suspense/mystery element.

Characters are definitely where Ms. Yarros excels, and I truly did enjoy both Paxton and Leah.  I will admit one shameful secret though: I’m not a huge “alpha guy” fan.  I’m not NOT a fan, I mean, I don’t mind them…but I don’t seek them out and go ga-ga over them either.  But Paxton was definitely a good example of alpha…he was strong, and a leader, but beneath his bit of damage he had a good heart and a sensitivity.  And I loved the way he fell for Leah.  Definite *swoon* points there.  I wasn’t always impressed with the way he pushed Leah to try such extreme things, even if it was under the guise of her wanting to get over her fears.  As someone who is deathly afraid of heights, I just can’t believe how many times Leah embraced what would have me puking and shaking and crying in a corner.  The zip line, sure…the parasailing, well ok…  But in Greece?  Nope.  Nope nope nope….

Leah was an intriguing character as well, and my heart just felt for her and what she went through in her past…seriously ACHED.  I was worried it would be kept secret for too long, but I was satisfied with how that bit was revealed.  She is such a strong character in some ways.  And I loved the growth we saw in her and how she didn’t try to change Pax too much, even if the stuff he did scared her.

I had a few niggles with this book.  I enjoyed the action and suspense parts, but for some reason the second time Leah was put into a near death situation because of the bad guy, I was a little disappointed when it was yet again reminiscent of her past.  I really loved the first time and what it brought back to her and how she dealt with it…I was blown away and felt it really added.  The second instance felt too repetitive.  But this could be just a me thing.  It’s hard to discuss without ruining things.

My other niggle was the sort of secrets that were kept.  There was the mystery, and that was fine (and kept me on the edge of my seat and totally caught off guard when it was solved).  It was the Landon stuff and some of the Nick stuff that was vaguely referred to, but kept secret from the reader for longer than I had anticipated.  Maybe it was that there were two secrets PLUS the mystery PLUS how long it took to find out about Leah’s past…but it was one too many for me.  I don’t think it would have hurt the story or the pacing to have let the readers in on it a little earlier.  I mean, I did make some guesses on 2 of them, but yeah…again, probably just another me thing.

And thus we come to the end of the review.  Like I said, I really did enjoy so much of this.  Oh, I forgot to mention chemistry — definitely had that in spades.  My problem was a concentration one, and until I read this book again, I couldn’t tell you if it was truly just me and my state of mind, or if there were problems with pacing.  But I will say I truly believe it was me in this particular case.  And I will add that the ending totally sucked me in and had me wanting to keep reading, and now I cannot wait for the next books.  Ohhhhh, and also, from pretty early on I knew I was going to want the next books, so the secondary characters definitely sucked me in…

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Steady Stroke by A.M. Arthur

Blurb:
30309403After a tragic accident, Lincoln West’s dreams of making it big as a guitarist fell apart. Unable to play music, he’s battling a hopeless downward spiral, and takes his friend’s offer to stay at their beach house for the summer. While at an open mike night at local bar Off Beat, he locks eyes with a busboy who doesn’t make Linc feel so broken anymore.

Emmett Westmore lives for the anonymity of busing tables in his aunt’s quirky bar where no one pities him for the fire that killed everyone he loved. He blames himself for the fire, and he doesn’t want anyone to see him—except for Linc. Emmett’s walls drop when he’s around the gorgeous blue-eyed guitarist, but he has a secret that could destroy his budding relationship with Linc.

Both Linc and Emmett are looking for a way to live again…will they let their fears control them or take a chance on something real?

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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.

So I finished this book with a fairly solid 4 star feeling…but the problem is that there were a few things that bothered me, and I made the mistake of going to read other reviews to see if other people were equally bothered, and suddenly I was more bothered.  GAH!  I have to stop doing that!  So now we’re at a 3.5 stars and I don’t know whether to round up or down.  I think I’ll still round up since that was my gut feeling upon finishing the book, and I shouldn’t be so easily swayed.

So the good: I really enjoyed both characters.  I felt like they each had quite a bit of depth, and their own interesting story to tell about coming to terms with being gay and all that good stuff.  I also really enjoyed the romance in this one, I could really feel the chemistry between the characters.  They were playful at times, and seemed to bring out good things in each other, encouraging each to be themselves and reach for goals.  I loved how sweet they could be to each other (Emmett taking care of Linc with the migraines and his more recent trauma, and Linc being there for Em with his past struggles, and his current struggles accepting his homosexuality and exploring it).  I really enjoyed the addition of so many intriguing secondary characters…they felt real, had depth, and added to the story, added to our view of the characters in general (though I do have a counterpoint later).  Also, I will note that I didn’t read the first book in this series, and though some of the plot was given away, it did make me intrigued about picking up Dom and Trey’s story and reading it.

And then there’s the things that bothered me: first, and FOREMOST, the secret.  OK, so this is the first A.M. Arthur book I’ve read, and from some of the reviews I’ve seen, it seems the author is a fan of angst.  I’m only a medium fan of angst, so maybe it was a bit of a mismatch for me.  The problem for me is that there was SO MUCH of it.  I mean, each character individually had enough personal strife to satisfy any craving for angst.  And quite honestly, if that was all we had to deal with, I would have enjoyed this book so much more.  The problems they were dealing with were intriguing, and heartbreaking, and more than enough to make a great plot and provide conflict and resolution.  But the author had to one-up it or something.  And so came Emmett’s secret.  I was not a fan.  I think I might have blinked in disbelief.  It’s not that I haven’t read books with this twist in it, but they usually aren’t accompanied by a bevy of problems that precede it.  The problem lies in that with so many issues being addressed, none of them really got the love and attention and respect that they deserved.  I became desensitized, and I didn’t truly believe in the resolutions then.

(This might get a little plot spoilery in this paragraph, be warned) And it wasn’t just that this additional secret existed, it was that it was introduced to Emmett early on in the book, and then he kept it a secret from Linc until towards the end.  And I’m not entirely sure I believed in the purpose for him keeping it a secret, and so I felt myself disliking Emmett for making that choice.  And then it was just there, causing him guilt, and making me want to know how Lincoln would react.  And then when that finally came to a head, it was so close to the end, I didn’t really get the believable resolution I wanted.  I know…I’m being vague.  But I really have to be in this case.

So back to the other issues.  Wasn’t really impressed with the resolution to the issue Linc deals with wrt Tom.  Too serious of an issue to be handled so flippantly in some ways.  I try to tell myself that everyone deals with things differently, and this very well might be how someone would deal with it, but it became a tiny subplot compared to everything else going on, and so it really didn’t need to be there if it wasn’t going to be treated with respect and sensitivity.

Wasn’t really impressed with the additional diversity added for Emmett/Emilio.  Could have been so good, and I LOVE diverse books, but making him Muslim felt like a plot device to address the fear, but we got nothing from his religion (and having grown up so devoutly, I would expect to learn more about it regardless of how he feels now).  It was a topic that was added, but not given enough time or, again, respect.

I’m hoping that Van and Melody get their own book, and that the author actually deals with their sexual challenges with more insight and respect.  They were an intriguing addition, but again not really given time or weight (but at least in this aspect I’m assuming it’s because they will be getting their own book, otherwise I don’t see the point in adding yet another topic to this overloaded story).

And that’s the basic jist of it for me.  The story was overloaded.  I feel like the author could have done a much better job if she’d pared down the trauma each character (and the secondary characters) experienced and given more weight and thoughtfulness to any of the gagillion topics she chose to address.  By adding so many, she kind of watered it down and missed some great opportunities.

So how the hell can I justify a round up to 4 stars now?  Hmmm…good question.  See?  That’s the thing.  These things that bothered me really did bother me.  But the good stuff of the romance and the character interactions cannot be undervalued.  They made for a very enjoyable read for me.  So I guess the written part of my review is where I rant about those bad things, but the star part of my review is where I convey how much the good parts weighed in the grand scheme of things for me.  Well, if nothing else, this book made me think a lot about what I like and all that…  (And I thought my last review was long…*rolls eyes*)

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