Friday, November 28, 2014

Review: "Worth the Fall" by Claudia Connor

They meet on a beach. . . . Abby Davis isn’t wearing a skimpy bikini or sipping umbrella drinks, not when she’s busy chasing around four little ones. And Matt McKinney isn’t looking for fun—he’s a Navy SEAL, a grown man with a long list of missions . . . and fallen brothers. They only have a week. . . . Abby has brought her children to this beach to start over, to give them the enjoyable memories they deserve. Matt’s been sidelined by a combat injury, and haunted by the best friend he lost and the promise he made: to remain a SEAL—focused and dedicated. This leaves no time for what he’s always wanted: a family. But a week is all it takes. . . . Matt opens her heart while Abby soothes his soul. And though they plan to say good-bye when the week is over, something magical happens on that beach, something neither can forget. Something utterly, completely worth falling for.

Thanks to Netgalley and Loveswept Publishing for the review copy!

"Worth the Fall" is surely worth the read if you are looking for a sweet romance.  Although I had a few little gripes, I would definitely be interested in checking out other titles in this series, as I felt that overall it was quite well done.

This story is told from both Matt and Abby's points of view, and I found them both easy to like.  Matt is an all-around great guy - fun loving, kind, great with kids, attentive, gorgeous, and he's just one of those men that seems to know how to handle pretty much any situation.  I suppose that goes along with his Navy SEAL career, but yeah, a guy like that?  What's not to like?  

Then there's Abby.  I guess you could say she's got her hands full!  With four little kids and another on the way, and a widow to boot, it's a wonder she hasn't had a complete mental breakdown yet.  She's decided to take the kids on a little beach holiday - which to me sounds extremely stressful, but that's just me! - where lo and behold she meets Matt.  Matt has been dragged along to the beach by his cousin as a sort of blind date.  Matt does not enjoy his "date's" company at all, so it's pretty easy for him to ditch their group and start hovering around Abby and her brood.  Anyway, long story short, sparks fly and eventually, amidst all the chaos of four kidlets, they hook up.  

So this is mostly all well and good, but I did have some problems, things that if addressed I think would make the story stronger.  There were times that the plot seemed to drag, especially getting to that first kiss.  There was always a kid to soothe, or feed, or put to bed!  Speaking of kids, one of Abby's kids is named Annie, so every now and then I had to look again to make sure who was doing what - Abby said that?  That doesn't make sense! Oh, okay, it was Annie!  

I felt that Abby's character could have been developed more.  We get enough of her backstory to understand why she's a little reluctant to trust Matt, but that was it.  I wanted to know why she decided to have so many kids, especially with a man who was mostly absent and entirely hands off in raising them.  I wanted to know if she had always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, or if she had career aspirations of her own.  I guess she didn't really have time for hobbies, but did she have any interests outside of raising her kids?  Sure she was nice, beautiful, gentle, etc.  But she was also kind of boring.

Matt, on the other hand, we find out was thinking about leaving the SEALs to pursue other avenues, and that he'd always pictured himself with a wife and family.  He's also dealing with some guilt over promises made to a fallen comrade.  When comparing the development of Matt's character to that of Abby's, it seems a little lopsided - I definitely felt closer to Matt.

My final gripe is with the cover.  The guy is beautiful, no doubt, but why does he have his hand down his pants?  That's just, ew!

Aside from these minor issues, however, I'd say that "Worth the Fall" is a strong start to this series, and I hope I get to read more from Claudia Connor in the near future.

My rating:  3 stars

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review: "I Hunt Killers" by Barry Lyga

What if the world's worst serial killer...was your dad? Jasper "Jazz" Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say. But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal's point of view. And now bodies are piling up in Lobo's Nod. In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read and review a copy of this book.  I had also purchased my own copy of this book earlier in the year, but it was getting a review copy through Netgalley that gave me the push to get off my butt and finally read it!

So, my daughter saw me reading this book - she's nine - and asked if she could read it after I was finished.  I was like, "No freakin' way!  Maybe when you're twenty!  It's sick, twisted, demented, insane, psycho, grotesque, brutal!!!  No WAY are you reading this book!!!"  But I gotta tell ya, I loved every minute of it! 

Jasper Dent, gah, what can I say about this kid?  He's doing everything he can to fight the whole nature vs. nurture thing.  He's been nurtured since birth to become a serial killer, but there are times when it seems that the thirst for killing might also be in his nature.  Those are the times that while I was reading made me cringe with fear.  Seriously disturbing!  

It's also interesting to watch Jasper work his charm.  He's been trained so well by "Dear Old Dad" that turning on the charisma comes naturally to him.  It also makes it easy for him to act, in theatre productions and whenever he needs to become a certain character in real life.  Truly amazing!  I don't think I've ever read another character remotely like Jazz, and I found him completely enthralling.

There are a few secondary characters in Jazz's life, but it's really difficult to get a read on what he feels for them.  On the surface, it's obvious that Jazz cares about Connie, Howie and G. William, but how much is he able to feel when he's been brainwashed not to?

The mystery and suspense were really well done here - I had no idea from one moment to the next what was going to happen!  I'll definitely be buying the other books in this series to add to my library - highly recommended!

My rating: 5 stars

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review: "Getting Even" by Sarah Rayner

Revenge has never been such fun

How would you feel if your best friend at work betrayed you? Was secretly having an affair with an influential colleague? Won a coveted promotion, then teamed you up with a mere junior, leaving you feeling completely demoted? What would you do? For Ivy there's no choice. The only person she has ever trusted, Orianna, has blown it big time. So there's only one way forward: revenge.

Ivy's campaign is brilliant, if horribly destructive, and she's determined to get even with the woman who has dared to cross her. But is Ivy really the innocent party? Or is she hiding secrets of her own?

My Thoughts
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read and review an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I really had a hard time getting through this book, and I'm not sure exactly why.  Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for this genre of novel, or maybe the constantly changing POV's made it difficult for me to connect with any of the characters.  Whatever the reasons for my sluggish reading, don't let this deter you from picking up "Getting Even", as it was very well done.  

I just reread the synopsis, and I do feel that it's misleading.  I was expecting the story to be told exclusively from Ivy's point of view, and for her to be the party who has been betrayed and stomped on professionally.  In reality, this is far from the case and Ivy is instead very difficult to sympathize with.  Occasionally, she deals with a bout of guilt as she dishes out her revenge, but the main reason I kept reading was because I wanted to see Ivy get what was coming to her!  She is just an awful person!!!  But she's also one of those characters that people love to hate, which can make for an extremely fun read.  

The world Rayner creates here is an interesting one in that it is so far removed from my life.  Most of the characters are an insular little group working at a marketing firm in London, and from them we get to see an inside view of the politics and relationships that make up this web.  Rob is the outsider, the personal trainer who takes on first Dan and then Ivy as clients, and even though Rob's piece in the story is relatively small, I think I enjoyed his character the most.  He was such a gossiping old biddy, I found it really amusing!

Anyway, definitely worth a look if you are a lover of chick-lit or if you are looking for something with office intrigue.

My rating: 3 stars

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Review: "Blurring the Lines" by Mia Josephs

Synopsis from Goodreads:  Christian Meyer quit his band and checked into rehab. Only, when he checks out to start his solo career, he can’t write. At all.

Corinne’s done the hollywood, famous rockstar boyfriend thing. It ended in such a huge disaster that she ran herself out of town, despite her career as a songwriter just beginning to take off. She lives in a small cabin in the woods of Washington to keep as far away from her old life as possible.

But when Christian is desperate to start his new career, and his manager has the perfect songwriter in mind, their worlds collide.

Corinne is determined to keep her distance, it’s just collaborating for a weekend. But when Chris shows up on her doorstep weeks after their meeting and pleading for help, she can’t turn him away.

With the life she now lives and the past she’s desperate to keep buried, she’ll do everything she can to protect her heart, no matter how quickly she feels herself falling.

For the first time in his life, Chris can see himself being in love, but with a tour date looming, and Corinne terrified to move forward, they both have a long road to travel if there’s a chance of them being together.

This book received for free from "Ebooks for Review" in exchange for an honest review.


This is a book to read if you are wanting realistic characters trying to make a seemingly impossible situation work.  I enjoyed just about everything in this book, including Chris and Corrine, and I would recommend it to those searching for a light, romantic read.

Chris...sigh!  What can I say about the guy?  He's pretty awesome all around.  Not only is he great looking, he's got charisma oozing from his pores, and he can sing!  Despite all this, he's definitely not perfect.  He's a recovering alcoholic, so he's struggling with sobriety on a daily basis.  He's also starting off a solo career, but with a pretty severe case of writer's block, he's in a bit of a bind.  That's where Corrine comes in.  She's had to grow up very quickly, and while I won't get into her backstory here a whole lot, I will say that Josephs does a great job of explaining Corrine's motivations in a way that will help the reader empathize with her.  So while I sometimes got frustrated with Corrine - come on, girl, this guy is hot for you and he's awesome, go for it! - I could always understand her reason for caution.

There were times I thought the plot moved a little slowly, but by the same token I can see why the author decided to move at a slower pace.  It was nice to see that even with their obvious attraction, Chris and Corrine developed a pretty healthy friendship before deciding to progress to something more.  

There are, of course, some inevitable bumps and bruises on their road to happily ever after, but overall, I'm happy with how Chris and Corrine resolved their issues.  I look forward to reading more in this series!

My rating:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review: "Deep Blue" by Jules Barnard

In the Blue Series, a summer in Lake Tahoe is anything but carefree when recent college grads discover that finding real love means looking beneath the surface. When Cali Morgan kicks off her perfect post-college summer in Lake Tahoe, she has everything she ever wanted: acceptance into a top law program, a gorgeous boyfriend, and an incredible summer planned with her best friend. Confident about her place in the world, Cali makes it her mission to be her friend’s wingwoman and help her meet guys. What Cali doesn’t count on is running into Jaeger Lang, one of her older brother’s high school friends, or the sparks that fly when she’s around him. Jaeger has changed, and it’s not just the added height and muscle. There’s something about him that’s deep and a little scarred. In spite of the changes, Jaeger becomes a top pick for her friend—if Cali can keep her hands off him. But when Cali’s boyfriend dumps her and her carefully laid plans begin to unravel, she finds herself questioning what it is she truly desires. In the midst of doubts about her future, one thing is very clear: she wants Jaeger for her own. The question is, has her friend already fallen for him? Deep Blue is book #1 in the Blue Series. This New Adult book is intended for readers over the age of 18 due to adult language, sexual content, and adult situations.

This book was a colossal waste of time.  Honestly, there was nothing here for me to recommend to anybody.  The cover is pretty and I got it for free, so that's something, I suppose.  I'm not even sure why I finished it, except for by the time I realized I didn't really care about the plot or characters, I was about 70% done, so might as well see it through, right?

The writing is not great.  For example, the word hot is used 43 times, and most times not to describe the summer Lake Tahoe weather!  We also get a lot of inner monologue from Cali, the main character, and it's just so tedious!  It felt very repetitive.  Jaeger is okay, but I didn't really see what he saw in Cali.  Their relationship moved forward quite quickly (once they got past the whole "I-have-a-boyfriend-and-shouldn't-be-looking-at-him" thing, and then the "he-likes-my-best-friend" thing) which is fine when it's believable, but in this case it didn't make sense!  One minute Cali and Jaeger are friends, the next he's saying that he'll wait for her no matter what.  Like, where exactly did that come from?  I couldn't figure out where the attraction came from on his end. A couple of times Cali thinks in her head how she has nothing to offer Jaeger, and I was yelling back, "Yeah, you're right!  What do you have to offer, Cali?"

Anyway, enough Cali bashing.  The plot had some very strange, out of left field twists, and none of them were very well developed.  They were things that happened, and then were resolved (sort of), but none of these plot elements really added anything to the overall betterment of the book.  It was almost like the book was headed one direction for a while, and then someone said, "Hey, we need some more action or drama or something in here - what can we add?"  And then instead of adding maybe one thing and doing it really well, they decided to add a whole bunch of...STUFF, for lack of a better word, in the hopes of making a bigger impact.  Well, it didn't work for me. 

I wish I could say that at least this was a steamy read, but alas, I cannot tell a lie.  The sex was...underwhelming, to say the least, and almost nonexistent.  I definitely expected more in this regard.  

If you are thinking about picking up "Deep Blue", consider this fair warning.  There are so many better books out there worthy of your time, and you will be missing absolutely nothing by skipping this title.  

My rating: 2 stars

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Review: "The Silent Sister" by Diane Chamberlain

In The Silent Sister, Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager. Now, over twenty years later, her father has passed away and she's in New Bern, North Carolina cleaning out his house when she finds evidence to the contrary. Lisa is alive. Alive and living under a new identity. But why exactly was she on the run all those years ago, and what secrets are being kept now? As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family. Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her newfound reality, in this engrossing mystery from international bestselling author Diane Chamberlain.

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for allowing me to read and review an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

I've heard of Diane Chamberlain and have even purchased one of her previous books, but have never read anything by her.  Now I think it's safe to say that I've found a new go-to author!  This was just the book I was needing to read right now - high on mystery and real human behaviour, low on teen angst and romance.  Not saying I don't love those latter qualities in books, just that sometimes I feel the need to switch up the pace and read something a bit more refined and mature.  Makes me feel intelligent!

I can't imagine what it would be like to be Riley.  She has an awful lot on her plate as far as organizing her father's affairs after his death.  Meeting with a lawyer, reading the will and complying with his wishes, selling the house and would all be overwhelming to me.  She's doing it all alone, too.  Her mother has already passed away, her brother Denny is an absolute mess, and she's just gone through a break up so has no spouse to help her out.  Then to top it all off, a couple that knew her father well keep dropping hints that things are not how she always believed them to be.  In Riley, Chamberlain gave me a character that I could easily empathize with.

Eventually, Riley comes to the realization that the sister she thought had committed suicide is in fact alive.  I really love how at this point, Chamberlain is able to weave Lisa's and Riley's stories together.  The author seamlessly took me into the past, when Lisa first disappeared and needed to create a new identity to stay hidden, and then back to the present where Riley was trying to piece together all the whys of Lisa's circumstance.  I had questions throughout the novel, and while the answers to these questions were revealed in the end, the uncovering was drawn out enough to keep the mystery fresh in my mind.  It made this book un-put-downable!

My rating: 4 stars

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review: "Dare to Submit" by Carly Phillips

Decklan Dare knows about the unexpected loss of loved ones and for this reason, he values control in all areas of his life. Amanda Collins enjoys the freedom she finds in casual encounters without the emotional connection a relationship brings. They meet and their physical attraction is mutual but both experience feelings that could run deeper – if they drop their guard and let each other in. Decklan is first to trust, but when he discovers the secret Amanda’s been hiding, will he forgive? Or will he rebuild every wall before she has a chance to explain?

Thank you to Netgalley and CP Publishing for allowing me to read and review an advanced copy of this book.

Honestly, when I read the first page of this book, I cringed.  The opening scene was set in a BDSM club, and automatically I thought, "Oh great, here we go again! What was I thinking requesting this title?  I told myself no more BDSM!"  Luckily I kept reading instead of giving up after the first chapter, because I was pleasantly surprised by "Dare to Submit".  The BDSM aspect in no way took over the plot - it was part of the story, but more like a footnote.  I instead found myself completely drawn into the drama between Decklan and Amanda, eagerly anticipating each interaction rather than dreading the distasteful spankings I've witnessed in other books.

Decklan and Amanda are easy to love.  They have everything I'm looking for when I want a heartfelt, romantic read, but they've also got that spiciness that keeps it all from being a bit too PG-rated for my taste.  Decklan is masculine, but not too domineering.  He's strong, but with a dose of vulnerability on the side.  Amanda has body image issues, but instead of constantly whining about her size, she's attempting to come to peace with her body and just be happy with herself.  Her struggles only endeared me more to her!

The sincere affection and chemistry between these two characters kept me turning the pages, but the smooth and polished writing is what helped "Dare to Submit" earn a relatively high rating from me.  It also convinced me to buy the others in the series as well.  Can't wait to read more from Carly Phillips!

My rating: 4 stars

Monday, November 3, 2014

Review: "Perfect Alignment" by K.B. Alan

When Emma gets pulled over for speeding, the last thing she expects is for the cop to decide that his handcuffs would look a lot better on her than they do on his belt. Maybe her plan to own her sexuality by wearing a BDSM necklace wasn't her best idea. Then again, seeing the heat in the man's eyes as he orders her out of her car, maybe it was the best idea she's ever had. Drew can't believe the risk he takes when he makes a move on the speeder in the convertible, but she's damn near irresistible. When their encounter turns into an amazing afternoon of play, he knows he has to keep seeing her, even if it goes against all the rules he's set for himself. Neither Emma nor Drew is in the right place to start a relationship, so they agree to keep playing as long as they're having fun together. And they are having a lot of fun together, especially when Drew's best friend comes to town. Two men, one woman, and a sailboat. A recipe for pleasure, but how do Emma and Drew keep their hearts from wanting more than their practical lives are willing to deliver?
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read and review an ARC of this book.

A hard book for me to review. I know a lot of people will be bothered by the opening chapter, where Emma goes off with Drew for some erotic fun. That didn't bother me so much.  I just had to let myself look at this as a fantasy read, not something meant to be seen as realistic, and once I was able to get into that mindset, I could roll with what some might see as an absurd situation.

There were definitely some interesting scenarios depicted here, both with Emma and Drew and then later with Drew's friend.  Again, nothing I had a problem with, but nothing that really floated my boat, either.  Mostly I found myself getting bored.  I put this book aside a few times and had a hard time finishing it.  I think part of the problem was that I didn't really feel much emotion or love between Emma and Drew.  The author wrote about the passage of time, saying that they enjoyed dinners and movies together, but there weren't  any real details given.  A lot of tell but no show, I guess.

I also didn't understand Drew's reluctance to have a more public relationship with Emma.  I understand why he wouldn't want his work colleagues to know he was into the whole BDSM club scene, but still, taking Emma out on a real date wouldn't have revealed anything of that private side of his life.  It just seemed like a wrench thrown into the plot that didn't really need to be there.

Anyway, despite my struggles with this book, I was very happy with the resolution Drew and Emma were given at the end!

My rating: 2.5 stars

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Review: "Desired" by Stacey Kennedy

Readers of Fifty Shades of Grey are sure to love Desired, USA Today bestselling author Stacey Kennedy’s latest seductive, electrifying novel of Club Sin, where fantasy becomes reality. Kyler Morgan, Master at the legendary Club Sin in Las Vegas, knows how to give women what they want—too well. He hasn’t had a real challenge in a long time. Then Ella Snow enters his life. Beautiful, inhibited, and innocent in the ways of submission and domination, Ella is the new blood he’s been lusting after. Soon, the thrill of training her to embrace his world brings forth desires Kyler cannot control. After ending an abusive relationship, Ella makes a promise to herself to start living life to the fullest. It’s one of the reasons she seeks out Club Sin. Here, Kyler’s every touch is a lesson in liberation, stirring passions that have no bounds. But as she falls under Kyler’s command, Ella discovers that some secrets are so dark they must come to light. Submission alone may not be enough to save her, leaving her Master with only one question: How can he help Ella heal while unlocking the deep pleasures she craves? Desired is an erotic romance intended for mature audiences. Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from other Loveswept titles.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read and review an ARC of this book.

So I guess now I can say I've read my first BDSM erotic romance. (Yeah, I kind of missed the Fifty Shades bandwagon - it's on my book shelf, and I do plan to finish it one day, because despite all the bad press, it is quite the phenomenon and I want to see what all the fuss is about!) Anyway, there were things I liked about "Desired", and things I didn't, so whether I'll pick up anything else in this genre remains to be seen.

First of all, Kyler.  I know he's supposed to be this incredibly sexy alpha male "dom" guy, but he kind of creeped me out.  The way he'd turn on his "dom" voice and command Ella to do things, that of course she would run and do like a good little "sub", was just a strange concept to me.  I can understand that kind of relationship in the confines of the club, while acting out a scene or whatever.  But outside, in the real, "public" world?  Creepy.  Especially for a new relationship.  

I found the writing a tad repetitive.  The overuse of the words "dom/dominant" and "sub/submissive" got on my nerves. These words were also used in weird ways, like Ella's features showed submission, or Kyler would look at Ella with dominance in his eyes.  It seemed awkward to me.

What did I like?  Surprisingly, I found the sex scenes to be fairly well done.  This was a strength of the book, in my opinion.  I also liked how the author tried to explain how a woman who had been abused in a previous relationship might want to enter into a BDSM-style relationship.  Not sure I bought it, but still, the effort was there.  

So, like I said, good and not so good.  I'm glad I read "Desired" if only to expand my horizons.  That said, I'll probably steer clear of this particular subgenre of erotica in the future, as I don't think it's really my thing.

My rating: 2.5 stars

Review: "Upside Down" by Lia Riley

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. Book #1 in the OFF THE MAP series
My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I should probably preface this review by saying that I wanted to love it more than my average read simply because of the setting. Having Australian parents but only having lived in Canada, I find myself more and more interested in reading books by Australian authors or set in Australian locales. So yeah, the location was my initial draw to this book. However, as the story quickly progressed, I was easily pulled into the lives and plights of Talia and Bran.

Talia has come to Melbourne to hide out, essentially, from everything that has gone wrong in her life up until this point. She blames herself for so much, including her sister's death.  Not only is she dealing with her grief over her sister's death, she's also dealing with her parents' divorce, failing out of school, and a legitimate mental disorder in the form of OCD.  It's no wonder Talia wanted to move across the world for a fresh start!  And things start out going really well for her.  She easily makes a new friend from her dorm and strikes up a friendship/romance with a cute Aussie surfer.  Things get a bit more complicated when she (literally) runs into Bran, however. 

Bran seems to be able to see right through Talia. He senses her compulsions right from the first shared drink, but doesn't seem put off by them in the slightest. Through their mutual friend, they get thrown together at first, and although they show plenty of animosity towards each other, it's quickly evident that there's something more than friendship brewing between them.  I loved watching Talia and Bran learn about each other and have fun together!  It was wonderful to watch their emotional connection grow.

If there was one thing I would change about this novel, it would probably be the ending.  It seemed like a HEA, but then I found out there would be a sequel.  What?!  Haven't these two been through enough?  I quickly got over this, however, and am eagerly looking forward to starting "Sideswiped"!

My rating: 4 stars