Off the Ice by Julie Cross

Blurb:

25538649The NY Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Whatever Life Throws at You kicks off a brand-new series perfect for fans of Miranda Kennealy and Abbi Glines.

Next season was supposed to be his year. Junior Tate Tanley had big plans to ride the varsity bench most of the season, but when the Otters star goalie storms out of the arena during the first home game of the season, Tate is in the spotlight and under the gun.

Enter Claire O’Connor, the girl Tate’s admired for years, his sister’s best friend. Claire’s back from a year away at school to take care of her father and help keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. One semester off, that’s what Claire promised herself.

And then straight back to school, out of Juniper Falls. And she has dozens of reasons for wanting to get the hell out. Again.

Last year, the night before Claire left, she came to Tate’s rescue and what could have been a secret that distanced them ended up drawing them closer the moment she returned to town. For Claire and Tate, leaning on each other feels as natural as breathing but with Claire trying her best to leave again and Tate more rooted to his town than ever, it seems like the worst time to fall in love. Assuming either of them can stop it from happening.

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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.

Wow, this book had so much depth and heart.  I think I get used to the Entangled Crush line of books, and I forgot this wasn’t one of those.  This book has two characters dealing with some pretty heavy stuff, and I really loved how the author took us through that and the reactions and actions all made sense to me.  It was just really well done.  It made me feel for both of them, and I was intrigued with how they were dealing with it and how their relationship with each other would either benefit or hinder them.  So it was kind of a coming of age story too…not super overt, but you do see these characters grow and come into their own more.

Before I go into more of what I enjoyed about each character, I will say that the ages in this book were kind of confusing.  At the very beginning Tate says that Claire is only a year older than him, but she’s his sister’s best friend, so I’m going to assume they are around the same age.  But for the majority of the book Tate is in his Junior year of high school, while his sister is in her first year of University.  So isn’t that like 2 years?  And so I never really understand Claire’s year at Northwestern.  Had she graduated high school a year early and gone to University?  Or was she at some special program that was neither high school nor University?  It’s not like it’s a big deal I guess, but it was just something that nagged at me throughout the book.

Claire’s situation was just freaking heartbreaking.  And the author did such a fantastic job of showing the many day to day struggles that a family would undertake in such a situation.  I could totally empathize with what Claire was going through, and how she was feeling about her future, and how torn she was.  Seriously, it was just so spot on.

And Tate gave me all the feels too!!  Seriously, I could totally understand how he was feeling, and why he dealt with things the way he did.  I couldn’t imagine what that must have been like, especially in that town.  And can I just say that he was seriously swoony?  Like kind of a beta boy…or if not beta, omega?  Is that a thing?  He was just so sweet and there was so much there there.

And Claire and Tate together definitely had interesting chemistry.  Normally there on again off again thing would have bothered me more, but it kind of fit for what they were both struggling through in their lives.  I was sometimes a bit disappointed in the time jumps though, b/c I kept wondering what happened in the interim: were they hanging out?  What was the development?

And all the side stuff!!  You guys!  Normally I don’t like a book to be too cluttered up, but it all just fit nicely for me!  I loved the stuff with Mike.  I loved the little bits we saw of Leo and Jamie.  I’m very excited to see if the next books in the series will be books about these other hockey boys.  I even enjoyed the way the Haley thing played out.  It was so much more real, and not over dramatic.  Where it could have devolved into familiar tropes, I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

And the PARENTS!!  I love it when parents play a role in YA stories.  And there are good role models!  I mean, yes, bad stuff too, but just some great stuff there!  Especially with Rodger.  Big thumbs up.

Honestly, the only reason I’m rounding down is because of the mood I’m in.  I didn’t get that 5 star feel at the end, and I think I’m just a bit distracted in my reading right now.  Oh, and the time jumps I guess.  But I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to more in this world.

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Jacked Up by Samantha Kane

Blurb:

32506423The secret about the Birmingham Rebels is out: With a girl in the middle, two mouth-watering football studs are better than one.

Linebacker Sam Taylor feels like a ticking time bomb. He left the army with emotional wounds as fresh as the scars on his back. Sam’s been living like a monk, but his best friend, defensive lineman King Ulupoka, wants to get him laid. Easy for him to say. The larger-than-life Samoan is a hard-bodied, tribal-tattooed fantasy. Sam agrees, under one condition: King stays to watch.

ER nurse Jane Foster is done being a good girl, and nothing says wild like picking up two of football’s sexiest players and bringing them back to your hotel room. Trouble is, she can’t decide which one she wants more. Sam is hot, sweet, and vulnerable. Jane’s more than willing to ride him into oblivion. But King’s intense gaze from across the room promises that the best is yet to come.

Sure, King has had his choice of girls and guys in the past. That doesn’t mean he’ll jeopardize his relationship with Sam over a case of locker-room lust—until a naughty nurse pushes them both out of their comfort zones. Seeing Jane and Sam together turns King on more than he ever imagined. If they’re game, he’s ready to tackle a three-way play.

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

I’ve read a few books in Ms. Kane’s historical menage series (Brothers in Arms) and really enjoyed them, and this modern series is quite entertaining as well!  It had some intriguing characters, a bit of depth (which is always nice for an erotica read), and obviously some hot sex.  And I enjoyed the little glimpses of either past book characters, or potential next book characters in the series.  It’s always fun when a series follows a close knit group of characters, in this case all being involved in the same fictional NFL football team.

I adored King.  I loved that he brought a little bit of diversity with his Samoan heritage, and I didn’t feel as though he was a caricature.  But he was so laid back and accepting, I just wanted to hug him for always thinking the right things and helping Sam and Jane get to the right places.

Sam was a bit up and down for me.  I LOVED the military background story we got with him, and he was so damaged and vulnerable, but willing to make baby steps and try to change and grow and slowly embrace the changes.  I loved some of his conversations with the team psych, Mark.  Heck, I loved some of King’s conversations with Mark too.  But he just brought this book from normal erotica to something with more depth and interest, if that makes sense.

And then there’s Jane.  *sigh*  She was a tough character to love, b/c she spent a lot of the book slut-shaming herself.  And I really don’t deal well with that, but it was kind of the topic of the book and something she was supposed to be learning to deal with and changing and growing about.  But there was just so fricking much of it, it was hard to take.  And it took her so long to learn, and I’m still not sure she really did and accepted it as much.  For all that self-flagellation, I was hoping for more of an obvious breakthrough I guess.  And other than that I’m not sure I really learned enough about her to like her a lot.  Not that I disliked her, she just didn’t make a big impression.  Although I did love how she handled Sam, and his issues from the PTSD to being confused about being bi.

And now onto the major aspect of any good menage erotica: the steamy scenes!!  And oh my gawd, they were a contradiction.  They were sooooo hot sometimes, like really woosh.  And then they would start talking.  And quite frankly, the dirty talking just didn’t work for me in this book.   It might have been just me, but it was just too comical at times.  I know it was supposed to be, but then it just felt forced to me.  Like how I would sound dirty talking.  Like from a script or something.  It was just a personal taste thing.  And it was pervasive through every steamy scene, so it was a mix of good and bad I guess.

So in the end it was a solid erotica, but the little things (like the dirty talking and the slut shaming) just have me rounding down instead of up this time.

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Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen

Blurb:

30307297From the USA Today bestselling author of Rookie Move comes the second novel in the series that’s hot enough to melt the ice.

 
He’s a fighter in the rink, but he’s about to learn that playing nice can help you score…
 
As team captain and enforcer, Patrick O’Doul puts the bruise in the Brooklyn Bruisers. But after years of hard hits, O’Doul is feeling the burn, both physically and mentally. He conceals his pain from his coach and trainers, but when his chronic hip injury becomes too obvious to ignore, they send him for sessions with the team’s massage therapist.

After breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, Ari Bettini is in need of peace of mind. For now, she’s decided to focus on her work: rehabilitating the Bruisers’ MVP. O’Doul is easy on the eyes, but his reaction to her touch is ice cold. Ari is determined to help O’Doul heal, but as the tension between them turns red hot, they both learn that a little TLC does the body good…

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

This was a solid followup book in this series!!  I’m still anxious to find out what’s going on with Nate and Becca, but I actually really loved Ari and Patrick’s love story.  I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I had more dedicated time to read it, and wasn’t constantly interrupted…a bookworm’s nightmare, am I right?

I think I’d read a teaser for this one at the end of the first book, and for some reason I thought there would be something more specifically devastating in O’Doul’s past, particularly with his dislike of being touched.  So often that screams of abuse that’s more than just physical.  So I kind of kept waiting for that to be revealed at the beginning, but then I figured out it wasn’t quite that.  But in the end his dislike of being touched wasn’t really explored in any great detail, and while I was a bit disappointed to not delve into his past, it was kind of interesting that it wasn’t given specifics, b/c sometimes people can’t explain why they feel like that, just that that’s the way life has shaped them, you know?  It’s not always sexual abuse or something like that.  And sometimes sexual abuse trumps the horrors of just plain physical abuse.  Not sure if I’m making sense.  Basically I was conflicted about the amount of background we got on Patrick.  I’m a background kind of girl, so I can always dive in for more.  🙂

I really enjoyed the depth we did get on how Patrick felt being the enforcer.  I’m not sure if Ms. Bowen interviewed some enforcers to get their thoughts on their role, but I was fascinated to see the dread he felt, but also how he felt it was so important to his career.  I’m not big into the hockey fights myself, and must say I agree with Nate: I sincerely hope they are going out of style.  There’s just too much danger in them for the benefits we get out of them.

Ari was an intriguing heroine for me.  I loved how she was a bit of a contradiction with her yogi lifestyle, but her inability to give herself a break for some of the mistakes she made in the past.  But I thought she grew over the course of the book, and it was believable for me.  I loved seeing her friendships develop with Becca and Georgia as well.

For those who are a fan of the Ivy Years series, there were some awesome glimpses of past characters in this one…some just tiny, but it was nice all the same.

Patrick and Ari had some great chemistry as well, I was definitely enjoying both the steamy moments, and Patrick’s sweet attempts to woo her.  That moment when he enlists the help of his fellow players had me just laughing.  Loved it.

My one complaint would be with how what could have been a major obstacle in their relationship was sort of left to the epilogue and then just resolved super quickly.  It was almost like the author forgot about it, and had to do something with it at the end.  Not super impressed with that.  Also, what happened in the playoffs??  You can’t just have a count down for the chapter headers for the whole book and then bam, 3 months later…bit cheesed.

All in all really enjoying this series, and the romance in this one was top notch.  And I totally called Beacon having the next book!  But his heroine surprised me, even though it shouldn’t!  Can’t wait for more in this series.

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Max by Sawyer Bennett

Blurb:
29636247The ice is a cold mistress. As the league’s most eligible goalie, Max Fournier has access to his fair share of willing puck bunnies, but right now he’s more interested in bringing home another championship than a one-night stand. A romantic at heart, Max believes in love; he’s just not great at relationships. So when he finally meets a nice girl who’s not blinded by his celebrity, he’s feeling the heat—and the pressure to save her from herself.

Between working two jobs and raising her sister’s kids, Julianne Bradley doesn’t have time for sports—or men. All she knows about Max is that he’s the sexiest customer to ever grace her gas-station counter. And he sees past her tired eyes and makes Jules yearn for things she can’t have: a glamorous fling, a passionate lover, and the time to enjoy both. Max makes her feel like Cinderella, even though Jules has enough baggage to crush a glass slipper. Luckily, he’s no prince—only a fierce competitor determined to win her heart.

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

This one got me on characters all the way, specifically Max.  I don’t even care that Max was probably a bit too good to be true, I just couldn’t help but adore him.  He was sweet, kind, understanding, kind of a force of nature that you really can’t (and don’t want to) stop!  And I loved how he and Jules worked out their problems, and how Max really tried so hard to see things from her perspective and rein himself in when she made good points.  But I also liked how at the end, when she wouldn’t work with him, he didn’t let her walk all over him.  He knew when to take a step back, even if it killed him.

And I really loved Jules too, don’t get me wrong.  She had so many of the kinds of insecurities that I can understand.  And she really tried so hard on many occasions, so that when she blunders in the end I can accept how she got there and have faith that she would see her way back.  Normally her blunder might have bothered me on another character, but I got her I guess.  I saw her need for time.  And throughout the story we saw some amazingly real emotions from Jules…I really felt her grief and loss and her overwhelmed state.  The feels from her side of the story were so genuine and evocative.

The simultaneous Hawke story was odd for me since I haven’t read it… I’m not sure it added so much as seemed tacked on.  But perhaps I’d feel differently if I’d read his story first.  And since this is my first Cold Fury story, I probably didn’t get quite as much from all the cameos of other players from previous books in the series as fans might.  But it does make me curious about their stories and want to go back and read them.  Totally putting them on the wishlist!  As such I can say that I enjoyed the secondary characters, though we didn’t get a lot of time with any one of them so much as little bits of time with a lot of different ones.  I kind of would have liked more focus if that makes sense.

As a weird aside, I don’t get the weird name changing of all the teams…does anyone know why authors do that?  Is it a copyright thing?

Occasionally some of the transitions between scenes were more abrupt, and matter of fact than I was expecting.  It made for strange reading.  Not my favourite, but it’s a personal taste thing (and I’m shit at explaining what I mean, so sorry about that).  But the characters and romance made up for it, hence why this was still a solid 4 star book despite this style not being my favourite.

The kids weren’t bad.  Sometimes I find kids in books can be more plot device and less genuine, and it was almost that way in this one, but with a step in the right direction.  There were some good moments with them, so they didn’t *completely* feel thrown in.

So yeah.  Jules was great, but in the end my love is all for Max.  Max Max Max.  Damn people, just swoon.  Will definitely check out some more Cold Fury novels in the future.

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Hooked by Brenda Rothert

Blurb:
30530389From the author of the On the Line and Fire on Ice hockey romance series comes a sultry novel featuring a brooding NHL player who’s hell on skates—and the no-nonsense woman who forces him to clean up his act.

Miranda: Even though I’m broke, putting myself through college, and working two jobs, I’m trying to make the best of it. Meanwhile, Jake Birch, hockey’s hottest bad boy, lives in a luxury hotel in downtown Chicago—and still complains about every little thing in his penthouse. But after I tell him off, instead of getting me fired, Jake requests me as his personal housekeeper. Then he starts flirting with me. Only I’m not flirting back . . . at least, I’m trying not to. Did I mention that he’s hockey’s hottest bad boy?

Jake: I’ve met the best woman at the worst possible time. Miranda is the fire to my ice—a sexy, charmingly candid spark who breaks down my walls and reminds me what it’s like to feel again. But I’m being forced to date my team owner’s daughter to keep my job, so I can’t be caught with Miranda. Still, we’re getting closer—until Miranda finds out about my “girlfriend.” And that’s not the only secret I’ve been keeping. But Miranda’s the one I want . . . even if she doesn’t believe me.

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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, this was way more than I was expecting from this book!  I don’t even know why…I hadn’t reread the blurb since I requested it a few months ago, so I honestly didn’t remember what this book was even about!  And quite frankly that blurb doesn’t even do this book justice.  This book had so many layers, and the characters were really interesting and flawed, and I just LOVED going on their romantic journey with them.

Miranda was sassy and strong and independent and a bit cynical about men, but I really just loved her.  I got behind pretty much all of her decisions and reactions.  And I honestly believed her slow falling for Jake.  Which is funny because I was NOT a fan of Jake at the beginning.  He was such an angry, dickish jerk!!  He was exactly what Miranda calls him.  And yes, he amused me, but I didn’t see how I was going to love him…honestly, I was a bit sad b/c I wasn’t sure how the book was going to go.  But then Ms. Rothert brilliantly starts showing us little bits of MORE to Jake, and I was intrigued.  I started to see why he is the way he is, and while it doesn’t excuse his behavior, I got it.  And I really loved that his personality didn’t just turn around on a dime…he was still kind of a dickish jerk, even right til the end.  It was just that we got to see that there was more to him.  Heck, I think even *he* got to see there was more to him if that makes sense.  It was like Miranda opened up a piece of his heart and showed him all that was underneath.  I LOVED seeing all his vulnerable sides.  While I didn’t cry, I definitely teared up at so many moments in this book.  I was not expecting that!!  But I really got the feels.  And seeing him make such an effort with Miranda to be romantic, he kind of made me swoon.

The other girl thing was odd.  It was a bit crazier than I was expecting.  But it didn’t necessarily detract from the story, and I appreciated the way it all played out in the end (and how Miranda handled him, and that it didn’t drag out).

All in all this was a serious surprise win for me.  Especially given such flawed characters.  But I just love everywhere this story went, and I was just happy to be along for the ride.  Will definitely be looking for more from this author in the future.

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Maybe This Time by Jennifer Snow

Blurb:
30330042Starting over means a second chance . . .

Abigail Jansen is done with hockey . . . and hockey players. After leaving her two-timing NHL-star husband, Abby decides to start over in her hometown of Glenwood Falls, Colorado. There she doesn’t have to deal with people gossiping behind her back or hear the word “hockey”—until her daughter tries out for the junior hockey team. Now Abby has to face her fears . . . and coach Jackson Westmore. He’s tall, dark, handsome—and happens to hate her.

All through high school, talented hockey player Jackson Westmore had a crush on Abby, but he would never make a move on his best friend’s girl. He gave her the cold shoulder out of self-preservation and worked out his frustrations on the ice. So when Abby returns, newly divorced and still sexy as hell, Jackson knows he’s in trouble. Now even the best defensive skills might not keep him from losing his heart . . .

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

Meh.  It had a really strong start, and I really thought I was going to enjoy this one more than the first novella in this series, but in the end I was kind of underwhelmed.  Maybe it’s just that while I don’t mind miscommunications, if they get dragged on too long, I kind of lose the verve of the story.  And they happened just constantly throughout this story.  It was kind of the schtick I guess.  And I guess it was just too much for me.  Between the lack of communication and assumptioning going on all over the place, it didn’t leave a lot of time to get comfortable in the love part.

Jackson had some good points to him.  I had a hard time understanding the dedication he had to being a jerk to Abby because he didn’t know how to talk to her.  But I sort of got the direction the author was trying to go with him.  And when he was sweet to Abby it was awesome.  I loved the way he was as a coach as well, he was fierce towards Dani as well.  I still can’t quite figure out what his friendship with Dean was about.  I guess it really was mostly hockey centric.  But from even the few glimpses of the past, Dean always seemed like a jerk.

And on that note, I really didn’t enjoy the whole divorce aspect to the story.  In the end Dean was completely unredeemable, so then you wonder what they all saw in him at all.  It made it hard to buy that there were good years.  So I wasn’t sold on that.

Abby was an OK heroine.  She wasn’t really my kind of girl necessarily, so I didn’t have a lot to relate to.  And I wasn’t impressed at all with how she dealt with Jackson near the end.  It was pretty typical in these romance novels, but it’s not a…trope? that I’m a fan of.

So that was a whole bunch of negative…crap, whoops.  I mean, I still enjoyed the romance parts that we did get, and the chemistry between them was pretty solid.  And strangely Dani and Taylor’s friendship was a bit of a highlight.  I kind of liked that Dani was a bit of a brat at times too, it’s nice when kids aren’t just perfect, they feel more realistic.  Not sure if I’ll continue on in the series now.  I see potential for good stuff, but this just might not be the right author fit for this reader.

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Fall Line (Downhill #1) by Tudor Robins


25733669Blurb: 
Everything’s forward.

Those are fifteen-year-old Chris Myers’ words for the year.

The next gate, the next race, his spot on the district ski team; they’re all his for the taking.

Except training is such hard work. And then there’s Jenna – the very opposite of hard work – gorgeous, curvy, and into partying. Into Chris.

Instead of moving forward, Chris is sliding back. Slower times, worse results, and his best friend, Tilly, drifting away.

 

 

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Favorite Quotes

She never meets my eyes. I never even get the tail end of any of the smiles she has for anyone else. Meanwhile a grinding headache builds in my temples. My reflexes are slow, my stamina’s shot, and my temper is on a hair–trigger.

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4 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It was unusual in the fact that the POV was entirely male.  At first I was confused because I automatically thought it was female.  Probably because most of the POVs I read are female.  But I really liked his ‘voice’  It was genuine and showed a different side to most male leads I read.  This one was a beta boy for sure and he was super cute.  The fact that his performance in skiiing was actively affected by his personal life was just a great parallel to read about.

Chris has dedication to his craft and knows what he wants to do with his future.  He shows humility when things start to go downhill and takes responsibility for his screw ups.  And I think he shows great courage in asking for help instead of trying to fix everything himself. I really loved how Chris wasn’t cocky about himself.  Too often in YA, the boys are way too arrogant, which we all know isn’t the case IRL.  You could totally see and understand his worry, fear and confusion with his personal life.  He really had no idea what he was doing, poor kid.  And his parents played a bit more of a prominent role than most other YA’s I read, a fact which also made this book stand out for me.

Tilly was a pretty straight forward female lead.  She made it very clear early on what she wanted and what she was on the fence about.  While I think she maybe took her anger a bit too far, placing blame where I don’t think it was so heavily warranted, their were no deliberate misunderstandings in her character and voice.    So that was pretty refreshing in this story.

The skiing was a great addition to the plot of the book. I never used to read sports romances till I met Lenore, but they are fast becoming some of my favorite YA reads.

I’m really shocked this book only has 11 reviews.  It is a great YA, sports romance! Go give this author some love and read it!

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Maybe This Kiss by Jennifer Snow

Blurb:
31560190Love is always worth the risk . . .

Neil Healy was happy to be promoted to Air Force Lieutenant, but he’s less than thrilled that the new job has brought him back to his hometown. The memories alone could kill a man, to say nothing of actually seeing the woman he never got over. Neil knew avoiding Becky Westmore would be impossible, but he didn’t expect the chemistry between them to be as strong as ever.

All Becky wants this holiday season is to get through the month of December with her sanity intact. Not helping? Her ex-boyfriend’s return to Glenwood Falls. Even after a decade apart, Neil still makes her feel in ways no other man has. But Christmas is a time for miracles, and maybe Becky’s will be a second chance at first love.

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

Well hmmm…so this one didn’t hit it out of the park with me.  I’m still trying to figure out why.  I think I just wasn’t totally enamoured with the characters, you know?  Like on paper they were both good characters, but I didn’t feel that connection with them at the start.  And so it was slow to hook me in.  I think I wasn’t big on how frazzled Becky was, but how she wouldn’t ask for help…she made me feel tired.  I was missing some sass there too.  It’s not a bad thing, it’s just something that is a guaranteed love thing for me personally as a reader, and I wasn’t feeling it.  I thought her daughter was pretty hilarious, and her brothers intrigued me, but she was missing some sparkle.  And unfortunately my opinion of her went down before it went up.  I wasn’t really impressed with how she dealt with her relationship with Neil in the past, I couldn’t understand what drew them together if they were so very different.

It was kind of the same for Neil.  He didn’t get my book boyfriend juices going at the beginning.  He was kind of blah.  He didn’t seem to like Colorado or the snow at all, and as a Northern girl who has to deal with people complaining about the weather all the time, I often wonder why they don’t just move.  So I wasn’t sure why he came back, unless he didn’t have a choice in where he was based out of?

And even their initial chemistry…I mean, I felt some of it, but it was sooo…reluctant?  So much past clouding over, that I couldn’t hop on the train you know?  Which is not a bad thing, just not a thing that this particular reader enjoys as much.

BUT.  But.  The book picked up.  I started to see more dimension in both characters.  I got some sweet moments.  I got to see more expansion on what drew them together.  And the steamy scenes drew me in more.  There was still conflict, but I was ok with how that all played out in the end — not too much unnecessary drama or dragging things out.  It ended a bit abruptly (there’s a teaser for the next book at the end, so be warned it ends sooner than you think), and I would have ideally liked an epilogue or something, but I was still happy with how things played out.  I was worried it was going to go one way, but it didn’t.

So yeah.  It ended stronger than it started for me.  And I will say that reading the teaser of the next book, I think I might enjoy those characters more…I was already more intrigued.  Good thing I have that ARC burning a hole in my pocket as well!!  I’m going to be hard pressed not to move on to it right away…I have to decide now.

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The Christmas Challenge by Sinclair Jayne


32913182Blurb:
 Prodigal daughter, infamous flirt and fiery-haired champion barrel racer Tucker McTavish blazes back home to Marietta with both a secret, and a personal challenge. She will keep a low profile at her twin sister’s Christmas wedding. Which means no whiskey. No kissing. No scandals. No fun. What she needs is a miracle, so it’s too bad when she visits the legendary Miracle Lake to plead for inner strength: a tall, dark, and handsome bad boy is waiting with a challenge of his own.

Extreme sports guide Laird Hunter doesn’t do boring. And he thought he didn’t have secrets. He thrives in carving his own trail through tight and dangerous spots, but when he finds out his entire life has been built on a lie, he heads to Marietta for answers. But when he meets the redhead with the killer smile, laughing eyes and body with more curves than a mountain road, he finds himself asking a whole new set of questions.

Will these two daredevils – with more than a few secrets between them – find the one person from whom they don’t need to hide ?

Pre order Available November 15th 2016

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5 stars

I received this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest/unbiased opinion.

I floved this book.  This is a Christmas novel I can get behind!  In my experience Christmas books tend to be fluffy, fast reads but this one wasn’t like that at all.  These characters had depth and complex personalities.  Their problems were not just as simple as ‘boy meets girl, they fall in love’  No no no.

Tucker was a whirlwind of self-doubt and insecurity mixed with a blend of out-spokeness and simple pleasures, such as ice skating and hot chocolate.  But she wanted to change on the inside.  You could read how much she wanted to get that connection back with her twin sister.  How every time she was judged for her past, she shook it off and kept trying to prove herself.  It was humbling to read for me.  She forgave others so easily when they read her wrong.  Even when they didn’t ask for it.  I wish I could do that.

And Laird has his own inner demons to face.  He was definitely a lost soul, armed with only a starting point of Marietta.  He set out to find himself.   He was a little harder to read.  Strong, silent type, a perfect match for the fast talking Tucker.  Their chemistry was amazing!  You could see how they both struggled with the importance of facing their inner challenges and the attraction they had for each other.

All in all a beautiful read.  And since this is the third in the series I’m definitely going back to read the first two!  Happy reading.

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Hold My Breath by Ginger Scott

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

I would know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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