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Review – Long Way Home – Neve Cottrell

long way homeLong Way Home
Author: Neve Cottrell
Series: #1 in the Mangrove Island series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
Tyler Barnes can’t believe his eyes when Alexis MacAdams walks back into his life. His high school crush left Mangrove Island seventeen years ago and never looked back. He’s held on to the memory of her, even though she never gave him a second glance. Now Alexis is back for the holidays and Tyler is determined to make a lasting impression before she slips away again. He soon learns, however, that her broken heart needs to heal before he has a chance to win it. Can Tyler convince her to risk her heart for a second time?

Review:
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a sucker for childhood crush/reunited romance/second chance romance type stories (i’m throwing them all in together, because in general, at least 2of those elements are normally represented somehow). so when Ms Cottrell sent me an email requesting a review for her debut novel, I was intrigued. The cover immediately caught my eye, you could tell that time and effort had been put into the design and it looked suitable for a book set on an island with lots of beach scenes.

Unfortunately, after I started reading, I hit a bit of a snag – I don’t know what it was exactly, but I really struggled with the writing style for probably the first 20% or so. In fact, I actually debated putting it down and not finishing the book. But then, I got stuck on a bus in traffic with only my phone to keep me entertained for a couple of hours and I picked up Long Way Home and started reading again. And this time, it worked. I don’t know what it was when I first tried to read it, compared to the second time, but it just worked for me.

Overall, I thought the author did a good job of developing her characters – there were a few places where I felt like some of the actions of the characters were a bit disconnected with how I imagined them, based on previous descriptions. There were also a few places where the dialogue between the characters seemed overly formal, compared to how people really talk (like the use of contractions). But I think that is something that will develop more fully overtime.

I am interested to see where she goes next with the series, as there were many secondary characters in Long Way Home that I would like to see more of. Overall, I gave Long Way Home a solid 3 stars.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Book Review

 

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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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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 – A Forbidden Rumspringa – Keira Andrews

forbidden rumspringaA Forbidden Rumspringa
Author: Keira Andrews
Series: #1 in Gay Amish Romance series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
In a world where every detail of life—down to the width of a hat brim—is dictated by God and the all-powerful rules of the community, two men dare to imagine a different way. At 18, Isaac Byler knows little outside the strict Amish settlement of Zebulon, Minnesota, where there is no rumspringa for exploration beyond the boundaries of their insular world. Isaac knows he’ll have to officially join the church and find a wife before too long, but he yearns for something else—something he can’t name.

Dark tragedy has left carpenter David Lantz alone to support his mother and sisters, and he can’t put off joining the church any longer. But when he takes on Isaac as an apprentice, their attraction grows amid the sweat and sawdust. David shares his sinful secrets, and he and Isaac struggle to reconcile their shocking desires with their commitment to faith, family and community.

Now that they’ve found each other, are they willing to lose it all?

Review:

POSSIBLE SPOILERS

I’ll be the first to admit that ever seen I saw The Witness with Harrison Ford as a kid the Amish culture has intrigued me. Reading Amish inspirational romances as a teen was a standard and even now they still catch my eye (plus I get really interesting Amazon recommendations when you mix Anish romance and GLBT searches together). So when I saw Keira Andrews was writing an Amish M/M romance I was like – got to read!

This was my first time reading Ms Andrews (although I think I have at least one other book by her on Mt TBR). And I will admit that at first I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to get the depth of the culture in a story that was ultimately a romance but as soon as I started reading the book I was sucked in. I was sneaking reading chapters of this whenever I had a few moments to read – just a little bit more seemed to be my mantra while reading.

I had heard the term Rumspringa before- I mean, there is that horrible show on MTV (I think) about the Amish teens in New York while on Rumspringa (don’t hate me – I had a chunk of down time because of surgery earlier this year and maxed out on my normal shows). what I didn’t realized was that communities can control how/when and if even if their young people can have that experience prior to taking their vows. In this instance, I could see the logic behind why the community didn’t (very Footloose-ish) but ultimately, I didn’t feel that was a good enough reason/logic – there is only so much you can protect children, but where do you draw the line.

I felt connected to David and Issac – their story was just written in a way that you can’t help but feel for them. You could feel how they tried to battle their feelings for each other, because they believed it was wrong because of their religious teachings, but that ultimately, it came down to how they felt for each other. There was a lot of conflict between different characters – not totally over the top, but enough that I found it to be believable – between siblings, between friends, between the religious leaders and their followers. I didn’t realize that different sects (for lack of a better word) in the Amish community existed (stricter, more lenient etc – this was really highlighted in one scene with something simple like a buddy with a reflective sign on it so people in cars can see them on the road).

I will admit that I kept waiting for David and Issac to be betrayed by someone – I know that is probably very skeptical of me – but I just had this feeling – thankfully it didn’t in this book…but who knows in the later ones…I knew going in, based on the limited reviews/discussion that I had seen, that there was going to be a bit of a cliff-hanger, and normally I’m ok with that – but ugh – I can’t believe that I have to wait until JANUARY to find out what happens! (I’m doing the stamp my foot that isn’t fair action right now).

I will say wow – the level of research that went into this book was beyond what I expected – you could see how much time the author put into developing the story and community. i Overall, I gave A Forbidden Rumspringa 4 stars and recommend if you like stories where conflict between religious beliefs and love are key to the story.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Born in Blood – Alexandra Ivy

born in bloodBorn in Blood
Author: Alexandra Ivy
Series: #1 in the Sentinals series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Narrator: Jim Frangione
Run Time: 10hrs 56min

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
Sergeant Duncan O’Conner has seen it all before. A beautiful erotic dancer is found murdered in her home—no suspect, no motive. But there’s one clue: she’s missing her heart. It’s enough to make the hard-bitten Kansas City cop enlist the help of a necro—one of the dead-channeling freaks who live in the domed city of nearby Valhalla. It’s a long shot, but desperate crimes call for desperate measures.

Unlike the other “high-bloods” in Valhalla, Callie Brown considers her abilities a gift, not a curse. But when she reads the dancer’s final thoughts, she senses a powerful presence blocking her vision. This is no ordinary homicide. This is the work of a legendary necromancer who controls souls. A ravenous force that will put Callie’s skills to the test, O’Conner’s career at risk, and both their hearts on the line…literally.

Review:
When I was approached by Recorded Books to participate in their reviewer program I was intrigued and when I saw the wide variety of books and narrators I was in heaven. So I figured I would try a new to me author and a new to me narrator to kick things off. Haha, I’m a bit nuts what can I say. I know you are probably thinking, new to you for both of them, they are both popular in their respective skills, but for some reason I’d just never gotten around to reading or listening to anything done by them. But anyways onto the book/narration…

The first book in a new series I find is normally the weakest, especially in Paranormal Romance/UF because there is significant world-building that needs to go on, and it can’t all happen in one book without a huge information dump. I appreciated how Ms Ivy approached this – there was a steady flow of world building and characterization through-out the narrative. I never felt like I was getting over-loaded.

The use of a necromancy and individuals having the ability to see dead people and what they experienced prior to death was kind of cool and not something I remember coming across in a romance novel before (at least not when it isn’t just the evil person involved in it). I will admit that Callie did irk me on occasion, she seemed a bit goody-goody at times, but she grew on me as the story progressed. But I fell in love with Duncan, the H, from the get-go. There was something about him that just drew me to him. Maybe it was how he didn’t necessarily demonize those with special abilities since he didn’t have any – he may have been skeptical, but he was willing to work with them.

The story itself was well developed and enjoyable – I was kept guessing on what was going to happen next – which made me appreciate the writing skills of the author – i wasn’t bored while listening. That being said, I know a lot of people love Jim Frangione as a narrator, but it took me a while to warm up to him. Overtime i’ve come to realize that I prefer dual narration audiobooks (yes, I know that they are more expensive/time-consuming to produce) – but I know very few men who narrate the female voice well and vice versa. And while I really liked Jim’s interpretation of Duncan, I found his voice for Callie to be ear-grating for the first couple of hours until I got used to his tone/candance. His pacing was good – I never felt the need the either speed up or slow down the narration, and his vareity of voices worked well with the book – there weren’t so many that they got mixed up, but he could make them all unique in their own way.

Overall, I’d be interested in reading another book by this author (be it in the next in the series, or another book) and listening to other books narrated by Frangione. I gave both the book and the narration 3 stars.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – The Husband Games – Jamie Farrell

the husband gamesThe Husband Games
Author: Jamie Farrell
Series: #1 of the Misfit Brides of Bliss series
Rating: ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩

Review Copy Provided By Author

Description:
After Natalie Castellano’s marriage imploded on the field of the Husband Games in Bliss, Illinois, the Most Married-est Town on Earth, the last job she expected to inherit was planning the fiftieth anniversary of her hometown’s unique Games. But with her mother’s unexpected passing, that’s exactly what Natalie’s doing. And the position demands that she play nice with CJ Blue, the man who ultimately caused Natalie’s marital demise.

Winning Bliss’s Husband Games and being crowned Husband of the Year was the brightest spot in CJ’s short marriage. Since his wife’s untimely death, he’s taken himself around the world, hiding from his grief. But now, family obligations have him trapped in Bliss, where he’s been invited to participate in the Games and humiliate himself in the name of closure. The whole town wants him to play. The whole town, except one. And he can’t decide what bothers him more—that Natalie doesn’t think he belongs in the Games, or that she’s right.

These two would make great enemies. But all games aside, the more they find themselves in close quarters, the harder it is to deny their mutual attraction. She’s battled Bliss’s bridal brigade, and he’s jumped out of airplanes and soared over waterfalls, but now they’re both facing the biggest risk of all: taking another chance on love.

Review
So as a reader I love finding new authors to read and I thank my friend Jen every day for introducing me to Jamie Farrell. From reading her first book just over a year ago, I’ve been an avid fan (probably almost bordering on fan girl) – so when I got a special delivery in my email of my ARC of Husband Games, yeah, there was definately some happy dancing going on (figuratively, if not literally). I’d been lucky enough to see the cover long before it was released and I fell in love with it (I mean, look at it, who wouldn’t) – so I knew the book was going to be awesome. And thank god, Jamie delivered.

I will admit, I wasn’t sure about the whole weddings being a predominant role of the story – I mean, a town described as the most wedding-est town in the US, but juxtapose that with a main character who is divorced and well, there may be something there. I loved Natalie – from the first introduction of her until the end, she is probably one of my favorite female characters recently – although I will admit that she did have a few dumb moments where I wanted to shake her. But at the same time, I could see how much that was self-protection from the shenanigans from town-persons.

And then there is CJ – oh CJ, CJ, CJ – former winner of the Husband Games, now a widower and newly returned to town. Words can’t describe my thoughts on CJ – he is the perfect guy – I mean, down to his ability to distinguish his SO by the perfume she wears (or can he?). But Natalie and CJ have a history, one that she vividly remembers, but he has no idea about.

But even though the story was a romance, my favorite (and at the same time) most hated character was the Queen General – the woman who basically controlled Bliss – I know I was supposed to hate her, and I did truely – but oh my god, how she was developed as a character, I couldn’t help but also like her as well (yeah, I’m weird I know). Especially how it all came together in the end.

I loved the idea of the husband games – I mean, a competition based solely around the idea of which husband is the best at various tasks – doing laundry (ha); cooking a romantic dinner (anyone have the fire dept on auto-dial), or just all around-awesomeness. The secondary cast of characters (including CJ’s family – which consists of too many siblings for me to recount); Natalie’s sister who is going to get her own book in the future (if my RUMINT is to be believed), made the story all the more enjoyable.

I will admit that I was surprised by how hard this review was for me to write, considering how much I enjoyed the book. I don’t know what it was, maybe, that there is so much I wanted to say, but I couldn’t without going too far into spoiler territory. Either way, I loved Husband Games, a solid 4 stars and can’t wait to see what Jamie comes up with in the future.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Book Review

 

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