Bad Princess by Julianna Keyes

Blurb:
36397594Notorious for leaping off roofs, maiming foreign royals, and that twerking incident, Brinley Cantrella of Estau is nobody’s definition of a good princess. She’s fearless and bold, not good and gracious. And after a lifetime of being told she’s unfit to be queen, wearing the crown and helping to usher Estau into a new era is the one dream she’s never dared chase.

But when her older sister abdicates the throne, all Brinley has to do to inherit the role is not twerk, not maim anybody, and definitely not get caught fooling around topless with Prince Finn, her childhood crush, the only man she’s ever loved…and her sister’s former future husband.

Finn embodies the definition of good. Tall and handsome, serious and honorable, he always does the right thing—including agreeing to marry his ex’s sister to cover up this latest scandal. Brinley has fallen down stairs, broken teeth and broken bones, but this is the first time her heart has ever been broken. She now has the crown and the prince, and on the surface, life is good—but is being married to a man everyone swears could never love her back good enough?

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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.

You guys…YOU GUYS.  I am in fucking love.  And I’m going to have to bleep that for Amazon.  But seriously, this was a LENORE book through and through.  And it was all Brinley!  OK, not all Brinley, Finian’s kind of da bomb as well…I’ll get to him.  But Brinley…oh Brinley.  She has made my girl crush list!!!!  And if you know me, that happens fairly infrequently.  But I was enamoured with her from practically the first page.  She made me laugh, she made my heart hurt, she was just everything I love in a heroine.  I was trying to tell my hubby about this book, and loving Brinley, and he was like “well yeah, she’s exactly your type of girl.  She sounds like Rapunzel from Tangled.”  Huh.  You know, he’s kind of right.  The stories of her misadventures when she was a child were just adorable…she sounded mischievous and incorrigible.  And it carried into who she was when we met her.  She was so true to herself, despite how often others tried to beat her down.  She was sassy, and bold, and hilarious, and curious, and just…AHHH!!  LOVE HER!

And Finn!!  I felt like I understood exactly who he was and how he felt right at the beginning, even if it wasn’t overt…  But he still surprised me along the way.  And for a book entirely from the heroine’s POV, I still felt like I got to know him.  Maybe it’s that we see the contrast between them, and how this royal life had very different effects on each of them.  But there was still a spark in him.  And he had shades of beta boy in him!  He was quiet to her bold.  But he was still strong, and he knew how to support a strong woman like Brinley.  And holy fuck was he hot.  Those kisses (and more) got me all fluttery.  He wasn’t perfect, by any means…there were times I wanted to smack him.  But the way its written, I got to understand why he made certain mistakes and bad choices, and I believed in his growth.  I love him too.

For a novella, this book sucked me in hardcore and really made me feel for its characters.  I LOVE when I feel like I can get to know them so quickly, and I become invested in the story.  I saw other reviewers say they couldn’t, so I don’t know why it was different for me…but it definitely was.  I rooted for Brinley, I was invested in what would happen to her, I was completely all in on the romance, it was just perfect for me.

Honestly, the only reason it’s not a full 5 star is because I loved it so much, I wanted more.  I could have continued reading about these two characters until they grew old and died.  I’m fully serious.  This is my first book from Ms. Keyes, but it certainly won’t be my last if this is anything to go by.  Also?  As a side shoutout, there was a romantic/erotic trope gender swap (“Finn, come”) that had me laughing my ass off.  I’m not sure if it was supposed to be funny, but I don’t even care…props Ms. Keyes.

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Enchant by Micalea Smeltzer

Blurb:
35412486Mara Pryce never imagined that her life was anything but normal and then a strange gray-eyed young man appears at her graduation. When he vanishes without a trace, she’s convinced he’s a figment of her imagination. Then he appears again and shatters her whole world.

Mara is an enchanter, part of an ancient line of Wiccan power, and a war is raging—one of good and evil—between the Enchanted and the Iniquitous.

The Iniquitous want her dead and it’s Theodore’s job as her protector to keep her safe.

When Mara and Theodore arrive at a safe house, where Mara will remain hidden while learning about her powers, they find that the real threat might be a little closer to home than they want to believe.

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

I hate when this happens.  I actually won an ARC of this book, but it just did not work out for me.  And that always bums me out.  I’ve never read anything by this author before, but I’ve heard great things about her contemporary books…so I’m uncertain if it’s just that her voice doesn’t shine through as well in non-contemp books?  I’ll maybe give those a try before I decide if we’re just not a match.

So what didn’t work for me?  Well, for one thing, I didn’t like ANY of the characters.  ANY of them.  I didn’t really hate any of them, but I couldn’t care less about them and what was happening to them.  They felt very shallow, both in attitude and in how they were represented…I needed more dimensions.  I honestly couldn’t really tell you very much about them.  And what I can tell you, I didn’t really like.

Mara was very flat.  She barely reacted to anything that happened to her, and her emotional reactions to the bad things were short-lived (except the dream/vision…that one was better, I actually felt for her).  She didn’t seem to form connections with anyone, or when she did it was immediate and we weren’t shown what drew them to one another.

And Theo…well he was a dick.  And I get he was supposed to be a dick, but the moments that were supposed to swing me to his favour just didn’t work for me.  They did not supersede his bad attitude.  And holy volatile!!  I can’t tell you the number of times he just started screaming at people (usually his sister) out of nowhere!  They were over the top reactions in my opinion.

As for secondary characters, nothing from them either.  We barely met her BFF Dani before she was out of the picture, or her father (though he might have been cool).  Adelaide was OK, but mostly she came across very self-absorbed and whiny…she felt younger than her age.  And she and Mara together were mean girls, the way they thought/talked about Naomi…I was NOT impressed.  Winston was whiny and oblivious, I didn’t even feel for him like I should.  And I couldn’t figure out Finn or Ethan, we got no time with either of them.  Though I guess I did like Nigel, the cat.

As for the paranormal aspect, well quite frankly I didn’t really learn enough about it to form an opinion.  Most of the book was about the push and pull between Mara and Theo.  Honestly, I was pretty bored.  It wasn’t until 95% into the book before something really action-y happened.  Uh, that’s WAY too late to get my interest.

*sigh*  I could probably elaborate, but that will bring me into meaner territory, and I try to avoid that.  Honestly, this book had quite a lot of potential.  It has a lot of the same basic setups of many of these paranormal books (girl doesn’t know anything about the paranormal world, but is apparently a chosen one, falls for a bad boy), but I don’t mind that.  In fact I’m often attracted to that.  I feel like the author just needed someone to tell her when she was being repetitive, both in phrases (how many times did I need to read “why does something so wrong feel so right?”) and in plot points…when she had inconsistencies…when she needed to tell the reader how Mara felt about learning her whole life had been a lie, when she needed to give the reader MORE.  *sigh*

Basically, good bones, poor execution.  Needless to say, despite that killer ending, I won’t be reading further.  But I will try out this author’s contemporaries, perhaps I’m just pickier when it comes to my non-contemps.

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Constant by Rachel Higginson

Blurb:
36286507Fifteen years ago I met Sayer Wesley. I fell in love with him. I promised I would never leave him. I swore nothing could break us apart.

Five years ago I broke my promise. I ran away. I took the one secret that could destroy us both and disappeared.

Five days ago I thought I saw him.

I knew it was impossible. Sayer was locked away, serving a deserved sentence in federal prison. He couldn’t find me.

He wouldn’t find me. I was too good at hiding. Too good at surviving.

Because if Sayer ever found me, there would be hell to pay for a plethora of sins. The worst of which, he didn’t even know about.

Five hours ago, I told myself I was crazy.

Five minutes ago, I saw him again.

Five seconds ago, I was too late.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — Another fabulous beta read!!

DAMN!!  Like holy shitsnacks people.  I was curious about this book from the first moment Ms. Higginson hinted at the blurb in her street team.  I mean, seriously…how can you not be intrigued by that??  It was both everything I was expecting and totally took me by surprise all at the same time.

This may be a slightly different genre for Ms. Higginson, but she brings her epic voice with her to each of the characters.  Honestly, for me it doesn’t matter what genre she writes, I know I’m going to fall in love.  Her characters have snark and sass and heart and depth.  And the voice of the BOOK even screams Rachel Higginson.  There’s just something about the way she writes that gets to me every time, and she got me this time too.  When you’re having to talk yourself out of highlighting Caroline’s conversation with a Cherry Coke bottle, you know you’re in trouble.

I’m neither a lover nor hater of past/flashback chapters.  But I can honestly say that they worked amazingly well in this story.  They were scattered about in such a way that we learn just enough to tantalize and give us glimpses at both past events and the past incarnations of our characters.  They melded with the storyline perfectly for me.  And if I’m being honest, my favourite chapters were the past chapters.  There’s just something about young Caro and Sayer (and Frankie and Gus) that had me hooked.  And I can’t tell you how many times I was on the edge of my seat.

The present chapters actually provided a contrast in pacing.  While the past chapters felt quick, the present chapters were a bit more introspective at times for Caroline.  Occasionally that didn’t work for me, but I felt like the pace picked up in the second half of the book, and it was a ride right to the end.  And can I just remind everyone that this is a DUET.  So, you know…try not to be too surprised with the ending.  I wasn’t.

The relationship between Caroline and Sayer was SUPER strange.  And I knew it had to be.  Honestly, I was wondering how Ms. Higginson was going to be able to pull it off.  I mean, from the blurb we know that she was in love with him, and we also know she’s now frightened of him…so I was curious how she was going to pull off convincing me of both of those emotions.  And I was a bit concerned with how *I* would feel about Sayer as a result.  But I honestly shouldn’t have worried, Ms. Higginson makes it all work out in the end.  I won’t give anything away, but I both loved him and was occasionally disturbed by him.  Which is a strange feeling to have for a hero.

Caroline was just everything I love in a Higginson heroine.  Which is not to say she’s a cookie cutter of any of her previous heroines, but she was flawed and frustrating and brave and sassy and all those things that I somehow end up loving.

Can I give props to secondary characters too?  From past characters (Frankie and Gus) to present characters (Juliet, Francesca, Maggie, and Jesse) to evil characters, they all just added their own something to the story.

And now we wait.  In agony.  You have no idea how hard it is for me not to beg and plead for hints.  But honestly?  I prefer to wait and devour the whole thing instead of ruining it.  I’ll just keep chanting February, February, February….

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Promise to Keep (Promises #2) by Jessica Wood

PTKBlurb: I’ve loved her since we were seven. We were best friends. We even made a pact to marry each other if we were both still single at thirty. I grew up thinking I would always love her for the rest of my life.

But I was proven wrong. Because the first time I made love to her turned out to be the first time I hated her. It became the first time she hurt me, and the first time I wanted nothing to do with her.

Today, nine years after the day that broke us apart, we are both thirty and single, and fate decided to intervene. I finally discovered that the reasons behind her betrayal were far different from the ones I’d created years ago in my mind.

Now I’m torn between my hatred over what she did and my undying love for the one girl who I’ve held close to my heart for most of my life.

But is the truth enough for me to forgive her?

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Favorite Quote

“Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” Anonymous

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2 stars

Real disappointed in this book… I got this book back in 2015 and I’m pretty sure my reading tastes have changed because while I loved the first book, I was less than impressed with this one.

It seemed it was just the same story but from the male MC’s POV.  So really I just read the same thing.  Not to mention the premise was completely unrealistic and I know I know, its fiction and so doesn’t necessarily have to be realistic. However, even in this world there are some rules that apply.  And I just didn’t believe it.

The blurb describes the story in a nutshell. But honestly it just drug on and on before it got the part where I was finally getting new information.  It was filled with a bunch of past tense things that were intended to give us depth of character and background but we had all that from the first book so it ended up just feeling like fluff to hold folks over to the next book.

Now don’t get it twisted, I do enjoy alternate POV’s with the same story but this one was just poorly executed IMO. Not gonna finish this series which is a bummer because I hate when I bail on a series.

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The Truth About Us (Mills Lake #1) by T.J. Hannah

The truth about usBlurb: Twenty-one-year-old Sophia Ross has lived under the pressure of her parents expectations since the tragic accident that shattered their once perfect family. Determined to start over where no one knows her, she answers a housing ad on Craigslist and takes a job at a little bar in a town she has never heard of. All Sophia’s looking for is a place to escape, somewhere she can hide behind her lies and keep herself distracted.

She just didn’t expect to be distracted by Corbin Kasey.

Twenty-five-year-old Corbin Kasey is stuck in his hometown, his job, and his life, spending more time covering for his Dad’s problems than trying to fix his own. To take his mind off everything he has the wild Kayla, his stable roommates, and the calmness of swimming in Mills Lake. He always thought it was enough to keep him from drowning in himself, until he meets Sophia.

Neither of them are prepared for their lies to be stripped away by a single kiss. But for Corbin and Sophia, the truth has consequences.

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Favorite Quotes

His thumb traces my cheekbone, and I lean into his palm. I don’t remember a single time in my life I’ve ever felt the way I do now. Like the world has stopped and I no longer need air. Like gravity doesn’t exist and if I let him go I’ll float away.

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3 stars

This book was sweet if a little odd.  I didn’t get why they thought they were doomed from the beginning.  There was no weird connection or trauma that prevented them from just having a relationship.  I think it was all in their heads and that didn’t really make for a very good climax IMO.

The progression of the romance in this book seemed a bit off as well. It didn’t follow a traditional route. And while I enjoy those non-conformist story lines, this one didn’t flow well enough for me to jump on the love bandwagon.

Sophia’s escapist attitude was entirely relatable because of her very traumatic past. I get the whole out of sight out of mind aspect. But Corbin’s self proclaimed martyr outlook was unrealistic in my mind. Maybe because I’m the child of a violent alcoholic as he is and as such I KNOW that what he did was enabling.  And I got so mad at him for thinking he was doing the RIGHT thing.  There is no right thing in that situation!  It was so frustrating to watch it all unravel in the exact way I knew it would.  Woo, it was a bit close to home for me.

I’d read another one book from this author.  It wasn’t bad, just not as well done as I felt it could be.

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The Perfect Couple by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
36442861The perfect couple.

Nicole Laramie and Chase Pennington would forever be called that in their home town of Rider Springs. Chase’s grandmother, Evelyn, thought her neighbors’ only daughter and her grandson were made for each other ever since the two of them were kids.

When Chase climbed a tree, Nicole climbed it higher.
When Nicole fell from her ten-speed and skinned her knee, Chase carried her home.
And when Chase took the field for Little League, Nicole cheered the loudest.

Inseparable.

Until they were strangers.

While Chase climbed the social ladder in high school, Nicole climbed the academic one. Two best friends became enemies. And when the senior class voted them MOST PERFECT COUPLE in the yearbook, it was meant as a joke.

Only Evelyn, she never thought it was funny. She thought it was fate. And she was willing to wait 10 years just to prove she was right.

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

This was surprisingly satisfying for a novella!  I’m always on the fence about standalone novellas for exactly that reason, usually they’re too short to really get you invested in the characters or to feel like you have a complete plot.  I love them for bonuses on series though.  This is a complete standalone however, and I ended it with a smile on my face.

I will say that the blurb is a bit misleading…we didn’t get to see the childhood friendship that’s described there.  Some of it, yes, but Chase and Nicole seem to have had a bit of an unusual childhood friendship.  I did love the flip through the photo album though, to fill in a few of those gaps.  To be honest, I forgot what this story was supposed to be about, so I kind of forgot they were childhood best friends until at least a third of the way through the story.

I was completely sucked in, and while I hadn’t intended to read it all last night when I started it after midnight, I found I couldn’t stop once I’d started.  I was sucked in by the interactions between our characters.  They both felt very real, and like people I would enjoy hanging out with.  Nicole was harder to pin down at first, b/c she’s described as very awkward, and I almost got the mistaken impression that perhaps she was on the autism spectrum.  But no, just socially awkward.

I loved the way Chase took care of Nicole when she was sick, and while the date kind of came out of nowhere for me, I did enjoy how the relationship developed into more.  And while I really felt Chase’s remorse in his POV, I wouldn’t have minded a more frank apology to Nicole for the way he behaved (though I might be misremembering).

And strangely enough, while the ending came a bit quick, I loved how unconventional it was!  Showed strength of character by both of them.  Would love to see an epilogue short story with these two!

 

Finding Your Feet by Cass Lennox

Blurb:
31567740A Toronto Connections Novel

While on holiday in Toronto, Evie Whitmore planned to sightsee and meet other asexuals, not audition for a dance competition. Now she’s representing Toronto’s newest queer dance studio, despite never having danced before. Not only does she have to spend hours learning her routine, she has to do it with one of the grumpiest men she’s ever met. Tyler turns out to be more than a dedicated dancer, though — he might be the kind of man who can sweep her off her feet, literally and figuratively.

Tyler Davis has spent the last year recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship. So he doesn’t need to be pushed into a rushed routine for a dumb competition. Ticking major representation boxes for being trans and biracial isn’t why he went into dance. But Evie turns out to be a dream student. In fact, she helps him remember just how good partnering can be, in all senses of the word. Teaching her the routine, however, raises ghosts for him, ones he’s not sure he can handle.

Plans change, and people change with them. Learning a few steps is one thing; learning to trust again is another entirely.

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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.

As is hinted at in the blurb, trigger warnings for descriptions of emotional/transphobic abuse and the aftermath.  Not being trans, nor having experienced emotional abuse, I cannot speak to how that is handled.  From an outsider perspective, I thought it was fine, but I’ve seen reviews from abuse survivors that suggest otherwise, so perhaps read those and decide for yourself.

I was attracted to this book for several reasons.  First, it’s a cornucopia of diversity…and not only that, but it has LGBT+ characters of the lesser explored variety, so I was intrigued.  Especially with Evie, as I identify on the gray spectrum.  I even chose to read it this month because one of my diversity challenge themes is intersectionality, and since Tyler is trans and biracial it totally fits.  Second, and this cannot be understated enough, I LOVE dance books.  I’m not a dancer myself, I’m just constantly in awe of the dance community, which I feel is the perfect marriage between athletics and art…both of which I do not excel in.  😛  And third, it’s set in Canada!!  I love reading books set in my country, so that definitely played a factor.  And honestly, on the whole I was fulfilled!  I wasn’t blown away or anything, but it satisfied my desire for diversity, dance, and Canadianism!

Like I said, I cannot speak to the realistic representation of Tyler as a trans character, but I felt like the author explored some of the challenges of being a transgendered man, and the horrible experience of transphobic/emotional abuse.  I will admit that while I appreciated some of the observations Tyler had in his journey, this was not a great example of someone healing from an abusive relationship.  It was kind of glossed over and shallow, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in the wrong place.  This book was more about the relationship between Tyler and Evie, with Tyler’s fears used mostly as a roadblock to that relationship.  So more heavy on the romance, less on depth of an emotional journey.  That was fine for me, but may not work for everyone.  In general I liked Tyler, but I felt like his character could be a bit inconsistent.  And since we didn’t really get to see in depth healing, the constant roadblock from the aftermath of his ex became a bit overused without satisfying growth and change.

I really loved Evie’s character, and her representation for the gray spectrum.  I realize not everyone will appreciate it if they’re looking for the quintessential asexual character, which she is not.  But as someone elsewhere on the spectrum, I was super excited to see a character very much like me represented, as the gray spectrum really is vast.  We got to see her fall in love with different things about Tyler that had nothing to do with sexual attraction.  Ace stuff aside, I thought she was really funny, forthright, and a good mix of sweet and sass.

I loved that we got a good amount of dancing as well…it satisfied my wannabe dancer’s heart.  And watching Tyler and Evie crush and flirt with each other while dancing was the highlight of this book for me.

On the not so good side of things, there were a lot of little threads left hanging and not dealt with…I don’t understand why an author would introduce something and leave it unresolved.  The biggest was Evie’s relationship with her mother.  It was constantly in the background through emails, and quite frankly it was kind of toxic.  But we never see the resolution in that relationship.  Perhaps if we were told she had a bad relationship, that she couldn’t come out to her family, but left it at that, I would have been OK having it glossed over at the end.  But to see the quietly toxic relationship consistently in the background, complete with fat-shaming remarks, and to then see no resolution was unsatisfying.

I was also really unimpressed with Gigi in this story…he made fat-shaming remarks of his own that made me uncomfortable, and he was really allowed to be fairly mean throughout the story without consequences.  And I wasn’t impressed with his side story, especially if he’s going to get a book of his own.  I would have liked more Tyler/Evie time.

And quite frankly, none of the friendships were super awesome.  They could have good qualities, but there was a level of care missing at times…just a lot of meddling without thinking of consequences.

There were a lot of terms used in this book that went unexplained…from the tumblr things Evie and Sarah connected with, to dance terms, to whatever fujoshi is (still need to Google that).  And it took me a bit to figure out that Bailey is nonbinary, and that when the author used they/them they were just talking about Bailey, and not Bailey and Sarah or something.  I liked having another lesser explored LGBT+ character represented, but it was too bad that it took me so long to understand that.

So yeah.  Like I said, not blown away, but still enjoyed myself (rounding up for the dance aspect alone).  It wasn’t a book I gobbled up, but it did have some great aspects that I personally really enjoyed!  As an aside, am I the only Canadian that doesn’t actually consume a lot of maple syrup?

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The Feeling of Forever by Jamie Howard

Blurb:
33284471Juliet St. Clair has spent her life under Hollywood’s spotlight. While being America’s favorite girl next door has had its perks, having to testify against her stalker to put him behind bars certainly wasn’t one of them. But when she thinks about walking away from it all, she can’t help remembering the enormous pile of medical bills her family is drowning under. Bills that just keep on coming.

Felix Donovan had it all–stunning good looks, gorgeous women, and a spot as the drummer to a band that’s sitting pretty at the top of the charts. Until one life-altering decision left him paralyzed from the waist down. He doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when he wins this year’s Sexiest Man award, but the one thing he immediately does is send out a Non-disclosure agreement. Hiding his condition from the public is hard as hell, but he’s not ready to face the world while he’s still struggling to accept his new reality.

Except this year’s Sexiest Woman–Juliet St. Clair–never looks at him with pity, only desire. But falling for Juliet means a permanent spot in the tabloids, a decision Felix isn’t sure he’s ready to make. And when Juliet’s stalker re-emerges from her past, Felix’s secret isn’t the only thing at stake, it could cost Juliet her life.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — OMG you guys, I was sucked into this one from the first chapter all the way to the very end of the epilogue.  I didn’t want it to end!!  And this love mostly came down to the characters.  I am in love with both Juliet and Felix!!  I tend to develop book boy crushes on a regular basis, but my girl crushes are more rare…so I adore it when it happens!!

I’ve wanted to read this book since I first saw a review on one of the blogs I follow.  I mean, a celebrity romance and the hero is paralyzed (yay diversity!)?  Sign me up!  I know that sounds silly, but I was just so intrigued!!  And this book totally lived up to the expectations I had for it…actually it surpassed those expectations.

I actually read it this month specifically for one of my diversity challenges, and it fit that bill perfectly.  We got to see some of the struggles that Felix faces (physically, with society, and most of all mentally) as he continues to learn to deal with being a paraplegic, but we also just got to have a fantastic hero who just happened to be in a wheelchair.  Kind of the epitome of a great diverse read, where the diversity does come into play, but it’s not all that the character/story is about.

And Felix was just a fantastic hero.  Definitely flawed, and my heart broke for the Felix we first meet, but then soared as we watch him get back to himself, and really grow into a better, stronger man.  And really learn all that he has to offer, and that it’s not wrapped up in whether he can physically protect Juliet.

Juliet was just EVERYTHING.  Like I said, TOTAL GIRL CRUSH.  You get a hint in the blurb that she’s not a typical celebrity, but she just isn’t a typical ANYTHING!  I fell in love with her right from the photoshoot.  She was just so down to earth and straightforward, which don’t sound like sexy qualities, but when you watch her just go after what she wants, and not accept less than she deserves, it’s just…GAH!  LOVE IT!  And she’s delightful!  So fun and knows how to embrace happiness and sunshine and light!  Obviously not all the time, she does have her own struggles, what with the stalker and all, but…I don’t know.  I just wanted to be her friend.  I wanted to know her in real life.

And the two of them together were just magic.  I loved that when they had some struggles, they weren’t typical, and they didn’t end the way I expected.  I love it when couples embrace their love and fight for each other.

There was a pretty big element of suspense/mystery to this book that I guess I kind of wasn’t expecting.  Not a bad thing, though I did figure out who the stalker was pretty early on, so it was frustrating to have Juliet and Felix not see it.  But that’s the thing about books, it’s so easy to see things when you’re on the outside looking in.

The other major coup for this book was the secondary characters.  I am in love with Gavin…I just saw that his book is next, and I cannot wait.  Actually, I can’t wait for all the band member books, and I really want to go back and read Ian and Bianca’s book RIGHT NOW, even though I have other reading priorities.  We’ll see if I last.  The band members were total stars, and I loved the friendship they had with each other.  I loved how they were with Felix too…supportive and pushing at the same time.  And while we didn’t see much of Juliet’s sister Elle, I really loved the relationship Juliet had with her, and well her whole family.

So yeah.  Totally loved this book.  The only reason it’s not full 5 is because I grew frustrated with the stalker angle.  But everything else was so amazing, I almost don’t even care.  I seriously, 100% happy sighed when I finished this book.  If that doesn’t tell you something, well…

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Dirty Little Mistake (Dirty #2) by Amber Rides

dirty little mistakeBlurb: At eighteen, Brenna Cooper turned her back on her boyfriend-hopping, drug-addicted mother. She fought her way from poverty and heartache into a life she’s proud to lead. Now twenty-two, Brenna has four years of hard work behind her and a bright future ahead of her. She’s careful and cautious and keeps her nose clean. Always. Or almost always anyway.

Five weeks ago, Brenna received some news that hit her hard and she slipped from the straight-and-narrow path.

It was just one mistake.
One party.
One too many shots of tequila.
One little one-night stand with her muscle-for-brains neighbor, Ian.
And it’s behind her.

Or it would be if it weren’t for the teeny, tiny matter of the positive pregnancy test.

Now, Brenna is terrified of following in her mother’s footsteps. She needs to tell Ian about the baby. Soon. And she needs help finding a way to do it.

Ridley James has a shady, crappy decision filled past. He’s the first to admit that the ages of thirteen to seventeen were nothing to be proud of. He bounced from foster home to foster home, girl to girl, and fake I.D. to fake I.D. Five years ago, though, his terminally ill aunt took him in and helped him turn his life around. Before she died, she made him promise a few things. Ridley would stay on the clean path she’d led him to. He’d stay out of trouble. Most importantly, though, he’d look out for her son – his cousin – Ian.

He was doing well.
Until he and Ian moved into his new house a month and half ago and they met his pretty, sweet – and drunk – neighbor.

Ridley knows his only choice is to pretend Brenna has no effect on him. Especially since she came flying out of Ian’s room the morning after their housewarming party, begging him to forget he ever saw her.

He was doing fine with that, too.
Until Brenna came asking for his help – in becoming Ian’s girlfriend.

Now, Ridley is trying to keep his hands and his feelings to himself, struggling to understand why a girl like Brenna is interested in his cousin at all, and fighting to keep his promises to his aunt.

The closer Brenna gets to Ridley, the farther she gets from making her confession to Ian. The more Ridley gets to know Brenna, the less control he has.

Both are keeping secrets. And neither is prepared for the truth.

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5 stars

Even with the unbelievably of the intentional misunderstandings going on ALL over this book for suspenseful purposes, I really loved it.  The author would throw in those deliberate misunderstandings and I would get ready to throw the book, then….she would retreat just a smidgen, giving me a taste of the romance I so wanted to see.  Thereby pulling my attention back in and making me want to finish the book.  

Well played Amber Rides, well played indeed.  

Brenna was so young and naive.  I felt great pity for her, and not in a good way.  I mean, it was expected she had no idea what she was doing since she had no mother figure in her life to teach her, but I don’t think she gave the other people in her life enough credit personally.  She made up for her lack of knowledge in these types of situations by giving in to her uhm…baser desires.  She was a super cute horn dog trying to force a square peg in a round hole and she failed, quite hilariously.  The dialogue in this book is fricking fantastic by the way. And quite possibly saved me from DNF’ing this book on more than one occasion.  

Ridley, man this dude was all kinds of hotness.  Smart, vulnerable, strong, patient, understanding, loyal to his family and did I mention he bakes!  Yes, please!  He was a bit of a glutton for punishment but I’ll be damned if his weakness for helping Brenna didn’t just push right over the edge in love with him.  

I had no idea this was the second in the series and now I want to go back and read the first one.  I’m a fan and will certainly keep my eye out for more books by this author in the future.  

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Fake Fiancée by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Blurb:
34129618Fake engaged to the hottest quarterback in the country? SCORE.

They say nothing compares to your first kiss,
But our first kiss was orchestrated for an audience.
Our second kiss . . . that one was REAL.
He cradled my face like he was terrified he’d f*ck it up.
He stared into my eyes until the air buzzed.
Soft and slow, full of sighs and little laughs,
He inhaled me like I was the finest Belgian chocolate,
And he’d never get another piece.
A nip of his teeth, his hand at my waist . . .
And I was lost.
I forgot he was paying me to be his fake fiancée.
I forgot we weren’t REAL.
Our kiss was pure magic, and before you laugh and say those kinds of kisses don’t exist,
Then you’ve never touched lips with Max Kent, the hottest quarterback in college history.

Three months. Two hearts. One fake engagement.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — This one started off with a LOT of promise, but inevitably it just left me wanting more.  Bummer.  I’m thinking perhaps Ms. Madden-Mills just isn’t for me, this is the second book that had good bones, but just didn’t fulfill me in the end.

I loved the set up in the past and that first meet.  I was sucked in by their first encounter at University, and could see the initial chemistry they had together.  I was intrigued by Max, and loved the complexity of his character at first…a bit alpha with some vulnerability.  And I thought Sunny was nicely sassy, and independent and strong.

I adore fake relationship stories…I don’t know why, they just always suck me in.  And this one started off really well, and had good bones for that part of the story.  And I enjoyed the way their relationship continued to develop.

But then things just started to fizzle.  Sunny kept avoiding Max, and so I had a hard time understanding how they fell in love.  Max was a bit more boneheaded in some of his decisions than I normally like.  I still liked them both, but I wasn’t in love with either of them.

The major problem for me though, and what has me rounding down instead of up, is that I felt like a bunch of plot points just kind of fizzled or were dropped.  I stopped being intrigued.  I expected to learn more about Sunny’s father, and to see more resolution there (though we did get some).  I kept waiting for the first chapter to come back into play, and when it finally did it was kind of a let down (not bad, I just wanted more).  There didn’t even seem to be much of a climax, the book was more a hill than a mountain, you know?  And then the Felix/Bianca stuff.  That just left me confused.  I expected some big thing, with clarity, and we never got that.  Just a throwaway explanation in the epilogue.  None of these things are necessarily horrible, it’s just not my personal preference for a story arc, you know?

So yeah.  Bummer, I do have reviewers I follow who love her, but apparently Ms. Madden-Mills is just not for me.  Ah well!

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