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.

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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.  😉

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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.”

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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. 

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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?

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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… 😦

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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.

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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.  🙂

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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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