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