Misconduct by Samantha Kane

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

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

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

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

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenoreo_small

The Winning Side (University Park #3) by C.M. Doporto

The winning sideBlurb: Lexi’s determined to keep her word and stand by Raven’s side because her love for him is too strong to deny. As Raven learns to deal with the issues that are destined to destroy him and their relationship, their love is taken to a new level. As doors are closed and new ones are opened, Lexi and Raven find themselves in a heavenly bliss, but not without the challenges from Raven’s past. With a true test of love, Lexi and Raven have to decide if they are willing to do whatever it takes to be on the winning side.

 

 

 

 

scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

images

DNF

This story was sooooo slow.  I started reading this series in 2014 I think and I breezed through the first two books.  Then when I started the last one I stopped reading it.  Fast forward three years later and I figured I’d come back and try to finish it since I’ve been on this kick lately about trying to finish all the series I have ever started.  (This is gonna be a lifelong commitment. )

I don’t know if my tastes have changed but I found this book kinda basic.  The scenes were going from showing to telling quickly with little to no transition. It was choppy and repetitive.  And I found some things that just didn’t jive with the plot.  It’s too bad. I really wanted to add this to my list of series finales for the year.

Curly Carla_small

Cross Check by Kelly Jamieson

Blurb:
32934382A party girl and a clean-cut college hockey player discover that they’re not so different in this sexy, soulful Bayard Hockey novel from the bestselling author of Shut Out and the Heller Brothers series.

Ella Verran has three goals this semester: get off academic probation, repair her relationship with her friend Skylar, and take some responsibility for her life. All of which are hard enough without hot, snobby hockey player Ben Buckingham around to distract her. Ella can’t stand Ben, and she knows the feeling is mutual. But he’s best friends with Skylar’s boyfriend, so he’s always around—taunting and tempting Ella in ways she never thought possible.

As the star forward of the Bayard College hockey team, Ben has goals too, like playing well enough to land a spot on an NHL roster. Ben is perfectly poised on the ice, so why can’t he keep his cool around Ella? Her wild behavior rubs him in all the wrong ways—and a few of the right ones. But as they skate around each other, Ben learns that there’s more to Ella than her bad reputation. And when the line between love and hate starts to blur, he can’t resist crossing over and sweeping her off her feet.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

I love it when an author surprises me with a character!  We didn’t really get that great of an impression of Ella in the first book, but I really enjoyed her in this one.  I thought she really redeemed herself and getting a look inside her head made me understand her more.  Plus we just got to see more of what she’s about, you know?  I really appreciated her storyline of going off the rails after her friend’s suicide, and then having to rein it in and settle down after going on academic probation.  I enjoyed how Ms. Jamieson took a hard look at slut-shaming, and while Ella regretted some choices she made in partying/sleeping around, it wasn’t all “down with the promiscuous girls” as you often see in some books.  Ella really struggled with the labels she was given, and I thought we got an honest and refreshing look at the double standards between men and women, and how it’s not the actions that she regretted so much as the reasons she was doing it, and how it made her feel.

I also really loved that the author took a good hard look at mental health, and that we got to see Ella’s sessions with her therapist.  I will admit that while I LOVED that this was all looked at, occasionally it felt a little heavy-handed.  Which is funny, b/c this issue is really important to me.  Or maybe not heavy-handed so much as not as natural to the story…I don’t know, I don’t know how to explain it.

Ella was spunky, but also really vulnerable and insecure.  I really did feel for her, even if her penchant for pushing people away made me want to throttle her.  It made her growth more satisfying though.

And then we get Ben!!  We also got to see the slut-shaming from his perspective, and I loved that it really opened his eyes as well.  I honestly thought we were going to get more from his background and past, but that wasn’t as prominent as I’d expected.  But I loved how we got an even deeper look at what it might be like for a hockey athlete looking to get drafted.  I loved how vulnerable and scared and overwhelmed he was, and I guess that’s sort of where we see the effects of his past.  He felt so alone at times, and my heart broke for him.  But I also really admired his dedication and determination, and I loved how Ella really showed him parts of himself to be proud of.

Their romance was cuter than I expected.  I guess because I never really understood why they were enemies, since it was based on assumptions about the other person.  But Ben was so adorable in his pursuit of Ella.  He kind of made me swoon at times.  Maybe because he was kind of vulnerable, but he still put himself out there.  And I really loved their chemistry…holy heck could you feel it right from that dance scene!

I loved having more fun scenes with their group of friends!  They often made me laugh out loud at their strange conversations and antics.

I will admit that occasionally certain transitions didn’t feel smooth to me…but that could be in my head too.  (Like those strange conversations with their friends didn’t always flow as naturally for me)

So yeah, I was surprised that I enjoyed this one even more than the previous book!  And again, if you love hockey, or love sports romances that actually showcase the sport, I think Ms. Jamieson is one of the best I’ve ever read for that!  And now she’s made me want to check out her Aces series!!

Lenoreo_small

Shut Out by Kelly Jamieson

Blurb:
28473716From the bestselling author of the Heller Brothers Hockey series comes the first novel of a new hockey romance series featuring a college team whose players are heating things up both on and off the ice.
 
The Bayard College hockey team isn’t where Jacob Flass thought he’d be a season ago. He was a rising star in the Canadian major junior league, cruising toward a spot on an NHL roster—until a single disastrous night on the town brought it all crashing down. Now he’s out of options, except for playing well, studying hard, and staying away from girls. He’s not supposed to be flirting with the hottest, sweetest chick he’s ever met. But how could he possibly stay away?
 
Skylar Lynwood knows that Jacob is out of her league. She’s just trying to go with the flow, which isn’t easy when six feet and four inches of total hockey hunkiness is making a play for her one moment, then giving her the cold shoulder the next. Skylar’s head tells her that this rugged athlete isn’t worth her time, but her body says something altogether different. Risking her heart for Jacob may be the craziest thing she’s ever done . . . but she won’t let him shut her out.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

My Review:
3.5 stars — Do you ever finish a book and just have no idea how to rate it?  I’m a gut feeling rater, and this one left me a bit jumbled.  There were a lot of things about this book that I absolutely LOVED!!!  But at the same time, it took me like HOURS to just finish the last like 10%.  I lost my verve for it somewhere along the way.

Let’s talk about about the things I loved first for a change (b/c I usually lead with the bad).  I adored all the little conversations this book ended up having with the reader about very important topics, and I loved the way they were brought up in the book and addressed.  From rape culture to intimate relationship abuse to actual sexual violence for both females AND males to sexual consent to even slut shaming.  I just loved that the conversations were happening in the book, were very important to the story of the characters, but felt natural at the same time.  And we got to see some very different perspectives surrounding this really broad topic, and how confusing it can be, but how important having the conversations and moving our society forward is.  Especially in the context of a college campus.  We even got to see some of the skewed mentality surrounding athletes and how they are treated by the opposite sex, as well as how that can lead to a feeling of entitlement.  The book didn’t provide a bunch of easy answers, but just took a frank look.  And it wasn’t too cheesy, and not too in your face either.  In the end, this was my favourite part of the book.

I also LOVED the bantering between our hero and heroine.  You could feel their chemistry right from the beginning, and I loved that you could see their friendship grow even when they were both consumed with feelings of lust.  But seriously, they were really pretty cute together, and they definitely made me laugh at times.  They did get a bit cheesy at the end, I struggled through some of the dialogue at times when they were professing feelings, but that could have been just me.

And I enjoyed both characters in general.  I wasn’t necessarily in love with either of them, but neither did they annoy the crap out of me.  Not a ringing endorsement, I know, but it’s just the way I felt.  Basically for all the things I loved about each of them, there was something else that bugged me.

For example, I really enjoyed that Skylar was struggling to follow in her sisters footsteps, and had a bit of a crisis over what she wanted to do with her life (balancing parental expectations with her own passions).  BUT it kind of annoyed me that she didn’t talk to them.  I guess that’s kind of realistic, young adults can make some pretty silly assumptions sometimes.  But still.  At the same time I was really impressed with her work with SAPAP and I loved how passionate she was about it.  She really broke it down and made it less awkward, and she was pretty frank about how she was feeling.  I also loved that while we didn’t see her journey with her therapist, you could see some of the positive influences it made on her.  BUT!  I couldn’t help but feel disappointed with the way she handled the aftermath of Brendan’s suicide…and all that shiznit with Ella.  AGAIN, it was probably pretty realistic, but I guess I was wanting something there.  That’s probably more on me than her though.

As for Jacob, well, I had mixed feelings about how he responded after the “incident” that the book opens with.  BUT part of that was because the author chose not to go into details about what happened until MUCH later in the book, and so as a reader you’re left to try to guess at what happened, and so it made it hard to understand his reactions.  At the same time, I LOVED the way he developed as a character wrt all that, and how he responded to the training he underwent, and how he really took that on and allowed it to impact his life in a positive way.  And I loved how dedicated he was to his hockey career, and I really appreciated the conversation he and Skylar had about while he may have talent, he still works really hard to be that good.  I think people forget that about naturally talented athletes.

Things I disliked: how Skylar reacted to Jacob’s secret (not listening to his side is just a big NOPE); the sudden introduction to more of Skylar’s story than I was expecting (kind of came out of the blue, wish there had been hints); some of the talking during sex really ruined it for me (I just can’t read a character saying “Yeah. Oh yeah.” and not want to giggle, it doesn’t feel natural).  Which is not to say the steamy parts weren’t deliciously steamy, I just wish the talking had felt more natural.  Also, they occasionally felt older than 19/20.

I LOVED the guys Jared lives with, and I enjoyed seeing him develop friendships with them.  They were so funny and cute, and I hope to see their stories.  At the same time, maybe due to the nature of Skylar’s story, I was disappointed in the lack of female secondary characters to love.  There were a lot of tiny female parts, but the only major one was Ella, and it was kind of hard to love her.

As an aside, I LOVE reading books by Canadian authors, or about characters that are Canadian…I love seeing things I recognize.  My hubby laughed at me and said now I know how minority groups must feel when they read diverse characters that represent them.  BUT, as a good ole Saskatchewan girl, born and raised, I must say that Saskatoon’s team is the BLADES, Moose Jaw is the WARRIORS.  Tsk tsk.  😛

So yeah.  See?  Conflicted.  Do I round up or down?  I DON’T KNOW!!!  I’m going to round up and say that the awesome amount of *actual* hockey in this sports romance put it over the top for me.  😉

Lenoreo_small

The Perfectly Imperfect Match by Kendra C. Highley

Blurb:
35496084Pitcher Dylan Dennings has his future all mapped out: make the minors straight out of high school, work his way up the farm system, and get called up to the majors by the time he’s twenty-three. The Plan has been his sole focus for years, and if making his dreams come true means instituting a strict ” no girls” policy, so be it.

Lucy Foster, needlepoint ninja, big sister to an aspiring pitcher, and chicken advocate, likes a little mayhem. So what if she gets lost taking her brother to baseball camp…at her own high school? The pitching coach, some hotshot high school player, obviously thinks she’s a hot mess. Too bad he’s cute, because he’s so not her type.

Problem is, they keep running into each other, and every interaction sparks hotter than the last. But with Dylan’s future on the line, he has to decide whether some rules are made to be broken…

Disclaimer: This book contains a crazy night of moonlit skinny-dipping, a combustible crush, and kisses swoony enough to unwind even the most Type A athlete.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

Before I get into the meat, as an aside: Covers don’t make or break a book for me, but can I just say that this cover is absolutely perfect for this book?  I love it when a scene from the book is represented, it always makes me auto-smile and squeal when I get to it!!

Ahem.  Anyways.  I am falling in love with Ms. Highley.  She writes just my kind of cute YA books.  I’ve said it in previous reviews of the other books in this series, I’m NOT a baseball fan.  But Ms. Highley makes me want to be a baseball fan (until I watch it on TV and remember that I don’t have the attention span).  And she did it again in this book.  It’s not that there’s an overwhelming amount of baseball in the book, but it’s prominent enough that it makes me feel like I understand the passion Dylan has.  I actually prefer when my sports romance books ACTUALLY have some of the sport in it (and not just have it be a small aspect of the character).

Dylan was such an intriguing hero!!  I can’t help but wonder how he came to be so rigid and structured and goal-focused.  But while sometimes a lack of “past incident explanation” can kill a book for me, the way it was done in this book I really felt like I could see how someone could just have that be an aspect of their personality.  Like being shy, or extroverted, or a daydreamer…sometimes you’re just born a certain way.  And I kind of loved how he’d allowed this one aspect of his personality to take over his WHOLE LIFE, and that was the cause of his stress.  It was so gratifying to see Lucy open him up, make him relax, show him there’s more to life.  I also loved the conflict with his parents.  Again, Ms. Highley writes great families too — not evil ones, or uninvolved, but ones that have their own set of problems even though you can feel the love.  I loved how that all resolved too, how blinded Dylan had become in his focus.

And he was SO CUTE!!  I love the heroes in these books.  They have a healthy set of hormones, but none of them are dogs (though far from perfect either).  They are all very 3 dimensional, and I love how shy and awkward Dylan could be in relationships!  SWOON!! (a unicorn just got his wings!)

And I LOVED how different Lucy was from the other heroines in this series!  She was kind of a rebel rouser, and just marched to the beat of her own drum, but with lots of confidence.  I loved how seriously she followed her passion, and how some might see her as flighty, but if you paid attention she was really focused as well.  She just knew better how to have some fun.  And I loved her family dynamics as well, and how the pressures of stepping up and being responsible in her family were really wearing on her.  Her relationship with both her Mom and her brother felt very real, full of love but also struggles.  And I loved the military Dad aspect as well.  How it didn’t overtake the story, but was an underlying heartache.

And these two together were YA gold.  So many tummy butterflies, they really had great chemistry.  And I really could see how they sort of brought the best of each other.

So yeah, another YA success!!  And a PERFECT read for the summer, I just got all those summertime vibes!!

Lenoreo_small

Stay by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Blurb:
34080660Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never even met?

Hailey Taylor Emery has a hunch that her favorite client at Fetch–an anonymous virtual assistant service–is actually hockey star Matt Eriksson.

Although it’s against the rules for her to check his file, she’s 95% sure she spends at least part of each day texting with her lifelong crush and catering to his every need. Still nursing a wounded heart thanks to her recent breakup, Hailey is perfectly content with some harmless online flirting…until she has to meet her client. Face to face. Cue: utter panic.

Matt Eriksson is no stranger to heartbreak. He’s still not over the destruction of his marriage, and it sucks to be the only guy on the team who knows the truth–that hockey and long-term relationships are a toxic mix. He barely sees his kids, and dealing with his ex makes him feel insane. The only person in his life who seems to understand is someone who won’t show her pretty face.

But it’s nothing that a pair of fourth row hockey seats can’t fix. Hailey can’t resist the offer. Matt can’t resist Hailey. Good thing he doesn’t have to. Fire up the kiss cam!

Warning: Contains rabid hockey fans, misunderstood dick pics, hockey players at the opera and exploding ovaries.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

Oh you guys! Matt and Hailey were my kind of characters.  They were both dealing with something, be it insecurities or other damage, but they were also full of sass and it made for such a fun courtship to follow!!  I totally fell in love with them both, and with them together.

Hailey was my kind of girl, just the kind of female character that I gravitate towards time and time again.  I loved that while she was a bit worse for wear following her divorce, it wasn’t horribly damaging.  She just lost her hutzpah, you know?  She was thrown for a loop, and was taking a while to figure out how to get back to *her*.  But I loved that her relationship with her ex wasn’t toxic.  In fact, this book was interesting in that it showed two completely different relationships that declined, in different ways.  And that it can be hard no matter what.  I always appreciate when we don’t always hate an ex, you know?  As a reader I mean.  It’s refreshing.  And Hailey was just sweet, and sassy, and so smart and driven!  I loved that about her.  And I loved that she didn’t put up with too much crap.  She picked her battles, and with some encouragement from friends, she pushed back when she needed to.  I was totally rooting for her.

Matt was adorable to the extreme.  My heart hurt for how damaged he was following his divorce…he definitely had a toxic relationship with his ex.  It made him unsure of himself, and it was nice to see an alpha male suffer from his own insecurities too.  I was so mad at Kara, and yet Ms. Bowen and Ms. Kennedy made just the right moves to resolve that in a way that felt real.  I love that.  No black and white evil characters (well, except maybe Mr. Emery), but *flawed* characters.  And I loved seeing Matt finally get a hint and stand up.  WOOHOO!!!!  So much cheering.  And on the other side, he was sweet, sensitive, patient and caring, a fantastic father, and his dirty talk was spot on!  😛

And with two fabulous characters, we get a fabulous romance/relationship.  I didn’t even mind all the uncertainty about what kind of relationship they had, b/c it made sense for their characters.  And the two of them together just made me laugh, right from the first date.  I really felt like they matched up perfectly.

And you know what else I loved??  The tiny side plots!!  MrEightInches!!  BWAHAHAHA…  And seeing all the characters we’ve fallen in love with!!  And the extra development of the WAGs!!  I love those girls!!  And Jenny was a fantastic friend!  And I’m even intrigued about OC, which part of me expected, b/c these authors know how to make you love even the most awful characters.  But I didn’t expect to be clamouring for his book!  And even the girls were cute and not annoying (which is a bonus for me)!

So yeah, not only did we get a fabulous romance, we got just a great all around, FULL story.  Can’t wait for more in this series (because there has to be more!).

Lenoreo_small

Good Boy by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Blurb:
30747137Hosting her brother’s wedding for an MVP guest list is the challenge of Jess Canning’s life. Already the family screw-up, she can’t afford to fail. And nobody (nobody!) can learn of the colossal mistake she made with the best man during a weak moment last spring. It was wrong, and there will not be a repeat. Absolutely not. Even if he is the sexiest thing on two legs.

Blake Riley sees the wedding as fate’s gift to him. Jess is the maid of honor and he’s the best man? Let the games begin. So what if he’s facing a little (fine, a lot) of resistance? He just needs to convince the stubborn blonde that he’s really a good boy with a bad rap. Luckily, every professional hockey player knows that you’ve got to make an effort if you want to score.

But Jess has more pressing issues to deal with than sexy-times with a giant man-child. Such as: Will the ceremony start on time, even though someone got grandma drunk? Does glitter ever belong at a wedding? And is it wrong to murder the best man?

Caution: May cause accidental aspiration of tea or coffee. Do not read in a public place where loud laughter is inappropriate. Contains hot but hilarious hockey players, puppy cuddling and a snarky pair of underwear.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

My Review:
4 stars — These books by Ms. Bowen and Ms. Kennedy are just endless boodles of entertainment.  And not just laugh out loud funnies, but heart too you know?  They always have an amazing balance.  And this book is non exception.

Blake is such a bizarre creature, I had no idea what I was going to find in this book.  He’s really…almost, eccentric?  He’s hilarious, but just so freaking weird too!!  He’s like this big teddy bear that you just want to hug, but that could also annoy the bejeezus out of you.  But I think the love always wins out in the end.  He was kind of a different book boy than I’m used to falling in love with, b/c he is just so…hard to define.  It’s not your normal kind of sexual intensity, you know?  Not like he’s not sexy, but he’s goofy sexy.  He’s make you laugh during the steamy moments sexy.  And that’s hella fun too.  And in spite of all his goofy qualities, he’s just such a great guy with a big heart.  I loved how sweet and considerate he was of all his friends and his family.  I loved that he really saw Jessie, and what she was going through, and always had the most thoughtful advice and observations and pick me ups waiting in his own unique Blake way.

Jessie took me a bit longer to warm up to.  It’s funny, b/c at the beginning I was worried I wasn’t going to love Jessie.  Because she really had a LOT of growing up to do, and the way she saw Blake and the way she almost…lashed out? at him because of her own insecurities hurt my heart.  I felt so protective of Blake, so I was quick to frowny face all over her actions.  But of course Ms. Bowen and Ms. Kennedy would not stand for that!  Nope, they had to make her learn and grow and change.  It’s almost like they’re good character writers or something, right?  So Jessie definitely grew on me.  I started to feel for her and the pressures she was feeling, even if I wanted to smack her for her insecurities, I still GOT it.  Sort of.  Mostly.  And I LOVED seeing her come into her own, and really start to understand her value.  It might have been nice if she could have gotten there a bit more on her own, without Blake, but I’m not going to complain too much.

I loved how well they complemented each other too.  How they both contributed to the others growth and healing.  How Blake showed her a different side of herself, and how Jessie stood up for him and took care of him.

And obviously the secondary characters were pretty sweet.  They didn’t necessarily have huge roles, but they played their parts.  From Mama Riley, to the WAGs, to Leila…actually, writing that out, my favourite secondary characters all played a role in Jessie’s growth.  But I guess Blake still had Wesmie and some of his other fellow hockey players.  I wouldn’t have minded a bit more on the support front.

Anyways, thoroughly entertained.  Can’t wait to dive into more of these Toronto hockey players stories!!

Lenoreo_small

The Hard Count by Ginger Scott

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

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

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

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

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

scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

Favorite Quotes:

I’m a girl-freaked, dream-puncher!

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

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

images

5 stars!!!!

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

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

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

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

Now you must go read this book. 

Curly Carla_small

Into Your Arms by Chelsea M. Cameron

Blurb:
34657526Freya has secrets she doesn’t intend to share. Not with her new friends on the cheerleading squad at Maine State University, and certainly not with sexy lumberjack-look-alike Rhett. Just because sparks flew between them at a bar one night doesn’t mean he gets to know why she transferred to MSU. When Freya dares Rhett to come to cheerleading practice, she never expects to see the dark-haired lumberjack again.

Except Rhett is the last person to turn down a dare, especially when it comes from a pixie-sized blonde. When Rhett wows the squad and becomes Freya’s stunt partner, his hands come far too close for comfort. But as Freya and Rhett’s hot post-practice sessions bring them closer, she risks her secrets being revealed. Can Freya chance exposing who she really is to the guy who wasn’t supposed to win her heart?

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

Well, this book was kind of a disappointment.  I’ve enjoyed other books by this author, both YA paranormal and NA contemporary, so I was excited to see her book on NetGalley and immediately requested it!  I was even more intrigued with a book that would show cheerleading in a good light (instead of the villainous light we usually see it in).

But.  😦 Then I started reading.  And I guess the overarching theme of my feelings for this book is that it’s flat.  The characters are flat.  The plot is flat.  The chemistry is flat.  Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve felt so ambivalent towards characters.  Well, I guess I felt quite a bit of dislike for Freya, so that’s more than ambivalence.  But in all honesty, I really just didn’t understand who either of these characters actually were.  They had a lot of “paper traits” (which is a new term I’m going to coin).  ie ON PAPER they could have been really interesting characters.  But we never really got to understand them as individuals, so I felt nothing for either of them really.  Well, except extreme annoyance towards Freya.

The book starts off with both characters having secrets, even from the reader, and that shit just annoys me.  Luckily it didn’t last very long, but I don’t understand why the author chose to start it as a secret in the first place, b/c it wasn’t that big a deal.  And I guess that’s the whole thing…we did not get enough backstory of either character to really understand what shaped them.  The author tried, but it fell flat.  Freya’s personality and attitude was honest to goodness CONFOUNDING to me.  Why did she have trust issues?  Why did Mia’s family’s love not make up some of that?  Why would her parents neglect make her less trusting?  Why was she so mean and rude to Rhett?  Why did she not want a relationship?  WHY WHY WHY???  We’re told some reasons, but I need to be shown them, and I never was.  So I had no empathy for Freya whatsoever.  And because we weren’t given enough about Freya, I couldn’t do anything but dislike her more and more for the way she treated Rhett.  Like seriously, she was just a straight up jerk.  For a book that was trying to show cheerleaders in a better light, Freya kind of failed inadvertently.  Luckily the sport looked pretty cool, but she was even kind of mean and judgemental to her fellow cheerleaders.  And the over the top hysterical way she reacted to things just had me raising my eyebrows and writing her off.  I don’t get it.

So how in the world did I end up rounding up on this book?  Well, I guess Rhett.  Though maybe even he’s not a good enough reason.  He was also flat, the same thing — we were told so many things about him, but we weren’t shown.  I didn’t feel enough for him, though I felt more for him than Freya.  He started off in the book appearing like a TOTALLY different kind of guy, and honestly his personality felt like it did a 180 after the first chapter.  I don’t get that.  But after the 180, he was kind of sweet, and intriguing, and he had a lot of paper qualities that I should have fallen in love with.  And I did like him.  I mean, he was patient, kind, funny, charming.  But I don’t understand why he was interested in Freya.  Like not at all.  And despite all those paper qualities, I still didn’t *feel* anything for him.

I felt like the author took shortcuts in places to make the plot work.  Particularly having Rhett be into break dancing and jiu jitsu.  Why was he into those sports?  Who got him into those sports?  How could he afford that?  It was convenient though, b/c then it made his proficiency at cheerleading make sense.

*sigh*  After writing all this out, I think I’m going to have to round down.  I just don’t think there’s enough to justify rounding up.  Because I have another peeve.  The writing around the dialogue was incorrect I think.  And because of that, it was ridiculously hard to figure out who was speaking, and so it constantly took me out of the book.  I had hoped it was just in the ARC version, but I glanced at the sample and it appears to still be the case.  I’m not an editor or proofreader, but I know when something’s wrong, and this was not done well in this book.  (like he would speak, then she would laugh in the same paragraph, then there would be a new paragraph and more dialogue, and sometimes it would be her speaking and sometimes it would be him — an exaggeratedly simple example).

So yeah.  Bummer.  Mega bummer.  I might still round up.  Rhett really did have so much potential.  *sigh*  I hate writing reviews for books like this… 😦

Lenoreo_small

Stage Kissed by Cassie Mae & Kelley Lynn

Blurb:
35223581Sixteen-year-old Kate knows how to juggle. From basketball practices to her shifts at Jamba Juice, Kate flies through her days wondering if she got a decent meal. When she lands a role in the school play, adding yet another task to her already full schedule, Kate starts fumbling through her routine, resorting to desperate measures to get the grades expected of her.

Co-worker and classmate Seth isn’t much of a juggler. Crowds and attention? Not his thing. So witnessing Kate’s ability to handle it all leaves Seth in awe. He could never do it. But then one of the leading actors in the play gets tonsillitis days before opening night, and Kate volunteers Seth to replace him. With his eidetic memory and killer dance moves, Seth’s the obvious choice—if it weren’t for his social anxiety.

With Seth’s growing—and unwanted—popularity and Kate spreading herself too thin, they start to wonder if their friendship will even last through the performances. But putting these two into a romance on stage has an effect neither of them could predict.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

My Review:
4 stars — Technically I did receive an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review/opinion, but yet again I was behind so I only read half of the ARC and then switched over to my preordered copy when it showed up on my Kindle.

You guys, this book was just all sorts of young adult goodness.  It contained two very *real* characters dealing with teen problems that really do NOT get addressed that much in young adult books — how to deal with being so busy!!!  Honestly, I don’t know how Seth and Kate did it.  I still don’t, even after finishing the book.  But I guess that’s the point, they *didn’t* deal with it that well.  But seriously folks, when was the last time you read a book that dealt with a seriously relevant and not over the top topic?  I LOVE it!  It was so frustrating to read about too, b/c you just want to shout “SAY NO!” but at the same time both authors made me believe in how hard it was for both Seth and Kate (mostly Kate).

One of the other aspects that I adored about this book is that both main characters were extremely likable but very different.  Kate fascinated me.  She was uber popular because she was super nice and friendly to EVERYONE, but at the same time she avoided deep friendships.  And in some ways, her “niceness” became a bit of her downfall.  Honestly it’s been a long time since I’ve adored a character while simultaneously being ridiculously frustrated with the same character.  She made me want to bang my head on a wall, but I could also honestly see how things in her life spiraled so out of control.  My heart broke for her every time her life got overwhelming and she couldn’t see a way out.  I have no doubt that there are many teenagers who can relate (heck many adults can relate).  And while I hated that she made some of the choices that she did, I kind of got it.  A part of me wanted her to learn and grow faster than she was.  I missed some of that internal enlightenment I think.  I got some of it, but I wanted a bit more from her.  But she made me cry TWO SEPARATE TIMES in this book, she made me feel just so much.

And then there’s sweet Seth.  How can I not love a shorter, shy cutie??  I mean, seriously.  Seth was such an interesting counterpart to Kate, and yet I could see what drew them to each other.  And again, he was such a great guy!!  Not without his own flaws, though he frustrated me a lot less than Kate.  Honestly, the book felt a little less balanced b/c he didn’t seem to have quite the same struggles.  I know he had the social anxiety and shyness to overcome, but I felt like his development got a bit lost in favour of the struggles Kate was going through.  So again, I wanted just a bit more depth from him.  But despite that, I still loved him.  I loved how he took care of Shelby and helped out his family, and how completely oblivious he was to his own attractiveness (both physical and personality-wise).  I loved how he cared for Kate and really paid attention to her and noticed her struggling and tried to be there for her, pushing past her natural barriers.  And it was awesome to see him embrace the role of Will!!  And OMG his kiss made me swoon!!

So yeah, this book is great to put a smile on your face.  I think I wasn’t quite in the mood for a YA book right now, b/c you kind of have to be in the right frame of mind to read about teenagers being typical teenagers.  But it made me smile giddily, giggle, and of course cry big tears, so it was definitely a success.  🙂

Lenoreo_small