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Review – Anthology – Burning Bright

burning brightTitle: Burning Bright – Four Chanukah Love Stories
Authors: Megan Hart, KK Hendin, Stacey Agdern, Jennifer Gracen
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Description:
This December, take a break from dreidel spinning, gelt winning, and latke eating to experience the joy of Chanukah. When you fall in love during the Festival of Lights, the world burns a whole lot brighter.

It’s definitely not love at first sight for Amanda and her cute but mysterious new neighbor, Ben. Can a Chanukah miracle show them that getting off on the wrong foot doesn’t mean they can’t walk the same road?

Lawyers in love, Shari Cohen and Evan Sonntag are happy together. But in a moment of doubt, he pushes her away—then soon realizes he made a huge mistake. To win her back, it might take something like a Chanukah miracle.

When impulsive interior designer Molly Baker-Stein barges into Jon Adelman’s apartment and his life intent on planning the best Chanukah party their building has ever seen, neither expects that together they just might discover a Home for Chanukah.

All Tamar expected from her Israel vacation was time to hang out with one of her besties and to act like a tourist, cheesy t-shirt and all, in her two favorite cities. She definitely was not expecting to fall for Avi, a handsome soldier who’s more than she ever dreamed.

Review:
Sometimes I love when random books pop up in my feed as recommendations. This year, Burning Bright was one of them that I came across and since it focused on Chanukah, and since I can’t remember ever reading any books with that as a basis, I’m glad i decided to take the plunge. And as always with anthologies, I love discovering new authors – in the case of Burning Bright, the only author I had previously read was Megan Hart.

Burning Bright consisted of 4 stories, all with a different take on Chanukah – although for me, my two favorites were the first one, written by Megan Hart and the last one written by KK Hendin. The other day (at least to me) were only so-so and I didn’t really enjoy them – so i’m going to quickly review my two least favorite ones first, before I talk about my favorite ones. I think i’m going to refer to the Megan Hart and KK Hendin contributions as bookends – i seem to always end up using favorite authors as bookends on my shelves, and it is the case with this anthology ;)

Fundamentally, there was nothing really wrong with the stories by Stacey Agdern, Jennifer Gracen – they were well-written, they just personally didn’t appeal to my reading asthetic. In a Dose of Gelt (Jennifer Gracen), we meet Shari and Evan, both lawyers who work at the same firm and in love. my problem was that I typically struggle with stories where the main couple is already in a relationship with each other – although there are often interesting dynamics, they just leave me feeling empty – I like the newness of figuring out a relationship (even though second chance romances where they couple is NOT together is a favorite trope of mine). That being said, Evan did do some serious grovelling – I just didn’t like the whole premise and how it was executed. The same could be said for A Home for Chanukah (Stacey Agdern) – the premise itself was interesting, but I struggled with the continual head-hopping throughout. It wasn’t just a simple back and forth POV each chapter, but rather multiple times in each chapter – one saving grace was that each POV was labelled, so at least there was that consistency.

My two favorites in the anthology were Miracle (Megan Hart) and All I Got (KK Hardin) – there was something brutally raw about both of these that just drew me to them. in Miracle, we got to experience Ben’s separation from his family and not being in the safety zone that his religion had previously provided – finding himself in a world that is less strict that where he came from. I really enjoyed this one because it was raw and emotional, but at the same time, I learnt some new stuff. And then there was KK Hardin’s contribution, All I Got which probably fell more into the new adult realm, since the main character was engaged in education. But when she falls in love on a trip to Israel (which is also on my bucket list of places i would love to visit one day), she discovered just how small the world truly is.

As always with an anthology, I was left with wanting to potentially read more books by the authors and look forward to good reads in the future. Overall, I gave the anthology 3.5 stars with 2 books getting 4 stars and 2 getting 3.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Review – The Kidnapped Christmas Bride – Jane Porter

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00050]The Kidnapped Christmas Bride
Author: Jane Porter
Series: #3 in the Taming of the Sheenans series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided via Netgalley

Description:
All he wants is a Christmas memory…

Trey Sheenan has cultivated his reputation as Marietta’s resident bad boy, until one day he lets things go too far and he loses everything—his freedom, his fiance McKenna Douglas, and his infant son.

McKenna has loved Trey since they were kids, but she’s had enough. When Trey is sent away for five years, McKenna is determined to do what’s right for her and baby TJ, which means putting her mistakes—namely Trey—behind her, and move on.

When Trey is released early, he returns to Marietta determined to beg McKenna’s forgiveness and become the father TJ needs him to be, only to discover that he’s too late. McKenna’s marrying local insurance agent Lawrence Joplin in a candlelight Christmas wedding.

Or is she?

Once again, Trey risks everything, but this time it’s for love….and the memory of one perfect Christmas together as a family.

Review:
The Kidnapped Christmas Bride is a book that I’ve had sitting on the pile for quote a while (yes, bad person who requested the ARC and didn’t read in a timely manner), but with Christmas rapidly approaching (and yet, the weather thinking it is much more like early fall); I was looking for a book that I hoped would get me into the Christmas-ish type mood. The picture of the bride in her wedding dress with snow covering the ground seemed like the perfect way to try and get into a Christmas mood.

This was also the first time that I’d read anything by Jane Porter, although I’ve seen her books at my local library before. So I also got to dig my teeth into someone new, which is something I enjoy. The Kidnapped Christmas Bride was well-written, so much so that I wanted more – it was a short read but I felt like it was a complete story. I will point out that The Kidnapped Christmas Bride is book 3 in a series, so there were some hints of the previous books and how everything worked out in them (since I know there are many people out there who like to read books in order – i’m not one of them).

The Kidnapped Christmas Bride used second chance romance and redemption romance/trying to get your life back, in this case, after a stint in jail. I honestly can’t remember the last time I actually read a fiction book that featured someone who had very recently been released from prison (most of the ones I can think of, it had been in their past, as part of the bad boy persona). So this was something different for me and I kind of liked the approach that the author took. Although I don’t know if kidnapping your former love is the way to necessarily start your life over again (just sayin…). While I liked Trey, McKenna kind of rubbed me the wrong way – I could understand Trey’s actions, but hers were kind of tacky, i mean, it was her wedding day…maybe its because I have a hard time seeing how people can get all the way to the wedding day/the alter before realizing it isn’t the relationship for them…like seriously! I think in part that is why I only gave this book 3 stars.

That being said, while I wasn’t a fan of McKenna, I enjoyed the authors writing style enough, that I will probably check out something else writing by her in the future.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2015 in Book Review

 

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Review – A Love to Last – Kelsey Browning

a love to lastA Love to Last
Author: Kelsey Browning
Series: #1 in Prophecy of Love series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
Her boots were made for walking…

Drifter Delaney Shields plans to breeze through Prophecy, Texas, before setting off on an around-the-world trip of a lifetime. She never expects to see sexy-as-sin Cal Maddox, the man she ran out on a decade ago. One look between them and their past attraction ignites, flaming hotter than ever. But acting on it would be disastrous because she’s not the sticking kind, and Cal has roots a mile deep.

Cal Maddox left the military only to find both the health of his dad and his hometown failing. When Delaney walks into his father’s custom boot shop, she spurs emotional memories and sexual fantasies Cal has no business indulging in. Especially once he realizes she’s the next Prophecy bootmaker, the only person who can design custom cowboy boots with the power to change a person’s destiny. But if fanning those old flames will keep her in Prophecy, he’s willing to take the heat, even if it means keeping secrets and risking his heart again.

Duty and desire throw Cal and Delaney together, but will their feelings be strong enough to forge a new bond or will they destroy their second chance at love?

Review:
Sometimes when everything looks dull and dreary in the world, you just need to curl up under the covers with a favorite author and read their newest release and that is just what I did when Kelsey Browning’s newest book came out. It had been a fairly crappy week in the world with different events, so all I wanted to do was shut down and find my happy place. And from the time I picked up A Love to Last, to finishing up the final page, I was in my happy place. Unfortunately, as with previous books, my enjoyment ended all too soon because of my inability to stop reading her stuff once I start (and yes, that makes for some long days following book releases…)

Anyone who follows Kelsey on social media has probably seen the picture of her sitting in a chair with her feet, clad in cowboy boots sticking out to the side – so when I saw that the book had a basis in a company that designs and makes custom boots. Added to that, the whole idea of a prophecy boot – a boot that has its exact pair in your soul (or is it sole) mate. And to make a triple whammy, A Love to Last is a second chance romance which is one of my favorite tropes in the romance genre.

there is something about Delaney that made me both jealous of how footloose and fancy free she was, but at the same time, making me want to execute a well-placed Gibbs slap. And yet, at the same time, I just wanted to give her a hug because that just seemed to be what she needed. And while I know Cal was there for her, yeah, well….lol. And then there was Cal – wanting to be all that his family needed, but not quite fitting the bill when it comes to inheriting his father’s legacy as the prophecy boot maker. I think we have probably all felt that – the desire to be something that maybe just wasn’t meant to be.

As always, the romance of Delaney and Cal was supported with a very colorful cast of characters, including Cal’s father, the current (and ornery prophecy bootmaker), as well as siblings, and townspeople. I’m excited to see where this series goes over the next couple of books. A solid 4 stars and can’t wait for me – a perfect read for a rainy day.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Book Review

 

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Review – Designed for Murder – Avery Flynn

designed for murderDesigned for Murder
Author: Avery Flynn
Series: #4 in the Killer Style series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
Some fashion statements can kill…

Mika Ito combines her two favorite things in life—textile design and live-action role-playing (LARP)—by creating costumes for her fellow Magic Battledome gamers. Lately, someone’s been assaulting LARPers and stealing their costumes. Concerned for the safety of her friends, Mika hires Maltese Security…only to discover that the lead investigator is the super-hot stranger she just hooked up with.

Carlos Castillo is all too familiar with Magic Battledome. A former legend in role-playing circles, he was all about gaming, until things went very, very wrong for him. Now he’s forced to return to the game undercover—as Mika’s boyfriend—to find some answers. Only playing “boyfriend” with his gorgeous one-night stand is more temptation than a guy can withstand…

Someone wants the costumes enough to kill for them. And when it comes to murder, nothing is what it seems…

Review:
So this is my second attempt at writing a review for Designed for Murder because wordpress decided to eat my original one (and its still lost somewhere in cyberspace…I wonder if that is like a parallel dimension that is where missing socks and tupperware lids also end up?) But back to the adventure that was Designed for Murder. So being that this was the fourth book in the series, it was like coming back to visit a family – or rather, turning to a trusted company to help you out of scrape.

Anyways, when I finished the previous book in the series, I wondered if Carloes (or ‘los) was going to get his own book. He had had a pretty tumultuous ride in the previous books, ending it a pretty massive betrayal and making decisions that separated him from things that he loved and was known for. But then Mika, the heroine in Designed for Murder comes along and it is Carlos’ unique skills that she needs to help her solve the case of who is assaulting the members of her court. Yes, her court because the basis of Designed for Murder is LARP or live-action role-playing. I’ll admit that I know like next to nothing about it, but I love that non-traditional hobbies are starting to make more of an appear in genre fiction.

I found the mystery element of the story to be well-done and kept me guessing until not long before it was revealed. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the series was how looking back there were small clues, that I just completely missed in my initial read. But at the same time, that is one of the things I love about Avery’s writing – she always keeps me guessing until the very end. I gave Designed for Murder a solid 4 stars with Avery’s normally witty writing style and smexy scenes.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2015 in Book Review

 

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Review – After the War – Jessica Scott

after the warAfter the War
Author: Jessica Scott
Series: #2 in the Homefront series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Author via Netgalley

Decription:
A terrible loss…
Captain Sarah Anders lost her husband to the Iraq war and has nearly lost the career she loves. Sent to Fort Hood, she only wants to do her job and take care of the daughter she’s raising on her own. She never counted on running straight into a memory she’d tried to forget.
A love he never forgot…
Captain Sean Nichols never got over Sarah. He simply tried to forget her amidst the war and the chaos of combat. But when she’s assigned to investigate his unit, he comes face to face with the woman no war or any amount of time could make him forget.
A dark secret…
As Sarah gets closer to the truth, Sean must accept that actions he took during the war may end the tentative love building between them. And even if Sarah can forgive him, Sean may never be able to forgive himself.

Review:
I always seem to hesitate when I pick up a book by Jessica Scott, not for fear of the writing, but more for fear of how much I am going to end up crying while reading…I can’t think of one of her books yet that hasn’t made me blubber like a baby in places and After the War was no different. In After the War, Ms Scott tackles the often unwritten about tragedy of war, the death of a spouse – especially, as in this instance, when the initial couple was dual military (meaning both were serving at the same time); and then following on, what if that widow(er) finds love again and how do they/can they move on. In the case of Sarah and Sean – there was that history between the two of them, which to me, made the relationship more believable. I could see from the writing that Sean still loved Sarah, even though they had been separated for many years and while Sarah was struggling with being a widow and a single mother, Jessica made her transition to love again appear believable to me.

As with all her other books, the other characters in After the War just enhanced the story and make it all the more real. Including the Col that Sarah worked for – I spent the vast majority of the book wanting to just scream at her for her behavior towards Sarah and yet at the same time, its behavior from senior officers that I have observed in real life (those that don’t have families and hate individuals who do because it interferes with their perception of the individual doing their job; the idea that if the Army (or Navy) wanted you to have a family they would have issued you one. I’ve been lucky enough to not personally experience this, but I know women who have.

As with her previous books in the series (and the series that lead into this one) – Jessica managed to walk the line between love and angst, but I will say that I did end up tearing up a little bit – not as much as I have in previous books, but enough that I was reaching for a box of tissues towards the end. After the War got 4 stars from me and I already have the next book in the series waiting on my kindle (although I am rapidly running out of books by her to read)

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2015 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Upside Down – Lia Riley

upside downUpside Down
Author: Lia Riley
Series: #1 in the Off the Map series
Rating: ☆ ☆

Narrators: Brittany Uomoleale, Tim Wright
Run Time: 8hrs and 39min
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Hachette Audio

Description:
If You Never Get Lost, You’ll Never Be Found

Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying good-bye to the past-and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she’ll act like a carefree exchange student, not a girl sinking under the weight of painful memories. Everything is going according to plan until she meets a brooding surfer with hypnotic green eyes and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.

Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he moved back home to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He’s never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once in a lifetime . . . or if they were meant to live a world apart.

Review:
When i read the description of Upside Down, it seems like a book (or audiobook that I would be attracted to) – the plot description just drew me in. Unfortunately that is about all I can say about it, when it comes down to brass tacks. The idea of going on a student exchange and then finding love was intriguing and I’m surprised it doesn’t actually get used more in romance novels, but that being said, in the instance of Upside Down, it just didn’t work for me. I think my biggest issue with Upside Down was that for a good portion of the book, the sex overwhelmed the story and it just seemed underdeveloped. Yes, I know, me saying the sex took over the story is something you don’t hear very often, but it just felt like every time there was opportunities for the author to develop the plot and more the plot forward and instead the characters ended up in bed with each other.

I thought that the premise of the story was interesting, Natalia (or Talia as she was referred to in the book), trying to find herself after a family tragedy while studying abroad. And at the beginning it was like that, but unfortunately, the story took a quick down into the overly angsty realm and I really struggled to finish listening to it (and if I didn’t have it slotted into a challenge, I may have actually put it aside). I liked Bran as a character, but it seems that so many authors rely on the guy (or girl) with a secret premise to achieve the story (or in this case, both of them).

Both of the narrators, Brittany Uomoleale and Tim Wright, were new to me but I was intrigued enough by their narration that I may listen to other narrations done by them in the future. I found that both of the narrators were well-suited to the ages of the characters that they were narrating (meaning, they didn’t sound too old or too young for the ages of Talia and Bran). Overall, the narration of Upside Down made a mediocre story better but not by much. I gave the narration of Upside Down 3 stars.

While I know many readers like the new adult angsty romance, it just doesn’t work for me and unfortunately, Upside Down featured pretty much every element that I dislike in the genre – the big secret, the angst, more sex than plot. I gave Upside Down 2 stars but it may work for someone else more than it worked for me.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Inn at Last Chance – Hope Ramsey

inn last chanceInn at Last Chance
Author: Hope Ramsey
Series: #7 in the Last Chance series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via NetGalley

Description:
Jenny Carpenter is the unrivaled pie-baking champion of Last Chance, South Carolina’s annual Watermelon Festival and the town’s unofficial spinster. With her dream of marriage and children on hold, she focuses on another dream, turning the local haunted house into a charming bed-and-breakfast. But her plans go off course when the home’s former owner shows up on her doorstep on a dark and stormy night . . .

Mega-bestselling horror writer Gabriel Raintree is as mysterious and tortured as his heroes. His family’s long-deserted mansion is just the inspiration he needs to finish his latest twisted tale, or so he thinks until he learns it’s been sold. The new innkeeper proves to be as determined as she is kind, and soon Gabriel finds himself a paying guest in his own home. As Jenny and Gabe bring new passion to the old house, can she convince him to leave the ghosts of his past behind-and make Last Chance their first choice for a future together?town girl

Review:
I had the pleasure of meeting Hope Ramsey at an author/reader luncheon that I attended last year in Washington DC and I was reminded of a firecracker – she didn’t seem to stop moving during the time we were there. I didn’t realize until I got home that evening that I actually had one of her books sitting unread in my NetGalley account. so I decided to take the plunge and jumped into her series, even if it was #7 in an ongoing on (something I don’t normally do, but I didn’t really have the time to go back at read the previous 6 books).

I will admit that at first I was a bit lost as to how Jenny fit into the overall Last Chance storyline, but it seemed like she was the hometown girl and it was time for her to get her HEA. Whereas, Gabriel was the outcast – he had previously lived in the house that Jenny now owns and is restoring into a Bed and Breakfast until a tragedy struck his family. I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting the paranormal aspect especially since I was expecting a straight contemporary romance (and where, as far as I could see, none of the previous books in the series had similar aspects).

I liked how Ms Ramsey developed the relationship between Jenny and Gabriel, although I thought he was a bit of a jackass early in the book. It was interesting seeing him find peace and resolution with his past. The mystery aspect was ok, and I liked how the author wrote the ghost to be a bit mischievous, a bit like a modern day Casper. I do feel as though I might have appreciated this entry in the series more if I had read the rest of the series, but at the same time, based on reading Inn at Last Chance, I don’t know if I will or not. Ultimately, I gave Inn at Last Chance 3 stars, but on the very low end.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2015 in Book Review

 

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