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Review – Hollywood on Tap – Avery Flynn

hollywood on tapHollywood on Tap
Author: Avery Flynn
Series: #2 in the Sweet Salvation Brewery series

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
For years, Sean O’Dell has hidden his past as a Hollywood heartthrob from everyone at the Sweet Salvation Brewery. However, the arrival of nosey efficiency expert Natalie Sweet threatens the status quo. It doesn’t help that with her glasses, buttoned-up sweaters and always pulled-back hair that she’s uncovered one secret already: His attraction for hot librarian types.

Natalie has had enough of the strong-and-silent Sean submarining her efforts to change the brewery for the better. She’s ready to do whatever it takes to make her vision a reality, even if that means taking down the pig-headed and too-hot-for-his-own-good brewmaster.

Sizzling attraction battles stubborn determination as Natalie and Sean go head to head in a battle that’s anything but business as usual.

Review:
Why is it that books I really enjoy, I have a hard time writing reviews of? Case in point, I’ve been staring at the computer screen for this one for at least an hour – so i guess i’m just going to start writing and hopefully something that resembles a good review (because the book was good) will result. But anyways, I remember after I finished reading Enemies on Tap (the first book in the series), that I pretty much sent the author a twitter msg asking when Sean was going to get his book – and of course, I got the very coy response, don’t worry he’ll get his. So when I saw the description for Hollywood on Tap and saw it was his book, there were immediate jumps of joy. I mean, who doesn’t love a curmudgeon (and isn’t that an awesome word) who finds his happy ever after?

Hollywood on Tap picks up a few months after Enemies on Tap. While EoT (since i’m too lazy to write out the whole title) occurred during a time of upheaval in the brewing company, Hollywood on Tap, finds things mostly settled down and a normal rhythm being established. I say mostly settled down because there were some events that occurred in the previous book that had some influence in how Hollywood on Tap played out.

I will admit that I had a hard time connecting with Natalie as a character because I am likely the complete antithesis of her – i’m not organized, I attempted to color-code something (which lasted all of about 5 minutes) and my office (as my mother will attest) resembles Sean’s in organizational level. And of course, I loved Sean from when he was introduced as a character – that being said, I’m also not a huge fan of the secret identity trope – I get why people may do it (I mean, heck, I just participated in a blog hop about pseudonym’s in blogging) – but it just felt like something was missing.

Don’t get me wrong, Hollywood on Tap was filed with Avery flynn’s spunky characters and whitty reparte (oh why can’t I write like that) – and I loved seeing Logan/Miranda from book 1 again (albiet only briefly) – but I wanted a bit more. The mystery element was nice, even though I kind of had it figure out how it was (even with the twist). i think my favorite part of the story is seeing the town and how people interact with others – those who step up to support the Sweet’s and those that continue to hold grudges against them (cough, like the local law enforcement, cough). I do feel like the story could have had a little bit more at the end – everything turned out a bit too pretty and tied up in a bow (for lack of a better term) for me.

Overall, I gave Hollywood on Tap 3.5 stars (rounding it up to 4 on Goodreads/amazon) – a solid story, hot in places which made for an entertaining read. I’ll be interested to see where the next book in the series takes me.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Euphoria – Lily King

euphoriaEuphoria
Author: Lily King

Narrators: Simon Vance, Xe Sands
Run Time: 6hr 53 min

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Audiobook Jukebox

Description:
English anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying a tribe on the Sepik River in the Territory of New Guinea with little success. Increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when he encounters the famous and controversial Nell Stone and her wry, mercurial Australian husband Fen. Bankson is enthralled by the magnetic couple whose eager attentions pull him back from the brink of despair.

Nell and Fen have their own reasons for befriending Bankson. Emotionally and physically raw from studying the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo tribe, the couple is hungry for a new discovery. But when Bankson leads them to the artistic, female-dominated Tam, he ignites an intellectual and emotional firestorm between the three of them that burns out of anyone’s control. Ultimately, their groundbreaking work will make history, but not without sacrifice.

Review:
I had heard this book raved about in several audiobook groups I am part of, so when I was offered the opportunity to review it through audiobook jukebox, I jumped on it (mostly because the copy at my library had 60+ people on the wait list..). Plus the narrators (Simon Vance and Xe Sands) are two of my favorites. There was something about the description that caught my attention – i haven’t read a lot about cultural anthropology but it is an area that interests me, the idea of living intimately with a group of people for a period of time, learning about their way of life.

However, I don’t think that I could truly appreciate the beauty of the language and writing style because I made the dumb mistake of listening to the audiobook while on a road trip. And I know now that I really shouldn’t have been listening at 11pm at night – it wasn’t fair to the author or the book. That being said, I did like what I remember listening to. The language was lyrical and the story moved at a nice pace. I felt like the author did a good job of managing the tension in the relationships between the three main characters.

I think my one disappointment with the story was that I expected a bit more about the tribe of people they lived with – at times, it felt like the lives of Nell, Fen and Andrew drown out the premise of living with the natives in New Guinea. It also felt like the ending was a bit rushed to me – I was left (even if it was 3am) feeling like something was missing. I guess because I am ultimately a romantic at heart and the ending didn’t quite feel complete to me.

While I had some issues with parts of the storyline, I had no issues with the narrators. Simon Vance has been a favorite of mine since I listened to him do the Steig Larsson books and Xe Sands is one of my favorite romance narrators. I do wish that there had been more Xe – the majority of the book was narrated by Simon Vance – not that I don’t like him (in fact, I totally fangirl gush over his narration at times), I just wanted more Xe. I’ll say that while she warned me prior to listening that I may need to turn up the volume for her parts because they were quieter, I didn’t have that issue – I didn’t have to adjust the volume on my car audio at all while listening.

Overall, I gave both the book and the narration 3.5 stars but am intrigued to see how that would be adjusted should I re-listen to it later on.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Just for You – Rosalind James

just for youJust for You
Author: Rosalind James
Series: #.5 in the Escape to New Zealand series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
No shirt, no shoes, no … problems?

Hemi Ranapia isn’t looking for love. Fun, yes. Love, not so much. But a summer fishing holiday to laid-back Russell could turn out to be more adventure than this good-time boy ever bargained for.

Reka Harata hasn’t forgotten the disastrously hot rugby star she met a year ago, no matter how much she wishes she could. Too bad Hemi keeps refusing to be left in her past.

Sometimes, especially in New Zealand’s Maori Northland, it really does take a village. And sometimes it just takes a little faith.

Review:
If you are new to Rosalind James or have previously read her books, Just for You works for everyone. Notionally, a prequel to her Escape to New Zealand series, it focuses on Hemi and Reka who are pivotal secondary characters through the other 5 books in the series. So if you have read the series, like me, you are probably looking forward to their story and if you are new to the series, then it is a great place to start.

Just for You was originally a novella that showed up in one of the Amazon box sets, but the author re-released it as a single title a few months after. So it was also a short read, but I will say that the author managed to put a lot of detail and story into a 33k words. This book, much more than previous ones, really highlighted how much the author knows about rugby – at times I felt like I was actually watching the game.

My biggest gripe was the “big misunderstanding” which is personally one of my least favorite tropes in romance. It just bugs me because most of the time, it could be cleared up with a couple of simple questions. While I liked Reka in previous books, this just kind of irked me – maybe because it wasn’t how I thought she’d act based on previous characterization.

Aside from that, my only other complaint is that I wished it was a little bit longer – I really liked Hemi/Reka as a couple and would love to see more of them as they settled into their lives together. I guess all I can hope is that the author will continue to feature them in more books. Overall, I gave Just for You 3.5 stars and look forward to continuing the series.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Review – Winning Love – Abby Niles

winning loveWinning Love
Author: Abby Niles
Series: #3 in the Love to the Extreme (but can be read stand-alone)
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

Review Copy Provided By Publisher

Description:
Mac “The Snake” Hannon has spent years throwing himself into cage fighting as a way to lash back at the natural disaster that destroyed his future. A call for help has Mac returning to the one place he swore never to return: Kansas—in the height of tornado season.

There he meets free-spirited Gayle Andrews. At first he wants nothing to do with the infuriatingly, persistent woman, but the crazy challenges she tosses his way are impossible to resist. As she thaws years of bitterness, bringing back the Mac he believed long gone, he starts to make peace with the past and see the future again. Until he learns she chases his worst nightmare, then he can’t get away fast enough.

Meteorologist and storm chaser, Gayle Andrews is no stranger to being left behind and now believes in living in the moment. She wants to do just that with the handsome extreme fighter with the achingly sad eyes. As she works to replace the sorrow with desire, she finds herself breaking her one rule: have fun, but don’t fall in love. When he suddenly pushes her away and she discovers the horrifying reason why, she issues one more challenge: face his fear and come on a chase with her.

Will squaring off with the past lead to a victory for heartache or love?

Review:
It has been a while since i’ve read anything by Abby Niles, but after I started Winning Love, I remembered why I enjoyed her stuff. One of the things that I enjoy the most about her books is that the conflict that exists between the hero and heroine seems real, and not manufactured like other conflicts appear to be. In this instance, it was conflict between the survivor of a natural disaster and a researcher of said natural disaster (specifically tornado’s). I also loved that Gayle wasn’t the weak TSTL heroine that so many authors seem to rely on for their storyline to advance – in fact, I think at times, she was almost a stronger character than Mac.

I also liked the Mac being a MMA fighter didn’t take over the story and that the way the story was developed, it allowed the reader to see his weaknesses as a human. But I will say, that his motivations for going that route weren’t really explored – why MMA from his previous life? And then he basically takes a leave of absence to help his friend out (not saying there is anything wrong with that, just that part of the story needed more development).

The ending had a slightly sappy quality to it, but when taken in relation to the whole story, I could deal with that. I thought that it was well-researched – you could tell the author had done a lot of reading/studying on storm chasers. I think the biggest weakness (to me) was that I wanted more of Lance’s story – it seemed like he started off as a strong character and then kind of fizzled out as the story progressed – maybe he’ll be featured in a later book – who knows…

Overall, I gave Winning Love a solid 3.5 stars (but rounded it up to 4 on Goodreads). I’m intrigued enough that I want to go back and read the previous 2 books in the series – since those characters appeared briefly in Winning Love (but it can function as a stand-alone as well).

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – In Doubt – Drusilla Campbell

in doubt In Doubt
Author: Drusilla Campbell
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
EVERYONE WANTS THE BOY TO PAY FOR HIS CRIME.

ONLY ONE WOMAN WANTS TO SAVE HIM.

Defense Attorney Sophie Giraudo is about to open a new legal practice in her hometown of San Sebastian, California, when the beloved governer is shot and seriously wounded during a celebration in the town park. The only thing more shocking than the crime itself is the identity of the would-be assassin: a seemingly gentle teenager named Donny. Driven by her desire to understand what could make a person with no history of violence suddenly commit such a terrible act, Sophie reluctantly agrees to take him on as a client, knowing that, at least, it will bring her some income. But soon she realizes that she also has personal motivations for taking the case: a desire to prove to her overbearing mother that she is not the reckless and self-destructive tennager she used to be, to prove to her ex-husband, who happens to be the prosecuting attorney, that she can win her case, and to prove to herself that the traumatic events of her adolescence no longer define her.

As she digs deeper into Donny’s past, Sophie begins to suspect that he might not be the cold-blooded killer everyone thinks he is. Does Donny’s narcissistic mother really have her son’s best interest in mind? Is Donny’s mentor who runs Boys Into Men, a program for disadvantaged youths, the altruistic man he claims to be? Is Donny a deranged murderer, or a victim of his circumstances acting out of desperation? As Sophie races to uncover the truth, she is forced to come to terms with her past and to fight for what she knows is right…even if it means risking her reputation and possibly her life.

Review:
I’ve quite often come across Ms Campbell’s books in my library, but have never actually picked one up – in fact, I’ve even borrowed them at least once – but for some reason they kept getting shuffled to the bottom of the pile and then being returned unread. However, when I saw In Doubt in the automatic approval list at NetGalley, I was intrigued enough by the description that I took a chance and downloaded it. I will say that if I had seen the descriptor of Jodi Picoult meets John Grisham prior, I likely wouldn’t have downloaded it because neither of those authors are favorites of mine (in fact, I’m not a fan of the marketing method that compares one author to others, mostly because to me, they never seem to live up to the recommendation – or they far exceed it).

This book seemed to be particularly apt with the amount of public shootings that have gone on the last few years, in particular, the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords in Arizona – but what if you looked at the shooter – quite often, we the public are so quick to judge the shooter, never really knowing what may have been gonig on in their background. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying, anything excuses the shooting and death of people, but there may be external reasons that affected the individuals behavior (and not just mental health ones, like is automatically assumed). In Doubt attempts to do just that.

What happens when a defense lawyer decides to take on the case of a young man who shot and grievously wounded the governor. He never even denies doing it – but he also doesn’t know why. Without getting too much into a spoiler realm, Ms Campbell wove a story that was believable and made me feel sorry for Donny.

I will say that I felt some of the storyline towards the end started to bordering a bit on the over angsty side – it went a bit too far for me – but that was only enough for me to drop my original rating from 4 stars, down to 3.5.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Searching for Grace – Juliann Rich

searching for graceSearching for Grace
Author: Juliann Rich
Series: #2 in the Crossfire Trilogy
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided By Author

Description:
Camp is over and Jonathan Cooper returns home—to life with his mother whose silence is worse than anything she could say, to his varsity soccer teammates at East Bay Christian Academy, to the growing rumors about what he did with a boy last summer at Bible camp.

All the important lines blur. Between truth and lies. Between friends and enemies. Between reality and illusion.

Just when Jonathan feels the most alone, help arrives from the unlikeliest of sources: Frances “Sketch” Mallory, the weird girl from his art class, and her equally eccentric friend, Mason. For a short while, thanks to Sketch and Mason, life is almost survivable. Then Ian McGuire comes to town on the night of the homecoming dance and tensions explode. Fists fly, blood flows, and Jonathan—powerless to stop it—does the only thing he believes might save them all: he prays for God’s grace.

Review:
When I finished Caught in the Crossfire a couple of months ago, I was intrigued to see how Ms Rich was going to continue Jonathan’s story and with Searching for Grace, she didn’t disappoint. Searching for Grace picks up almost immediately following the conclusion of Caught in the Crossfire, when Jonathan returns home from summer camp, away from Ian and struggling with thoughts and feelings in direct conflict with how he was raised in his chuch (as a note, I’m not acknowledging that it is right or wrong, but that is how it is presented).

I will admit that I was a little bit confused at the beginning with how the story was being told because it appeared to be in a flashback format but it wasn’t easy to identify. And it was weird/ hard for me in trying to figure out who Grace was, but about halfway through, it clicked for me and I liked how the author continued to address the conflict between religion and feelings/love.

The cast of secondary characters in Searching for Grace were much more well-developed to me than the ones in Caught in the Crossfire (not saying that they were bad but I just enjoyed the SfG ones more). I loved that the author worked Simon from CitC into this story because I felt like he was one of the stronger characters in the first one, along with Jonathan. But for me, the duo of Sketch and Mason were the top. They kind of reminded me of Janis and Damien from Mean Girls (if you haven’t seen it, they are the duo that take Cady under their collective wing before she becomes entangled with the mean girls). I loved how they lived their lives and didn’t really seem to care how they were the odd-balls (for lack of a better word).

There was much more conflict within this book than the previous one, but I don’t feel like it was overly done – it felt like it would feel, if this went down in a small town – the people talking behind backs, the rumors, the feeling that everyone is talking about you and that was just the beginning. That being said, I kind of felt the Ian storyline was bordering a bit too much on the angst storyline, I know why everything went how it did, but I don’t know – it just felt a bit too forced for me – but then as a character he just felt too different from how he appeared in the first book that it felt weird. I will be interested to see where the author goes in the last book in the trilogy as she ties up all the threads.

Overall I gave Searching for Grace 3.5 stars, although it was very nearly a 4 star read for me – there were just a few things that niggled me enough that I went down half a star. I’m looking forwarding to reading the third book when it comes out.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Batter Up – Robyn Neeley

batter up

Batter Up
Author: Robyn Neeley
Rating: ✩ ✩ ✩ ½

Review Copy Provided by Author via RABT

Description:
She mixes more than flour and sugar into her cake batter, and he’s about to find out if a little bit of magic is to his taste…

Bakeshop owner Emma Stevens has a secret — a delicious, slightly unorthodox secret. Each Monday, she mixes up a premonition to share with the bachelors of Buttermilk Falls, and sets one lucky man on the path to true love.

When reporter Jason Levine finds himself mixed up in a Las Vegas bachelorette party, he hears the strangest rumour: the marriage is happening thanks to magic cake batter. Seriously sceptical, and sick of frauds, Jason journeys to the backwater town of Buttermilk Falls to expose the baker and release the townspeople from her evil clutches.

But when Jason meets Emma, tempers flare and sparks fly. Will Jason cling to his logic at the expense of a future, or will he let himself fall under Emma’s spell?

Review:
So when I first read the description for Batter Up, my mind flew to the movie with Sarah Michelle Geller (of Buffy fame) from a few years ago, where she is a Chef that infuses magic through her love of cooking in her dishes (yeah, I’m a sap, what can I say). And i was sucked into the story that Ms Neeley wrote from the get-go – in fact, I think I read the entire thing in a day and a half metro ride (so about an hour and a half or so) and nearly missed my metro stop because I was so busy reading (thankfully, the next stop also has the line I had to switch to).

I liked how the characters were developed, Emma made me both laugh and cry and i hurt for her because of the cruelty of some people. Jason was the tenacious reporter – wanting to get his story no matter the cost (at the beginning). In fact, character-wise – he kind of reminded me of Richard Gere in Runaway Bride when he goes to the small town to find out the story, and keeps showing up in weird and random places, establishing himself in the community. I loved the interactions between Jason and the townsfolk – how they basically took him under their collective wings. The secondary romances in the story were a nice bonus.

I’ll say that my one gripe was that everything seemed to end too quickly – there was the story, the conflict and then the resolution was kinda like a wham bam thank you ma’am – and I wanted a bit more. It almost felt like Emma and Jason were slightly cheated out of their HEA because of how quickly everything was tied up. Maybe an additional chapter, or even an epilogue would have worked but yeah – I just wanted a little bit more.

I look forward to reading more stuff by Ms Neely in the future, since I think she has potential to become well liked in the romance genre. Overall, I gave Batter Up 3.5 stars, a solid contemporary romance, with some magical realism.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2014 in Book Review

 

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