Friday, June 27, 2014

SWEET GIRL -- a summary and opinion

And here come the Titan team!

I've now read all of the publications in this series, and was having a hard time trying to decide how I'd review them, or rather... in what order.

Do I start with Winter's Heat, because it is book one in the series? Or do I begin with Savage Secrets, because that's the book that introduced me to the series?

Do I start with Sweet Girl, which really is a novella, a prequel, and is the "latest" publication in the series (releases July 7th!)? But before doing Sweet Girl, should I really review Garrison's Creed, because that's the Titan book truly connected to this novella.

Oy, vey.

So I'm starting with Sweet Girl.

...because while it's the latest to be written and published, it really sets the stage for the entire series.

Like I said, Sweet Girl is the prequel to the Titan series; it takes place before Titan is formed.

In the Titan series, we meet Jared Westin (Westin's Chase), Parker (book coming soon), and all those boys -- Roman (his book is next!), Cash (Garrison's Creed and Sweet Girl), Winters (Winter's Heat), Rocco (Savage Secrets) and Brock (Gambled, a novella).

Sweet Girl follows Cash and Nicola, and therefore her brother, Roman. While Titan was founded by Jared, the events of Sweet Girl mold Roman and Cash to become the ops they eventually become, as this book takes place during Roman, Cash, and Nic's college years.

Cash and Roman have been best friend's forever. As such, Cash and Nicola have also been friends forever.

Cash has always found Nicola to be pretty, but 'bro code' is always pretty fierce between guys, and there is no way Cash is going to be panting all over Nic, even if he wants to. Cash also has quite the reputation with the ladies; when another college guy, the star quarterback, starts making moves on Nic, Roman groans and talks about how he and Cash had to save Nic from the players that were like said football player; with Cash's reputation, he understands that to mean him too.

Well, Nic has had enough of it. She battles her nerves and she makes her move on the one guy who has held her interest for years. While Cash and Nic's romance seems rushed (kissing, to sex, to intimate secrets and I love you's, to Cash getting ready to propose -- none of this is truly a spoiler if you've read the books in the correct order, as this is all mentioned in Garrison's Creed), it's really not rushed when the reader takes into account that this novella, this few months into the lives of Nic and Cash, is simply that -- a few months out of the years they've known eachother. They've been circling eachother forever; so much so that once it finally happens, every emotion and thought combusts and it all lines up the way it's supposed to...

...until Nic's internship takes a disastrous wrong turn.

...and she dies.

...and Cash is heartbroken but really can't show it more than just the 'her brother's best friend and her friend' role, because Cash and Nic never got around to going public (at least to Roman, the dense, unassuming guy) about their relationship. So he can't be the heartbroken fiance -- he can just be the sad friend.

In passing, he meets a soldier, who tells him about military. Military is not the route he's taking at this point, but after all that happens with Nic, Cash makes a phone call to Roman -- end scene.

And the rest is history ;)

...obviously they joined the military. Obviously, only because the Titan series goes into this.

I was extremely happy and excited to get an early copy of this book. I fell in love with Rocco in Savage Secrets and took a gamble into the rest of the series, reading Winters Heat next (it was the free Nook book one day). I love every single character in this series. Once I got to Garrison's Creed, I was a little apprehensive simply because I knew how much I loved Rocco and Colby Winters, but I also knew that Cristin loves Cash and Nic -- she doesn't hide this in her blogging, her Facebooking, whatever. She is open with the fact that she loves Cash and Nic. So I was hopeful that I'd love Cash and Nic, too.

And with the opening chapter of Garrison's Creed.... yeah, I was right there with her.

When it was announced that Sweet Girl was the prequel, and was exploring the open holes that were spoken about in Garrison's Creed, I was interested in reading it simply to get a better feel for these lovely characters.

...and I love them even more, fully knowing the struggles they (Cash and Nic) faced before getting to where they finally meet again (and fall in love for good) in Garrison's Creed.

......but I'll get into Garrison's Creed later ;)

I guess my only issue with Sweet Girl was a discrepancy between Sweet Girl and Garrison's Creed. In Garrison's Creed, they talk about things like "remember my job in college" (of course he remembers your job in college, Nic; you complained about the fact that things weren't adding up, literally, and he told you to just walk away from it). The biggest issue, though, was in Garrison's Creed, when Nic tells him "...I actually had a crush on you way before college. Like sixth grade."

My issue with this comes from Sweet Girl, when Cash tells her that the moment he knew he was in love with her was actually during his Senior homecoming. And I suppose during this conversation, Nic doesn't say she was in love with him at this point, too; so maybe it really was 'like sixth grade' for her.

I do want to point out that while reading Sweet Girl, I kept referencing Garrison's Creed, and re-read that book twice while reading Sweet Girl.

So yes, Cristin, I love Cash and Nic, too.

BRING ON THE HEAT -- a summary and opinion

I love sports.

I love romance.

I really love contemporary romance books that delve into the world of sports.

This book was no exception.

However, while I've given the book a 4, I still have my little issues with it -- but looking at the story as a whole, it deserved the 4.

This book follows Darcy, a huge fan of the baseball team the Sonics, and an even bigger fan of the star pitcher, Chase Westbrook. When the socialite that Darcy housesits for gives her her invitation for a Sonics-hosted event, Darcy decides to go. Catch -- she has nothing to wear.

Lydia, the socialite, tells her to grab a dress of hers and use her hair appointment to get dolled up for the event. A little unsure, Darcy ends up doing such while Lydia is out of town. Next catch, Lydia and Darcy look a little alike -- enough so that because Lydia is never photographed, people mistake Darcy for Lydia.

...even Chase.

Darcy is head over heels when Chase sits next to her at the event and talks with her. She tries to clear up the confusion of her persona, but eventually gives up -- not a single soul is listening to her, anyway.

My biggest gripe, now..

The entire book is under the pretense that Darcy is Lydia.

And it irritated me. I wanted her to come clean (even though she tried, I'd have liked her to try harder). I wanted Chase to realize he was falling for Darcy, the quirky, pretty sport nerd, not the socialite who's grandfather had the ability of getting him to the Yankees. The longer he went out with Darcy-as-Lydia, the more it seemed as if he just wanted her for her connections -- which, yes, was part of what he wanted. He was confused as all get out when the social image of Lydia didn't add up with the private-that-he-thought-he-knew Lydia, but he figured it was an image she portrayed to what little press she had.

Turned out he was falling for the real girl under the extensions and makeup.

So taking out the Darcy is pretending to be Lydia, and pretend that it's Darcy as Darcy the entire time, I loved the story.

I just really hated the length of time it took Darcy to truly come clean.

JUST ONE NIGHT -- a summary and opinion

Yay, another Lauren Layne book to read!!

Yet another great book by Lauren. I'm so glad that I've stumbled across her. Her writing style, as stated in my Only With You review is my kind of quirky writing style. She's so easy to read and get lost in. I just love it.

This book is part of a series. The Love Sex & Stiletto series follows four woman who work for a publication, much like a Cosmo, Vogue, Vanity Fair type magazine.

This particular book follows Riley, the writer behind all the sex articles, and Sam, her brother's best friend. These two have always circled one another (at least since meeting eachother when Riley was 19 and hanging out in the kitchen in her soccer uniform), but they don't act on their attraction. Sam doesn't because he promised her brother, Liam, that he wouldn't (who later states that he doesn't even remember that conversation), and Riley doesn't because surely there's no way he could be attracted to her.

So while Riley can't have Sam for herself, she pretty much acts like the resentful younger sister and sabotages his relationships (with things like genital warts pamphlets that his lady friends stumble across). And while Sam doesn't act on his attraction, he stands up for her to his mother when she calls Riley a slut -- how can she not be when she writes about sex for a living?

Oh, but oh-ho... twist here.

Riley has had sex once, and it was in a type of rebellion when Sam went and got himself married, and Riley realized she couldn't have him.

...but then she doesn't do it since.

She writes about sex yes, but she admits to being extremely book smart about the act, and when it finally happens for her and Sam (and I do mean finally), she's as nervous as a first timer.

Without giving too much away, this book follows these two lovers as they navigate from practically-siblings-but-extremely-attracted-to-each-other, to lovers, to foes, to lovers again. It follows Riley as she fumbles through the need to write a personal article that she hasn't a clue how to write; it follows Riley and Sam as Riley fights him to stand up and be proud of the things he has accomplished -- who the eff cares that his mother doesn't care, Riley's entire family cares and is damn proud of him, couldn't that be enough?; to the eventual demise of their relationship.

Again, what I love about Lauren's writing is it just seems so real. Riley and Sam's break up has a full-on fight. Most books have a discussion, some avoidance, and questions as to how it all went wrong.

But not this one.

Riley and Sam have a full-out, not a thing held back, screaming on the top of their lungs, fight. They let out all of their frustrations. And when the fight reaches it's tipping point, they drive in heated silence.... only to start all over again once they reach home.

I could quote their entire fight. The entire fight has points where she thinks she's right, he thinks he's right, and they're both hurting and not seeing eye to eye. He hollers that his mom is all he has, of course he wants to keep her happy even though she's a total bitch to him. Riley, while she understands the woman is his mom, doesn't understand how he can say that she is all he has -- regardless of the entire McKenna family having Sam's back, Riley feels that her love should be enough for him too.

Yet again, another great, solid effort on Lauren Layne's part, and it hit every mark. Going through my highlights and notes in the book, I don't have a single negative thing written that I need to revisit or hash out.

Lauren's turning into my 5-star kind of gal.

HER LAST WHISPER -- a summary and opinion

A few months ago (this was about January), I had an urge to re-read a book that was a historical, with a fair lady and a pirate, and him essentially kidnapping her. No matter how many Google searches I did (and I'm pretty good with Google and the correct key words -- I typically find everything I'm looking for), I couldn't find the correct set of words to pull up the author and title of this series. I would have gone through my bins and bins and bins of books, but I had them all in storage and they were in the back of the other boxes. Not happening.

One day last week, I saw Karen Robards (an old favorite of mine) on NetGalley with her newest release, Her Last Whisper. Now, I remembered that I loved Karen Robards (I would always search out the Karen Robards releases when I scoped out the Nora Roberts ones), but couldn't pinpoint the books of hers that I had/read (my spreadsheet list of books is severely outdated). So I looked up her book list.

And right there at the top, her first book...

Was the book I'd been looking for all those months ago. Island Flame and Sea Fire.

Now that I know the titles, I will be scouring through my boxes when I get them out again come August.

Anywho, going through her book list, I realized most of her books I've loved were of the Historical Romance variety, which is odd, because I don't like HR -- just Karen's, I suppose!

Flashforward, now, to Her Last Whisper.

Her Last Whisper is part of a series. Unlike most series where they follow a different couple each book, this series follows Dr. Charlotte "Charlie" Stone, a psychologist working with serial killers. I have not read the first 2 books, and I'm pretty interested in at least skimming through them -- there are some pre-Her Last Whisper questions I have.

Charlie, you see, sees and hears those who have passed. She has the ability to hear spirits, and the FBI uses her for it. One particular case (I'm assuming in book one was when we first met him...) hits her extremely hard, and when he is stabbed to death, his ghost attaches itself to Charlie. Now, from what I gather, Michael and Charlie had 'intimate relations' at some point before he passed, but I'm not really sure how all that worked, between a jail doc and an inmate on death row for committing serial crimes. But however it happens, Charlie is fighting her feelings for him as he was a person, and Michael the ghost taunts her endlessly about the fact she loves him.

Michael can't go farther than 50 feet from her, so he's pretty stuck to her side. There is one point where Charlie is learning about his past from a fellow (now fallen) Marine's father, in which Michael gets agitated with Charlie and the situation and tries leaving, not caring about severing the tie. At that point, he doesn't care if he goes to what is called SpookVille (where spirits go to be forever, never gracing the earth again) forever.

Michael has a difficult time with his being dead, and wants to stick around. He is very into Charlie. Charlie has a difficult time with the gorgeous ghost who won't leave her alone, and eventually she comes to grips that the reason why she can't fall for the handsome (very much alive) detective Tony, is because she's not just attracted to Michael, but in love with him. I'm sure it's difficult to realize that the reason why you can't fall in love with a person is because you're sadly attracted to a dead guy.

Charlie believes with all her heart that Michael is innocent of the crimes he's been charged with -- part of her reasoning for this is that he's a Marine. Surely he couldn't have killed all those women. Beyond that, she feels that she knows him. She's pretty good at telling lies versus truth, it is her career, after all, but when she has evidence and DNA re-run and it comes back conclusive, Michael is guilty, she doesn't understand how it can be. Granted, love does shadow things...

Beyond that, there's the fact that once he's forever gone from the earth, he's banned to SpookVille, the land of hunters and evil -- very much not Heaven. He had to have done something to be banned there... and if it weren't the murders, what was it? Michael doesn't tell her in this book...

Michael learns how to enter other bodies, which comes in handy when he just wants to kiss Charlie -- nothing is more frustrating to him when he can't catch her, touch her, brush back her hair.

Between his entering of bodies (namely just Detective Tony's....), his guilty sentence, and the surprise in the last few paragraphs...

......let's just say I'm extremely hopeful for the next book.


I'm going to elaborate on that last line...

Because I need to.

So don't read any further if you hate spoilers.

It's ok...

Turn off the computer...

Close the tab (not in that order, of course)...

Close your eyes, count to ten....





Ok, I gave you plenty of dead space.

The last chapter has Michael spiraling out of control into the deep dark of SpookVille. Surely, he's going to be there for good. He's bent too many rules and entered too many bodies, done too many things he shouldn't have. Surely, he's gone for good.

But right before he's off the earth for good, he hears Charlie crying out that she loves him. The three words he was taunting and teasing her worth for the majority of this book, and she finally gave in and admitted it, as much to herself as to him.

The very last set of paragraphs has Charlie driving past the cemetery that Michael is buried at. She doesn't want to stop. She's sad, depressed, and now lonely, now that her constant ghostly companion, who she had the misfortune of falling in love with, is gone.

But wait, there's a person standing over Michael's grave.

She races out of the car and realizes that man looks like Michael. She's ecstatic -- he wasn't banned to SpookVille afterall -- hell, he's damn well as good as alive and in true person form as he can be!

But when he turns and looks confused to her yelling and screaming his name, and his normally blue eyes are actually a hazel...

Well, Charlie realizes she's made a mistake.

End of book.

My guess is that Michael has an identical twin. Why it hasn't been brought up in his files or talks, I don't know. Maybe they were estranged? Separated at birth? Whichever, he has an identical twin, and therefore identical DNA to someone else.

This twin must have committed the crimes.

But Michael's gone. So whatever happens when it gets proven in the next book that this man committed the crimes, well, it doesn't bring Michael back.

Or can it?

I'm hopeful that somehow Michael can figure out how to cross back over. Tam, a friend of Charlie's who dabbles in spells, mentions to Michael and Charlie that while Michael can take over bodies, it's only for hours or days -- because to take over a body, the spirit of the body has to be gone for the time and typically that person is dead for that to happen. The new spirit will only be able to embrace the body for a short time because come on, the body is dead or dying. There's something wrong with it which causes the other spirit to leave.

I'm hopeful that they figure out how to get rid of twin's spirit without killing him, forever sending him to SpookVille, as he's the one who truly committed the crimes, and Michael can take over twin's (healthy) body. And while Charlie will know that the body doesn't truly belong to Michael, it will then have Michael's spirit in it and will look 99% like him, so they can live happily ever after.



Ok, so now I need to read (at least skim) the first two books to learn more about Charlie and Michael, because I heart them, and I'm extremely excited for the next installment..!

SHELTER ME -- a summary and opinion

Shelter Me. What a beautiful idea that Catherine Mann followed through with when writing this story.

I have liked Catherine Mann for years, and was extremely excited when I saw this new idea/series she was starting. When she asked for reviewers (and they were all invite only via NetGalley -- no requesting button!), I jumped at the opportunity and crossed my fingers and toes tightly. I love her Dark Ops and Elite Force series -- in fact, I reread many of them every few months or so.

As with the other series I love of hers, Shelter Me is a book about a soldier (Mike), the soldier he worked under/with's family (father 'Gramps', wife Lacey, daughter Sierra, and son Nathan), and a war dog named Trooper.

The book is split into parts, each one starting out in the view of Trooper -- which I thought was really rather ingenious. Trooper spoke of his life as a war puppy -- a stray on the streets who just happened upon a group of military (in this case, Army). As happens in 'real life', Trooper became the unit dog. When Mike's commander is killed, he makes a promise to him to bring Trooper back home -- which involves loop holes and crossing some maybe not so legal lines. It also involves Mike coming face to face with Sierra, whom he had a brief relationship with the year prior to going to war.

When Trooper speaks in the story, Catherine Mann does a great job of being in the mind of a dog -- many of the points of his thoughts had me thinking, "Squirrel!" (thank you, Up, for that phrase...).

Mike and Sierra flirt around with the attraction that is still between them, and eventually act on it. However, Mike puts distance between them because his life growing up was so very much different than Sierra's, and he doesn't feel worthy of her. Sierra, on the other hand, puts distance between them because she grew up the military lifestyle (as well as experienced that ultimate sacrifice when her loved one dies), and doesn't want to be her mother and continue doing it the rest of her life. Bottom line -- she's done with the heartache the military brings.

As the book goes through it's motions, Trooper does his part to be a loyal dog, and Mike and Sierra learn to work alongside eachother, as well as learn that sometimes attraction can be too powerful to fight.

I give the book a 4.... but pretty loosely. This particular ARC didn't format well on my reading app, sometimes
reading like
it bothered me when I couldn't keep tRAck of what was
truly going



....I guess I'm a little ADD/OCD about my books that way. Because I had a hard time following, I found myself skimming simply because I was loosing my way. Additionally, while I liked the side story of Lacey and Ray, and I really liked when Mike was 100% there for Gramps (who is battling severe PTSD in the midsts of his Alzheimer's), as well as Nathan's struggles... I was more interested in Mike and Sierra.

But as for Mike, Sierra, and Trooper -- I enjoyed their story.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

...they're coming, they're coming, they're coming!!

Oh, my, I've gotten behind! Not only that, but Maya Banks' newest KGI book came out on Tuesday and I had to force myself to NOT buy it .......

I'll buy it tomorrow when I go grocery shopping, but still.

My NetGalley is up to 21 approved books -- they really need to be read and reviewed before I dive into the newest KGI. I do have the entire Titan series read and ready to be reviewed (which REALLY needs to happen, as Cristin asked for reviewers for the novellas and for Sweet Girl; I read them a week plus ago and need to even up on my half of the deal), as well as 3 other NetGalley books to put up here. I have to finish reading the newest Catherine Mann book, Rescue Me, which was an invite ARC -- so that REALLY needs to happen, too. On top of that, I've been in the middle of a Sheryl Woods book for weeks (which really is a great book, I've just been sidetracked with all the NetGalley fun). And also.... I want to get reviews up of the entire KGI series before bringing Swanny into the mix.


So... hopefully tonight and tomorrow morning I can pull up some reviews and opinions for y'all! Keep looking...!

Friday, June 20, 2014

WORTH THE FALL -- a summary and opinion

Ahh, finally today I've made it to the book I've been dying to write about since finishing it at 6 am this morning...

Go NetGalley, for finding me another new author to obsess over.

And go figure, she's friends with another new(-to-me) author, Cristin Harber.

Let me tell you how I choose books to read -- I keep tabs on my favorite authors and write their release dates in my planner. Occasionally, and it's extremely rare, Barnes and Noble will throw up a pretty cover on their website, or the grocery store will have a pretty cover hanging out front and center. Yes, I judge my books by their covers. Every now and then, it's the title that draws me in.

Let me tell you how I choose books on NetGalley.

I hit 'recently added' (or select 'date added' in the drop down box in the 'romance' genre) and skim until a title or cover appeals to me. Rarely will I even bother to skim the synopsis. If it looks good, 'request' gets selected. As I selected 'request' on this book, the first line strangely appealed to me -- a mother at the beach with four kids? Navy SEAL? Hmm, can't be too bad, hope the author wrote it well.

Everything about this book, everything, appealed to me. Not a section of this book disappointed me. Don't get me wrong, I like a few sidestories here and there, but the fact that this book was always in Abby or Matt's head was a definite plus for me. It allowed the book to flow and move from one day to the next, to the next, to the next.

The book starts out at the beach, where Matt went with his cousin for a few days away. His cousin also brought along some 'hot' ladies. However, it's not the woman in the sparkling orange bikini that catches his eye.

No, it's the (pregnant) mother of the 5 year old boy who nailed him in the head with a football. Along with Jack, Matt meets 7 year old Annie, a shy little girl who grows to remind Matt of her mother; 3 year old Gracie with love of life, much like most toddlers; and 2 year old Charlie, the little cute monster who probably ends up doing the most work in getting Matt to actually meet their mother. 

After playing with Jack in the sand the first day, he realizes he didn't actually meet the kids' mother. The next day, Charlie runs through and stains orange-bikini's white pants. Between that and Jack and Gracie's continuously asking to play, Matt gets his way in and meets Abby.

Abby is widowed, but she hasn't felt married in many years. It was merely a piece of paper. It hurts her to watch Matt play with the kids and know that her deceased husband had never had any desire to play with them. Jack and Gracie just eat the attention up. Annie is extremely reserved when it comes to Matt, but he doesn't ignore her. Charlie is a cherub who clings to Matt's neck.

It all feels extremely natural and warm to Matt. Daily, Jack asks for Matt to come by the next day and play; daily, Abby fears her kids' hopes will get too high and Matt will eventually leave -- they all do. Besides, Matt is just a stranger they met at the beach.

When asked about what he does, at first Matt leaves out that he's a SEAL. He doesn't want the glorification of his job. He wants Abby to want him

As the week progresses, without so much as a kiss, mind you, Matt falls more and more for this woman and her kids. When the week ends, Matt and Abby exchange numbers (not without a scorching kiss, of course, the first of many), but Abby figures he's being nice.

When Matt is back in his normal routine, he can't get his mind off of Abby and her children. He wants to see them. Hell, he needs to see them; maybe he'll be able to get his head back into the game. Two years ago, he'd promised his best friend that he wouldn't quit the SEALs (as Teddy was dying, nonetheless; obviously this is a promise that would be hard to break), which was where his heart had been heading at the time. But Matt keeps seeing Abby in his mind, and he starts to question his loyalty to his friend and wonder more about Abby.

I could probably go on and on and on about this book. I could write a full-on synopsis and tell you every little thing that happened.

But I won't. 

This is a book that any contemporary romance reader in her (his...?) right mind NEEDS to read. Like now. Yesterday, even.

I think what draws me so deeply to this book is the idea that Abby is single, pregnant, and has a brood of children. I love when men step up and take on a fathering role to children that are not theirs biologically. He may have fallen in love with Abby, but there is not a doubt in my mind that he fell in love with those children first. Getting the three littles' opinion didn't take much work, but he certainly worked for Annie's trust -- a fragile trust that he nearly broke later in the story.

On one hand, the way Matt folds himself into her family is lovely and natural, but on the other, I can't help but feel that maybe I'd be a little creeped out by this man needing to play with my children when we'd only known him for an hour. But hey, it worked out.

Most books take about 75% or more to get to the point where the guy realizes he has everything he's ever needed in his arms. The wedding is the epilogue. What I loved about this book is the realization that he could have everything in her and her children, was before they even kissed, before they said goodbye and went their separate ways. The book goes through the true struggles of a military family. It delves into the honor and trust and promises some of these military men make to their spouses, to their buddies on the field. It touches the terror of being away from home and hearing that something terrible happened at home, trying like hell to get back there to see with your own eyes everything was ok. It touches the aspect that sometimes these men (and women, if looking at military as a whole) get called away on the drop of a dime, and feelings get hurt and words get taken wrong.

There's a scene at the beach, the last night, when he's getting ready to leave Abby and the kids -- both driving to their own destinations the next day. He's tucking all the kids into bed, and the sadness in his thoughts made me want to cry the entire scene. Pretty sure I misted up. Maybe even shed a tear or two.

I really loved this family -- because, let's be honest, they were a single unit nearly from the get-go. This is one of those books that I wish the author would do a sequel to; not even an additional story with someone one of them knows (take cousin Rob, for instance) but rather another look at Matt and Abby's lives 5, 10 years down the road. Regardless, I'm excited to read the rest of this new series; with Matt and Abby living so close to his parents' house, perhaps we will get to glimpse into their lives with each additional story.

I re-read nearly every book that I have. I have a few go-to books that I know I can read again and again and never bore of them.

My go-to book for the last year plus was Maya Banks' Whispers in the Dark. new go-to book may very well be Worth the Fall.

DARKSIDER -- a summary and review

If you enjoyed Divergent's DreamScapes, or any of the levels of dreams in Inception, then Reveler series is for you.

This is book 3 in the series, and I've got to say, I'm looking for the ones before and after this book.
It was a little confusing at first -- the different terms and places -- but it was easy to see past the confusion and eventually catch on.

This book is between Harlen and Sera, two people who have known each other for years. They'd been each other's 'someone special' in college, but life took them in opposite directions -- hers, culinary, his, the army and into being a Dream Master.

Half of the book takes place in the here and now, the other takes place in the dream world. Both connect, as dreams do. When, in present day and life, Sera contacts Harlen because a stalker in her dream life has come into her real life, Harlen doesn't step back. He will always be there for Sera. When they need answers and he needs to use his Dream Master skills to get into her dreams, he warns Sera that in-the-light-of-day feelings are magnified in the dream state. She understands this, and is probably a little shocked to learn that her feelings, as well as Harlen's feelings, from years past are still there.

The reason why the broke up the first time is on both of them. She felt she couldn't continue the relationship because she wanted the stability of a culinary life. He felt they couldn't continue because his job wouldn't really allow it. Through this book, Sera learns (really, she's told) that if she wants to be with Harlen, she may just need to drop her life and run with him. With age comes the realization they are meant to be together, and nothing is going to stop Sera from that.

"'You haven't seen me for years, then in one day, you're willing to drop the life you've built?'
Yes. 'I choose you.'"

I've learned with this book that this entire series is reads like one continuous book. The players and actions move from one scene to another, one book the other, but the thoughts they're following change with the book. This book was Harlen's turn. I believe that if I were to find and read book 1, then book 2, it would all flow extremely well. Even the epilogue of Darksider shows you the path into book 4.

This was a shorter book, novella length (I believe every book in this series is?) and was a quicker read. Not necessarily an easier read. With the terms and the bouncing between daylight and dreamtime, one really had to pay attention (much as one must do while watching Inception). If ever I found my mind wandering, or if I put the book down in the middle of a chapter but not a scene, I typically had to go back a few paragraphs to re-get a feel for what was going on.

Not that I'm complaining.

Most books that I read that I find myself doing just that (going back), I tend to get bored, annoyed, and step away. Maybe it's because I'm fascinated by dreams in real-life, but this was a book I wanted to get further into.

I need to re-read it, though, to further understand Harlen's shakes and Coll's scary eyes, but re-reading this one won't be a hardship.

ACCIDENTALLY MARRIED -- a summary and opinion

What another cute book, thanks to my NetGalley addiction. 

As the title suggests, the hero and heroine in this book are accidentally married --- but hold up, that doesn't come until the end.

Madison needs a job. She does acting (small roles, she's hoping for larger ones) on the side, but really, she needs a consistent income. Her friend, Carrie, overheard that Jameson Technologies was looking for an administrative assistant, so Madison is on the hunt.

Turns out, Jared's not looking for an assistant -- misunderstanding number one. Patricia, his assistant, tends to be all talk and threatens her leaving on a weekly basis.

Misunderstanding number two?

Well, the fiery blonde who strolls into his office isn't exactly his cousin's friend coming to save him from a family dinner nightmare, which Jared learns once he gets Madison to his car. Too late to turn around, he offers her the opportunity to be his stand in girlfriend for a decent chunk of change. Being an actress... well, how can she say no..?

The problem is Madison is spunky. Jared puts on a show in front of his family's house, opening her car door because it's the gentlemanly thing to do (which Madison points out he did not do at the office). Not only that, Jared essentially is dangling a carrot in her nose -- if she does a job well done, well, perhaps he can find a job for her.

Well, perhaps Madison won't make his life a living hell from there on forward.

She's spunky (I said that already...). She's fun. She's quirky. She thinks on her toes. Extremely well. On the drive, Madison tried to ask him how they were going to say they met; he said it wouldn't come up. When it does and he tries for a blase answer, Madison manages to make a joke of it.

She continuously takes what he says and one ups him -- but not in the typical way. Oh, no, Madison has to pretty much make a fool of the situation. Besides, she's trying to be an annoying twit so when he has to tell his family they broke up, his family wouldn't necessarily be bothered by the information.

There's just one more problem. His aunt wants to see him married. Well, strike the band, Madison has an idea -- which, of course, pisses of Jared (to which Madison later understands and feels horribly guilty about).

Through weeks of a fake engagement, Madison and Jared learn to like one another. Granted, neither manages to own up to his or her feelings to the other, but what can a reader expect? 

I enjoyed this book. I really liked watching Jared and Madison fall for each other. He likes her, but is afraid she just sees this as a game and a paycheck. She likes him, but how could a guy like him ever fall for a wannabe actress with no job and a terrible family history like her? His family loves her. His family can see that Jared loves Madison and vice versa. 

I was so engrossed in the book that I stopped making my highlights and notes a third through the book. I wasn't thinking, 'Oh, this needs to be touched upon on the review" -- I just just reading to read. 

My favorite scene has to be from the end. Without giving too much away....

"He shook the papers. 'Is this what you want?'...She slowly shook her head. 'No. This isn't what I want.' Her words came out in a whisper..."

She still doubts him. Granted, I would too, if the scene had played out as it did. Her words are whispered because she doesn't want him to leave, but she's terrified he will. She's terrified that everything she feels is one sided and that he could never forgive her.

This is definitely a book I'll revisit.

HOT SHOT -- a summary and opinion

So I realized when re-reading my Only With You post, that I'm not so great on the summary part of the 'a summary and opinion'. I'm real big on the opinion, but that's about it. So I'm going to try with the summary -- try to focus more on it. But I can't make huge promises. I'm a big believer in people making their own decisions on their own accord. Read a book based off the cover. Read a book because an author you like endorsed this new author. Read a book because the back is enticing. Don't read a book because someone gave you the low-down of it, start to finish.

I'm always afraid that I'll put more into the summary than I should. I don't want to give away the really good parts, so I try to skim over them, then realize while skimming some things, I missed other things.

So really, I'd rather just do a 'what I really loved about this book', 'what could have been better', and perhaps a character analysis.

But we'll try with the summary.

Three years ago, Jack Hunter and his HOT team (Hostile Operations Team) were on a mission to take out Metaxes, a man they'd been after for years. Gina Domenico, a pop superstar, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Or so they think.

What comes from this accidental meeting is three days in hiding, and, unbeknownst to Jack, a baby.

Fast forward three years later, and Gina's "adopted" son is kidnapped. She calls to the person that saved her those years ago and when he tells her he'll be there for her, but it's not really a mission his team will go on, she drops the mother of all bombshells -- Eli wasn't adopted; Eli was his.

The story moves through the paces as they try to find the boy, and, for obvious reason, for Jack to believe in Gina. He's not seen pictures of Eli in the media, but Gina shows him one on her phone. The boy could pass as his, he decides. Jack's biggest issue is he was once married and when Hayley died, she'd been newly pregnant. Jack believed with all his heart that Hayley would have been a great mother, one who would sit and play with her children, and shower them with the attention they needed.

He can't help but feel Gina couldn't do the same, not with her lifestyle -- which was oddly, if wrongly, proved when Eli was kidnapped. However, upon seeing Eli (and realizing he's a mini-me of himself) and seeing him with Gina, he understands that Gina really is a good mom -- it doesn't take away from the fact he needs to process everything.

Gina and Jack push eachother's buttons, but they sure know how to makeup after a fight -- something that Jack points out later nearly through clenched teeth. There are trust issues, which are a recurring theme in the romance genre, but it doesn't feel overplayed. Gina didn't grow up in the best way, and as such, she has a hard time with Jack's back and forth emotions -- one moment he seems to want her and Eli in this life, the next he's pissed and brooding.

All in all, I very much liked this book. I'm excited the pick up the rest of the HOT series -- maybe I'll start with Kev and Lucky's, because she intrigues me with her quiet demeanor, her scars, and her way of seeming on the outside of the wives circle (which is entirely her own doing; the other ladies love her).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pardon the interruption...

I'm going all fan girl for a moment.

Lauren Layne read my review of Only with You, and then shared it on her Facebook. I was scrolling through my timeline then saw my face (that picture to the right) and my heart started racing.

Like I said... Fan girl moment.

Now, getting back to the scheduled programming, with reviews coming from not 1, not 2, but the 3 books I've read in the last 48 hours.

Oh, NetGalley, you most certainly aid my reading addiction.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

HIDEAWAY COVE -- a summary and opinion

Oh, my, do I need to catch up. I'm 2 currently-read books behind in this blogging business, as well as that list I made one of my first posts on? Yeah, those all need to be reviewed. AND -- I said that in anticipation of Maya Banks' When Day Breaks being released, I was going to put up a review every day of the rest of the KGI books. Well, that book releases on Tuesday, and there are 9 books before it... so won't be doing a book a day. Maybe 3 books a day ;)

This post is for a NetGalley review! So, my last NetGalley review was a totally fantastic, can't believe I stumbled upon it, book. I randomly selected this book on the same day as Only With You, and sadly, I didn't have the same feelings for it.

As with the one other book I've so far stumbled into that I didn't much care for (My Hunger; review may or may not come for that one 'round these here parts), I will try to keep the review unbiased.... but if the opinion comes through, I apologize.

I have found (in my thousands upon thousands of books read adventures) that most series, you don't really need to read the earlier books to understand what's going on. In this case, I was left a bit confused.

The book opens one hundred years (give or take) earlier, with a family, some babies, and a measles epidemic. You're given names of the people, the town, whathaveyou, then right away in chapter one, present day you get...

......the same town. But that's it. For me as a reader who was picking up an Anna Sullivan book for the first time, I felt a terrible disconnect. I wasn't quite sure what the prologue and book had in common. Typically, there is some sort of connection immediately evident, more than just the town and it's history. Right there, I was confused and on my way to disliking the book.

'Disliking the book' may actually be a tad bit harsh. My dad used to joke (and quite honestly, still does) that the only reason why I read quickly is because I skim read. I thought about that long and hard for many years. Surely, this wasn't true. But occasionally, I would notice that yes, this was indeed happening. But why? Why, when I'm such a reader and such a I-want-into-their-heads-and-I-want-their-happily-ever-after, why was I skimming the books.

And then I figured it out.

The book wasn't holding my attention. There was either too much detail where it wasn't needed, or not enough where I really needed to see it.

It's like watching a terrible movie. You keep watching in hopes that it's going to get better, or you keep watching because even though the story line sucks, or the acting is terrible, you somehow feel a connection with the characters and you really just want to see it through to the end.

That's what happens with me and books I don't really like. I read over things I don't care about only to try and find the 'meat and potatoes', the moments of 'Ahh, there it is'.

So this measles epidemic... Maybe because I was skim reading, perhaps that's why I missed key points (I'm hopeful that they were there...). Apparently the baby girl that was introduced at the end of the prologue is a woman who's genealogy is important to this town. Dex (from the previous book in this series) and Hold are trying to uncover the mystery of her family and find her heirs. In Dex's book, Maggie was thought to be the heir and nearly lost her life (oh, fyi, Maggie is the pilot of the airport Jessi is at, and is Jessi's best friend). In this book, the search for the heir continues, and it puts Jessi's life in danger.

One of my very first notes on this book was that it read like an 'easy reader', such as a middle school aged book. I'm not sure how else to describe it. The first chapter was nearly all description, a backstory about the airport and Jessi and Benji and Jessi's role at the airport......

I like dialogue. I like interaction. I was bored.

My next note (well, the second note was about how Jessi loved that her son always considered them a unit) was [finally] dialogue -- and it was between the hero and heroine of the story, Jessi and Hold. Unfortunately, this little tift between the two of them (Hold is trying to convince Jessi to go out with him, but she refuses to because he has been a bit of a player in the flirt department for the few weeks he'd been on-island) came across to me as forced writing. I only recognize it as such because sometimes I find my own writing and dialogue between characters to seem forced.

When Jessi 'throws' Hold out of her life toward the end of the book, that conversation, too, seems too scripted and forced to be true emotion, which I'm sure was the intent (the emotion, not the scripted and forced part).

Altogether though (I know, I know, it almost seems like I couldn't have an 'on the bright side' to this opinionated review) ---

....I really did like Jessi and Hold (said in a whispered voice). 

I know it doesn't come across as such, but I did like them. I liked them enough to not put the book down; I liked them enough to want to skim read to read their interactions and their interactions only....

I love Hold's relationship with Jessi's son. I love that Hold is upfront with what he wants from Jessi and her life. I love that Hold understands that Jessi and Benji are a package deal and he is 100% fine with that, sign him up.

I love that Jessi doesn't put people before her son. I love that Jessi wants to protect Benji from his father when he randomly shows up after 7 years. I love that Jessi, even when she wants to, doesn't speak ill of her ex to his mother, even when she's busy bashing Jessi all over town.

I truly did love Jessi and Hold (& Benji, too!). I just really wish I loved everything else about the book.

BETWEEN THE SHEETS -- a summary and opinion

Take one person with walls, and another with thicker walls, and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster. Enter Ty and Shelby. Heck, throw in a third set of walls and you have Ty's son, Casey.
Ty's walls stem from a seemingly abusive past with his parents (the story doesn't quite unfold itself) and a loving relationship with his grandfather, "Pop". He had a bad relationship with Vanessa, and once he realized he was ready to move on from the partying and drugs and meaningless sex (both with and without Vanessa), he packs his bags and goes on his way, never truly leaving roots.

Shelby's walls are much more written about -- hers stem from a preacher father who belittles her and constantly tells her how she's sinned. When she learned to grow cold and indifferent toward him, her father moves on to what will hurt her most, and that is her mom. As an adult, she's learned how to compartmentalize her feelings and keeps herself holed up fairly well. A public mishap with a guy "airs her dirty laundry" and again, her sins are forefront. At this point, she no longer let's people into her walls.

When Ty and Shelby meet, it's not under the best circumstances (let alone the best time of day.... err... night) and while Ty initially tries to charm her, he sees her for the judging person every other person has proved themselves to be, and she sees him as a grown man living in a punk's body. Both are judging at an all time high.

As the story progresses, Ty's walls come down first.....

....and every time Shelby's start too, something happens and she throws them right back up.
It starts with her control during sex. She doesn't care that Ty was upset when she throws him out after. One night, Ty manages to get them on an even playing field, but again, something happens and they revert. They go on a date, something happens, she reverts.

It started to get annoying, to be honest. I understand that it was a character flaw so deeply engrained in her that she had a hard time letting go, but at some point if you're not going to give yourself 100%, you need to let the other person move on. There wasn't any true inside look to her falling for Ty, but the author did mention once or twice Ty was falling for Shelby -- she even wrote how Shelby could see it in Ty's eyes (to which this brought up another wall).

The last part to bother me was the end.... After Ty tries and she (again) pushes him out, he decides enough is enough. But come morning, he decides to try again. Kind of like lost puppy dog syndrome. Luckily, this time she doesn't push him away, instead she hugs him and says she loves him. And he let's her. He doesn't say it back, but he allows her back in. I have a hard time with this... I want to yell and scream that she'll just pull him along again. But if the epilogue has any say, it actually worked out this time. The last chapter scene goes to show what one of the last thoughts in the epilogue states, about how when Shelby would get quiet, Ty would let her be alone, but she'd always come back to him. That one teeny tiny scene in the hospital shows the first of these instances.

I wish the book were more of Shelby growing and going through those instances, and less of the pushing away. I wish to have seen more of the relationship that was evident in the epilogue -- that year could have had many ups and downs, all of which I'd love to have seen. At some point, Ty started professing his love, and Casey became more like the kid he should have been all along.
While I enjoyed the story, parts frustrated me. Altogether, I would give the book 3.5 of 5 stars, simply because books that I really like typically get 4 and I reserve 5s for those that I know I will read again and again and again. I do not doubt that I'll reread this book -- again, the story itself was good and I fell in love with characters -- it just might be a number of months before I revisit.

Friday, June 13, 2014

ONLY WITH YOU -- a summary and opinion


Thank you, NetGalley, for introducing me to Lauren Layne and this incredible new series. I can hardly wait for book 2, even if most of me wants it simply to see more Sophie and Gray. Granted, Will and Brynn are pretty steamin', so I suppose I'd read for them too.

But anywho, getting way ahead of myself. Let's start over.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an e-copy of Only With You. What I'm loving about NetGalley is the ability to try new authors that I typically wouldn't read. What can I say, I'm a creature of habit. Unfortunately, my reading habit generally gets way ahead of the books I have available, and my authors of choice's publications.

This was one of those books where I could find myself up until 2 a.m. When I had to wake up at 3 a.m. Thank goodness I had the thought to read in the afternoon hours. What I love about Lauren's writing style is that it's quirky. She writes like I write (when I try to, anyhow). I love the thoughts inside of the thoughts.

Beyond that, I love Sophie. I love how she's insecure in herself, but covers it up extremely well with quirk and sarcasm. I love Gray. I love how he's introverted and prefers the keep to himself, but slowly finds himself thawing toward Sophie.

I found myself falling more and more in love with the characters; at Gray's first smile to Sophie, to when he worried about her when she got hurt ---- even though he botched that. My heart clenched for the first time between these two opposites the first time he intertwined his fingers with her... but then he botched that too. What didn't he botch? The Castle. He could race me in The Castle anytime...

Every time they'd start to progress in their relationship (if it could be called that for the majority of the book), either Gray became hard headed and took a step back, or Sophie doubted herself and doubted Gray, and took her own step back -- covering it up with sarcasm and loud comments that irked Gray.

I love that Gray is open enough to tell Sophie it took him courage to ask her out. There's not a doubt in my mind that that poor man's conscious was telling him that it was an inappropriate relationship, that she was too much like his ex, etc etc, but he took the breath and he sucked it up.

In one particular scene, the first time Gray and Sophie go on a true "date", Gray is exceptionally warm towards Sophie -- showing he can be open and warm and caring when in the correct company. Sophie finds some information out, and she turns cold toward him (mainly because she goes back to doubting Gray and his motives). By this point in the story, Gray is good at reading Sophie. He understands that she hides behind her sarcastic, self-degrading humor, which irritates Gray. He understands that they were having a good time, she was her happy go-lucky self that he truly likes, but when she comes back from the restroom, she begins hiding behind her walls again. At the error of quoting something that may not be word for word in the final publication.... "....'You were there with me at dinner...and then dessert came out and you were...gone.'" That line, to me, shows he's on unsteady ground when it comes to Sophie. In his mind, everything was going well, he was truly enjoying himself in her company (which he typically did, but shh, don't tell Sophie), and then the flip switched.

I don't know. Bottom line, I loved this book. I give out 5 of 5 stars very rarely to authors I don't know.

Well, Gray and Sophie stole my heart. 5 of 5 it is.