Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review: The Homecoming

The Homecoming
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Thunder Point/Book 6
Harlequin/August 26, 2014

At the age of nineteen, Seth Sileski had everything. A superb athlete and scholar, handsome and popular, he was the pride of Thunder Point. Destined for greatness, he lost it all in a terrible accident that put an end to his professional football career when it had barely begun. The people in his hometown have never forgotten what might have been.

Seth has come to terms with the turns his life has taken. But now he's been presented with an opportunity to return home and show his father—and the people of Thunder Point—he's become a better, humbler version of his former self. 

Winning over his father isn't the only challenge. Seth must also find a way to convince his childhood neighbor and best friend, Iris McKinley, to forgive him for breaking her heart. With his homecoming, will Seth be able to convince the town, his family and especially Iris that he's finally ready to be the man who will make them all proud.

The Homecoming introduces some new characters in Thunder Point.

Seth Sileski is a man who doesn't give up.  Whether its sports, his career or friendships.  He takes what life throws at him and changes with it.  His attitude about the bad things that happen to him made me like him even more.  Now he's back in him hometown to start a new phase of his life and mend some old relationships.

Iris McKinley has had a crush on her neighbor for years.  When Seth moves back to Thunder Point, Iris thinks there might be a chance at more than friendship.  Unfortunately, Seth doesn't have a clue.  I could feel for Iris with how frustrated she was with Seth.

As Seth and Iris forge a new, adult relationship, they discover how they have changed since they were kids as well as how there are still familiar traits each still has.   Iris is the stubborn one in this relationship with Seth having an infinite amount of patience.  That patience pays off in the end.

As with many small town romance series, we get the joy of catching up with previous couples and the goings on of the town as well.  Thunder Point is a character unto itself, a place where many readers would love the chance to visit if not live.  I know I would.

The Homecoming is a sweet, friends to lovers romance.  One of my favorite romance tropes.  Add to that the characters are engaging with a story line readers should find entertaining.

Rating:  B+

Thunder Point Series ~

The Wanderer
The Newcomer
The Hero
The Chance
The Promise
The Homecoming
One Wish (February 24, 2015)
The New Hope (June 16, 2015)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review: Take Me On

Take Me On
Katie McGarry
Young Adult/Contemporary
Pushing the Limits/Book 4
Harlequin Teen/May 27, 2014

Champion kickboxer Haley swore she'd never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can't stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she'd stay away from. Yet he won't last five seconds in the ring without her help.

West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it's his fault his family is falling apart. He can't change the past, but maybe he can change Haley's future.

Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they'll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.

Take Me On another winner from Ms. McGarry.  This young adult series continues to impress.  The characters and their situations truly feel genuine.  Yes, even a female kickboxer.  Certainly not unheard of and in McGarry's hands, real.

Teenagers lives are rarely as simple as they might appear from the outside looking in.  Such is the case for Haley and West.  They both have their share of burdens to carry.  For Haley, it's the knowledge she is walking a thin line between keeping her family safe instead of following her dream.  Her family's situation is precarious with her father out of a job and the family dependent on Haley's uncle's kindness of which there is little.  The way each member of Haley's family is portrayed was important in showing how Haley has  to the point where she is.   It's West who helps give Haley the courage to fight back at the injustices she has suffered.

West is a rich kid on the wrong side of town when he finds himself in the middle of a fight.  He's outnumbered and out skilled but West doesn't know how to give up.  West is easy to like.  He has this way about him,  He's the guy we all remember from high school who could bug the crap out of us and still make us laugh.  West home life may look ideal, but there is so much more going on under the surface.  McGarry shows us how teens from well off families who seem to have it all, can, in reality, have very little of what is important.

The chemistry between Haley and West is well done in that it shows the nuances of teen romances.  How they can develop in spite of the obstacles thrown in their way.  The setting also played a big role in their romance. West learns how working hard for something makes it much more important when you achieve your goal.  For Haley, she learns who she can count on, not only herself but friends and family.  This is such an important message for young adults to hear.  Many may feel they are alone in dealing with their problems and reaching out, sharing some of their burden is not an option.  Kids shouldn't have to shoulder adult burdens and they shouldn't feel like they have to do it alone.

If you haven't read the first three books in the series, I would highly recommend you do.  (The novellas are good read too!) They are not essential to appreciating or understanding Take Me On, but they are well written and not to be missed.

Rating: A

Pushing the Limits ~

Pushing the Limits
Crossing the Line (novella)
Breaking the Rules (novella)
Dare You To
Crash into You
Take Me On

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ARC Review: The Perfect Stranger

The Perfect Stranger
Wendy Corsi Staub
Harper/July 29, 2014

In New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub's new thriller, one woman finds herself in the crosshairs of a twisted predator who might just be masked behind a familiar screen name . . .

During the darkest period of her life, Landry Wells found solace in a group of bloggers who had been in her shoes and lived to tell the tale. She's shared things with her online friends that even her husband and children didn't know. Things that now, looking back, make her uneasy.

One of the bloggers is dead, victim of a random crime—or was it? Did she trust too easily; reveal too much? At the funeral a thousand miles from home, Landry is about to come face to face at last with the others. These women are her closest confidantes in the world: they understand her; they know everything about her—and one of them might be a cold-blooded killer . . .

This was a little different from my usual read.  It's suspenseful with clues dispensed throughout the story as to who the killer might be.  I found myself not only curious to find out who the murder is and the motive but also became caught up in the lives of these women and what they had been through together and were still going through in their fight and recovery from cancer.

The point of view of the killer enhances the story.  The thought process they go through after thinking they've gotten away with murder is eerie in how it is so human.  We don't like to humanize murderers but instead when we think of them, we regard them as less than human and not on the same level as us.  When you get into their head, it makes them that much more real and easier to understand their twisted logic.

The plot twists are not so obvious early on, instead the reader gets a sense of something "not quite right" but must continue reading and discovering clues.  Not only does the story explore the difficult journey cancer patients must face but it also deals with the safety of the internet and how much is too much to share with the world.  And how much can you trust someone on the other side of the screen.

The women in the story have different backgrounds, different experiences, different lives but have the common experience of fighting cancer which brings them together.  These are women who would not have met had it not been for that bond.  It was interesting seeing how they fit together despite their diverse backgrounds.

The Perfect Stranger was a refreshing change and a look at how the internet can provide both positive and negative affects to our world.

Rating:  B+

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ARC Review: The Promise

The Promise
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Thunder Point/Book 5
Harlequin MIRA/June 24, 2014

Scott Grant has a bustling family practice in the small Oregon community of Thunder Point. The town and its people have embraced the widowed doctor and father of two, his children are thriving, and Scott knows it's time to move on from his loss. But as the town's only doctor, the dating scene is awkward. That is, until a stunning physician's assistant applies for a job at his clinic.

Peyton Lacoumette considers herself entirely out of the dating scene. She's already been burned by a man with kids, and she's come to Thunder Point determined not to repeat past mistakes. When Scott offers her a job, at a much lower salary than she's used to, Peyton is surprisingly eager to accept…at least for now. She's willing to stay for a three-month trial period while she explores other options.

Scott and Peyton know the arrangement is temporary—it isn't enough time to build a real relationship, never mind anything with lasting commitment. But love can blossom faster than you think when the timing is right, and this short visit just might hold the promise of forever.

Come on back to Thunder Point, Oregon.  It's a beautiful place, I want to live there!  Like Carr's Virgin River series, the setting is also a vibrant character. What make up the town are the people, those welcoming, giving souls who almost seem too good to be true.  For Doctor Scott Grant, Thunder Point is the perfect place for his little family.  For Peyton Lacoumette, a break from the city is what she needs for her

Peyton could work at a larger, more prestigious practice but small town life is calling to her.  She finds she needs the friendly, comforting feel of Thunder Point.  After the mess she left behind in Portland, Peyton is happy to find a temporary home until she decides what and where she wants her life to go.  Peyton is a woman who is easy to like.  She knows what she wants, she's not perfect but is learning from her mistakes and is mature in her professional life and personal life.

Dr. Grant is the beloved local doctor with a heart of gold.  Too good to be true?  It certainly seems like it but he's also human and not perfect which is what made him come out of that god-like persona and into the world of mere mortals.  He's friendly, hard working and easy to relate to.  A great guy for Peyton, if only she can get past the similarities to her ex.

Scott Grant is almost too good to be true.  I could totally see how Peyton would want to back away from him not only because on the surface he seems like he has the same issues Peyton's ex had, but after getting burned it's not surprising Peyton is leery of any relationship with another doctor.

We do get to catch up with the residents of Thunder Point which is always something to look forward to.  I think that's the appeal of a small town romance series.  You not only get to meet new characters but have the chance to catch up with some old favorites.  This can take away page time from the main couple which can cause their romance to feel less than fully developed.

Overall, a solid addition to the Thunder Point series.

Rating: B+

Thunder Point Series ~

The Wanderer
The Newcomer
The Hero
The Chance
The Promise
The Homecoming (August 26, 2014)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review: Divided

Elsie Chapman
Dualed Series/Book 2
Young Adult/Dystopian
Random House/May 27, 2014

West Grayer is done killing. She defeated her Alternate, a twin raised by another family, and proved she’s worthy of a future. She’s ready to move on with her life. The Board has other plans. They want her to kill one last time, and offer her a deal worth killing for. 

But when West recognizes her target as a ghost from her past, she realizes she’s in over her head. The Board is lying, and West will have to uncover the truth of the past to secure her future.

How far will the Board go to keep their secrets safe? And how far will West go to save those she loves? With nonstop action and surprising twists, Elsie Chapman’s intoxicating sequel to Dualed reveals everything.

If you haven't read the first book, Dualed, you might feel a little lost when starting Divided.  There is back story given but you get a greater understanding of the main characters and the world if you have read Dualed, which tells how West and her boyfriend Chord got to the point they are at now.

The world West Grayer lives in is a lot like our world on the surface.  There are families living in what looks like either cities or the suburbs with kids heading off to school and hanging out after school but just beneath the surface is a completely different world.  A world where children learn to kill because if they don't they will be the ones killed.  It is a bleak existence for these kids, knowing someday they will have to kill their someone who looks like them - their alt.  The survivor is the one deemed worthy to defend their world from outside forces.

West Grayer isn't an easy character to like.  There are some reasons to feel sympathy for her, her home life is filled with loss of family and friends because of the system of Alternates (Alts) killing each other.  Some of the decisions she makes are very hard and not always easy to understand.  In Divided, reinforced is the fact that survival is ultimately all that drives West.  She needs to survive not just for herself but for Chord and for those she's lost.  Still, she makes some brutal choices that make her less than easy to like.

The idea behind Kersh and the Alternate program is for the city to be comprised of the best fighters in order to defend themselves from the Surround which is everyone outside Kersh's walls.  There are some glaring problems with this plan.  First off, not everyone has the same opportunities for training.  It reminded me of the Hunger Games with the twelve districts and the huge economic discrepancy between districts.  It is why West decides to become a Striker, so she can afford better training.  This also leads to some Alts or their family members having the money to hire Strikers to take out their Alts so they don't have to fight them.  How does this provide Kersh with the best possible Alt remaining?  It would make more sense if the Alts were to fight it out in a supervised arena. Sick but more fair and no chance for innocent bystanders to be hurt or killed, which does happen.  Or better yet, train the teens to become an army to defend the city.  Why none of this was not questioned by the general population, especially parents of kids who are dead, I don't know.

It does turn out that things are more complex and truths are revealed behind the reasoning of the Alternate system.  While we do learn more of how and why Kersh came to be, I still found the world West lives in depressing.  The one standout of the story is the writing.  I just wish the world of Kersh made more sense.

Rating: C

Thursday, July 3, 2014

ARC Review: Shattered

Kevin Hearne
Urban Fantasty
Iron Druid Chronicles/Book 7
Del Rey/June 17, 2014

For nearly two thousand years, there was only one Druid left walking the Earth—Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword kept him alive while pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company.

Atticus’s apprentice Granuaile is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy.

And Owen has some catching up to do.

Atticus takes pleasure in the role reversal, as the student is now the teacher. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen must also learn English. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether the wily old coot will be an asset in the epic battle with Norse god Loki—or merely a pain in the arse.

But Atticus isn’t the only one with daddy issues. Granuaile faces a great challenge: to exorcise a sorcerer’s spirit that is possessing her father in India. Even with the help of the witch Laksha, Granuaile may be facing a crushing defeat.

As the trio of Druids deals with pestilence-spreading demons, bacon-loving yeti, fierce flying foxes, and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time
 . . . three’s a charm.

With Shattered, the seventh book in the adventurous Iron Druid Chronicles, Mr. Hearne has done it again. Not only has he given readers a wonderful ride filled with adventure, intrigue and comedy but he has woven a number of pantheons into a cohesive plot with gods and goddesses vying for the chance to either help Atticus or hasten him to his death.

The story is told in alternating chapters in three different point of view - Atticus, Granuaile and Owen.  Owen is Atticus' archdruid, his teacher who has been spending the last two thousand years on a time island.  But now he is free and it is Atticus' job to see that Owen becomes acclimated to the new world he finds himself in.  Of course, Atticus doesn't exactly have an abundance of free time but he does feel a responsibility towards Owen,  It was interesting to see their relationship unfold in a new direction with Atticus in the role of the teacher and Owen the student.

Granuaile is now a powerful Druid in her own right.  She can kick-ass right alongside Atticus.  She is pulled in another direction when her past association with Laksha comes calling.  With Granuaile, we see how she has embraced her life as a Druid but she brings a more modern outlook to the series.  I do like when Atticus and Granuaile are together because they work so well as partners but they spent most of Shattered apart.

I can't forget to mention Oberon, mostly because it might hurt his feelings.  The hound is in fine form if a little less page time than I would have liked.  Oberon is the comic relief, although not always intentional on his part.  He is the reason I find myself laughing out loud while reading Mr. Hearne's novels although Owen does give Oberon some competition in that arena.

Along with the three different points of view we also have three different plots converging into a final epic battle.  Hearne certainly knows how to choreograph battle scenes.  There are a multitude of fighters with various weapons but the action plays out like a well directed play with everyone knowing their part.  But there is also a great display of emotion in these scenes.  With friends and family members falling under the blade, whether they be god or long lived mortal, they all feel the pain of loss.

Shattered is another well written addition to the series.  It has that roller coaster feeling of exciting, thrilling, scary and left me wanting to get back in line for more.

Rating: A-

The Iron Druid Chronicles ~


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: Do or Die

Do or Die
Suzanne Brockmann
Romantic Suspense
Reluctant Heroes/Book 1
Random House/February 4, 2014

Navy SEAL Ian Dunn went rogue in a big way when he turned his talents to a lawless life of jewel heists and con jobs. Or so the world has been led to believe. In reality, the former Special Ops warrior is still fighting for good, leading a small band of freelance covert operatives who take care of high-stakes business in highly unofficial ways. That makes Ian the hands-down choice when the U.S. government must breach a heavily guarded embassy and rescue a pair of children kidnapped by their own father, a sinister foreign national willing to turn his own kids into casualties. Shockingly, Ian passes on the mission... for reasons he will not–or cannot–reveal.

But saying no is not an option. Especially not to Phoebe Kruger, Ian’s bespectacled, beautiful, and unexpectedly brash new attorney. Determined to see the abducted children set free, she not only gets Ian on board but insists on riding shotgun on his Mission: Impossible-style operation, whether he likes it or not.

Though Phoebe has a valuable knack for getting out of tight spots, there’s no denying the intensely intimate feelings growing between Ian and Phoebe as the team gears up for combat. But these are feelings they both must fight to control as they face an array of cold-blooded adversaries, including a vindictive mob boss who’s got Ian at the top of his hit list and a wealthy psychopath who loves murder as much as money. As they dodge death squads and play lethal games of deception, Ian and Phoebe will do whatever it takes to save the innocent and vanquish the guilty.

Or die trying.

First off, if you loved Brockmann's Troubleshooters series, this is a spin-off so you can expect more of the same fast paced action and a  hard bodied alpha male to take on the bad guys and win.  Do or Die is actually set in Florida and we meet up with some secondary characters from the Troubleshooters world.  

One thing Brockmann always brings to her stories are those smartass alpha heroes and Ian Dunn is certainly one of those.  He may have been a Navy SEAL but he is not into listening to authority anymore but instead prefers to do things his way.  Of course this causes numerous clash with his heroine Phoebe Kruger.  She's no pushover and Ian must learn to listen to Phoebe and respect her expertise in certain areas.  

Phoebe is a lawyer who is more than meets the eye.  She's smart and thinks quick on her feet which comes in handy when she gets caught up in Ian's world.  She isn't use to Ian's intense world of danger and intrigue.  Her world is filled with suits and courtrooms, not guns and surveillance vans.  While I thought Phoebe was an okay heroine, she didn't standout from previous Brockmann heroines.  

There is a lot going on in Do or Die, maybe a little too much.  The different story threads mixed in with the numerous characters became overwhelming at times.  The pace is fast, with some down time but that fast pace got in the way of realistically developing the potential for a long lasting relationship between Ian and Phoebe.  But by the end of the story, that's what we are suppose to believe.  there was attraction but too much going on and too many people involved to lend itself to deep romantic discovery between theses two, let alone love.

The plot itself is a bit familiar and Ian and Phoebe could be switched out for any number of Troubleshooter couples.  Still, there is a reason why that series was and is still so popular.  And for many readers familiar with Ms. Brockmann's novels, the gay rights theme is present in the form of two secondary characters.  I almost hesitate to call them secondary characters since their story seems to have nearly as much development as Ian and Phoebe romance.  While I understand how close this cause is to the author, it can be a little tedious to continually be reminded how horrible it can be to be gay in America when you are reading a romance novel.  

Rating: C

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review: It Had to Be You

It Had to Be You
Jill Shalvis
Contemporary Romance
Lucky Harbor/Book 7
Grand Central Publishing/May 28, 2013

Ali Winters is not having a good day. Her boyfriend left her, everyone in town thinks she's a thief, and now she's about to be kicked out of her home. Her only shot at keeping a roof over her head and clearing her name is to beg for help from a police detective who's as sexy as he is stern.... 

After a high-profile case goes wrong, Luke Hanover returns to his hometown for some peace and quiet. Instead he finds a bombshell brunette in a heap of trouble. As he helps Ali put her world back together, the pieces of Luke's own life finally seem to fall into place. Is this the start of a sizzling fling? Or are Luke and Ali on the brink of something big in a little town called Lucky Harbor?

If you've ever spent time in Lucky Harbor, then you know what an eclectic bunch of people live there.  It's always fun to go back and catch up with familiar faces but this time those faces don't have as much of a role in the romance of Ali and Luke.  If you haven't read the previous books in the series, you should because it's a very good series.  But if you're short on time, It Had to Be You can be read as a standalone.

For Ali Winters, life hasn't always been easy but she continues to think and expect the best of people.  To give when asked and to enjoy helping others.  She has a tender heart which unfortunately, gets abused and stomped on by her ass of a boyfriend.  It's a good thing she has friends to be there for her.

There's no place like home...especially when you're running from mistakes and seeking refuge.  For Luke Hanover that means heading back to the house his grandmother left him and shutting out the world.  Instead, Luke's hormones are set on fire by the barely dressed woman he finds in his kitchen.  Loved the moment when Luke and Ali first meet.  It's funny, sexy and sets the tone for their future encounters.

Ali and Luke appear to be opposites, with Ali having such an optimistic outlook and Luke the cynical cop.  It turns out this couple has more than just physical attraction in common.  Ali and Luke's romance brings out the best in each other, making them both stronger for what they have endured.  If there was one issue it was with Ali.  She was too sweet, too forgiving.  I found it a little too much to swallow.

The town of Lucky Harbor still plays a major role, giving welcome to both new and former residents.  We get to meet more residents of this quaint town along with some potential future heroes and heroines.  No sequel baiting here, just a cast of interesting characters.

Rating: B

Lucky Harbor Series ~

Simply Irresistible 
The Sweetest Thing
Kissing Santa Claus novella in the anthology Small Town Christmas
Head Over Heels
Lucky in Love
At Last 
Forever and a Day
It Had to Be You

Thursday, June 5, 2014

ARC Review: Tease

Sophie Jordan
New Adult Contemporary
The Ivy Chronicles/Book 2
William Morrow/May 27, 2014

What happens when a girl who always calls the shots meets a guy who't too wild to even her? 

A born flirt and good-time party girl, Emerson has never had a problem finding a willing guy. She's always chosen her hookups carefully, and she's never broken her three cardinal rules: Never let them see the real you. Never fall in love. Always leave them begging for more.

Then Shaw comes along. A hottie from the wrong side of the tracks, he's immune to her flirtatious banter and come-hither smile. After rescuing her from a disastrous night at a biker bar, he doesn't even try to take her to bed--he calls her a tease and sends her home instead. Unable to resist a challenge, or forget the sexy, dark-eyed, bad-boy biker, she vows to bring him to his knees. 

But instead of making Shaw beg, Emerson finds herself craving him. For the first time in her life, she's throwing out her rule book. Suddenly, she's the one panting for a guy she can't control--a guy who won't settle for anything less than the real Emerson and who forces her to do things she's never imagined, including facing a past she thought she'd buried. A guy who just might leave her wanting more. . .

After reading Ms. Jordan's first book in the series, Foreplay, I was curious to find out about Emerson and how much of her party girl persona was real.  Turns out there is a lot more going on with Emerson than just flirting and hook-ups.  And that's what Shaw sees, the woman behind the mask Emerson wears.

Emerson - so much more to her than meets the eye.  I really enjoyed getting to know her more than the glimpse we got in the first book, Foreplay.  She has her reasons for being how she is and living her life the way she does.  It's why it is hard to relate the party girl Emerson to the serious Emerson.  Her family life is a wreck and really left me angry for her.  There were also times when I just wanted her to be mature and deal with her problems head on.  While I liked Emerson I also found her frustrating at times.

A man who knows what he wants is very sexy.  Shaw had the looks but he also had the determination to not only go after what he wanted, Emerson, but let her know how he feels about her.  Imagine!  A guy who isn't afraid to voice his feelings.  Granted, he doesn't get all touchy-feely, but he does make his feelings clear.  No playing games with this guy.  Too bad Emerson wasn't as open with her feelings.  It made for a rough road for Shaw and Emerson but the end result was so worth it.

Looking forward to the next book, Wild, due out this November.

Rating:  B

The Ivy Chronicles Series ~

Wild (November 18, 2014)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Going Over

Going Over
Beth Kephart
Young Adult/1983
Chronicle Books/April 1, 2014

It is February 1983, and Berlin is a divided city - a miles-long barricade separating east from west.  But the city isn't the only thing that is divided.  Ada, almost 16, lives with her mother and grandmother among the revels, punkers, and immigrants of Kreuzberg, just west of the wall.  Stefan, 18, lives east with his brooding grandmother in a faceless apartment bunker of Friedrichshain, his telescope points toward freedom.  Bound by love and separated by circumstance, their only chance lies in a high-risk escape.  But will Stefan find the courage to leap?  Will Ada keep waiting for the boy she has only seen four times a year for a long as she can remember?  Or will forces beyond their control stand in their way?  

Told in the alternating voices of the pink-haired graffiti artist and the boy she loves, Going Over is a story of daring and sacrifice, choices and consequences, and love that will not wait.

For those not very familiar with the Berlin Wall or maybe you only know what you learned in history class, Going Over gives a fascinating look at what life was like for those living within sight of the famous wall.

Ada and Stefan have known each other for years, ever since Ada was two years old.  They are able to meet four times a year when Ada travels to East Berlin.  This doesn't stop them from falling in love.  It is that love that keeps them going, keeps Ada hoping and gives Stefan a reason to try for freedom.

Ada is a gifted story teller.  During the day she tells stories to the children at the daycare where she works.  At night, she tells stories with her graffiti, sprayed across the wall for Stefan to see.  With her stories she tells the children not to be afraid and encourages Stefan to escape.  Ada never gives up.  It's what makes her such an endearing character.

Stefan is left with a legacy of sorrow but a life still filled with hope thanks to Ada.  He is practical, he's had to be, living as he does.   He sees the logistics in the plans Ada proposes.  His point of view comes from someone who has already lived his life in the prison of East Berlin and wants to start a new life of freedom but must wait until the time is right.

The writing is filled with vivid descriptions and strong emotions.  Kephart does well in bringing the reality of life in both the East and West Berlin of the early eighties.  The plot moved a long quickly but I would have liked greater development of the secondary characters.   Going Over is a story for both young adults and us older adults who may have forgotten what it was like when there was a Berlin Wall.

Rating:  A-

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: Blindfolded Innocence

Blindfolded Innocence
Alessandra Torre
Contemporary Erotic
Innocence Series/Book 1
Harlequin HQN/January 28, 2014
(First Published July 19, 2012)

Brad De Luca is incorrigible. The premier divorce attorney in town, he is a forty-year old walking hunk of sex, bedding half the town, including his own clients. Brad is used to getting whatever, and whomever, he wants, and when the newest intern arrives - Julia Campbell, a pre-law student fresh off a failed engagement - he embraces the challenge. Only, happy in her new independence, the last thing Julia wants, or needs, is an older man who could destroy her job prospects, and possibly her innocence.

Julia is confident in her sexuality, and her effect on men. But she is far out of her league. Before she knows it, Brad is stretching her boundaries and opening up a forbidden world of sensual and sexual exploration.

This isn't a romance so much as an exploration of a young woman's boundaries and how an older man's experience pushes her into wanting to explore past those boundaries.  It wasn't an easy story for me to get into, but instead took some time before I felt that need to know what happens to these two characters.  Still, it was more about what was physically happening between them than their emotional changes.  Part of the problem was, I just didn't care much about Julia and didn't like Brad.  She should have stayed away from him.

The only good thing I can say about Brad in regards to his sex life is he never makes promises or leads women on.  He is very blunt with what he is willing to give to women.  He tells Julia he is not boyfriend material and if that's what she is looking for, he's not it.  But he also sends her mixed signals by giving the impression that if he can't have her, no one else can either.  I never warmed up to him and if Julia had been my friend I would have told her to stay clear of him unless all she wanted was sex, no strings attached.  The problem was, Julia was getting attached, quickly.

Julia is working as an intern at the law office where Brad is one of the partners.  She isn't his intern but he is still one of the partners and in a position of power.  I'm not in favor of office romances when there is such an inequality of power.  But this isn't exactly a romance so there is some gray area there.  Julia tries not let Brad dominate her and does a pretty good job but eventually gives in to his assertiveness.  She goes back and forth between thinking he's an ass and wanting to jump into bed with him.  This is why it was difficult to sympathise with her situation.

The word man-whore is a good fit for Brad De Luca.  He has a well earned reputation and has been warned by the other partners to keep his dick in his pants when it comes to the interns.  Does Brad listen?  Not when it comes to Julia.  I didn't like Brad for the simple reason is that he thinks he knows what Julia wants and is determined to give it to her.  Which was annoying because Brad didn't really know what he wanted.  He thought he wanted to continue his man-whoring ways but not all of his actions reflected that.

The story is explicit and goes way beyond vanilla so if you're not into that, walk away.  I found it interesting how Julia reacted to what Brad exposed her to.  The alcohol consumed definitely influence Julia's reactions and when she got away from him, she saw things in a different light at least for a little while.

The point when I knew I wouldn't continue with this series was when Brad revealed his dark sexual secret.  Not a fan of his particular fetish.  I think it's the romantic in me.  

Rating: C+

Innocence Series ~

Blindfolded Innocence
The Diary of Brad De Luca novella
Masked Innocence
End of the Innocence

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ARC Review: The Chance

The Chance
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Thunder BPoint/Book 4
MIRA(Harlequin)/February 25, 2014

With its breathtaking vistas and down-to-earth people, Thunder Point is the perfect place for FBI agent Laine Carrington to recuperate from a gunshot wound and contemplate her future. The locals embraced Laine as one of their own after she risked her life to save a young girl from a dangerous cult. Knowing her wounds go beyond the physical, Laine hopes she'll fit in for a while and find her true self in a town that feels safe. She may even learn to open her heart to others, something an undercover agent has little time to indulge.

Eric Gentry is also new to Thunder Point. Although he's a man with a dark past, he's determined to put down roots and get to know the daughter he only recently discovered. When Laine and Eric meet, their attraction is obvious to everyone. But while the law enforcement agent and the reformed criminal want to make things work, their differences may run too deep…unless they take a chance on each other and find that deep and mysterious bond that belongs to those who choose love over fear.

It's small town love on the beautiful Oregon coast.  It's hard not to enjoy the setting when Ms. Carr paints such a breathtaking picture of this fictional town.  Makes me want to visit, if not live there.  For Laine Carrington and Eric Gentry, they are living there and acclimating to small town life and the chance at love.

Ever since meeting Laine in the previous book, The Hero, I've been curious about her.  She's an FBI agent who is in desperate need of some down time.  It's also obvious she tends to keep herself from getting too close to people.  I thought it might be difficult to know Laine but her thoughts and actions allow for insight to this intelligent, independent women.

Eric Gentry has lived through some rough times but doesn't hold any anger regarding what life has thrown at him.  He simply tries to do the best he can, it's admirable if a little boring.  Eric is likable enough but he fell flat when compared to Laine.  I would have liked to see more of Eric's relationship with his daughter.  I didn't feel like I really got to know Eric as well as I would have liked.  Maybe he was too easy going, too complacent about his past.  Maybe I just needed him to be a little bit more bad.

The romance could have used more sparks.  It was sweet but predictable.  What pulled me in and kept my interest were the other characters, most of whom we've met in previous books.  I do like how Laine opens up and allows herself to make friends and settle in to her rental home.  Something she didn't plan on but instead evolved as she changed the focus of her life.

Overall, a sweet romance with a strong heroine who takes control and drives the story.

Rating: B

Thunder Point Series ~

The Wanderer
The Newcomer
The Hero
The Chance
The Promise (June 24, 2014)
The Homecoming (August 26, 2014)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Review: Watch Your Back

Watch Your Back
Karen Rose
Romantic Suspense
Baltimore/Book 4
Signet/February 4, 2014

A cold case reopened. A murderer re-emerging more deadly than ever before.

Baltimore Homicide Detective Stevie Mazzetti has suffered losses no woman should have to endure. And, despite it all, she’s still a fighter. When she learns that her ex-partner might have miscarried justice, she’s determined to put the past to rights, even when she becomes a target.

It’s former Marine Clay Maynard’s job to see the risk in every situation, but he doesn’t have to look hard to find the danger surrounding Stevie. Since the minute he first saw her, Clay has wanted to protect the wounded officer, and he started loving her not long after that. So when Stevie attracts the attention of a vicious psychopath, Clay will do whatever it takes to keep her alive. That is, if he can stay ahead of a killer with everything to lose—and something terrifying to hide...

Ms. Rose has once again delivered an amazing suspenseful romance that kept me on the edge of my seat.  It's Stevie and Clay's turn to have their lives turned upside down.

Stevie Mazzetti is looking into the corruption of her former partner.  She is determined to bring the right criminals to justice and free the innocent.  Not everyone is happy about this which is why Stevie's and everyone around her is in danger.  Someone keeps trying to kill her and Clay is determined to keep her safe.  I enjoyed this storyline with Clay adding his experience as a Marine and a police office to that of his PI work to not only keep Stevie and her daughter Cordelia safe but to unravel the who and whys.

Stevie, well I liked her, have liked her since she first showed up a few books ago but she really needs to work on relying on her police training and not fall for being lured out into the open.  It irritated me the way she would go running into a situation with little or no thought for the fact that someone has been trying to kill her on nearly a daily basis.  Use your head Stevie!

The romance was sometimes a bit of a two steps forward and one step back which isn't surprising given the situation Stevie and Clay find themselves in.  There isn't a lot of alone time and the stress factor is over the top with a killer on the loose.  Still, Clay and Stevie do find some moments and eventually give in to those raging hormones.  They still have to deal with keeping Stevie and her daughter safe while unraveling the mystery of who is trying to kill them.  I liked how the story continued to progress, unfolding the layers of mystery while giving reminders of the romance that is also developing amid the chaos.

The plot moves along at a steady pace, keeping the interest high between the hunt for the killer, the mystery of dirty cops, and how it's all connected to Stevie's past.  Loved the way everyone gets involved in helping not only protect Stevie but those she loves.  Another winner from Ms. Rose.

Rating: A-

Baltimore Series ~

You Belong to Me
No One Left to Tell
Did You Miss Me?
Watch Your Back

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

ARC Review: To Tempt a Viking

To Tempt a Viking
Michelle Willingham
Historical Romance/Ireland/875 AD
Forbidden Vikings/Book 2
Harlequin/January 21, 2014

She’s Testing His Resolve!

Warrior Viking Ragnar Olafsson stood by as his best friend claimed the woman he desired the most. There was only one way to quench the deep darkness within him—become merciless in battle.

When Elena is taken captive, fearless Ragnar risks everything to save her. Now they are stranded with only each other for company. Suddenly every longing, every look, every touch is forbidden. Elena could tempt a saint—and sinner Ragnar knows he won’t be able to hold out for long!

To Tempt a Viking is certainly a romance but it contains a plot device that some readers may have an issue with.  The heroine is married when the story begins.  Not only is she married but she's married to the hero's best friend.  The husband is not abusive or a complete ass, he's just not in love with his wife.  Most of the time this didn't bother me since the husband isn't around for most of the story.  This made it easy to forget about him and concentrate on the developing romance between Ragnar and Elena. The only problem I had was when reminded of Elena's marital status.  Then I felt uncomfortable and wished her husband had been dealt with prior to the beginning of the story.

Elena Karlsdotter has spent the five years of her marriage trying to please her husband.  She keeps their home clean, tries to anticipate his needs and most of all longs to have his child.  They have grown distance when they journey to Ireland to establish a settlement.  They are met with resistance from the Irish and separated during the fighting.  Elena is saved by Ragnar, her husband's best friend.  This is when we see Elena and Ragnar's long standing friendship.  Then, and what I truly enjoyed, the friendship desperately wants to become more on both their parts but their loyalty to Styr, Elena's husband, keeps them from acting on the attraction.

Vikings can be such misunderstood heroes.  Underneath the brooding face and brutally muscled exterior may lie a heart and soul any woman could love.  Ragnar Olafsson is one of those Vikings. For Ragnar, battle is his outlet.  He is able to release his frustrations, the main one is his desire for his best friends wife.  Ragnar didn't have the best childhood.  You could say he came from the wrong side of the tracks, if there had been tracks in 875 AD.  He didn't feel his was good enough for Elena, her family being part of the haves and Ragnar being part of the have nots.  But when she is dependent on him for her safety, his skill at fighting becomes a huge asset. I liked how both Ragnar and Elena's strengths are shown in their struggle to survive.  Clearly, Ragnar is the physically stronger of the two but Elena has her own strengths to lend in their survival.

The romance is sweet, frustrating and emotional.  Sweet in how Elena took care of Ragnar the boy when they were children and continues to try to take care of Ragnar the man.  Frustrating in how Ragnar continues to think he isn't good enough for Elena.  How she deserves better, forgetting himself and what he deserves.  And emotional in how both Elena and Ragnar's emotions are not only revealed towards each other but towards Styr, family and what being a family means.

I think if you don't mind the heroine being married and you like Viking stories, then you'll enjoy Elena and Ragnar's romance.

Rating: B

Forbidden Vikings Series ~

To Sin with a Viking
To Tempt a Viking

Monday, February 3, 2014

ARC Review: Foreplay

Sophie Jordan
Contemporary/New Adult 
The Ivy Chronicles/Book 1
William Morrow/ November 5, 2013

Pepper has been hopelessly in love with her best friend’s brother, Hunter, for like ever. He’s the key to everything she’s always craved: security, stability, family. But she needs Hunter to notice her as more than just a friend. Even though she’s kissed exactly one guy, she has just the plan to go from novice to rock star in the bedroom—take a few pointers from someone who knows what he’s doing.

Her college roommates have the perfect teacher in mind. But bartender Reece is nothing like the player Pepper expects. Yes, he’s beyond gorgeous, but he’s also dangerous, deep—with a troubled past. Soon what started as lessons in attraction are turning both their worlds around, and showing just what can happen when you go past foreplay and get to what’s real...

Oh, this was a such good read! I was expecting and hoping for a fun, light contemporary romance. What I got was a wonderfully enjoyable look at how intentions and objectives can be overcome by passion and need.

Pepper feels she is ready to experience more in the area of romance.  She has one particular guy in mind but her extremely limited experience makes her think her skills in attracting a guy are in need some training before she goes for her real target.  So her friends lead her to a hot bartender at the local hangout.  Pepper gets a hottie bartender but not at all who she was expecting!  I enjoyed Pepper and Reece's interaction both with clothes on and off but it did move a little too fast when you consider Pepper's lack of experience and the push her friends give her to get things moving.

Reece is intrigued by Pepper.  She's far from a typical party girl and it's obvious she doesn't have the experience of many of the girls he comes in contact with at the bar.  But Reece is attracted to this girl who can't seem to make up her mind if she wants him or not.  She's a challenge and Reece is up to the challenge.  I liked Reece a lot.  He doesn't play games but is upfront with what he wants.  I'd say he's almost too good, too mature for this Pepper.  Maybe a Pepper who has more maturity when it comes to relationships would have been a better fit from the beginning but fortunately for her, Reece is patience and teaches her what relationships are about.

There were times I found myself alternating feeling sorry for Reece then for Pepper.  Then I would get frustrated with Pepper for her fixation on Hunter.  She has blinders on when it comes to Hunter.  It's obvious the chemistry is there with Reece and not with Hunter.  Yet, Pepper insists on pursing her final objective - Hunter.  It's not that Hunter a jerk or a loser, that would have made Pepper into a complete idiot.  Nope, Hunter's actually a good guy, just not the guy for Pepper.  I expect the next time we see him it will be as the hero.

Pepper has a couple of gal pals at college with her who give her advice on how to attract a guy. They help her come out of her shell in the form of a makeover.  While I didn't see anything wrong with this, they were trying to help her, I was glad Reece liked Pepper for who she was without the sexy clothes, hair and makeup.

Foreplay is a strong start for this New Adult romance series.

Rating:  B+

The Ivy Chronicles ~

The Tease (May 24, 2014)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Review: Duke of Midnight

Duke of Midnight
Elizabeth Hoyt
Historical Romance
Maiden Lane/Book 6
Grand Central/October 15, 2013


Twenty years ago Maximus Batten witnessed the brutal murders of his parents. Now the autocratic Duke of Wakefield, he spends his days ruling Parliament. But by night, disguised as the Ghost of St. Giles, he prowls the grim alleys of St. Giles, ever on the hunt for the murderer. One night he finds a fiery woman who meets him toe-to-toe—and won't back down.


Artemis Greaves toils as a lady's companion, but hiding beneath the plain brown serge of her dress is the heart of a huntress. When the Ghost of St. Giles rescues her from footpads, she recognizes a kindred spirit-and is intrigued. She's even more intrigued when she realizes who exactly the notorious Ghost is by day.


Artemis makes a bold move: she demands that Maximus use his influence to free her imprisoned brother-or she will expose him as the Ghost. But blackmailing a powerful duke isn't without risks. Now that she has the tiger by the tail, can she withstand his ire-or the temptation of his embrace?

A dashing hero in a wig.  A heroine with a heart and soul as brave as any man's.  Two people who, if society is to be believed, have nothing in common.  And yet they find they have some of the most important things in common. Maximus and Artemis are truly a pair I enjoyed watching fall in love!

Artemis Greaves is a wonderful heroine!  She is brave even when scared beyond belief.  Loyal to those she loves and highly intelligent.  Her only real fault is not believing enough in herself. Sometimes I just wanted to shake her and tell her she is so much better than she gives herself credit for.  Artemis must put up with Penelope's self centered attitude and lack of common sense but she does stick up for Penelope.  I thought this said a lot about how important family was and how much Artemis cherished the little family she had left.

Maximus has no idea what to think of Artemis.  She is not like any woman he has known.  He has held the title of Duke since he was a child when his parents were murdered.  So Maximus is accustomed to everyone deferring to him.  It proved to be entertaining hearing Artemis speak her mind to Maximus and his reactions to her.  She brings out his darker, less refined side beautifully.

This series continues to deliver not only romance but suspense, action and humor.  I feel jealous of new readers to Ms. Hoyt, who have never read the Maiden Lane series.  You get the pleasure of reading it for the first time!  So if you have not read this series, what are you waiting for?

Rating: A

Maiden Lane Series ~

Wicked Intentions
Notorious Pleasures
Scandalous Desires
Thief of Shadows
Lord of Darkness
Duke of Midnight

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

ARC Review: Crash Into You

Crash Into You
Katie McGarry
Contemporary Young Adult
Pushing the Limits/3
Harlequin Teen/November 26, 2013

The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life-that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers...and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker - a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind.

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look.

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.

What an emotional, wild ride Crash Into You proved to be!  It flew by at breakneck speed and I found myself trying to slow down towards the end because I didn't want it to be over.

Rachel Young may seem like perfection in a pretty dress but she is flawed, just like any other teen, trying to find her way and the direction she wants her life to take.  She has some serious obstacles to overcome, mainly her parents and their strict expectations for her.  When she meets Isaiah, Rachel is looking for an outlet for her rebellion in the form of street racing. She gets more than she bargained for and lucky for her, Isaiah is there to help her out.  It was so emotional, seeing Rachel attempt to live up to the unrealistic expectations her parents had placed on her.  She tries so hard to overcome her fears that I couldn't help but be angry at her parents for not seeing how much pressure and stress they put on her.  McGarry did well in bringing such strong emotions out in the the characters and this reader.

Isaiah Walker knows everyone thinks Rachel is out of his league.  She is not someone he would hang out with or date but he still has this overwhelming need to hang out with her and wants to date her.  I loved how Isaiah takes a huge leap of faith with his feeling for Rachel.  He could be setting himself up for a world of hurt but he takes that chance.  Isaiah is a hero you wish the best of everything for.  He has been through so much and still has a way to go but he doesn't give up.  The mom side of me wanted to give him a home where he would be wanted and loved.  The teenage girl in me would have taken Isaiah as a boyfriend in a heartbeat! He definitely left an impact on me.

The character development is well done not only for the main characters but with the secondary set.  Also, the pacing matched between the suspense, developing romance and the conflicts at home Rachel and Isaiah are dealing with.  The suspense and dangerous situations Rachel and Isaiah find themselves in are made believable because McGarry takes the time to create the framework of the situations.  I loved how nothing is glossed over - neither the brighter moments nor the darker hours. Within those tense situations are reminders that Rachel and Isaiah are teenagers who are facing circumstances not every teen must face.

Even if you don't usually read Young Adult, I encourage you to give Ms. McGarry's Pushing the Limits series a try.  It's more than Young Adult, it is exceptional story telling.

Rating: A

Pushing the Limits Series ~

Pushing the Limits
Crossing the Line (novella)
Dare You To
Crash Into You
Take Me On (May 20, 2014)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

ARC Review: Hard As It Gets

Hard As It Gets
Laura Kaye
Romantic Suspense
Hard Ink Series/Book 1
Avon/November 26, 2013

Trouble just walked into Nicholas Rixey's tattoo parlor. Becca Merritt is warm, sexy, wholesome--pure temptation to a very jaded Nick. He's left his military life behind to become co-owner of Hard Ink Tattoo, but Becca is his ex-commander's daughter. Loyalty won't let him turn her away. Lust has plenty to do with it too.

With her brother presumed kidnapped, Becca needs Nick. She just wasn't expecting to want him so much. As their investigation turns into all-out war with an organized crime ring, only Nick can protect her. And only Becca can heal the scars no one else sees.

Desire is the easy part. Love is as hard as it gets. Good thing Nick is always up for a challenge...

Never having read Ms. Kaye I wasn't sure what to expect so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the suspenseful romance of Becca and Nick (or Rixey as he is also referred to).

Becca Merritt is a very capable ER nurse.  She's use to stressful, tense situations but nothing has prepared her for her brother's kidnapping.  So she turns to Nick Rixey for help.  I liked Becca and how she was portrayed as an intelligent women with faults and flaws.  She makes some mistakes but it's realistic since her experiences have not prepared her for where she has found herself.  Even though Becca is worried, stressed and scared, she holds her own with the big bad Rixey.  He's actually not that bad, he just gives off that attitude.

Nicholas Rixey is still recovering from his injuries sustained during his last battle.  He has withdrawn from his friends, his military brothers and would probably withdraw from his brother Jeremy if Jeremy let him.  Instead they work and live together, Jeremy having taken Nick in when Nick was drifting after his release from the Army.  Rixey is a wounded warrior without a war to fight.  Becca gives him that fight and makes him want to do more than just exist.

There is mistrust at the beginning between Becca and Rixey.  She doesn't know him, only that he was one of her father's men.  He has reason to hate Becca's father and in the beginning, transfers his attitude towards Becca.  He quickly changes his mind when he admits to himself what he knew all along - Becca is not responsible for her father's actions. Rixey is written in a way that you get why he reacts and thinks the way he does.  He is far from perfect and is willing to ask for help, even if it means humbling himself.  I liked how he and Becca learn to trust each other as they are falling for each other.  If there had been no trust, the relationship would have felt hollow.  Instead, it felt real.

I think real is a good word to describe Hard As It Gets.  The action, romance and characters all feel real.  The secondary characters fulfill their roles without overwhelming the hero and heroine and the suspense.  There were a few periods of a little too much character introspective, throwing the pace off but not enough to dampen the enjoyment.  Can't wait to see what happens next!

Rating: A-

Hard Ink Series ~

Hard As It Gets
Hard As You Can (February 25, 2014)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

TBR Challenge: The Navy SEAL's Bride

The Navy SEAL's Bride
Contemporary Romance
Harlequin/August 7, 2012

Ex-navy SEAL Tom Cartwright is struggling to return to civilian life. His little niece is his only ray of sunshine and he agrees to be the "show" in her school show-and-tell.  Teacher Caitlin Rose knows all about past disappointments—once, she danced in the spotlight but now she shows others how to. She's learned the hard way to rely only on herself. Yet as soon as Tom looks at her with those big brown eyes, she's done for….

Can Caitlin crack the walls around this soldier's battle-worn heart?

This year's challenge is off to a good start!  I totally flaked out on last year's challenge but not this year!  A big thanks to Wendy for once again hosting the challenge.

The suggested theme for January is short stories or novellas. Since I have an abundance of Harlequin romances on my TBR pile, that's where I searched out and found one of Ms. Lane's contemporary romances.

It's because of a little girl, Gabby, that Caitlin and Tom meet.  Gabby is Tom's niece and when Tom first sees Gabby's teacher Miss Caitlin Rose, he has a hard time keeping his eyes off of her.  For Caitlin, it's a similar reaction but she has a history with military men and it's not a good one.

The romance moves along quickly, with Caitlin and Tom acting on their mutual attraction.  Caitlin and Tom each have difficulties in their past to overcome.  Tom is learning to accept that he will never go out in the field again but will instead teach recruits.  He doesn't feel like he has anything long-term to offer to a woman. Caitlin thinks she can't trust a man with a military background.  Neither Caitlin or Tom showed much conflict or resistance when it came to overcoming their pasts.  I would have liked to see more conflict and resistance to dating each other since much emphasis was place on these two reasons.

Tom dated Caitlin, slept with her but was not willing to listen to her when she tried to sympathize with him about his loses.  It felt very unreasonable of Tom to brush Caitlin off so quickly, demeaning to a certain extent.  He became angry and scared Caitlin with his reaction to her trying to simply talk to him about his losses.  I didn't like this side of Tom and thought he overreacted.  Turned me off the hero.

There are some words and terms that sounded a bit off.  Since the author lives in New Zealand, perhaps the odd words and phrases are more specific to that region and why I'm not familiar with them.  Nothing really major but the hero is a U.S. Navy SEAL and it did cause me to pause a few times.

Rating:  C

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Review: Dare You To

Dare You To
Katie McGarry
Contemporary Young Adult
Pushing the Limits/2
Harlequin Teen/May 28, 2013

Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. "Dance with me, Beth."

"No." I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again....

"I dare you..."

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

After reading and loving Pushing the Limits, I was looking forward to the next in Ms. McGarry's emotionally charged Young Adult series.  While Dare You To didn't have as strong of an impact that Pushing the Limits had, it is still a worthwhile addition to the series.

It all started with a dare.  And while some things that start with a dare don't always end well, for Ryan and Beth, the dare was only the beginning of what would prove to be a very exciting, emotional roller coaster ride.

Beth Risk had to grow up too young and too fast.  In her relationship with her mother, Beth is the parental figure while her mother is irresponsible and immature.  Beth continues to keep her mother out of trouble but this places Beth in right trouble's path.  I couldn't help but feel sorry for Beth. Her attitude could use some adjusting but she uses her rebellious teen attitude as a shield to protect her from the world of disappointment she has experienced.

Ryan Stone is the all American teenager.  Good grades, lots of friends, baseball star - yes, he has it all.  But he wants something more, something different.  He is intelligent but hides it behind his jock persona.  Ryan is mature, willing to see beyond Beth's bad girl image to the real girl behind the attitude.  I liked how the conflict between Ryan's dreams and his father's dreams for him are shown and resolved.

For Beth and Ryan, the chance meeting that turns to friendship then romance, acts as a catalyst for major changes in each others' lives.  They are both able to see the potential in one another and provide encouragement towards reaching for something they each thought was unattainable.

Rating: B+

Pushing the Limits Series ~

Pushing the Limits
Crossing the Line (novella)
Dare You To
Crash Into You
Take Me On (May 20, 2014)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

ARC Review: Santa, Bring My Baby Back

Santa, Bring My Baby Back
Cheryl Harper
Contemporary Romance
Rock'n'Rolla Hotel/Book 3
Avon Impulse
December 17, 2013

A bride abandoned at the altar . . . just in time for Christmas? 'Tis the season for second chances at Cheryl Harper's Elvis-themed Rock'n'Rolla Hotel.

After trying and failing at acting, modeling, dog grooming, and a dozen other jobs, Grace Andersen thought for sure she'd nail marrying a rich man. But dumped in a hotel chapel and strapped for cash, Grace needs a miracle—and a job.

If it were up to Charlie McMinn, Grace would be a married lady by now. Officiating weddings in gold lamé and a rock star pompadour may not have been his idea of getting into the holiday spirit, but with a gorgeous bride asking for his help, Charlie doesn't mind sticking around his mother's hotel a few more days. Especially if it means getting Grace settled …

Grace isn't sure what to think of sexy, rugged Charlie, except that she can't deny the attraction between them, or how good it feels to finally fit in somewhere. Is she ready to give a certain place—and a certain someone—a real chance? Or will she abandon a true Christmas miracle?

Cheryl Harper gives readers a sweet, quirky romance between a schedule loving hero and a no plans required heroine.  It's set against the backdrop of an Elvis themed resort hotel.  And while there are a number of Elvis sightings, the focus is on the developing romance of Grace and Charlie.

Charlie McMinn is happiest at his home in the woods, working his magic on increasing his and his mother's investments.  It's his mother Willodean, who draws him out of him seclusion and has him working at the resort.  Charlie doesn't like his time at the resort but he loves him mom and that's why he's willing to dress as Elvis.  Charlie's really a sweetheart under all that grumpiness and I enjoyed see through that grumpiness to the hero underneath.

It turns out being left at the alter is the best thing to happen to Grace Andersen in a long time.  She finds herself more or less stuck at the Rock'n'Rolla Hotel.  Grace does seem to land on her feet and this time is not different except for Charlie.  He makes all the difference between just another job and a new life.  Grace slides into her new role and new life at the hotel.  She also makes her way into Charlie's life and it was interesting to see how much these two seemingly different people have so much in common.

The hotel and resort has it's variety of eclectic residents.  They all add some spice to the story but my favorite is Willodean.  She is the voice of wisdom, reason and experience.  She is the driving force of the hotel and the people who live and work there.

Although Santa, Bring My Baby Back is considered a holiday romance, it's a fun read for any time of the year.

Rating: B

Rock'n'Rolla Hotel Series ~

Love Me Tender (novella in anthology Kiss Me)
Stuck on You
Can't Help Falling in Love
Santa, Bring My Baby Back