Saturday, January 30, 2016

Review: "Did I Mention I Love You" by Estelle Maskame

Love is everything but expected. Eden Monro came to California for a summer of sun, sand and celebrities – what better way to forget about the drama back home? Until she meets her new family of strangers: a dad she hasn't seen in three years, a stepmonster and three stepbrothers. Eden gets her own room in her dad's fancy house in Santa Monica. A room right next door to her oldest stepbrother, Tyler Bruce. Whom she cannot stand. He's got angry green eyes and ego bigger than a Beverly Hills mansion. She's never felt such intense dislike for someone. But the two are constantly thrown together as his group of friends pull her into their world of rule-breaking, partying and pier-hanging. And the more she tries to understand what makes Tyler burn hotter than the California sun, the more Eden finds herself falling for the one person she shouldn't... Did I Mention I Love You? is the addictive first book in Wattpad sensation Estelle Maskame's DIMILY trilogy: three unforgettable summers of secrets, heartbreak and forbidden romance.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Honestly, I thought this book was a complete and utter train wreck!  I almost gave up on it numerous times, but I just could not. Stop. Reading!  What the hell is wrong with  me?!  I don't even know!  

Objectively, I can say that the writing is not great.  There are so many mundane details of Eden's day thrown in for no apparent reason.  Open this book to any chapter and you'll be subjected to passages about what everyone is wearing or how their hair is styled.  There are countless eye rolls, glares, and smirks.  Or you might read about how Eden went for a run and then had a shower.  So tedious!

Then there's the lack of character development.  Eden arrives in Santa Monica, and automatically she's included into this group of six other kids, including her stepbrother Tyler and his girlfriend Tiffani.  The rest of the kids are pretty much interchangeable.  They party, and shop, and sometimes go out for coffee, but other than that, they are pretty boring.  I know they're rich, so I suppose they don't need summer jobs, but still, they don't seem to be interested in anything.  No volunteering, no hobbies, no sports.  Shouldn't they be doing all this stuff to pad their college applications or something?

I found Eden to be very...unlikable, really.  She's got this whole teenage attitude thing going on, where she hates just about everybody and everything, and yet she always just follows along.  The only time I liked her was when she got a bit drunk, and that's not really a good thing!  The most bizarre, unbelievable occurrence, however, was during her first kiss with Tyler.  It really came out of nowhere.  She was always going on about how he drove her nuts, how awful, irritating, and rude he was.  Next thing ya know, she's kissing him?  To distract him from doing something wrong?  Riiiiiight.  The buildup to that first kiss was nonexistent, and to me it felt just...forced.

As for Tyler?  Sorry, I didn't like him.  At all.  I don't know why those kids, even as shallow as they were, would even hang out with him.  He treats everyone like crap, including his girlfriend, so why would anyone put up with that?  Of course there's a reason for his behaviour, but still.  I don't care how good looking or rich you are, if you're mean to me, I'm not going to hang out with you, no matter your hidden reasons or our history together.  

So, in short, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone, and I definitely won't be continuing with the series.  If you're looking for an interesting, well-written coming-of-age story with flawed but likable characters, I'd recommend something by Miranda Kenneally or Katie McGarry - they have a similar tone but are just better.

My rating:

Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Outside the Lines" by Lisa Desrochers: Blog Tour!!!

I'm super excited to be participating in this blog tour, brought to you by Inkslinger PR.  Read on for an exclusive excerpt!

Outside the Lines
Release date: January 19

From the author of the USA Today bestselling A Little Too Far series, the first in an edgy new contemporary romance series that follows a family on the run...

As the oldest son of a Chicago crime lord, Robert Delgado always knew how dangerous life could be. With his mother dead and his father in prison, he’s taking charge of his family’s safety—putting himself and his siblings in witness protection to hide out in a backwater Florida town.

Fourth grade teacher Adri Wilson is worried about the new boy in her class. Sherm is quiet and evasive, especially when he’s around his even cagier older brother. Adri can’t help her attraction to Rob, or the urge to help them both in whatever way she can.

But the Delgados have enemies on two sides of the mob—their father’s former crew and the rival family he helped take down. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds them. And if Rob isn’t careful, Adri could end up in the crossfire...



Lisa Desrochers is the USA Today bestselling author of A LITTLE TOO FAR, courtesy of HarperCollins. Look for the companions, A LITTLE TOO MUCH (11/12/13), and A LITTLE TOO HOT (1/21/14), and also her Personal Demons trilogy (Macmillan).

Lisa lives in northern California with her husband, two very busy daughters, and Shini the tarantula. When she's not writing, she's reading, and she adores stories that take her to new places, and then take her by surprise. 

Find her online at:
on Twitter at @LisaDez


Chapter 2


“Is this straight?” Dad asks, peering in the mirror across from the front door and messing with the badge on the breast pocket of his blue shirt.
There is almost no crime on our little island because Dad is legendary for taking down drug rings and poachers, but when it comes to the little things, like pinning his badge on straight, he still needs help.
That’s why I’m here.
When Mom died last spring, I came back from Jacksonville so I could live at home and help Dad. He and Mom were high school sweethearts and married not long after graduation. He’s always been taken care of. I don’t want him to be alone.
I move to where he is and turn him, unpinning the badge and straightening it. I smooth his salt and pepper hair off his forehead and stretch up on my toes to kiss the smooth patch of cheek above the line of his beard. “I seriously doubt they’re going to send the Chief of Police home for a dress code infraction.”
“We’ll see,” he chuckles, giving my blond ponytail a gentle tug. “You ready for your first day influencing the youth of Port St. Mary?”
I was over the moon when I got the call three days ago that Mrs. Martin had had surgery and they needed a long-term sub for her class. Not that I’m happy they hacked out her gallbladder or anything, but her loss is my gain, so to speak.
I come from a long line of educators. Mom was my first grade teacher. Both of her sisters, her father, and her grandfather taught as well. You could say it’s in my DNA. I resisted it for a while, thought I wanted to go into finance, but by my junior year at Clemson I had to finally admit to myself teaching was what I really wanted to do. I changed my major to Education and finished my credential just before Mom died.
Since her death, it’s felt even more urgent to me to teach—like maybe following in her footsteps will somehow keep her spirit alive. But Port St. Mary and the surrounding communities are small, and teaching jobs are pretty scarce. I was afraid I was going to have to try elsewhere come fall. This was a prayer answered…which makes me a little afraid I might have had something to do with poor Mrs. Martin’s gallbladder flaring up. And now it’s starting to feel like one of those “be careful what you wish for” scenarios.
I rub my sweaty palms down my slacks. “What happens if they hate me?”
Dad wraps me in his arms and squeezes me in a bear hug, crushing the air out of my lungs. “They’re going to love you, punkin. Your mom would be so proud of you right now,” he says, a catch in his voice. “I hope you know that.”
I swallow back the lump in my throat and look up at him. I can’t even remember the last time he’s brought her up out of the blue like this. “I know, Dad, but thanks for saying so.” He lets me go and I shoulder my messenger bag. “Time to face the music.”
We step out the back door to where my old electric blue Chevy Lumina is parked in the driveway, next to Dad’s only slightly less conspicuous cruiser. Dad watches as I slide in and turn the key. The engine chugs but doesn’t turn over.
I blow out a breath and pop the hood. By the time I grab the monkey wrench on the floor of the passenger side and get out of the car, Dad already has the hood propped up and is looking over the engine compartment.
“Don’t mess with Frank, Dad.” I point my finger in a circle at the guts of my poor Frankencar. Me and my best friend Chuck rebuilt most of the insides from junkyard parts when we took auto shop our senior year in high school. “It’s a delicate balance.”
He grins and steps back, his hands in the air. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
I will always love Frank—he was my first—but I know I need a new car. Dad’s offered me Mom’s T-Bird, but I’m twenty-three. I’m supposed to be responsible for myself at this point. And besides, I’d rather he sold Mom’s car and put the money towards his retirement. Even though Port St. Mary is pretty sleepy most of the time, everyday he goes to work, I worry.
I reach between the radiator and the engine and give the alternator a sharp rap with the wrench, then slip back into the driver’s seat. When I turn the key, Frank chugs twice, same as always, then rumbles to life.
Dad ducks into the cruiser and gives me a little salute as I pull out.
Port St. Mary Elementary is only about two miles from home. It takes a grand total of eight minutes to drive there. Technically, it’s a one-room schoolhouse. The tiny twelve-space parking lot butts up against an octagonal building, which, in fact, is just one big room inside. In the exact center of the building are the bathrooms and storage closets, and from there, folding accordion partitions section off each wedge of the octagon. Each wedge is a grade level, kinder through sixth, and a multipurpose room. To the right of the parking lot is a doublewide “portable” that houses the school offices and small staff room. Behind that, children are already gathering in the playground, which is really just a weed-infested lot with a slide and jungle gym that has been there since before I started kindergarten here.
When I walk around the octagon to the door marked with a big yellow four and step inside, it’s like deja vu all over again. Mrs. Martin (she told me to call her Pam when we talked on the phone about the lesson plan yesterday, but I can’t bring myself to) has had the same posters on the walls since the dawn of time. The presidential chart ends with Reagan. She had already been teaching fourth grade in this same classroom for, like, twenty years when I had her.
I move to her desk, to the right of the door, and set my bag on it. And that’s when I see the note from Principal Richmond.
A new student.
I brush my palms down my slacks again, a fresh jolt of nerves twisting my insides into knots. I was already going to be way over my head with a classroom full of nine-year-olds fresh off Christmas vacation and all sugared up on candy canes.
I look over the instructions. Sherman William Davidson needs his reading comprehension assessment, writing and grammar evaluation, and his math skills worksheet completed by the end of the week.
I blow a wisp of hair off my forehead and unpack my toothpaste and toothbrush, my journal, and a few of my favorite colored pens into Mrs. Martin’s desk, careful not to displace her things too much. I’m just pulling the assessments for the new kid from the file cabinet when the classroom door opens. I hear Principal Richmond’s gravel voice before I turn around. “…and his classroom is here. We just got word a few days ago that our regular fourth grade teacher is out on medical leave, but Sherman will be in good hands with Ms. Wilson. She’s a very capable substitute.”
I take a deep breath as I turn and hope he’s not lying.
I substituted five times during fall semester. For the most part, everything went great until I subbed for Mrs. Yetz’s eighth grade class the week before winter break. Somehow, what started out as a math lab on probability devolved into a liar’s dice tournament, complete with money changing hands. I wasn’t sure they’d call me back after that.
But when I see Principal Richmond waddle his round frame through the door, I straighten the scarf I tied over my favorite teal sweater and try to look as confident in what he said as he does.
“Ms. Wilson,” he says, waving me over. “This is your new student, Sherman.”
Sherman is a wiry little thing with unruly brown hair and clothes that hang off him a little. He looks as if he’d vanish into himself if given the chance.
“He goes by Sherm,” the man standing next to him says.
I look up into some of the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen. Heavy dark brows curve over irises the color of honey with burgundy flecks through them. Thick brown waves are loose around a strong face with angled cheekbones, and a square jaw covered in two-day stubble. Set in flawless olive skin are lips so firm and red they make me forget the frown that’s turning them down slightly at the corners. He’s just so…gorgeous, like something out of a magazine or a movie. And he’s tall—well over six feet of broad shoulders tapering to narrow hips under his blue button-down shirt. The tails are loose over pressed jeans that fit him just so. Everything about him is tailored and cultured and nothing like any of the year-rounders who live on this bumpkin island. But it’s not just the way he looks. A blend of confidence and something else I can’t identify but makes him feel a little intimidating wafts off him with the spicy cologne I keep catching hints of. He’s nothing like anyone I’ve ever met, even at Clemson.
I feel my jaw dangling and snap it closed, pulling myself together long enough to extend an arm. “I’m Adri.”
Principal Richmond clears his throat, and when I flick a glance his direction, I know my ogling didn’t go unnoticed. His brow is deeply furrowed and his frown curves so low it makes him look like one of those marionettes, where their chin is a whole different piece of wood than the rest of their face.
My eyes bulge and I shift my outstretched hand to Sherm. “I mean, Miss Wilson. Welcome to Port St. Mary, Sherm.”
The boy just looks at me with sad eyes the color of his…father’s?
My gaze gravitates back to the guy towering over me. Could he be Sherm’s dad? He looks way too young to have a nine-year-old. He also looks all business. There’s nothing soft or nurturing in his cold, sharp gaze as it flicks around the classroom, silently assessing.
“What’s on the other side of those partitions?” he asks Principal Richmond.
“The third and fifth grade classrooms,” he answers.
The guy’s eyes continue to scan the room. “He’ll spend all day in here?”
The principal nods. “Except when he’s on the playground.”
“Is there security on campus?”
Principal Richmond looks momentarily perplexed, rubbing his round stomach as if he’s thinking with it. “Not as such. We have yard monitors during recess and lunch, and the teachers are responsible for the children when they’re here in class.”
“What about lunch?”
“He can bring his own lunch, or buy a bag lunch from Nutritional Services for three dollars. Either way, if it’s nice weather, the children eat outside at the picnic tables. On rainy days, we open the partitions and they eat inside as a group.”
The guy reaches into his pocket, but Principal Richmond holds up his hand to stop him when he comes out with a thick wad of cash. “We don’t allow students to carry money on campus. When we’re done here, I’ll take you to the office and have you purchase a scan card for Nutritional Services.”
The guy nods, then moves to the door and jiggles the knob. “The exterior doors are left unlocked?”
“During school hours, yes.” Principal Richmond answers, moving to my desk and shuffling through the papers I pulled for Sherm.
The guy’s full lips narrow into a tight line and he scowls at the door. He spins and starts toward the door in the back of the room, leaving no stone unturned.
I wipe my hands down my slacks again and decide just to ask. “So, you’re Sherm’s father?”
His feet stall on the chipped linoleum and he seems to finally notice I exist. “Brother,” he answers, and that one word seems to carry the weight of the world with it as it falls from his mouth.
His eyes make a slow sweep of my face, and as they trail down my neck, the front of my sweater, over my hips and down my legs, I’m frozen in place, paralyzed by the intensity of his gaze.
Principal Richmond shoves some papers in my face, breaking the spell. “You still have fifteen minutes until the bell. Maybe you can get Sherman started on these.”
“Um…” I grab the papers out of his hand as Big Brother blinks, some of the thickest lashes I’ve ever seen hiding those incredible eyes. “Yeah. We’ll do that...”
Principal Richmond guides Big Brother to the door. “Let’s get out of their way and let them get started. I’m sure Sherman will have a positive experience here. Children his age tend to adjust quickly,” he’s saying as the door swings closed behind them.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: "A Desperate Fortune" by Susanna Kearsley

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread — its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal's cipher. But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal's reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn't hold the secrets Sara expects. It turns out that Mary Dundas wasn’t keeping a record of everyday life, but a first-hand account of her part in a dangerous intrigue. In the first wintry months of 1732, with a scandal gaining steam in London, driving many into bankruptcy and ruin, the man accused of being at its center is concealed among the Jacobites in Paris, with Mary posing as his sister to aid his disguise. When their location is betrayed, they’re forced to put a desperate plan in action, heading south along the road to Rome, protected by the enigmatic Highlander Hugh MacPherson. As Mary's tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take... to find the road that will lead her safely home.
Thank you to Sourcebooks via Netgalley for the free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Did I like this book?

Do you ever read a book and think, "Wow, this book is what that other book wanted to be"?  That's what happened to me with "A Desperate Fortune".  It was fantastic, and just so much better than many others I've read written in the same vein.

At first, I was intrigued by the modern storyline because of my immediate connection with Sara.  She has Asperger's, and it was interesting for me, as the mother of a teenage Aspie boy, to see how she was able to cope with her own difficulties as an adult.  She often has trouble making connections with others, and I'd say that her only real friend is her cousin.  This older female cousin is wonderful, instinctively able to tell when Sara is becoming overwhelmed in social situations and excellent at redirecting her with Sudoku puzzles.  She is also the one who gets Sara her job as a codebreaker, which is a perfect fit for Sara: she can work all day at something that intrigues her and not worry about fitting into the corporate world, which has always been a disaster in the past.

In contrast, the historical storyline was a bit slower to capture my interest, but by the time I'd read about a third of the book, I was hooked!  I could not wait to see what happened with Mary and Hugh, and I honestly wasn't sure how it all would end.  It's definitely a bit of a slow build, but with that comes the satisfaction of reading a book that is truly well-crafted.  I enjoyed every moment!

Will you like this book?

With its two connected storylines in two different time periods, I think this book will appeal to those who liked "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay or fans of Sarah Jio.  Although the time period of the historical storyline is similar to Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series, I feel it would be unfair to compare the two - the "Outlander" series, while one of my favourites, is a serious commitment with the length of the series and the length of each individual book.  "A Desperate Fortune", in contrast, is a standalone novel that probably won't take you months to finish.  And while there is a bit of romance and a tall, masculine Highlander in this book, there's no steamy bodice ripping, etc.  In other words, the romance is quite clean.

Will I read more by this author?

I've long been a Susanna Kearsley fan - she's Canadian, don't you know? - and I've read most of her older titles, but for some reason or other, I haven't read any of her newest books.  Let me tell you that I will be remedying that very soon!

My rating:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Book vs. Movie: "The Martian" by Andy Weir

Have you read "The Martian" by Andy Weir?  Did you see the movie starring Matt Damon?  Which did you like better?

I borrowed the book from my digital library, and I really enjoyed it.  A lot of the scientific descriptions and details bored me, but overall I was entertained, and I especially loved the character of Mark Watney.  I was surprised, in fact, by how much I enjoyed this book - it's just not my typical read.  But I was really anticipating the movie!  I thought that through the magic of Hollywood and the ability of filmmakers to bring all those boring scientific details to life visually, this movie had the potential to outperform the book for me. 

I brought my eldest daughter to see the movie a few months ago, in 3D no less, and I thought it was fantastic!  Matt Damon was completely perfect as Mark Watney, and the rest of the casting was great, too.  The action, suspense, and visual effects made for an excellent moviegoing experience!  I wasn't sure if my daughter would like the show, or if it would be a bit over her head, but every time I looked over at her, I could tell she was totally into it.

So, my verdict?  Book was great, but movie was even better!  But you need to experience both, because both versions are just that good!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Review: "Maya and the Tough Guy" by Carter Ashby

Maya Bradley is on her own now. With the help of her dear friends, Zoey and Addy, she’s determined to give her children the lives they deserve, away from their abusive father. But the journey is destined to be difficult, and she meets her first roadblock when she asks sexy, tattooed bar owner, Jayce Gilmore, for a job serving drinks. Jayce has two reasons for not wanting to hire Maya. One: she deserves a more respectable job. And two: he’s been madly in love with her since he was a young boy. But when he finally realizes how desperate she is for work, he has no choice but to bring her on. With Maya struggling to earn a living, get an education, and raise two children, Jayce finally finds himself in a position to help her. And though she isn’t interested in a relationship, Maya is showing definite signs of physical attraction. Jayce is sure he can keep his love hidden and fulfill her every fantasy. Unfortunately, he has severely underestimated the needs of his heart. As the moment of truth fast approaches, Maya must decide whether to break a tough guy's heart, or open her fragile soul to the risks that come with loving again.
Thank you to Patchwork Press via Netgalley for my free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

I really liked some things about this book, but I was reading some extraordinary books in and around the same time as "Maya and the Tough Guy", and unfortunately, this one didn't stand out as much as I had hoped.  

Let's see, we've got Maya, the girl who's been abused by men all her life.  We met her in the first book of this series, "Zoey and the Nice Guy", when she finally left her husband after a brutal beating.  Then we've got Jayce, the "tough guy", who's been in love with Maya since grade school, despite her seeming lack of interest.  We know that these two will get their happily ever after, because that's how romance books work, but the fun part is in the journey.  How will these two get past their hang ups in order to be together?

I really enjoyed how Jayce was able to bring Maya out of her shell a bit - he showed her how to stand her ground and not feel bad about demanding the respect she deserves.  I know it is difficult to put yourself first, especially when you're used to putting your own needs aside to please everyone else, but by the end of this book, I felt confident that Maya had made some big, positive changes in her life and that she will continue to become stronger and more confident in the future.

I also really enjoyed how Jayce's relationship with Maya's son developed.  Matthew started off hating Jayce and didn't have a problem letting Jayce know his feelings.  Eventually, through giving the boy time and space, as well as some boxing lessons, Jayce was able to build a bond with Matthew, and I thought this part of the story was exceptionally well done.

Although it seemed to take forever for Jayce and Maya to finally hook up, I think that slow build up was probably necessary, considering Maya's previous abuse.  Still, I think the slower pacing is why my interest wandered while reading this book.  The other problem was Jayce's temper, and there was one incident in particular that really turned me off!  I don't want to give anything away, but I suppose I can say that even though things were resolved reasonably well, I was still irked.

All in all, some good, some not so great, but I'm glad I read "Maya and the Tough Guy" and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little bit different in their contemporary romance reads.

My rating: