Monday, July 22, 2013

Fading by E.K. Blair

Can a guilty conscience keep wounds from healing? Fine arts major, Candace Parker, grew up with a mother who thinks image is everything, and her daughter’s perfection will never be good enough. About to graduate college and pursue her dreams of becoming a professional ballerina, Candace decides it’s time to let go and have a little fun. But fun is short-lived when a brutal attack leaves her completely shattered.

The memories that consume and torment Candace are starting to destroy her when she meets Ryan Campbell, a successful bar owner. He feels instantly connected and tries to show her that hope is worth fighting for. But is Ryan harboring his own demons? As walls slowly begin to chip away, the secrets that are held within start to become painful burdens.

At what point do secrets become lies?

Initial Thoughts:
The description was a little bland, but I've always loved movies/books about ballerinas. I think my clumsy self wishes I could be all Center Stage and kick ballerina ass. So I was intrigued by the ballerina aspect. And the cover is gorgeous.

The Pros:
HO. LY. CRAP. This book was intense. SO INTENSE. The blurb does it NO justice whatsoever. This book was incredibly deep, emotional, and real.

Ryan. RYAN. Swooooon all over the place. Can all men be just like him? I mean, really. He was a dark haired Ryan Gosling superhero figure to me in this book.

This book makes you really examine what "family" means. Is it something you're born into? Or is it people you care about and look after?

Unlike most other romance novels out there, the relationship between Candace and Ryan evolves over time. They don't meet, fall in love, and get married in a month. Although there are extenuating circumstances, I really appreciated the gradual evolution of their relationship. Starting out holding hands, a first hug, a kiss on the cheek, this is real life. No "ohmygod I need you right now let's go to the bedroom" nonsense on the first date. It was refreshing.

Jason and Mark. Can you guys be my best friends too? I loved them.

The Cons:
This book isn't a light read, and is not intended for younger readers. The subject matter can be disturbing and hard to get through, but it's worth it. So just a word of a caution.

Kimber annoyed the living daylights out of me. I was expecting to like her character after the first few pages, but after her and Candace's falling out, I wished that she had just been written out of the story.

NO EPILOGUE. I know that E.K. Blair is coming out with the story told from Ryan's point of view but I wanted an epilogue because I am greedy like that.

The Wrap Up: 5/5
BUY THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW. It is seriously one of the best books I've read this year. And maybe last year too. It will take you on an emotional roller coaster, but it is so, so worth it.

Buy Fading by E.K. Blair on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Last Boyfriend by J.S. Cooper

Lucky Morgan has had her share of heartbreak. She is devastated when her boyfriend dumps her after sleeping with him and she vows to herself that she won't be used again. She decides that the next guy she dates and sleeps with, will be her one true love.

Zane Beaumont is the mysterious and snooty guy that comes into her diner every Friday night with a different girl. He's the type of guy she's learned to avoid: carefree, fast, handsome, rich, and sarcastic. Unfortunately, she can't stop thinking about the devilish gleam in his eyes.

When Lucky's car breaks down one night after a party, it is Zane who comes to her rescue. As Zane attempts to sweep Lucky off of her feet, she soon realizes that nothing is as it seems and that Zane may very well be the guy for whom she changes the rules. That is until she meets Braydon.
Initial Thoughts:
I was looking for a light, quick read and this one had some good reviews. It also fit with my ridiculous romance novel streak I've got going on lately.

The Pros:
Lucky's "rules" that she instated were really smart. I wish I would have given myself some of those rules back in my early 20's.

I liked the scenes in the diner. Something about being a bystander watching someones life unfold intrigues me.

There was an element of suspense that I somewhat enjoyed throughout the book.

The Cons:
Ugh. Where to begin?

Zane is a crazy psycho stalker. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It is NOT romantic when a guy controls and follows you and every move you make.

Needless to say, I did NOT find Zane swoon worthy. At all.

Oh you set some rules up so your heart didn't broken again, did you Lucky? Let's throw all of them out the window for the first guy you met! Sounds like a plan to me.

The Braydon/Angelique/party crowd was confusing. It took me a really long time to understand what the hell was going on.

The whole civil rights era documentary, while a cool idea, was totally out of place. It felt like it was just shoved in there to give the story some sort of substance.

The Wrap Up: 1/5
I didn't like this book very much. I only kept reading to see what was going to happen next in this train wreck of a book, so they got me there I guess. How is this a NYT Bestseller?

Buy The Last Boyfriend by J.S. Cooper on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Forever Black by Sandi Lynn

When Ellery moved to New York with her boyfriend, she thought they’d live happily ever after in their small New York apartment. She never thought he’d pack his bags and leave because he “needed space.” With her newfound single status and fear of being alone, Ellery buries herself in her artwork and paintings until one night she helps a mysterious intoxicated stranger get home safely. Little did she know the mysterious stranger is none other than CEO and millionaire Connor Black. After finding Ellery in his kitchen the next morning and assuming she broke his #1 rule about sleepovers, he becomes intrigued, not only by her stubbornness and defiance, but by her kindness. Connor Black, emotionally dead and damaged, that stemmed from a personal tragedy, made a vow to never love or fall in love with a woman, until Ellery Lane walked into his life by accident. After she opens up and shows him her world, Connor starts to feel emotions and feelings he never knew existed. Despite the rumors and warnings regarding Connor Black and his use and misuse of women, Ellery finds herself being drawn into his world. Ellery knows they can never be together because she is harboring a deep secret that could destroy Connor emotionally forever. Join Connor and Ellery as they embark on a journey of courage, love and strength. Will it be enough to save them?

Initial Thoughts:
This one had been at the top of my Amazon recommendations for some time now and I finally gave in to see what all the hype was about.

The Pros:
I really liked Ellery's character. She was stubborn and feisty and I loved it. It seems that in a post Fifty Shades literary world, the shy, "I'll do whatever you say" heroine is far too prevalent. Since that is the opposite of what I am, I hate that trend. Ellery was someone I could relate to. If I want ice cream, I want ice cream, and there is nothing you can do to stop me.

Ellery's secret was something I was but at the same time wasn't expecting. It was a huge secret, and it was something I hadn't experienced in a book before. It definitely changed the course that the book was going in.

Peyton was a great friend. She wasn't one of these fair weather "best friends" I often see in romance novels. She was really there for Ellery, even though they hadn't known each other for that long.

I liked the dynamic between Connor's staff and Ellery. There was no disconnect or hierarchy, and they all genuinely cared about Connor and Ellery.

The Cons:
The whole situation with Ashlyn pissed me off. I get that Connor was scared of what she would do, but  christ on a bike.... bitch was cray!

Ellery's stubbornness grated on a me a few times during the novel. I know that is just her character, but it got a little too much at times.

I didn't find Connor that swoon worthy. I know, you think I'm crazy. I just didn't.

The ending seemed rushed and confusing. The two epilogues were disjointed and left me with a lot of questions. I guess it kept it open for the second book, but it was in a really weird way.

The Wrap Up: 3.5/5
I wanted to absolutely love this book like it seems everyone else did, but I didn't. I did like it, but it is nowhere near the top of my list.

Buy Forever Black by Sandi Lynn on Amazon.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Collide by Gail McHugh

A missed first encounter…

Colliding with a second chance…

On the heels of graduating college and trying to cope with her mother’s death, Emily Cooper moves to New York City for a fresh start.

While harboring secrets of his own, Dillon Parker takes care of Emily through her grief. Knowing he can’t live without her by his side, he’s sweet, thoughtful, and everything Emily has ever wanted in a man.

Until she meets Gavin Blake—a rich and notorious playboy who is dangerously sexy and charming as hell. Emily tries to deny the instant connection she feels, but Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome is not inclined to let go so easily. Recovering from his own painful past, Gavin will stop at nothing to win Emily over.

This unexpected encounter compels Emily to question her decisions, forcing her to make a choice that will destroy friendships, shatter hearts, and forever change her life.

Initial Thoughts:
Yet another "girl meets rich playboy but will be his undoing" novel. I didn't have very high expectations.

The Pros:
Emily seemed like a relatable character. Her mother just died, she's clinging to the support of her boyfriend, and she's in a new city. Her life is a train wreck, naturally, and this book shows that. There is no pretending Emily is perfect in spite of her difficult position in life. She's real, and she's flawed. Like us readers.

HELLO GAVIN BLAKE. I love him. He's perfect. Honestly, I think he blows Christian Grey out of the water.

This book was full of DRAMA, but in a good way. You never knew what was going to happen next, and I love that in a book.

This was a true love triangle... none of this "oh I might love this super nice guy because he's what's best for me". This was a gritty, serious, drag out love triangle.

The Cons:
The cliffhanger ending! I nearly died. But thank god there is a second book.

Olivia kind of bothered me. She seemed a little too self centered.

I hate Dillon. He reminds me of every guy I dated in my early 20s. But that's a personal problem... ha.
This book got me MAD. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing, but I was seriously emotionally invested in this book and found myself radiating anger more than once.

The Wrap Up: 4/5
Definitely not what I expected. AT ALL. This book kept me guessing, and the characters were real. There was no "sudden billionaire that grew up poor" or "innocent girl turned wild thing". Those characters have been overdone, and the characters in Collide were a refreshing change from the romance novel selection out there right now. This book shows you how your choices change your path of life.

Buy your copy of Collide by Gail McHugh on Amazon today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Release Me by J. Kenner

Damien Stark could have his way with any woman. He was sexy, confident, and commanding: Anything he wanted, he got. And what he wanted was me.

Our attraction was unmistakable, almost beyond control, but as much as I ached to be his, I feared the pressures of his demands. Submitting to Damien meant I had to bare the darkest truth about my past—and risk breaking us apart.

But Damien was haunted, too. And as our passion came to obsess us both, his secrets threatened to destroy him—and us—forever.

Initial Thoughts:
I was given an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book was recommended for Fifty Shades lovers, so naturally I had to read it.

The Pros:
The pageant world upbringing that Nikki had reminded me of Toddlers and Tiaras and how miserable those poor girls are. I have never read a book that contained that element.

Nikki is a flawed heroine. Her self-mutilation was a very, very real element of the book. How she struggled then, and how she struggles now were a big part of the book.

Nikki's friends Jamie and Ollie are good additions to the story line. While we don't know too much about them, Jamie brought comic relief at time, while Ollie provided us a doorway to Nikki's past.

I LOVED that Nikki was a brilliant woman. Her double major science degrees put her in a class that I have yet to read about in a romance novel. She is not your normal "too stupid to live" heroine. She fights everyday, and she's better for it.

There was plenty of witty banter back and forth to keep the reader entertained. I loved that although some of the subject matter was dark, the author was able to keep it light enough for it to not be a heavy read.

I couldn't put this book down. I HAD to know what happened next. Book crack. Definitely.

The Cons:
Not a huge fan of Damien. I feel like he wasn't described well enough physically for me to put a picture in my head. When I don't have a picture in my head of a character, I have a really hard time connecting with them. He was also so closed off, while Nikki was so forthcoming in her confessions. One sided relationships bother the crap out of me. 

The payment for the painting. It made Nikki seem like a prostitute. Yuck.

The Wrap Up: 4/5
Loved it! If there isn't going to be a sequel or this isn't turned into a series I will seriously cry. I have so many questions! If you liked Fifty and the Crossfire series, you will love Release Me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Last Call by Jennifer Schmidt

Novalee Jensen thought what happened in Vegas would stay in Vegas, but two years later, her Vegas indiscretion shows up in her bar. Novalee’s fears come true as the sudden appearance of the stranger brings questions everyone wants answers to, and the secret she’s kept to herself for so long is exposed.

Dean Philips is on a mission to find his wife and bring her back to Nevada, all without exposing his own secrets and lies. Lies that could not only cost him his fortune, but also the woman he’s yearned to know since that fateful night two years ago.

Initial Thoughts:
I was given an ARC of this book by NetGalley. Vegas + secrets + lies = I'm in.

The Pros:
This book was heartwarming. Novalee is just so sweet. She's been handed a rough deck of cards in her life, but she's made it out on top.

Dean's progression from miserable drunk to heartthrob was a fun ride to be on. His love for someone he barely knows (even though she's his wife) was confusing yet romantic at the same time.

The fact that they stayed faithful to each other for 2 years even when they both thought the other person didn't know about the marriage = soooo cute.

I liked that even though Novalee had no biological family, she had a family in her friends and patrons.

The Cons:
The plot line was hardly original, and it was a bit predictable.

I doubt I would have taken Dean back after all his lies, but this is a romance novel. Sins are always forgiven.

The Wrap Up: 3.5
A quick, cute read. Nothing out of the ordinary, but a good choice for a book that doesn't require you to think too much.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Prince by Tiffany Reisz (Original Sinners #3)

Two worlds of wealth and passion call to Nora Sutherlin and, whichever one she chooses, it will be the hardest decision she will ever have to make. Unless someone makes it for her…

Wes Railey is the object of Nora's tamest yet most maddening fantasies, and the one man she can't forget. He's young. He's wonderful. He's also thoroughbred royalty and, reuniting with him in Kentucky, she's in his world now. But this infamous New York dominatrix is no simpering Southern belle, and Nora's dream of fitting into Wesley's world is perpetually at odds with the relentlessly seductive pull of Søren—her owner, her lover, the forever she cannot have. At least, not completely.

Meanwhile Nora's associate Kingsley Edge is only too happy to take her place at Søren's feet during her hiatus. Søren is the only man Kingsley has ever loved, and their dark, shared history has forged a bond that neither the years—nor Søren's love for Nora—can break. But a new threat from an old adversary is forcing Kingsley to confront the past, reminding him that he must keep his friends close, and his enemies closer.

Initial Thoughts:
I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley. I am a big fan of Reisz's books, the first two books in this series (The Siren and The Angel) blew me away and I was so excited to review her next.

The Pros:
Nora is the ultimate heroine. Or anti-heroine. I don't care. She's awesome. 

I loved that this book took us back and forth in time. Seeing the pasts that made these characters the way there are adds SO much to the story.

Wes. Oh Wes. I want to marry you.

I was not expecting Kingsley to be a major character when I started this series. Boy was I wrong, and I am so glad I was. The relationship between him and Soren is insane/amazing/deep. 

Classified as erotica, I was not expecting the mystery/thriller aspect of this book. It's an excellent addition to the series.

The giant WTF moment at the end. I had a hunch around the middle of the book, but I thought, "No. There's no way. There's absolutely no way." Wrong again! 

The Cons:
I'm team Kingsley. I'm not a big fan of how Soren treats him. 

At times, the book was a little slow moving. Normally I can't put Reisz's books down, but there were a few chapters that I was kind of "ehh" about.

The story line with the horse insurance thing seemed a little boring and unneeded.

The Wrap Up: 4.5/5
The mystery/thriller action bumped this from a 4 to a 4.5. I WANT MORE! I can't wait for The Mistress to come out. I was SO glad that Nora made the "right" choice. (When I say "right", I mean what I think is right, many other readers hold a different opinion!)