Catch and Release by Laura Drewry

Blurb:

31572324The irresistible O’Donnell brothers return in a charming novel from the bestselling author of Off the Hook (“The perfect balance of sweet, sexy, and wonderfully romantic.”—Lauren Layne).

Hope Seaver is an up-and-coming TV producer tackling the hardest gig of her career: a reality show set at the Buoys, a scenic fishing destination owned by three handsome, stubborn brothers. Liam and Finn O’Donnell are willing to tolerate her crew for the sake of the business, but Ronan would rather chew off a limb than open up on camera. Somehow Hope has to convince him of her good intentions—and stop herself from swooning every time Ronan walks into the frame.

Ronan knows that he’s the reason his brothers gave up their old lives to run the Buoys, and he needs to make it worth their while. So if this out-of-towner with the kind eyes and dazzling smile wants to give them the free publicity they desperately need, Ronan can’t say no. He just won’t let himself get burned again by a double-dealing woman. But what if Hope’s good-girl routine isn’t an act? When Ronan lets his guard down long enough to catch a glimpse of the real Hope, he likes what he sees—enough to give love another shot.

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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.

I did not expect Ronan’s story to be my favourite.  And I’m still not entirely sure he does beat out Finn, but holy cow did he at least tie Finn.  I really couldn’t get a feel for Ronan at all, in the previous books, and so I guess I didn’t quite know what to expect.  Not only that, but you don’t meet the heroine until this book, so I was just coming in blind to this story.  And I ended up with the sweetest romance that just had me grinning all over the place.  And then, because that’s the way Ms. Drewry rolls, she had to get me crying at the end too.

Hope sold me on this story from the first line.  And it wasn’t just that it was because she was referencing a town in my home province of Saskatchewan, it was all her nervous fact-spouting.  She was just quirky and adorable, and I could really vibe with her.  I liked how she was an intriguing mix of shy and unsure at times, but bold and take charge/go after what she wants at others.  I know that sounds too contradictory, but it really worked for her.  It was like she wasn’t afraid to acknowledge what she wanted, and then pull on her big girl panties and give it a go.  And it made sense given her backstory.  And she maintained that inner conflict right to the end.  I wanted to stand up and cheer with how she dealt with Ronan at the end…Hope is my hero.

And Ronan.  Yes, Ronan was gruff and grumbly and a bit short-tempered, and inarticulate…but OMG, he was just so freaking adorable inside.  He made you want to hug him.  You could almost feel his confusion, and the inner conflict going on inside of him.  Each O’Donnell boy just surprises me with how much hurt they held inside, and I guess I just never really anticipated how hard it was for him as the eldest.  And I LOVED that he was the cook!!  I could just picture him in that apron, baking pies, and *drool*  And then there’s the addition of JD.  Could you get any cuter??

But it was how he felt about Hope that really sold him for me.  He was just as enthralled with her as she was with him, and watching them dance around each other, and blush and get flustered, and just GAH!  It’s everything I love about a sweet romance you know?  And it’s not that we don’t get some steamy stuff, but it actually takes them quite a while to get there, and you really feel the love that develops between them.  I think that moment on the boat fishing is what sold it for me.  Well, the whole fishing scene.  It really showcased who they each were, and how they would work together.

And it’s funny, I wasn’t getting too choked up with the backstories and was wondering if this would be less angsty (I do kind of wish that Hope’s backstory had gotten more time or something…it was heartbreaking, but it was told so quickly that it wasn’t as impactful).  So I’m going along, and then BAM!  Ms. Drewry hits you right between the eyes and I’m crying away (much to my husband’s dismay and worry).  So wait for it readers, it’s a doozy.  And I loved the way that twist hit.  I didn’t see it coming, and yet it was so necessary for the whole series.  And I loved the explanation.  It confirmed my suspicions, and was so real and accurate and heartbreaking.

So yeah, while this series may not have grabbed me from the first book, it really ended with a bang.  My only complaint is that the cover does not look like the Ronan in my head at all…too young or something.  😉

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Jordan Reclaimed by Scarlett Cole

Blurb:

31688253Jordan Steele’s life began when he was ten. When he was taken from his parents and a house that was never a home. When he met his brothers, the other lost and abandoned boys in his group home. When he learned what friendship and family and love looked like.

Now he’s made good, touring the world with the band he and his brothers formed in that crowded group home. No one but his found family really knows the man under the fame and fortune, the scars he hides behind the rockstar lifestyle. Until he sees her through the windows of the National Ballet, dancing, and suddenly the world doesn’t seem so dark.

Aleksandra Artemov ticks all the ballet boxes. Father a legendary Kirov dancer. Check. Prepping since birth for classical ballet. Check. Compulsive control over the food she eats. Check. Principal dancer at The National Ballet of Canada. Check. But what she craves is freedom.

She craves Jordan.

Everything about him should terrify her. His size, his tattoos, his edge. But he doesn’t. He stirs her very soul. Jordan has nothing but himself to offer her, and he’s never been good enough for anyone. Can he figure out how to face his own demons before he loses his light for good?

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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.

While you can totally read this without reading the Second Circle Tattoos series that this series spins off from, I will say that I regret not reading Dred’s book before starting on this one (I’ve read 1 and 4, but not 3).  Not that I won’t likely still go back and enjoy that book, but you do get little mini spoilers in this book.

This was so much more…heartbreaking and involved and sweet and uplifting than I was expecting.  I mean, yes and no.  It’s not that I don’t know that Ms. Cole can write stories with harrowing backstory.  But both Jordan and Lexie really got to me.

Since I hadn’t read Dred’s book, I didn’t quite know what to expect from Jordan, but his backstory is just gut wrenching.  And the ways he copes now, and how it has affected him…it just felt so real, and sucked me in and gave me all the feels.  He was an extremely interesting character.  Because he could be both sweet and innocent as well as dirty and even volatile.  He was kind of a conundrum.  Sometimes I wondered at the many aspects of him, but I can’t decide if it his growth was too much too soon, or just right.  Sometimes life gives you a trigger that your brain has been waiting for, that allows you to see more into yourself and finally get over your stumbling blocks.  And occasionally I wanted a deeper look into how it is affecting him now, but maybe the bits we got at different times were just right.  But anyways, regardless, I definitely wanted to hug the shit out of him.

And while Jordan’s story is perhaps a bit more heartbreaking, Lexie has her own horrible issues to deal with.  You feel it right from the start, and you just feel sick for her, and what she’s living with, and how it has affected her.  I was worried, at one point in the story, that her own struggles would be minimized, or not dealt with in the appropriate way and with sensitivity…but I should have trusted Ms. Cole.  And in the end, the way that all went really made sense for her and Jordan.  I kind of wished I’d been able to read more of how she was going to cope, but that’s probably just me being greedy.

I did absolutely adore the look into the ballet world, even if hers was a bit skewed by her father.  I’ve always admired the crap out of dancers, and my hubby and I have season tickets for our provincial ballet.  I have the grace of a bulldog, so it’s something I always envy…but I definitely don’t envy the toll it takes and the hours of hard work they put into their craft.

And their chemistry together was pretty fantastic.  It was a lot more blunt and straight talking than I was expecting at times, but it worked for them.  I loved seeing Jordan struggle with how to have a relationship, and how he second guessed everything he did.  Again, so sweet.  And then he’d say something dirty, and it just balanced.

AND I LOVED THE BITS OF CANADIANNESS!!  I mean, YES!!  I’ve never lived in Toronto, but I did recognize street names, and stupid little things like the No Frills grocery store, the Canadian Tire bag, and shopping at The Bay, and Karen Kain, and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (been there)!  It’s the little things that make this girl happy.  *high fives Preload for being Canadian*

And finally, there was the secondary cast.  While they weren’t there all the time, the scenes where they were just showed me the connection between the guys, and how they lean on each other in small ways.  And OMG, they brought such levity!  “She’s the phone!”  Just so much love.  Cannot WAIT to read more books of these boys.  Though I am scared, b/c if Lennon is more f’d up than Jordan, I just don’t know if I can handle his story.

Honestly, the only reason I’m rounding down instead of up is just a me thing…I’m still in that strange bubble where I’m not quite getting sucked into the books fully.  Were I in a different mood, I can totally see myself rounding up.  OHHH!!  And there were some areas where the POV changed without a break.  I’m not a fan.  Especially since it was pretty consistent throughout the rest of the book, so it was what I had come to expect.

If you’re a medium angst fan like me, who likes some heart wrenching, but not too much to be overwhelmed, then you need this series in your life.

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Hooked on Trouble by Kelly Siskind

Blurb:

31359036Reality bites. Hard.

The last time Raven did “real” was sixteen months ago, when she spent one unforgettable night with the tattooed, impossibly sexy Nico, and then he disappeared the next day. Since then, she’s kept her guard up and her feelings to herself. She doesn’t have time for relationship drama when she’s busy searching for her long lost sister.

Nico hasn’t stopped thinking about Raven—her sultry curves, inked skin, or the fact that he ditched her after their night together. Now that they’re living in the same city, he knows this is his chance to make things right. What better way to prove to Raven he’s for real than helping her find her sister? But when the lines between right and wrong start to blur, putting his job on the line, Nico has to decide if the risk is worth the ultimate reward.

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

This review is going to suffer b/c I wasn’t able to immerse myself in this book like I normally would…it actually took me an unprecedented week to read, and it had NOTHING to do with the story.  But as such, I don’t have my thoughts all nicely gathered as I normally do.  So bear with me.

I find I’m really loving Ms. Siskind’s writing and characters.  While I’ve only read book 2 in this series of hers, I still feel like I can say that with confidence.  What’s funny to me is that I just finished reading my review for that book, and I gave it the same number of stars, but it wasn’t because I was as in love with Nico as I was with Sawyer.  I just enjoyed the story, and thought it was a solid romance with a lot of depth, and flawed characters that seem to grow over the course of the book.  There were little things that left me a bit unsatisfied, but nothing egregious, you know?  So it’s kind of funny to give it the same star rating, but for this one it was just an overall feel, whereas for book 2 it was a balance of one amazing character and one meh character.  Annnnndddd you really didn’t want to hear all that, did you?

ANYWAYS.  So both Nico and Raven were actually super cool characters, but in kind of opposite ways.  They are both so damaged by troubling childhoods, but it shaped them into completely different individuals.  But I kind of still understood what drew them to each other.  It’s like they balanced each other off, you know?  Raven is kind of jaded, and edgy, and standoffish, and not exactly a rule follower.  Whereas Nico is very soft, and gentle, and goes all in, and is ALL ABOUT THE RULES.  They’re sort of extremes on their own.  And it was interesting to see how that all kind of clashes and results in the ultimate climax of their relationship.  I wasn’t expecting it, and yet looking back I kind of should have, you know?  I was initially a bit put off by both of their mistakes, but in the end I was happy with how it played out…it felt true to both of their characters, even if it made me temporarily mad at them.  But it made the learning feel more authentic I guess.  Like neither changed, but they both learned to compromise.  Nicely done Ms. Siskind, props.

I will say that although I enjoyed their banter, I did miss the lightheartedness that came with Sawyer’s ridiculous personality.  That boy shone even in this book in his little appearances.  I LOVED seeing the group all together, they really made me laugh and I wished they really existed somewhere out in the world.  That epilogue was basically ALL OF THE THINGS.  And now I want to read book one even more, I need to figure out how to squeeze it in.  *SIGH*

So yeah, solid final book in the series.  Dealt with some difficult issues on both their ends, but in the end I was missing falling deeply in love with the MCs to really push it over the top (*groan* pun not intended) for me.  Will be watching for more from Ms. Siskind in the future, especially since she gives good Canadianness.

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Lured In by Laura Drewry

Blurb:
30183695Seasick. That’s how Jessie Todd feels when her best friend and boss, Finn O’Donnell, tells her that the Buoys will be featured on a popular fishing program—which just so happens to be hosted by a guy she used to date. She’s still friendly with her ex, but her new feelings for Finn are making things . . . complicated. His life is out on the sea, and though Jessie works at the resort, her paralyzing phobia of water keeps her on land, where she’s safe. To take a shot with Finn, she’ll need to face her fears—and her innermost desires—head-on.

Finn has been nursing a crush on Jess for a long time, so when she suddenly asks for swimming lessons, he dives right in. Holding her shaking hand as she steps into the ocean makes his heart swell—despite the sinking feeling that she’s just doing it to impress that smarmy TV host. Finn doesn’t trust anyone with his bruised and battered heart, but he’ll be forced to lay it all on the line to keep Jess from being the one that got away.

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

Well that was much better than the first book for me!  As I was suspecting from their appearance in Off the Hook, Finn and Jess were more my kind of characters and so I was more easily sucked into their story.  Not only did I genuinely like both characters, but I really loved their backstories — both individually, and their history together.  They gave me so many feels and both had me crying.  And DAMN!!  Chemistry was definitely not a problem in this story!  I LOVE that the cover reminds me of a scene in the book, and I could totally picture it in my head, so when I looked at the cover again I was like “AHA!”

So what did I love about the characters?  Well Jessie was sassy and strong, never afraid to stand up to those boys and put them in their place, and I loved the way she loved The Buoys and making it a successful business.  But she was also so damaged from her past.  I was worried I wouldn’t get all my questions answered, but I totally did and really felt for how her past shaped her.  I genuinely felt her fear and terror and I loved how they worked through her fear, and didn’t minimize it.

And Finn was such a strange contradiction!!  He’s definitely not an Alpha guy, but he’s not quite a Beta boy either (which are my faves).  Is there such a thing as an Omega, or am I just making shit up?  I don’t know.  But he was so sweet and caring, and genuinely damaged in his own right.  I LOVED that Jess didn’t minimize or excuse what happened to him in the past, but just listened to him.  I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to grow up with that hanging over his head, and so I genuinely understood why he was the way he was with respect to relationships.  That was another thing I found refreshing — Finn’s aversion to commitment came from a genuine place, and what can sometimes be kind of cliché in other books felt real in this case.  And just because he was averse to commitment didn’t mean he was some playboy or manwhore either.  THANK YOU!!  I mean, maybe I’m just reading the wrong books, but usually those things go hand in hand with heroes.  But not with Finn.  And OMG did he break my heart so many times with how humbled he was to be trusted by Jess.  And I loved the way the relationship progressed in his head…it wasn’t filled with long misunderstandings or him holding on to his commitment-phobe ways, but was more about how others saw him and expected certain things of him.  Finn was a solid book boy, I genuinely enjoyed reading him.

So yeah, this one was all about the characters for me, and it definitely succeeded in that aspect.  I also pretty much squealed in delight when some of the minor secondary characters came from my city (Edmonton).  And LAKE DIEFENBAKER!!!  You can call me crazy all you like, but I grew up 30 minutes away from the river that connects to Lake Diefenbaker, so to see it mentioned in a book is just balm to my soul.  This Canadian loves to read about Canadian things, and so I always look forward to Ms. Drewry’s books.

So the question becomes — what in the world is Ronan’s story going to look like?  I seriously have ZERO clues.  Anyone else?

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A Fine Mess by Kelly Siskind

Blurb:
30117683Some guys should come with a warning label . . .

Sawyer West is Mr. One-Night Stand. He doesn’t do relationships or promises or feelings. He’s never cared enough to get involved. Until Lily Roberts. She’s sweet and shy and sexy as sin, and resisting her is testing his self-control. She believes Sawyer can be a better man, and for the first time in his life, he wants to be. But change isn’t easy, and Sawyer would do anything to protect Lily from his past self. Even break his own heart . . .

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

OK, I will admit that that blurb leaves a bit to be desired.  I wasn’t even sure if I was interested when I came across this browsing through NetGalley, so I went to Goodreads to skim some reviews already posted for a bit better taste of what the book was about…b/c that blurb just didn’t really make it stand out, kwim?  Then I saw this quote in someone else’s review and I was sold: “keep that up, babe, and I’ll come in my swimsuit. I’d rather not find out if sharks are attracted to semen.”  I don’t know why that made me laugh, but honest to goodness, that’s why I clicked request.  I decided I needed to know Sawyer.  And in the end, Sawyer made this book for me…  But I will say that this book is a whole lot deeper than the blurb makes it out to be…a lot more emotional investment, and not your typical playboy hero with a sweet girl.  So give this one a longer look my friends, it was worth it.

OK, so a) I totally didn’t know this was another Canadian book, but I was super stoked that I somehow came upon it anyways!  I know that in the end the Canadianness is extremely minor and no one would notice, but I’m a strange nationalistic patriot, and it tickles me when I can support authors from my country.  Plus, she mentioned Caramilks and Crispy Crunch’s.  Awesome.

I don’t know why I said a) like that.  I don’t think I have a b).  I don’t see my review going that way, but instead of erase it and fix it, I’m just going to babble about it.

This was a book where I didn’t read the first in the series yet, but other than getting tiny glimpses of how the first couples HEA played out, I don’t feel like it ruined it for me.  In fact, that baby is now wishlisted and I will likely read it in the future to find out the details of Shay and Kolton’s love story.

This book was a strange one for me in that I was so over the top (pun intended) for Sawyer, that his POV chapters alone made this book like a 10 star book…  Like Sawyer is now on my book boyfriend list…you know, if I had one where I actually kept track of this stuff.  I can’t tell you how much I adore him, though I will likely attempt it further down.  Lily, on the other hand, I just had a harder time making a connection with.  I’m not sure if it was me or the mood I was in, but I found certain parts of this book to be slower reading for me.  I just wasn’t fully engaged.  It’s weird, b/c honestly Lily had an extremely intriguing background and set of her own “issues” to deal with.  And I usually love the shy awkward girls, but for some reason I just wasn’t full blown enamoured with her.  Which is not to say that I didn’t like her as a character, it was just not love for me.  Like on paper she had a lot of great characteristics, but it just wasn’t magic for me.  And so this book took me longer to read than I was expecting.  I’m still trying to pinpoint why, but maybe it was just the mood, and no amount of Sawyer awesome could make up for it??

I loved the chemistry between them, and I loved their interactions, but I will say that oftentimes that was because of the things that Sawyer would say and do.  It all comes back to that boy.  I mean, I was hooked from the first Sawyer chapter.  He just has an internal dialogue that drew me like flies to sugar…moth to a flame…you know, one of those catchphrases.  And it wasn’t just his hilarious (and often horribly childish) sense of humour.  He was so vulnerable and broken and my heart just ached for him and how the events of his childhood shaped how he viewed relationships and all that.  And yet he still tried.  And he still made mistakes, and I was still mad at him, but it was consistent to his character you know??  GAH!  I want him.  Like seriously, back off Lily, MINE MINE MINE.  And the superhero powers all the time??  ADORE!!!  Gush gush gush…I could just gush about him all day long.  I wanted to highlight everything he said, but in the end I think I only highlighted one thing to show the kind of writing that was in his chapters: “She tastes like salt and beach and summer, her body writhing beneath me as I take my time.  Devotion isn’t quick business.  It requires dedication.  Fervor.  Absolute commitment.  I plan on graduating top of my class.”  It’s not even the best line, but it’s just this great voice, you know?  OK enough.

So yes.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Will definitely be giving this author another look.  Loved the sneakpeak into Raven and Nico’s book, can’t wait to get a glimpse inside Nico’s head.

Also: Sawyer is mine.  In case that wasn’t clear.

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Winging It by Cate Cameron

Synopsis:
29284789Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains adult language, ice-melting kisses, and a swoon-worthy hero. This fake relationship romance will have you wishing for a hockey player of your own…

Natalie West and Toby Cooper were best friends growing up, on and off the ice. But when Toby’s hockey career took off, their friendship was left behind. Now Natalie has a crazy plan to land her crush—Toby’s biggest rival—and she needs Toby’s help to pull it off.

When Nat asks Toby to be her fake boyfriend, he can’t say no. Not when it means getting his best friend back. But Natalie is all grown up now, and spending time with her—even when it’s just playing hockey together—stirs up a lot of feelings, old and new. Suddenly pretending to be interested in her isn’t hard at all…if only she wanted him and not his enemy.

Hockey tore them apart. Can it put them back together?

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

This was a super cute addition to the series, and I was actually surprised when it wasn’t Toby and Dawn…for some reason I totally thought it was going to be.  But Nat was perfect for Toby, so it obviously worked out in the end.  😛

I found that this one just didn’t *quite* have the same depth as the previous 2 stories in this series…hence the half star loss.  (Well, that and I wanted a bit more from the romance as well, but I’ll get back to that)  I think if the previous two books hadn’t impressed me so much with the different issues that the author chose to tackle or at least bring up, then perhaps I wouldn’t have been expecting it and wouldn’t have been so disappointed if that makes sense.  Not that it didn’t tackle interesting topics — but they seemed shallower in comparison.  Like I did appreciate how Ms. Cameron broached the subject of Nat’s jealousy of Toby’s hockey career, and initially I was all onboard feeling sorry for Nat.  And then the author just turned me right on my head, and I was so impressed with how that went along and developed.  I liked that Nat and Toby had the kind of relationship where he felt he could be honest with her and help her back on her path.

On the other hand, I didn’t really see much from Toby’s side of things.  Not that every character needs to be dealing with something, but I guess I wanted to learn more about Toby and see him grow and whatnot.  I mean, he had his cousin to deal with, but he didn’t really learn a lot of lessons there…maybe that’s because it was mostly Scott’s issues, and Toby was just dealing with the fallout?  Other than falling in love with Nat, not much happened on Toby’s side of things…unless I just missed it (which is possible).

What I did really love and had me smiling ear to ear were the playful interactions between Toby and Nat.  You could really see what made them friends in the first place, and I felt a lot of friendship and mild flirting chemistry coming from them.  The scene where he grabs her bag and races for the car had me almost giggling out loud.  But I wanted more of that.  And I wanted it to go further.  The kiss came so early, and then there was just very light stuff in the romance department (the phone calls really) until the end.  It left me a bit disappointed, b/c I have a feeling it could have been really great and butterfly inducing.  But it just wasn’t there.

So now that I write that all out, I’m thinking of rounding down instead of up.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy myself, it’s just that I wanted more…and I know I can get more from this author.  But you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for more from her.

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Off the Hook by Laura Drewry

Synopsis:
28513849Welcome to The Buoys, a West Coast haven where love comes in with the tide. Perfect for readers of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery, the Fishing for Trouble series features three unforgettable brothers—each of whom is a great catch.

Major league pitcher Liam O’Donnell knows his best days are probably behind him, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to retire and become a fishing guide. Still, after all the time he’s spent chasing his dreams, he owes it to his brothers to pull his weight around the lodge. The Buoys is their father’s legacy, and they can’t let some developer take it from them. The one snag Liam isn’t counting on is a blast from the past: his ex-wife.

The moment Kate Hadley steps out of the seaplane, she knows this assignment is going to be trickier than she thought. She has to persuade the owners to sell—and one of them is Liam O’Donnell. Ten years ago, she made the biggest mistake of her life when she married Liam during a fling in Vegas. Now he’s her only lifeline in the middle of nowhere. Kate’s trying to keep things cool, but Liam just reminds her of the scorching few nights they spent together—and tempts her to make new memories that are just as steamy as the old.

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My Review:
3 stars — I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for my honest review.

I think I’m just off in general lately, b/c it seems as though I’m having more misses than hits in books lately.  This book was just missing something for me.  I didn’t feel like I really got to know either of our main characters that well, they didn’t really have any traits that made them stand out in my mind.  I actually enjoyed some of the secondary characters more (and thus I’m super hoping that it’s Finn and Jessie that get together and will definitely be looking forward to the next books in this series).  So while I enjoyed some of the background atmosphere and set up in the book, the main thing that draws me into a book — the characters — was missing for me.

And not just that I wasn’t really invested in either main character, I also wasn’t invested in their romantic relationship.  It just fell short for me.  I didn’t really feel their chemistry, it felt forced for me.  I didn’t get tingles really from their kissing (and more) scenes.  I didn’t really understand what drew them to each other, either in the past or the now scenes.  And since that’s kind of the whole point of a romance book like this, I was disappointed.

It just felt like I was forcing myself to read it instead of clamouring to find out what happened next.  I will say that I LOVED the climax section…it totally picked up at the point where Kate figures out what Paul and Josh have been up to, and the whole resolution there had me on the edge of my seat and cheering.

So 3 stars is probably a bit generous, but it’s my review and I’ll do what I want.  Maybe it’s 3 stars for the potential I see in the next stories.  I just hope they give me a little bit more in the character and relationship parts…you know, the important parts.  😛

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Us by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Synopsis:
29283273Can your favorite hockey players finish their first season together undefeated?
Five months in, NHL forward Ryan Wesley is having a record-breaking rookie season. He’s living his dream of playing pro hockey and coming home every night to the man he loves—Jamie Canning, his longtime best friend turned boyfriend. There’s just one problem: the most important relationship of his life is one he needs to keep hidden, or else face a media storm that will eclipse his success on the ice.

Jamie loves Wes. He really, truly does. But hiding sucks. It’s not the life Jamie envisioned for himself, and the strain of keeping their secret is taking its toll. It doesn’t help that his new job isn’t going as smoothly as he’d hoped, but he knows he can power through it as long as he has Wes. At least apartment 10B is their retreat, where they can always be themselves.

Or can they? When Wes’s nosiest teammate moves in upstairs, the threads of their carefully woven lie begin to unravel. With the outside world determined to take its best shot at them, can Wes and Jamie develop major-league relationship skills on the fly?

Warning: contains sexual situations, a vibrating chair, long-distance sexytimes and proof that hockey players look hot in any shade of green.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — The first book in this series, Him, ended on a really positive note and there was no obvious need for a followup book.  But I’m the kind of reader who LOVES revisiting favourite characters — as long as it’s done right.  And these two authors fulfilled that for me.  This was not just a fluff piece capitalizing on the success of the first book.  I felt like they really explored the changes happening in their relationship and the challenges that they faced as a closeted couple.

I actually almost found this to be more emotionally impactful than the first book in some ways.  We have a couple in love, ready for their happily ever after, but because of the fears of the media storm and the possible reactions of Wes’s team (and the world in general) they have to hide.  I really felt for both of these characters.  I felt like we explored their depths even more in this book.  And yes, some of their flaws were frustrating — their relationship was plagued by that common mistake that most couples make: lack of communication.  Normally that would bother the shit out of me, but I was honestly just so wrapped up in their story that I apparently gave them a pass…

And OMG did I cry for both characters, my heart breaking for them on more than one occasion.  (though thankfully I didn’t bawl)  Both authors really know how to bring the feels — from Wes’s reaction in the hospital, to Jamie’s realization about Wes during the interview, I was captured.  It’s not that they didn’t also frustrate me, but I was just so invested in their love that I wanted them to pull through.

I totally thought I would hate Blake.  I was prepared for it.  But he really was impossible not to love (at least for me).  I found him hilarious, endearing, and I LOVED the friendship that he gave to both of my boys.

In the back of my mind I can’t help but be a little disbelieving at the ease with which their relationship was accepted by their respective teams…I guess I’m a bit of a cynic.  But again, I decided to just give this a pass b/c I so thoroughly enjoyed the story as a whole.  This is definitely going to be one of those series I can see myself rereading.  Both boys are firmly on my list of favourite characters, and I’m so happy that I finally got off my butt and joined this bandwagon.  See?  I can love mainstream books when they’re written this well!!

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Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Synopsis:
259154232They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend…and a big one to learn about himself.

Warning: contains sexual situations, hotties on hockey skates, skinnydipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I have been wanting this book FOREVER, and when I saw it go on a brief sale for $2.99 (I think it’s close to $5 regular price), I was all over it like a fat kid on a smartie….  And it totally lived up to the hype!!  That’s something I always worry about, you know?  But I’ve read both of these authors individually and loved them, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that they would churn out a piece of gold when working together.

These characters had so much chemistry together, they seriously just felt right together.  And it wasn’t just the smoking sex scenes, it was the friendship chemistry too you know?  Even after being apart for 4 years, they seemed to just meld back into best friends like their friendship was easy.

I loved learning their backstory in little pieces from each of their perspectives…it was frustrating at first b/c a flashback would get cut off right as we were learning what happened, but in the end I liked the way it played out.

I can’t even tell you which one was my favourite, b/c I liked them both for very different reasons.  Jamie was just so accepting and logical…he never flew off the handle or jumped in to his emotions.  He took the time to reason things through and actually think about what he was feeling, and what it meant for him.  Wes was somewhat the opposite — letting his emotions get the better of him sometimes.  But somehow they really fit together.

I loved the challenges that they faced, both in their love lives and in their personal lives beyond that.  I LOVED Jamie’s family….LOVED.  Loved the emotions we got from Wes when he got to meet them.  I loved the many bits of hockey throughout this book — from playing it, to coaching it and helping kids become better.  I was dismayed that yet again (b/c it happened in one other Sarina Bowen book I think) they changed the name of one of the NHL teams for reasons that I don’t understand…it would be different if they changed them all (but the Boston Bruins were mentioned), or created an entirely new fictional team in a new town, but instead we got the Toronto Panthers…*sigh*  It’s a stupid thing to bug me, but I just don’t understand the logic of it I guess…

Now I just wish I had taken note of the date of the release of the next book, so it would already be in my greedy hands instead of having to wait a few days…I know, rough life eh?  A few measly days.  BUT I WANT MORE NOW!!!

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Center Ice by Cate Cameron

Synopsis:
25354188This Entangled Teen Crush book contains adult language, underage drinking, sexual situations, and crazy squirrels. It may cause you to become a fan of hockey – or at least hot hockey players.

The hometown hockey hero won’t know what hit him…

Karen Webber is in small-town hell. After her mother’s death, she moved to Corrigan Falls to live with strangers – her dad and his perfect, shiny new family – and there doesn’t seem to be room for a city girl with a chip on her shoulder. The only person who makes her feel like a real human being is Tyler MacDonald.

But Karen isn’t interested in starting something with a player. And that’s all she keeps hearing about Tyler.

Corrigan Falls is a hockey town, and Tyler’s the star player. But the viselike pressure from his father and his agent are sending him dangerously close to the edge. All people see is hockey – except Karen. Now they’ve managed to find something in each other that they both desperately need. And for the first time, Tyler is playing for keeps…

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My Review:
4 stars — After having the privilege to read the 2nd book in this series through NetGalley, and thoroughly enjoying it, I just knew I had to read Tyler and Karen’s story too…  And I was not disappointed, it gave me all the great things that Chris and Claudia’s story did, but in a totally different set of circumstances…so it wasn’t just a cookie cutter copy romance.

Again, this was a fantastic YA.  While it had a fabulous romance going for it, in some ways the struggles that both characters were dealing with were the more important focus of the book…it just happened that they found each other while dealing with some heavy things, and came together and found solace with each other.

Karen’s struggles were more obvious — dealing with the death of the only parent you’ve ever known, having to fit into a different family…  The one that I found the most intriguing, and was kind of a background story, was dealing with a parent who’s not faithful, and the impact it can have on the rest of the family…especially when you’re living in a small town.  I like that the author didn’t shy away from that — that her father, Will, wasn’t a horrible ogre villain either, just a guy who continually makes bad choices that hurt his family.  It was more realistic maybe.  Because in the end things aren’t completely black and white, and it’s not always as easy as people want it to be.  It’s just not a topic that I’ve personally ever read about before.

Strangely enough, one of my favourite secondary characters ended up being Karen’s stepmother Natalie.  She was in the WORST position imaginable, and she just tried so hard to do the right thing and help everyone adjust and cope.  I was really happy with how her relationship with Karen developed.  The half siblings were interesting too, and I appreciated all their different approaches to the changes.  I could even see how Karen and Miranda’s interactions could get so heated — it reminded you that they were just teenagers dealing with this stuff, and so would not handle it all in a mature way.

Tyler’s struggles were not as common and black and white.  I grew up with kids in the WHL (Western Hockey League, the OHL equivalent on my side of the country), and so I’ve seen the strange hero worship that can happen in smaller towns…I’ve even seen the “puck bunnies”, and I can’t imagine what life would be like living with a billet, away from your family.  Sometimes I wanted to feel like Tyler’s Dad and his agent were too over the top, but at the same time I could see parents who behave in that manner.  I guess I just didn’t want to believe anyone could be that selfish and horrible to their child.

I really appreciated how Tyler’s more promiscuous past was dealt with too — it wasn’t all black and white either.  I mean, it’s a really strange life that they live.  And I appreciated all the different conversations (between Tyler and Karen, and between Karen and Natalie) that happened about “sluts” and “puck bunnies” and what’s acceptable, and if there are double standards and all that.  There weren’t clear resolutions necessarily, but more like just a topic that deserves more thought and not to be taken lightly.  Part of me was a little bit disappointed in the fast advancement in Tyler and Karen’s sexual relationship, but part of me felt like that was kind of realistic too…it wasn’t all clean cut and perfect.

So yeah.  Definitely going to watch for more books in this series.  I really appreciated how many different topics Ms. Cameron chose to address, or at least mention.  It definitely worked for me, and gave me something different to think about than the usual YA struggles.

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