A Girl Like Me by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
35166507I’m not supposed to be here.

Death has come for me more than once, and each time it’s been a boy who’s stood between me and my final breath.

I called him Christopher when he saved me as a child. When he came into my life again, only months ago, I knew him as Wes. Just as he did the time before, he disappeared the moment he made sure I was out of harm’s way; as if I didn’t need any more saving.

This time, though, death left me with a reminder of how powerful it is. I know it meant to strip me of my spirit again, but it failed.

Even so, I know I need Wes to survive. Our souls are woven together somehow, our every breath in sync. I feel it, even though everyone says I shouldn’t.

The world thinks he’s missing.
His loved ones don’t want to believe he’s dead.
Only I know just how special he is.

I’m going to find him and bring him home, where he belongs. Together, we’ll face impossible—we’ll rewrite our ending.

And when the bad guys come calling, we will always win.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — Technically I did receive an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review/opinion, but since I was so behind, I just read the copy that I preordered and showed up on my Kindle.  🙂

I ended up rereading book one before diving into this book, hence why I was behind on my ARC reading, but it was so nice to be fully immersed in this book universe again so I remembered absolutely everything.  I’m just that kind of girl.  I always worry that the sequel is not going to live up to the first book, especially when the first book blows you completely away.  I’m happy to say that for *me*, this book did NOT let me down!!  While I did find it to be a slightly slower read than the first book, I was still so ridiculously satisfied with all the answers I got and where the story ended up going.

For those readers that are curious about the paranormal aspect, I can definitively say that this is not a strictly contemporary read.  I’ll leave the rest for the book to dive into, but the hint of paranormal/sci-fi is definitely there.  I know that’s not everyone’s bag, but I actually really enjoyed how it felt very natural to the story, but also didn’t take OVER the story.  It’s hard to place this fully into a paranormal/sci-fi genre, b/c it still had a very contemporary feel despite that aspect.  It was, in some ways, a bit of a coming-of-age story, or a story about a character’s growth and struggles with some very real life problems.  So take from that what you will.  I can see folks who are strictly contemporary maybe not enjoying this, and I can see folks who are all-paranormal-all-the-time not enjoying it either.  But for those readers that like to cross into both, it was a delicious mix.  There is a part of me that maybe was still left with a whole schwak of questions as a result, but for some reason I was OK with that.  It fit the story.

Joss was entirely inspiring in this book.  You really get to see her shine, and I was raising my hands in solidarity for her choices for most of this book.  I honestly had no idea where this book was going to go after the ending of the last one.  And it honestly surprised me a LOT with the different twists and turns it took.  Certain plot aspects that I thought would be the main ones ended up being somewhat resolved and we were plunged into the next obstacle.  Other side plots I had never even considered were presented and really added to the story as a whole (Grace).  But I particularly loved what Ms. Scott did with Joss, and how Joss handled some of the revelations.  She reacted just as I expected her to, even if I didn’t realize it until after I read it.  It was like “yup, that’s Joss.”  The thing that I really love about this character is that she’s NOTHING LIKE ME.  Like, nothing.  I would have totally reacted in completely different ways, but because of the way she was written, I fully bought into every decision and action she made.  I empathized with her, and genuinely LIKED her.  That’s good writing yo.

And then there’s Wes.  Oh Wes.  You know what I loved about him in this book?  He wasn’t perfect.  He made bad choices, decisions that hurt the people he loved.  He was vulnerable, and afraid at times.  He was confused.  He had a lot going on in his own story.  But through it all I still loved him.  And I still rooted for him.

And I loved Wes and Joss together.  They make my heart so happy.  Their journey is just so fraught with obstacles that I really feel like Ms. Scott owes it to them (and us) to write them a little short story where everything is happy and awesome and we get to just revel in the fun that is them for like 50 pages.  I realize most people would find that boring, and thus it will never happen, but a girl can dream.  They’re so sassy and snarky with each other, but also so ridiculously sweet, and just REAL with each other too.

I LOVED the developments we got with Joss’s Dad.  I fully bought into his growth, and the growth of their relationship.  He still broke my heart, but I was all in.  And I loved that we got to learn more about Joss’s Mom, often through Grace, and that the answers weren’t all Hollywood/storybook clean and good, but that they felt real and believable and shed some light on other topics.  I loved Grace and what she added to the story (as I’ve already said).

And as always, I LOVED our secondary characters.  Kyle, Taryn, TK and Levi were da bomb dot com.  Even Bria had a tiny moment.  I love when a book gives us not only fabulous main characters to love, but an amazing supporting cast.

So yeah.  There’s my novel of a review.  This book left me happy and satisfied.  The only reason it’s not a full 5 stars is because I felt like the pacing could have been tightened up in places.  But I was so satisfied with so many other aspects, that it really didn’t affect me as much as it might have in another novel.  And on a strange final sidenote, I do not have any interest in baseball as a sport whatsoever.  But this novel actually made me consider watching a game with my Mom…that’s a miracle folks, a miracle.

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Field of Schemes by Jennifer Coburn

17458431Blurb: Newly widowed Claire Emmett leaves Los Angeles so she and her eleven-year-old daughter, Rachel, can have a fresh start in the picture-perfect suburb of Santa Bella, California. But the simple, quiet life she seeks is nowhere to be found in the town where soccer is king and parents are far, far too involved in children’s sports.

When Rachel is scouted for an elite travel team, Claire is sucked into a world of high drama, backstabbing and deceit. The team manager plots a Wall Street-style hostile takeover. Parents sabotage players, serve as sports agents, and trade sexual favors for playtime.

Off the field, Claire must navigate the brave new world of the suburbs and build a life that doesn’t revolve around kids’ sports. Nothing is simple in Santa Bella, though. Claire’s neighbor is an outrageous flirt. She stumbles upon some dark secrets and unwittingly becomes the target of a very powerful enemy.

As Rachel’s team moves to the State Cup championship, Claire must develop a game plan of her own. It’s time for her to fight back and show her daughter what it means to be a soccer mom who plays to win when it matters most.

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DNF

Originally, the title, cover and blurb drew me in.

But…..It was slow, and the same things kept getting repeated. Like how hard it was for her to move on and the fact she likes to run away when things get tough.  They just didn’t seem to be progressing fast enough to hold my attention.  And I guess I have an issue with this but….the TELLING! OMG, there was so much telling.  I was just not interested enough to move past the slow parts.
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Tanner by Sarah Mayberry

Blurb:
34682642He’s used to risking it all in the ring, but nothing prepared him for love…

After flying half-way around the world to surprise her boyfriend, Evie Forrester finds herself heartbroken and stranded in a strange city. What could be a total disaster becomes something else when a tall, dark bull rider turns out to be a white knight in disguise. Evie isn’t sure she needs saving, but Tanner Harding is a difficult man to deny. He’s even harder to resist…

Tanner Harding can tame a monster bull with ease, but he never expected to be floored by someone like Evie. Sparks fly between them until injury threatens to end Tanner’s career –and suddenly he’s the one in need of a rescue.

Evie can’t turn her back on her wounded hero and, as Tanner struggles with his recovery, she’s not sure she can guard her heart against him either. Tanner knows Evie has slipped under his skin, but she lives in Australia and his future is under a cloud. Can two people with too many reasons to walk away make the bold decision to stay?

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

I have made it no secret that I am a huge Sarah Mayberry fan.  Back when I was reading Harlequins like they were going out of style, I found her to be a refreshing voice full of humour and sass, and always unique characters and situations.  And I’ve read a few of her books outside of the Harlequins (she’s had a few with Tule publishing), and she always just feeds my happy romance reader heart.

I was worried that I wasn’t going to fall in love with Evie at the beginning of the book.  She just struck me as really naive, and I couldn’t help but groan at the decision she had made and how she couldn’t see how it was going to end up, you know?  But somewhere along the way, Ms. Mayberry made me love her anyways.  I can’t say I completely understand why she decided on the surprise trip, but I can accept it I guess, you know?  I was OK with what we got from the fallout of that decision (how she dealt with it), and surprisingly didn’t end up hating Troy (the boyfriend).  I kind of feel like that’s a miracle.  And the way that all went down helped to make me believe in her developing relationship with Tanner…I think if it had been any different, it would have rubbed me the wrong way you know?  That was an intriguing balancing act by Ms. Mayberry.

And Evie was just so sassy, I loved her dry sense of humour.  I LOVED the way she handled Tanner after the turning point, she was just perfect.  And you really could see her kindness and stubbornness.  And I loved that we got to see her depth, and I really believed in her love of animals and such.

I’m not always a huge fan of taciturn heroes, but Tanner was so much more than that.  Sure, he could be gruff and grumpy, but he could also be sassy and teasing and he made me swoon with how he stepped in right away with Evie.  He had his lower moments, of course, but I was satisfied with how that all played out.  I kind of wish we could have seen him deal with the plot twist…we got some of it at the beginning, but then it faded a bit.  I just wanted his feelings revisited a bit, it was overshadowed by the romance.

But damn people, the romance was smoking.  I really did feel the chemistry and the steamy scenes were very hot.

The other thing I really appreciated about this story is how well she can drop you into an environment and really make you feel it and understand it.  I’ve never had any interest in bull riding, but I felt like we got a realistic glimpse of what the sport is like, with both the challenges and the highs.  I really appreciate that, because then it doesn’t feel like a gimmick, but something that is a really big part of the heroes life.

All in all it fulfilled my romantic heart, as Ms. Mayberry’s stories always do.  And the epilogue gave me just enough to have me grinning from ear to ear.

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Confessions of a Former Puck Bunny by Cindi Madsen

Blurb:
34733602Confession #1:
I used to be a puck bunny, but after a hockey player broke my heart, I gave up all things hockey. Now I’m just focused on finding a way to pass my math class so I can graduate college.


Confession #2: Ryder “Ox” Maddox’s deep, sexy voice sends fuzzy tingles through my entire body, and I’m powerless to stop it. Which is a big problem since the hot, surprisingly funny hockey player is my new math tutor.

Confession #3: I can’t stop thinking about how ripped Ryder is from all his hockey training, and how fun it’d be to cross lines with him.

Confession #4: I kissed a hockey player and I liked it.

Confession #5: If I’m not careful, I might relapse and fall for Ryder, and then I’ll be totally pucked.

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

OK, so I will admit that because of shifting priorities in reading, I have not yet had a chance to read books 2 and 3 of this series, but other than getting spoiled that those couples have a HEA (which duh), I don’t think it spoiled my reading experience in the slightest.  All it did is make me want to go back and read those books NOW NOW NOW, so let’s hope that I can fit them in before the year is out (especially Dane, he made me laugh).  And quite honestly the “family” of players and girlfriends added so much to this story, I LOVED having them there.

Now that that’s out of the way, OMG SWOON!!!  And you know who that swooning is for?  Oh yeah, it’s all for Ryder.  That boy is a perfect mix of sweet/funny and sexy/aggressive.  Like could there really be a more potent combination??  I love me a beta boy, and while I would NOT call Ryder a beta boy in the slightest, I felt like he had some of those qualities you know?  He was just so sweet and attentive and I felt like he surprised me at many turns (just as he surprised Lindsay).  And the way he pursued her with such single-minded determination?  Holy hot balls!!  (is that a saying?  I’m making that a saying)  ANYWAYS, he was the perfect omega boy, with a healthy dose of alpha traits mixed in as well.  I honestly can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with him.  Or maybe I just can’t get out of my own head, and I’m in love with him.

I also really enjoyed his backstory, and how it shaped him and the decisions he made.  I thought that his growth was realistic, because while I was in love with him, he did need a smack or two along the way.  But it made it satisfying to see him do what he could to prove his feelings.  And that was another thing I enjoyed, I appreciated that the forgiveness wasn’t easy (because he really did f* up), and he had to fight for her a bit.  That paint gun scene was immensely satisfying, as was the way the ending played out (sorry can’t elaborate, it would be spoilerific to the extreme).

Now don’t be fooled, I’m not done with my gushing.  Why?  Because we don’t just get a smoking hero, we also got a fabulous heroine to match him.  Lindsay was sassy, and vulnerable, and had a lot of depth.  I LOVED being in her head and seeing her fight through her instincts honed by her bizarre upbringing.  She had such a journey to go on, I can’t even tell you.

And this brings me to the most surprising thing about this book that seriously just won me over, mostly b/c I was expecting something different.  This book totally could have gone down judgemental lane, but Ms. Madsen hit it out of the park by avoiding that pitfall.  I mean, come on people, Lindsay was a former puck bunny!!  And so many authors just love to throw those girls under the bus, but Ms. Madsen tried to give us a different perspective of why they might do what they do.  And not only that, but Lindsay even admitted that they all had their own motivations, and she tried hard not to fall into the trap of judging girls who might enjoy one night stands.  I know I can fall into this trap myself, even if I try not to, so I just really appreciated this sooooo much.  Lindsay was unhappy with her former life because of her *own* reasons, not because it’s inherently shameful.  I loved the lack of double standard that showed.  Right on Lindsay, right on.

So I’ll end this review with a Confession of my own: I watch quite a bit of hockey (heck, my Oilers are in the playoffs as we speak and I’m GLUED to the TV for it), so I love a good hockey romance.  But damn, do these books give an unrealistic representation of the number of good looking hockey players.  I’m not saying they don’t all likely have amazing bodies, but when I look up and down the bench, I’m really not seeing teamfuls of gorgeous guys…or at least not gorgeous to me.  No offense hockey players, I’m sure it’s me and not you.  😛

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Pipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen

Blurb:
31820744A goalie has to trust his instincts, even when taking a shot to the heart…

Mike Beacon is a champion at defending the net, but off the ice, he’s not so lucky. A widower and a single father, he’s never forgotten Lauren Williams, the ex who gave him the best year of his life. When Lauren reappears in the Bruisers office during the playoffs, Beacon sees his chance to make things right.

Lauren hates that she’s forced to travel with the team she used to work for and the man who broke her heart. There’s still undeniable sexual tension running between her and Mike, but she won’t go down that road again. She’s focused on her plans for the future—she doesn’t need a man to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Lauren plays her best defensive game, but she’s no match for the dark-eyed goalie. When the field of play moves to Florida, things heat up on the beach.

One of Mike’s biggest fans doesn’t approve—his teenage daughter. But a true competitor knows not to waste the perfect shot at love.

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

This one is going to be a hard one to review.  Because I loved so much of it, even if I can see potential pitfalls for others.  There’s a teeny tiny part of me that thinks that things progressed too smoothly, or worked out too well, or was just too convenient at times.  But you know what?  I found I just didn’t care.  Because sometimes life does just work out at the right moments.  It doesn’t have to be all super angsty, sometimes relationships can move forward without huge devastating roadblocks.  Which is not to say that Mike and Lauren didn’t have roadblocks, it just seemed like some of the turns in the plot felt a little convenient.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Lauren.  I mean, she really comes across as a witch with a b in the other two books.  And I’m not entirely sure I buy the transition to the Lauren we discover in this book, but, again, I’m not sure how much I care.  A part of me wishes I’d known more of what was going on in her head when she was being not so nice to the girls.  There were definitely explanations given for her uptight attitude, and they worked to an extent, I just wanted a wee bit more.  BUT if you ignore her from the other books, then just Lauren from this book was actually pretty awesome.  I hated to read about everything that happened to her as a result of her relationship with Mike and subsequent breakup.  I could totally see it happening too, and how it would irrevocably change her.  But I loved that she was so smart and really went after the things she desired in life.  And I loved that she didn’t compromise those aspects of herself when things started to change with Mike.

Regardless of the bad choices Mike made surrounding the breakup with Lauren, I can still sympathize with him while still thinking he was a bit of a bonehead.  Just like with Lauren, despite how much you hurt with her about the past, he still manages to bulldoze his way into your heart.  He was such an intriguing hero actually.  Such single minded determination yo.  Once he got his head out of his butt, he really turned on the charm and went after what he wanted.  And he was funny, and sweet, and charming, but not in a smarmy way you know?  You just couldn’t help but love him.  He made me laugh, and as such he got away with some pretty outrageous behavior at times.  I keep shaking my head at him, but I’m still sold.

Their chemistry was seriously solid too, making for some epic steamy scenes.  You really just wanted to root for them, you know?

And there was lots of delicious hockey in this one.  As a hockey fan who is currently entrenched in playoff season, this was a perfect read for me.

Fabulous secondary character support as usual.  Loved Hans.  Nice to see all our favourite past characters making appearances as well.  And just so you know Ms Bowen, that wasn’t enough for Nate & Becca.  I still politely plead for at least a novella.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!  In fact, I wouldn’t mind a Silas book too…just saying.  You know, not being greedy or anything, noooooo….

So yeah, even though some things felt a little too smooth in the plot, I was still a happy little reader.  Sometimes you just want to read about love winning, you know?

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Pucked by Helena Hunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Waiting on the Sidelines by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
18807015Nolan Lennox had things figured out. Named after a baseball legend, she enjoyed being the Tomboy, her closet filled with her brother’s hand-me-downs, cut-off jeans and soccer shorts. But when her first trip to high school results in a broken heart from the first boy to ever make her heart flutter and cruel words from an older girl she once thought a family friend, Nolan starts to question the very person she thought she was and wonders if her humble upbringing can compete with the afforded luxuries of her privileged peers.

Throughout the next four years, Nolan struggles to maintain herself throughout her path of discovery, learning just how cruel teenagers can be through the pressures of underage drinking, sexuality and class. And despite how life seems to continue to work against her, she still manages to listen to her heart, falling deeper and deeper for the guy the entire town adores, even if he only sees her as a friend. Can Nolan strike a compromise between her own integrity and the boy she loves? And can she make him notice her before it’s too late?

Reed Johnson came to Coolidge High School with a lot of fanfare. The son of a hometown football legend and the brother of a local football hero, Reed wore all the pressures of carrying a town without hope into the spotlight. Thankfully, he had the talent to back it up. But when he meets a girl who makes him think twice about exactly what being a hero means, he starts to wonder if following in his brother’s footsteps might be all wrong.

Nolan Lennox was everything that was opposite of expected. She didn’t flirt, she didn’t drink and she didn’t sleep around. Nothing about her was easy, but something about her made Reed want to try harder. Though she didn’t look the part, she seemed to be spending a lot of time in Reed’s thoughts, and he wondered if she could be the one who made it all worthwhile. But could Reed handle letting her down? And would breaking her heart break him beyond repair?

Waiting on the Sidelines explores young love to its fullest, exposing how real young heartbreak and passion is and how important it is to discover yourself and hold onto your own identity. The story follows two young characters as they deal with mature situations, including the prevalence of bullying and promiscuity in today’s high school setting. Ultimately, Waiting on the Sidelines is a story of hope, honesty and those powerful, first true loves–the ones worth holding onto at any cost.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — Well crap.  I can’t even tell you how bummed I am right now.  This book started off AMAZINGLY.  Like, I stupidly started it at midnight (I know, but I couldn’t get my brain to sleep), and then I proceeded to stay up til 4am reading — THAT kind of amazingly.  Like, amazingly enough that I gushed on Facebook about it.  But little things that bothered me kept building up and building up until I was left with an ending that was so unsatisfying for me.  I’m so sad right now.  😦

OK, so we’re going to sprinkle the good with the bad, b/c each aspect of the story had both for me.

Nolan was initially my kind of girl.  I love reading about insecure heroines (I know, kind of weird, but I can relate).  But she was so strong in other ways as well.  And this was truly a coming of age story.  She made some cringeworthy decisions at times, but it also felt authentic to a teenage experience (even if I don’t want that to be true).  She bowed to peer pressure on occasion, right from the very start…she wasn’t immune to the horrible things other teenagers can say and do.  I actually loved this part.  Because you know what?  Not every teen girl is strong and can brush that stuff off.  Especially early on in high school.  And I did get to see some growth there, she had strong moments and weak moments and vacillated between them in the way that often happens when a person is growing up.  So while I *hated* some of the things she did (mostly wrt her romantic relationships), I initially forgave her because I expected growth and change.  The problem is, I didn’t quite get enough growth and change to satisfy me.  Mostly wrt her relationship with Reed.  So while I actually celebrated the growth we did see — I adored the passion she developed with Nancy, and her memoir was beautiful — it wasn’t enough to make up for what ended up being a very unhealthy relationship that she continually pursued.

And that’s where the major problem lies for me in this book.  I ended up hating the romance.  There were glimmers in the beginning that had me sooooo excited.  I truly felt Nolan’s crush on Reed, and I could even see his feelings for her.  I found it so intriguing to read about Nolan’s high school journey and how her relationship with Reed changed over those years.  I kind of liked that it was initially unrequited, but that there was a strong friendship there.  But at a certain point I wanted to see more of what was keeping them interested in each other.  Again, I wanted growth and change, and I didn’t quite get that.  Reed had these glimmers of goodness, and the summer after sophomore year looked like it was going to be amazeballs!  I had so many tummy tingles, and I had forgiven him for his teenaged choices earlier.  I was just happy.  I knew it wouldn’t last, but I was not expecting what happened.  Or rather, I sort of was, but this time I was disappointed (there had been some other predictable plot choices earlier on, but I was fine with them).  The main reason I was disappointed was lack of communication.  I *hate* when the whole reason things don’t work is a lack of communication.  It’s so unrealistic to me that Reed wouldn’t have yelled out the reason right away.  Or that someone else wouldn’t have told Nolan.

And at that point, the romance spiraled out of control for me.  Not saying there weren’t good moments, but it stopped being enough.  Reed was a dick.  I could forgive earlier moments, but when he continued to make horrible and hurtful choices without learning and changing, his apologies didn’t end up feeling sincere.  I felt like Nolan bent over backwards for him, and that’s just not healthy.  It made Nolan look a bit more doormat-like, and it made Reed more and more unredeemable.

(This paragraph might be a bit spoilerish, so please stop reading if you haven’t read the book and still want to) I still held out hope though.  I sincerely did.  I vacillated between two major desires for an ending.  I WANTED that redemption for Reed, or I wanted it to not be a HEA for Reed and Nolan.  And I got neither.  I actually was leaning more towards the second scenario, and then this book really would have been more of a coming of age.  I wanted Nolan to realize that while she might love Reed, it wasn’t healthy for her and it never would be.  I wanted her to love herself more.  I wanted her to go to College and find a better love, and know that Reed would be her first, but that she deserved better.  BUT, if I couldn’t have that, then I wanted Reed to understand that he needed help.  Because he did.  He was unhealthy.  He had goodness in him, but he wasn’t treating Nolan well.  I at least needed him to truly change and make a grand gesture.  A hat is not a grand gesture.  And he should have been mortified that he had made Nolan believe she was at fault.  I needed to *see* him change before I could give him another chance.

(OK, end spoilers) I enjoyed a lot of the secondary characters though.  I found her best friends to be interesting, and I almost wish she had listened to them more (especially Sienna, she seems to have a good head on her shoulders).  I really loved Sean (and eventually Becky), and that *really* pleasantly surprised me.  And I loved most of the parents in this story.  Nolan’s were actually pretty good people, and pretty tapped into her.  And then there was Buck.  I wanted more from him for *Reed*, but I guess I can’t say what kind of conversations they had since we never had Reed’s POV.  But I LOVED what he was for Nolan.  He was a big pleasant surprise.

So yeah.  A super strong start, but for me it was mired with an unhealthy relationship, an unredeemable hero, and too many problems that boiled down to communication.  So, basically, bummer.  And reading the bad reviews for the next book, it sounds like more miscommunications, so I won’t be continuing on.

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Wicked Restless by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
26821969Andrew Harper grew up in a house marked by tragedy. His older brother Owen did his best to shelter him, but you can only be protected from life’s pain for so long. Eventually, you end up just feeling numb…and isolated.

Loneliness was the one constant in Andrew’s life. Until one girl, met by chance in a high school hallway, changed everything. Emma Burke was a mystery and all that was beautiful in this world, the only air Andrew ever wanted to breathe. She took the lonely away, and filled it with hope and color, and Andrew would do anything to keep her safe, happy and whole.

But sometimes, what feels good and right is what ends up hurting us the most. And when Andrew and Emma are faced with an impossible decision, Andrew is tested to see just how far he’s willing to go for the girl who owns his heart.

Cuts are deep.
Scars are left behind.
And revenge beckons.

When Andrew finally gets his chance, in college, five years after his first love broke him completely, he finds out old feelings don’t really disappear just because you say you hate someone. The more he tries to avenge all that he believes he lost, the more he uncovers the real story of what happened years before.

Love is wicked. But a restless heart is never satisfied beating on its own. Can Andrew and Emma make it right before it’s too late, or will the ties that bind them now destroy their only chance at a future?

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My Review:
4 stars — OK, this one is a harder book to review and rate too, but the successes were much clearer and more impactful for me, so they definitely weigh more heavily in my opinion.  So I can definitely say that Andrew’s book was a hit for me, even if I did have some reservations.

I think my problem comes in that I was SO in love with Andrew in Wild Reckless, or at least what I could see of him.  He was sweet, and felt more beta boy, and yet lonely too.  I was curious where his story would go.  AND I FELL IN LOVE with him in Part One!  OMG, that boy was everything I was hoping he would be!!  He gave me tummy tingles, and made me giggle and swoon.  I ADORED Part One of this story (and yes, all the way through the letters too).  It made me so happy and so sad all at once.  I’m not always happy with being in the dark for long periods about certain aspects, but I did at least know there was more to Emma’s story based on comments made here and there (and actually had a pretty good guess, though it turned out to not be quite right).  I really loved that love story between them.  I felt their infatuation with one another, I felt how strongly their feelings came on.  And because of the Part One “climax” of sorts, I could understand how those feelings could be made even more impactful when you go through something difficult together.  I understood why Emma was scared (even without knowing the details of her story), and I totally believed in Andrew’s sacrifice.  So if I’m not making myself clear, I LOVED both characters in Part One.

And thus, my heart HURT for who Andrew became 5 years later.  And I actually got it.  I think the reason Ms. Scott succeeds in making me believe in Andrew and how he got to where he did is that I saw inside his head (LOVE dual POV books), AND I saw who he was before, I saw some transition in the letters, and eventually we learned a lot of the things that fundamentally changed him for the worse.  I TRULY GOT IT.  But I wish I didn’t.  My ultimate problem with this book, and the reason it’s a 4 star and not a 5 star, is that I hate Andrew’s choices for 30% of the book.  He was HORRIBLE.  To Emma yes, but mostly to Lindsey.  I think it went too far for my delicate sensibilities.  I don’t want to be *that* disappointed in a boy I love.  I honestly think the only reason I can forgive him is because I knew who he was before, who he *still* could be inside, and because I got to see some remorse.  But I’m still sad.  I would have appreciated it more if he made some initial bad decisions, but then distanced himself.  Ah well, we can’t always get what we want.

And I didn’t expect all the drama that found our hero and heroine in this story, but I was hooked on the ride.  I saw a few things coming, and I had all the feels for Emma and the struggles she goes through.  I thought that side plot was particularly impactful, and I enjoyed the journey she went on.  I think everyone’s journey is different, but I believed in the paths she took.  And I was satisfied with the way Andrew handled the situation.  I think that’s where we begin to love our hero again and forgive him.  It’s too bad it takes that, and maybe it’s a bit convenient, but I’m ok with that.  I actually felt like the Emma struggle from Part One (I’m trying to be vague and not give anything away) kind of got lost in Part Two.  I thought it would get more limelight, but it didn’t really seem to impact her life or come into play between her and Andrew.  I was a bit disappointed with that.  Again, sometimes there’s too much difficult stuff, and so you can’t spread the focus to all of it.  Ah well.

My absolute FAVOURITE part was the first date in Part Two.  OMG, could Andrew be anymore adorable?  And the way Emma hugged those presents, OMG OMG OMG.  LOVED them both.

AND, I’m totally onboard with another reviewers suggestion of a story for Trent.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!  That boy was so sweet, and it was nice to see Andrew have a good friend.

So yeah.  I had some struggles, but the good stuff wins this time.  (on a side note, I don’t get the cover…particularly the ferris wheel)

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Bound by Brenda Rothert

Blurb:
18943370College senior Kate Camden has learned to adapt – to her last year of school, to the promise of motherhood, to the fact that she’s doing it all alone. But just when she’s learned to adjust, heartache threatens to break her apart.

Pro hockey player Jason “Ryke” Ryker has it all: adoring fans, a promising career, and a beautiful wife. But when his seemingly perfect life is shaken by tragedy, he’s left questioning whether having it all is ever more than an illusion.

When circumstance brings Kate and Ryke together, they discover they don’t have to hurt alone. Bound by a grief that haunts them both, they must rely on one another to survive heartbreak. But that grief is more powerful than they realize, and the tie that binds them together may ultimately tear them apart.

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My Review:
3 stars — Picky Lenore strikes again!!!  Dude, this is getting annoying.

OK, first things first, I honestly interpreted the first paragraph of the blurb to mean one thing, and in the prologue we find out something completely different.  I thought she was going to be a single mother.  So I had to do a bit of a context switch.  Not a big deal, but I had been anticipating a certain type of read so it threw me.

Let’s start positive!  Things I loved.  I really enjoyed the grief support group sessions.  Both just from a general perspective of seeing people struggling through grief, and how it has its ups and downs and is a constant struggle.  While I never went to any groups like this, I think many people don’t realize just what grief does to people…and everyone adjusts differently.  I also enjoyed the way Ryke and Kate were able to admit to some of their fears in the group, and sort of tell the other person in a safer space.  It allowed them to understand some challenges that they might have kept to themselves without that weird veneer.  I really loved how Ms. Rothert tackled grief and especially Kate’s story, which may not be obvious to many people, but it’s very real and heartbreaking.  I also really enjoyed the connection that Ryke and Kate had because of their shared grief.  I didn’t feel like it was forced or contrived, and there were moments where (particularly) Ryke was there for Kate that were just perfect — like the moment on the dock when they were camping.

I LOVED Ryke’s patience at times.  And how hard he tried to do the right thing for Kate and not rush her, but still convey his desires.  And he was pretty hilarious at times.  I even enjoyed his comradery with his fellow hockey players, particularly Luke.  And the bits of hockey we did get were fantastic, making this a true sports romance because we actually got to see the sport being played.  And that moment at the charity event where Kate was talking about hockey fights was gold, I LOVED it!  Made me laugh.  And I adored the interactions Kate had with her Mom, and the games night with her Mom and Dale.

BUT.  Unfortunately there’s a but.  There were a million little things that bugged me and kept me from truly enjoying this story.  Kate wasn’t a terrible character, but other than her grief, I found I didn’t really enjoy her.  The hot and cold stuff went on a bit too long for it to be understandable.  I just didn’t see the growth in her I wanted to, so I didn’t understand what changed when things between her and Ryke FINALLY progressed.  And I wasn’t all that impressed with a psychology major who was so opposed to counselling…you would think she would be less dismissive of it.

And there was a lack of consistency at times.  Almost like the author made some decisions to change up the story, but didn’t go back and smooth out the beginning.  Like the first impression we’re given of Mags is a LOT different from our final impression of her.  And I’m kind of bummed that there really wasn’t ANYTHING redeemable about her, I think I would have appreciated the story more if she hadn’t been somewhat villified.  Ryke could still have not had the same kind of love as for Kate without making Mags a bitch.  And Kate wasn’t necessarily consistent either.  She starts off being kind of jealous like Mags, but then it was like that didn’t work so then suddenly she wasn’t.  Or it was explained away by other things.  I couldn’t quite get a grasp on who she was.

And the believability of parts of the story didn’t work for me.  Like, even if Kate is opposed to sex, what about other non-pregnancy-inducing intimate activities?  Or does she just feel as though it’s a floodgate that once opened would lead there?  And moving in together???  Where did she sleep?  How did that work??  I don’t understand.  And after the confession about his parents and family and how bummed he was, she still reacted like that to the present?  Sucks.  And people in relationships really play that kissing game??  Really?  Didn’t like that at all.

*sigh*  OK, I probably have more to say, but I’m going to stop there.  I think I enjoyed the first half more b/c I assumed that the development would happen faster, and when it kept not happening, I started to lose my mojo.  I don’t mind having obstacles, but leaving them to the very end doesn’t make the transition as believable.  And I didn’t even get good steamy times to make up for it.  I don’t know what to do about this author now, b/c I LOVED her most recent book.  I don’t want to read anymore Kate and Ryke, that’s for sure.  I can’t decide what to do.  Maybe I’ll watch for future books, maybe it’s that she’s developed a lot more over time and I prefer her writing now.  We’ll see.

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Swinging at Love by Kendra C. Highley

Blurb:
34387362Outfielder Tristan Murrell has a problem. As the number two slugger for the Suttonville Sentinels, his team is counting on him to make their very first run at the state championship. But he has a secret—his swing has totally deserted him. As in, he can’t hit anything. He needs to fix the issue, and fast, but how?

Ballerina Alyssa Kaplan has a problem, too. The shiny new sports complex in town has left her family’s batting cage business on the verge of going under. Nailing her audition for a prestigious dance company is everything, but there’s no way she’s letting her some shiny big-box company destroy her family’s livelihood.

Tristan needs a miracle. So does Alyssa. And maybe, just maybe, Tristan’s secret weapon might be the girl of his dreams…

Disclaimer: This book contains hot, shirtless baseball players, kisses that bring a ballerina to her knees, and a lot of baseball smack-talk.

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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, this was a solid next book in the series that I didn’t know was going to be a series!!  And while I’m a little disappointed Faith and Kyle’s BFFs weren’t the focus of this story, Tristan and Alyssa were a pretty freaking spectacular consolation prize.  😉  And no, you don’t have to read book 1, but honestly, why wouldn’t you?  Shoot, I’m not even a baseball fan, or really a big muscular arms on a guy girl, but DAMN.  Ms. Highley knows how to make me swoon.  This is exactly what I love from a young adult romance…a fun quick read, lots of lightness and sweetness and swooning, but with just enough depth to give me more.

I think the thing I love most about both this book and the previous one is the sweetness of the heroes.  Tristan was just adorable!  He didn’t have the same background that Kyle did, but he was just really down to earth, and he knew what attracted him.  He had his own struggles coming from a family with completely different interests to him, and I could really appreciate that aspect to his story.  I liked that while he did feel like the odd man out in his family, his family was still good peeps…just lost in the world of baseball.  It’s an interesting facet that I don’t necessarily read a lot, where you have that dichotomy, but still have the love you know?  Not that that makes it any easier.  It was nice that he had Keller too.

And Alyssa was just awesomesauce.  I loved her sass, her insecurities, her straight talking, her confidence in certain things.  If I swung that way, I would totally be intrigued by her.  And I loved her own family dynamic.  I loved how close she was, how much her family influenced her, and it was nice to see a story where it wasn’t rich guy with poor girl (or vice versa), but there was a money/lifestyle disparity. But it wasn’t really the focus.  It was about how her family was struggling with their local business in an economy that’s hurting everyone.  I loved how important Swing Away was to her, and what she was willing to sacrifice for it.

And oh wow, Tristan and Alyssa’s chemistry was fantastic.  Right from their first interaction, you could just feel it.  I enjoyed that.  I was SERIOUSLY concerned with the way things would play out with Dylan and Lauren, and I was kind of disappointed in how it went initially, but it didn’t drag on like I thought it would, and it resolved better than I expected.  So phew.

And now, this girl who has no interest in baseball whatsoever, is seriously hoping for more from this series.  I love book baseball.  It’s way more exciting.  And I want more swoony guys from Ms. Highley, she seriously excels.

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