July 31, 2015

Beach Reads in August Giveaway Hop

Woo hoo! It's time for a fun summer giveaway hop, hosted by my good friend Val from Stuck In Books. The Beach Reads in August hop is about books that are perfect to take to the beach. To be honest, I'm not much of a beach person. The sand in every crack and crevice and the salt in the air that never allows me to feel clean is just not my idea of the most fun. But, if I WERE going to the beach this summer, I think an Abbi Glines book would be perfect.

Up for grabs is any Abbi Glines book from any of her series:

Rosemary Beach

Sea Breeze

The Vincent Boys


I'll even add in Abbi's brand new book from her brand new YA series, The Field Party, as an option:

As long as The Book Depository ships to you, you can enter this giveaway! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

July 30, 2015

REVIEW: Dare to Desire (Dare to Love #2)

Dare to Desire (Dare to Love #2), by Carly Phillips
Publish Date: April 10, 2014
Publisher: self-published
Format: audiobook, purchased
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) Quarterback Alex Dare, had it all -- an all-star football career with the Tampa Breakers and his choice of willing women -- until a severe injury forces him into early retirement. When he is offered a ground-breaking position with a rival team, he’s intrigued, but there’s a catch. He’ll be working alongside the same woman he hasn’t been able to get out of his head for too long.

Social worker Madison Evans grew up in foster homes and knows first hand what it means to have-not. She isn't impressed by Alex Dare’s wealth or charm. Not since she fell hard for him once before, only to discover she was just one of his too-easy conquests. This time around Madison refuses to succumb to Alex so easily.

But Alex wants Madison. And if there is one thing Alex does well, it’s to get what he wants. The playboy athlete must prove he’s got game in more places than on the field. He means to prove that he’s a changed man but no sooner does he begin to break through Madison’s defenses when a new opportunity comes knocking and threatens her new-found trust. Can he make Madison take a risk and dare to love?

The thing that I'm coming to love about Carly Phillips' Dare to Love series is the distinct lack of angsty drama. Don't get me wrong - super angst has its place. But, a lot of times - most of the time - I prefer a little bit of drama mixed with a whole lot of romance, and that's exactly what this series delivers.

Dare to Desire was a fantastic second chance love story. In most of these types of stories, years pass between interactions between the MCs. In Alex and Madison's case, it's only six months. But, it was a significant six months.

Alex's whole life was playing football, so he floundered a bit when an injury prematurely ended his career. At first, he was an outright asshole, which was when he permanently drove Madison away when she wanted to help. Six months later, Ian pairs the two of them together on a new program designed to help injured athletes. Once they're forced to work together, Alex is also forced to deal with how poorly he treated Madison and the fact that he might have driven her away for good.

I had mixed feelings about Alex in book 1, but I felt much better about him in Dare to Desire. He was man enough to know he let a good thing go when he drove Madison away. And he was man enough to admit it out loud.

To her credit, Madison didn't make it too easy on him, and thank goodness for that. He needed to squirm a bit. But, thankfully, it didn't go on too long, and we finally got to the sexy times. And there were lots of those. Madison and Alex had tons of chemistry and they used it well.

Madison was very much on edge the whole time she was with Alex. Her whole life, she's been made to believe that people leave her. Her parents left her, and her foster mother now has Alzheimer's. That broke my heart - the scenes with her foster mother. Now, her foster brother is taking Madison to court over his mother's decision to make Madison her power of attorney. Everyone Madison knows has turned away from her - Alex eventually will too, right? Especially if he has the opportunity to return to the limelight.

For a change, this couple actually communicates, and it was so refreshing. Madison was very forthcoming about her doubts and fears. When Alex had an opportunity to return to TV in some capacity, she told him she didn't think she could stay with him if he did it. It was so nice that secrets weren't a part of their relationship.

These Dare siblings are bound together by an awful family secret, and the more I read about them, the more I love them.

July 29, 2015


I am so excited to help introduce you to Chaos and the Mayhem series! If you haven't started it yet, don't wait! And, if you need some more convincing, check out my review and the excerpt below. Don't forget to enter the giveaway for copies of both Mayhem and Riot.

Chaos (Mayhem #3), by Jamie Shaw
Publish Date: July 21, 2015
Publisher: Avon Books
Format: e-ARC, provided by the publisher
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(From Goodreads) From the moment she saw Shawn Scarlett perform at a school talent show, Kit Larson has loved two things: the guitar, and the gorgeous, green-eyed boy who inspired her to play. But one careless night in high school shatters her hope of ever being more than a notch on his bedpost.

Six years, two bands, and one mostly-mended heart later, Kit’s about to make her rock star dreams a reality as the new guitarist for Shawn’s band, The Last Ones to Know. He may not remember their reckless night together, but Kit has never forgotten… and she’s determined to make him eat his heart out.

The release of their new album means a month cooped up on a tour bus, sleeping inches away from the ridiculously sexy musician she’s never quite gotten over. And as Kit gets to know the real Shawn—not Shawn Scarlett, the rock god, the player—their attraction becomes too hot to resist. But the past is paved with secrets, and when they finally surface, Kit could lose everything: the band, the music, her dreams… and Shawn.

I love books that break the mold just a little bit, especially in the name of Girl Power. CHAOS is like that. I'm always happy when authors put girls in a non-traditional position that sets them up to surprise and delight their male counterparts. And, maybe even make them a little mad. That's especially fun.

Ever since she saw The Last Ones to Know, and especially lead guitarist Shawn Scarlett, play live, she knew she wanted to play like that - to be able to connect with the music on a personal level. Many lessons later, she runs into Shawn at a party, and is compelled to tell him how much his performance changed her life. That declaration resulted in a one-night stand - one of many for Shawn but unforgettable for Kit. Years later, the band is in need of a new rhythm guitarist, and Kit knows she's perfect for the job. But, it will mean having to spend long hours with the guy she's never gotten over.

After the prologue, which sets the stage for Kit's and Shawn's present-day feelings for one another, Chaos backs up the timeline a bit and overlaps with RIOT (Mayhem #2). It opens with Kit preparing for her audition with her twin brother Kale. She knows exactly what band she's trying out for and who is in it. She knows how hard it will be for her if she makes it, since her crush on Shawn never went away despite his casual discarding of her after their night together. But, this chick has some serious lady balls, and she's willing to try and put aside her emotions for the chance to really make a living doing what she loves the most. With the exception of Kale, her family isn't entirely supportive of her guitar playing, but she really wants this and will do whatever she has to to get it. I really loved and respected that about Kit. She walked into this situation knowing full well that it would be difficult for her, but wanting this shot to prove herself more.

Kit's audition was awesome. Female guitarists aren't the norm. Like I said - I love that Jamie Shaw used her to break the mold. The guys in the band are immediately suspicious of her ability, and Dee right away thinks she's a groupie. So, when Kit plays and blows them all away, it was a thing of beauty. Kit handled their preconceived notions with grace, which was another thing about her that I liked.

And then there's Shawn Scarlett. Let's face it - even his name is sexy. He was the last one to fully accept Kit into the band, but once he does, he's all in. Shawn is the intellectual one of the group. He loves to read and he writes the band's songs. And, he's all about the music and its integrity. Once he sees that Kit is the same way, he sees her as a sort of kindred spirit. A HOT kindred spirit. And, there's this connection between the two of them that goes beyond the music.

Kit's reactions to Shawn are a little volatile. She's still totally into him, but she's also still so upset and hurt over his rejection. Her present day interactions with him reflect her confusion. They are getting along great, making awesome music together, and then Shawn will say or do something that brings back all those hurts and emotions from when she was 15. All of a sudden, Kit is giving him the cold shoulder or being completely nasty to him. Shawn is confused, and rightfully so. This is the only problem I have with Kit. It would've been better for her to get it all out in the open, instead of playing games with Shawn's feelings. Especially after it comes to light that Shawn has developed feelings for her that go beyond those of friendship or band mates.

Of course, as you would expect, Kit does come clean eventually about her history with Shawn, and she does it in EPIC fashion. I loved Kit's relationship with her brother Kale. Kale has never been a fan of Shawn's, after he saw how upset his sister was six years earlier because of him. So, when things between Kit and Shawn fall apart, it's surprisingly Kale who becomes Shawn's champion. Kit actually has several other older brothers who are very protective of their baby sister, and the family dynamic among them is one of the best parts of this book. They love and accept each other unconditionally, and are very willing to admit when they are wrong - like when they see Kit play with the band and realize that she totally rocks.

In Chaos, I started seeing all these side characters that I wanted full stories for. Some of them we've met before - like Van from a different band - but in this book, they were fleshed out so much more. After Mike's story, of course, I'd love one for Van and one for Leti and one for each of Kit's brothers. Jamie did such an amazing job making these side characters come to life.

Chaos was funny and sweet and emotional, and there was lots of awesome rock band music moments. It was everything I wanted.  

It takes me an hour to drive to Mayfield. An hour of drumming my fingers against my Jeep’s steering wheel and blasting the music so loud that I can’t hear myself think. My GPS interrupts the eardrum massacre to give me directions to a club called Mayhem, and I park in the side parking lot of a massive square of a building.

With my Jeep in a spot and my ignition turned off, I drum on my steering wheel a few more times before smacking the heel of my palm against my glove compartment. It pops open, a hairbrush spills out, and I use it to tame my wind-tangled locks.

Earlier this week, the name of Shawn’s band—The Last Ones to Know—popped up on one of my favorite bands’ websites. I blinked once, twice, and then pushed my nose toward the screen to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.

They were looking for a new rhythm guitarist. After doing a little digging, I found out that their old one, Cody, got kicked out of the band. The website didn’t say why, and I didn’t care. There was an opening, and everything in me told me to send an email to the email address listed at the bottom of the online flyer.

I typed the email in a daze—as if my guitar-loving fingers wanted to be in the band even more than my spaced-out brain did. I wrote that I had been in a band in college but that we broke up to go our separate ways, I sent a YouTube link to one of our songs, I asked for an audition, and I signed my name.

Less than half an hour later, I received a reply overflowing with exclamation points and an audition time, and I wasn’t sure if I should smile or cry. It was a chance to make all my dreams come true. But in order to do that, I’d have to face the dream that had already been crushed.

These past six years, I’ve tried not to think about it. I’ve tried to erase his face from my mind. But that day, with that email in front of me, it all came back in a rush.

Green eyes. Messy black hair. An intoxicating scent that seemed to linger on my skin for days, weeks.

I give my head a little shake to clear Shawn from my mind. Then I finish brushing my hair and take one last glance in my rearview mirror. Satisfied I don’t look nearly as messy as I feel, I hop onto the asphalt and haul my guitar case from the backseat.

Now or never.

After a deep breath of city air, I begin making my way around the concrete fortress casting shadow over the parking lot. Unforgiving rays of afternoon sunshine wrap themselves around my neck and send beads of sweat trickling between my shoulder blades. My combat boots hit the sidewalk step by heavy step, and I force them to keep lifting and falling, lifting and falling. It isn’t until I’m at a massive set of double doors that I finally stop long enough to let myself think.

I raise my hand. I lower it. I raise it again. I flex my fingers.

I take a deep breath.

I knock.

Born and raised in South Central Pennsylvania, Jamie Shaw earned her M.S. in Professional Writing before realizing that the creative side of writing was her calling. An incurable night-owl, she spends late hours crafting novels with relatable heroines and swoon-worthy leading men. She's a loyal drinker of white mochas, a fierce defender of emo music, and a passionate enthusiast of all things romance. She loves interacting with readers and always aims to add new names to their book boyfriend lists.

Learn more about Jamie --> Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

July 28, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This is one meme I can get on board with - I LOVE lists! I'll show you mine if you show me yours!

Top Ten Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds

1. Manwhore, by Katy Evans - The main character, Rachael, writes for a lifestyle magazine in Chicago.

2. Off the Record, by K.A. Linde - Liz is first a reporter for the student newspaper at her college, and then later the editor.

3. Some Girls Bite, by Chloe Neill - Before she becomes one of the illustrious undead, Merit was earning her masters degree in literature.

4. Wallbanger, by Alice Clayton - Although he doesn't write for a magazine, Simon does take pictures for them.

5. Sugar on the Edge, by Sawyer Bennett - Sexy Brit Gavin writes books and comes to the shores of North Carolina to clear writers block.

6. Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs, Molly Harper - Before she got canned (and subsequently turned), Jane Jameson was a librarian. Later, she becomes a bookstore owner.

7. Obsidian, by Jennifer L. Armentrout - Katy is my soul sister - she's a reader and a blogger.

8. Nothing Between Us, by Roni Loren - Georgia is an author, holed up in her house after a brutal attack left her paralyzed with fear.

9. The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things, by Ann Aguirre - Sage does some of the best kind of writing - she writes notes of positive affirmation on Post-its and gives them to people who really need it.

10. Connected, by Kim Karr - Dahlia and her best friend work for a magazine and Dahlia's fiance is an investigative reporter.

July 27, 2015

NEW ADULT MONDAYS: Twisted (Tangled #2)

The New Adult genre - their bad boys and big problems and epic loves make them engrossing tales that are so easy to lose yourself in. What's not to love about that? And, now, thanks to the cool chicks at Bewitched Bookworms, we can show these books the love they deserve in a weekly feature - New Adult Mondays.

Twisted (Tangled #2), by Emma Chase
Publish Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Gallery Books
Format: audiobook, purchased
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) There are two kinds of people in the world. The ones who look first, and the ones who leap. I’ve always been more of a looker. Cautious. A planner. That changed after I met Drew Evans. He was so persistent. So sure of himself – and of me.

But not all love stories end happily ever after. Did you think Drew and I were going to ride off into the sunset? Join the club. Now I have to make a choice, the most important of my life. Drew already made his –in fact, he tried to decide for the both of us. But you know that’s just not my style. So I came back to Greenville. Alone. Well, sort of alone....

What I've come to realize is that old habits die hard and sometimes you have to go back to where you began, before you can move ahead.

One of my biggest pet peeves about "funny" books is, when the serious stuff happens, it's usually glossed over with jokes and sarcastic wit. Some situations are just not funny, and when they're treated as such, it cheapens the humor in the rest of the book. Somehow Emma Chase has figured out how to walk that very fine line. She was able to take a serious situation and blend it with humor at the right moments in the right ways to keep me laughing out loud and crying. 

If you remember, at the end of Tangled, things looked sublimely good for Kate and Drew. In Twisted, two years have passed, and Kate and Drew seem to have fallen into a happy pattern. Until Kate throws the pair way outside of their pattern and Drew responds in an unexpected way. All of a sudden, Drew and Kate are facing an unexpected future, and that is the most unexpected thing of all. 

Twisted is told from Kate's POV this time around. I loved her in Tangled, and I loved her even more in Twisted. This is one of the strongest heroines I've read about. She's incredibly smart and continues to hold her own at Drew's father's investment banking firm. She and Drew are like the Dream Team there. Kate is driven and ballsy and so much fun. I think that's why Drew loves her so much, even after two years together. 

But, the best thing about Kate is that she can make the hard decisions when she has to. She doesn't like to make them, but she does what she thinks is best, no matter what. That takes serious guts - when you know that the best decision is not the easiest, and yet you go that route anyway. Also, sometimes she makes mistakes, and Kate can admit when that happens. 

The humor that marks an Emma Chase book is definitely here. There were so many moments when I laughed out loud. The banter between Kate and Dee Dee (well between anyone and Dee Dee - that chick is something else) and Billy is absolutely hilarious. And, in this book, those moments were very much needed. What Kate is going through is really hard and really sad. I can't even imagine what I would've done in her position. I definitely would've cried a lot more than what she did. Would've wallowed more than planned. But, I'm not Kate. 

Drew is missing for nearly all of this book. When things fall apart between them, Kate leaves New York and goes home to her mother in Ohio. That is where the majority of the book takes place. But, in the moments that Drew is present, he is larger than life, as usual. Despite the really serious - and I mean SERIOUS - mistakes he makes in Twisted, I still love the man. Hard. He doesn't always do the right thing, but what he does do, he does it with the same passion he exhibited in Tangled. 

Once again I listened to the audio version of Twisted. Sebastian York, who was the voice of Drew in Tangled, returns to read the epilogue, which is also in Drew's POV. I swear, I will listen to any book this man reads. He is absolutely wonderful. Charlotte Penfield read most of the book. This is the first book I've listened to that was narrated by her, and it will definitely not be the last. She was fantastic! I thought she captured Kate's trademark snark perfectly. 

Emma Chase managed to keep me laughing at the right moments, sad at the right moments, and furious at the right moments. The story line was never buried under needless silly banter and the jokes were never shoved in there with a crowbar. She is so good at what she does. I've already added all her other books to my TBR, because I need more from this wonderful author.

July 24, 2015

REVIEW: Remind Me (Chasing Fire #1)

Remind Me (Chasing Fire #1), by Ann Marie Walker and Amy K. Rogers
Publish Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Intermix
Format: e-ARC, provided by NetGalley and the publisher
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) As heiress to a media empire Alessandra Sinclair was raised to put family obligations first. But everything changes the night her first love walks back into her life and turns her whole world upside down. Haunted by the memories of a secret romance with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, she can't seem to get Hudson Chase out of her mind. Once again torn between two worlds, Allie must decide how much she’s willing to risk to have the love she’s always longed for.

Ten years is a long time to wait, but billionaire Hudson Chase didn’t become CEO of one of the country’s fastest growing companies by giving up on what he wants. Now that he’s got Allie in his sights again, he’s determined to make her regret breaking his heart. And this time, he’s going to make damn sure he’s not so easy to forget.

I've been gorging myself on these second change romance stories lately. I just love them so much. I'm such a romantic - I choose to believe that, if you could make it work once, you can find your way back to one another and make it work again. This trope especially feeds all my inner warm fuzzies. Of course, it's always best if it's not too easy for them - it has to be a little challenging to find that elusive HEA or else the book isn't fun, right? 

It appears that Alessandra and Hudson have their work cut out for them. They had one perfect summer together when they were 17. Until she chooses her filthy rich parents and her trust fund over the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. It's a decision that comes back to haunt her ten years later when she runs into Hudson at a fund raiser, and he's changed a lot. He's grown up and made a few billion dollars. It appears that he's missed his chance too, as Allie is now engaged to a stuffy French prick. Except, nothing really changed for them. Not really. 

Hudson is understandably upset with Allie. He loved her and she ditched him without so much as a thought once someone better came along. Or, so he thought. Their first few exchanges are rather heated. Hudson is very conflicted. He's still very much drawn to her, but he's also very angry. One minute he lashes out, and says awful things, the next, he's trying to get into her pants. This guy has serious passion. 

For her part, Allie is extremely conflicted. She's not exactly happy in her life. Her mother is the most shallow, superficial horrid woman. Her father only cares about his company. And her fiance is a complete douchebag. But, Allie doesn't see that she has any options. Her engagement was arranged as part of a business deal, and she's convinced that if she breaks it that contracts will be forfeit, people will lose jobs, and her family will disown her. And, she doesn't think she's quite brave enough for that. 

Hudson is dealing with so much. His younger brother is in a really bad place, and despite his best efforts to help him, he just seems to keep getting worse and worse. Hudson is also a business man and very busy. He's working some huge deals that will have a huge impact on his business. And then he's also trying to deal with his feelings for Allie and trying to figure out a way to get her to choose him instead of her fiance. 

Allie was irritating. Her whole life she continuously chose people who didn't care one bit about her. I get that they're her family, but when they prove time and time again that they love themselves more than you, I don't know how you can keep giving them your blind loyalty. Especially when everything they stand for is anathema to everything you believe in. Allie enjoys working for her family's charity. Her mother's most lofty goal for her is to be a trophy wife with a wicked backhand tennis swing. 

Remind Me ends on a cliffhanger. Things are not looking good for Allie and Hudson when several events, one after the other, at the end of the book tear them apart right when Allie had decided to change her path in life. It's the perfect lead-in to book 2 in the series, Release Me, and after that ending, I'm primed and ready to read it.  

July 23, 2015

REVIEW: Release Me (Stark Trilogy #1)

Release Me (Stark Trilogy #1), by J. Kenner
Publish Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Bantam
Format: audiobook, purchased
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) He was the one man I couldn’t avoid. And the one man I couldn’t resist.

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.

Release Me is another book that's been on my TBR for an unreasonably long time. I had just finished reading Grey, and then re-reading the entire Fifty Shades series, and the Stark Trilogy is one that many people have told me to try if I enjoyed books like FSOG. Now, I know - most people HATE when others say... "If you liked Fifty Shades of Grey, then you'll love..." I even get why. But, that doesn't take away from the fact that they're probably right. 

Release Me is no FSOG - I'll say that right now. I can definitely see the similarities, but it just didn't have the same feel to me. It's not a bad thing or a good thing. Well, I guess it is a good thing. It means that the Stark Trilogy can stand on its own feet. It has its own merits and flaws and individuality in spite of the correlations that can be drawn between the two series. 

Damien Stark is stupid rich and extremely secretive and enigmatic. And, he's shadowed and a little dark, too. It's all these things that drawn Nikki Fairchild to him like a moth to a flame. I get that - those tall, dark and mysterious types are completely fascinating to we females. Apparently, those characteristics blind her good sense, because their first meeting at a party was anything but above board. Damien was a forward ass to Nikki, and what was intensely frustrating to me was that she allowed it. 

Heroines like that frustrate the hell out of me. I know that we're supposed to understand that Nikki was very affected by this man, and that caused her to perhaps act out of character. But, still. I wanted her to find her lady balls, grab them like a redneck and give Damien the finger. Instead, she sputtered around, feigned indignance, and then proceeded to answer his all-too-personal questions anyway. *rolls eyes* 

Despite my frustration at Nikki, I really did enjoy this book. Damien's secrets are still locked up tight by the end of the book, and those alone would cause me to pick up the next book. It's clear they are doozies, and I'm dying to know what happened to him in his past. 

Nikki's secrets come out in Release Me, and her upbringing and the fall-out from it broke my heart. After everything that happened, I couldn't believe that Nikki still communicated with her mother at all. And, when Damien found out, he was amazing. I fell a little in love with him in that scene. 

Nikki and Damien are definitely a hot couple. Although Nikki resists him for awhile, for her own reasons, it was inevitable that they would eventually give in to their intense attraction to one another. Damien initiates things under the pretense of asking Nikki to sit for a painting for his new house. A nude painting. and everything after that is history. 

At the end, everything is still very much up in the air for Damien and Nikki and for their very fragile peace. I'm sure it will be disturbed again soon. Should be fun.

July 22, 2015

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling #1)

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling #1), by Nalini Singh
Publish Date: September 1, 2006
Publisher: Berkley
Format: audiobook, purchased
Genre: adult paranormal romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Nalini Singh dives into a world torn apart by a powerful race with phenomenal powers of the mind-and none of the heart.

In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of "rehabilitation" - the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was...

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion - and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities - or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation.

You don't have to tell me how late I am to this party. Slave to Sensation was published for the first time in 2006. I added it to my Goodreads TBR in late 2011. I know, I KNOW. For some reason, I waited years to read this book, and now I'm so mad at myself for it. It's been a long time since I've read a true adult PNR book, and one that was done this well. 

Sascha Duncan is a Psy - a race of humans that are very cerebral. They are classified by their extraordinary powers of the mind and their ability to block out all emotion. To cater to emotion means death. Lucas Hunter is the alpha of the Dark River pack of leopard shifters. He's a changeling, which is a race that loves nature and touch and feelings. Sascha and Lucas enter into a business relationship, but Lucas' role in this is full of pretense. He's really looking for information on the Psy that is killing changeling females. As he gets to know Sascha, he realizes how different she is, which is very dangerous for her.  If anyone were to know that she felt emotion, she would be sentenced to death. 

This book was incredible. The world building was astoundingly perfect. Slave to Sensation takes place in the late 2000s, so there are some things in it that are what we would deem "futuristic," but not so much that it was over the top. Most of all, I loved the different races and Singh's descriptors of them. The rules were clearly laid out, and she stuck to them. The landscape was vivid, from Lucas' treetop aerie to the inner workings of the Psy-Net. I loved it. 

I've always been a big fan of shifter books because I love the intensely strong family unit that is always present with the pack mates. The alpha males who protect their women and children with their lives and the women who band together to die for their men if need be just speaks to my soul. So, Lucas and his pack were my favorite part of this book. They love each other and care for one another so strongly and unconditionally. And, when Lucas falls for Sascha, despite her being a despised Psy, because she now belongs to Lucas, she also belongs to everyone else, without question. It was awesome. 

In addition to the cool paranormal features of this book, there's a really great mystery too. There's a serial killer who we know is a male Psy, and he's killing Changeling females. We spend the entire book trying to figure out who it is before he kills his next victim, who happens to be a wolf changeling. The fact that the killer is Psy is baffling to Sascha, as it would obviously take emotion to kill like that. It starts Sascha on a journey of self-discovery. She gives up hiding who she is and actively tries to figure out where she comes from and what her role is in this life. And Lucas helps her. 

The ending is heart-pounding and exciting as we race to find the killer, and Sascha makes decisions that will affect the rest of her life, no matter how much of it is left. Lucas is torn between his duty to his pack and his duty to the woman he loves. And fragile alliances are tested in extreme ways. 

The audio version of Slave to Sensation was fantastic. Angela Dawe delivered an incredible performance. I loved her narration - she was able to communicate the cold aloofness of the Psy as well as the intense emotionally charged Changelings. I will definitely seek out the other books in this series in audio format. Sure it takes longer to get through them, but it's totally worth it. 

I know there's 14 books in this series at present. I've heard they just keep getting better and better. If that's the case, then sign me up right now for book number 2.

July 21, 2015


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This is one meme I can get on board with - I LOVE lists! I'll show you mine if you show me yours!

Top Ten Nine Books With Diverse Characters

1. Focus On Me, by Megan Erickson - Today, of all days, I have to lead off today's list with a book that not only features a gay couple, but a main character with mental illness. And, it releases today. Go get it now - seriously, it's awesome.

2. Scorched, by Jennifer L. Armentrout - This is another recent read that hit me right in the feels because of the head-on tackling of mental illness. It was so well done and so emotional and unlike anything else I've ever read.

3. Two of Hearts, by Christina Lee - This is the only book I've ever read that features main characters that are Native American. The story even takes place in a casino on a reservation. I loved all the research the Christina Lee did into the Native American customs and culture.

4. One Night With a Billionaire, by Jessica Clare - This might seem like an odd choice for this list, but bear with me. The female MC is not slender like in ALL BOOKS EVERYWHERE. She is a solid size 18 and still manages to snag the hot rich guy. I love this and wish other authors would follow suit.

5. Maybe Someday, by Colleen Hoover - This was the first book I read in which the MC was deaf. Not only that, but he's a musician, which makes for an incredible story.

6. Real, by Katy Evans - Real brought attention to what some people with bi-polar disorder go through, and the fact that not only can they live full lives with it, but they can fall in love too.

7. Catching Liam, by Gennifer Albin - In this book, the female MC has a life-shortening illness which causes her to push away people who care about her. Until a hot Scot enters the picture, and he decides one moment with her is better than a life without her.

8. Perfect Chemistry, by Simone Elkeles - The MC in this book is Hispanic, and a lot of the focus in the book is on his family, his neighborhood, and how different they are from some others in town. 

9. Hard To Hold On To, by Laura Kaye - Although it's only a novella, this book packs a powerful punch. It focuses on Easy Cantrell, the big, quietly contemplative African American member of the team. Not only is he dealing with his growing feelings for Jenna, the beautiful sister of Shane's girlfriend, but he's also got some scary stuff going on in his head, and Jenna's just the person to help him with that.

July 20, 2015


The New Adult genre - their bad boys and big problems and epic loves make them engrossing tales that are so easy to lose yourself in. What's not to love about that? And, now, thanks to the cool chicks at Bewitched Bookworms, we can show these books the love they deserve in a weekly feature - New Adult Mondays.

Focus On Me (In Focus #2), by Megan Erickson
Publish Date: July 21, 2014
Publisher: Intermix
Format: e-ARC, provided by the publisher
Genre: new adult contemporary m/m romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Colin Hartman can now add college to his list of failures. On the coast-to-coast trek home from California, Colin stops at a gas station in the Nevada desert, and can’t help noticing the guy in tight jeans looking like he just stepped off a catwalk. When he realizes Catwalk is stranded, Colin offers a ride.

Riley only intended to take a short ride in Colin’s Jeep to the Grand Canyon. But one detour leads to another until they finally find themselves tumbling into bed together. However there are shadows in Riley’s eyes that hide a troubled past. And when those shadows threaten to bury the man whom Colin has fallen in love with, he vows to get Riley the help he needs. For once in his life, quitting isn’t an option…

Oh, the things this book did to me. I thought Megan Erickson had brought the maximum emotional impact with Trust the Focus. You haven't seen anything yet from her. Focus On Me takes on some heavy-hitting issues amid the backdrop of another epic road trip and a budding romance between two very different people. This book is in equal measures hopeful, heartbreaking and HOT.

Colin is what I would call a good 'ole boy. He's a blue collar guy from North Carolina who tries to make it in college in California on a football scholarship. Unfortunately, college just wasn't his thing, and is now driving home after failing out. He's getting gas near Vegas when he sees a hot, model thin guy trying to get a ride out of town. Since the guy seems desperate and looks great in a pair of skinny jeans, Colin offers him a ride. 

Riley is desperate for some answers, and he's not even sure of the question. He just knows that he's not happy and is filled with shadows and emptiness. He thinks that the reasons why he feels this way and how to fix it will become evident to him if he can get closer to nature or maybe closer to his inner consciousness. And, if not those things, then there's always the Atlantic Ocean. So, Riley enlists Colin's help to hit the high points along the way - the Grand Canyon, a sweat lodge, a hot gay bar - all the while Riley's just looking to feel something. ANYTHING. 

I love how, in the beginning, both Colin's and Riley's gaydar is seriously out of calibration. Both are seriously drawn to the other, but think they have no shot because he's straight. When it comes out that both boys are gay, it was like they both took the gloves off, at least for a little while. The sexual tension between them was crazy off the charts from the very beginning, so once they have permission to openly act upon it, it doesn't become an issue of if, but rather when. 

As far as Colin's concerned, the when is ASAFP. But, Riley is much more hesitant. He's trying to deal with all this stuff in his head and doesn't want to drag Colin into it. As such, Riley keeps Colin in the dark about his life, his family and his problems for quite awhile. The two guys go through half the country and a few key attempts on Riley's part to figure himself out before they finally give into their feelings for each other and things seem to smooth out a bit. 

Unfortunately, the closer they get to the coast, the more complicated things get. The pieces of the Riley puzzle start to fall into place for Colin, and the paint a very scary picture. By this time, Colin has fallen completely in love with Riley, and he's determined to be whatever and whoever Riley wants him to be. But, as Colin learns, that's not what Riley NEEDS. And, when Colin finally figures out what that is, he's so worried he's too late for it to make a difference for Riley and for them as a couple. 

While the focus of this book might be on Riley and what he's going through, I think something needs to be said for Colin here. This big, strong, tough guy has his own feelings of inadequacy that he's dealing with. He failed out of college and is now forced to go home with his tail between his legs to sling bar-b-que at his family's restaurant. He couldn't hack it, and now when Riley leans on him for help, Colin is terrified he's going to fall short with him too. God love this boy. He is so incredibly sweet, and is always thinking of everyone before himself. 

Justin and Landry from Trust the Focus play a significant role in Focus On Me. Landry and Riley are e-mail pals, and Riley sort of uses his e-mails to Landry as his diary. He gets his feelings out, since he's too afraid to admit them to Colin. However, his catharsis causes Landry to become concerned for him, and eventually seek him out. It was interesting seeing Landry and Justin from Colin's eyes, especially as he was in the midst of trying to figure everything out with Riley. All Colin knows is that these two guys are interfering in his and Riley's personal situation, and it doesn't sit well with him. 

There are several times during Focus On Me that I was brought to tears over Riley's plight and Colin's intense concern for him. This is definitely an emotional book that faces some pretty serious topics head on. Megan Erickson did her homework. And, so many aspects of this book are controversial - Megan also handles all of them with aplomb and care. 

And, can I just tell you how freaking hot this book is? Like - crazy, off the charts HOT. Both Riley and Colin have been with other guys before and know what they want and what they like, and neither of them are afraid to ask for it. It's so, so good. 

I really hope this isn't the end of the In Focus series. Both books in it have been completely captivating and incredible. I need more. 

My boots made an odd sound on the Skywalk. I watched them as I raised my knees up, forward, then down onto the clear glass floor, from which I could see the bottom of the Grand Canyon two thousand feet below.

My legs shook, and my heart felt like it was beating in my mouth. I wiped my forehead with the sleeve of my shirt and breathed in through my nose, out through my mouth.

This whole thing was weird and freaky. But the bridge was a little crowded, and Riley seemed to like it, so I shut my mouth and fought against my flight instinct. Still, I gazed longingly at the solid ground at the edge of the Grand Canyon. According to the shuttle driver, the U-shaped Skywalk jutted out from the rim of the Grand Canyon seventy feet at its farthest point. Which was where we were.

Riley leaned on the railing and looked below. I followed his gaze, spying the Colorado River in the distance.

I walked over next to him and folded my forearms on the railing, resting my forehead on them and closing my eyes. Then I prayed my legs would stop shaking.

When I looked up, Riley was watching me with amusement.

“What’s that look for?”

“You don’t like this, do you?”

I shrugged.

He laughed. “Liar. Your face is white and you’re sweating like crazy.”

I wiped my forehead again. “Hot as hell out here. This is Arizona, ya know.”

“Right . . .” He let his voice trail off and then focused back on the canyon in front of us. I told myself to chill and let my gaze roam the area. I’d seen pictures of the Grand Canyon, but to actually be here in this huge natural area was a head trip. I was seeing it with my own eyes, but could barely grasp the actual freaking size of the canyon.

A helicopter circled overhead, one of the tours, and I looked up, shielding my eyes as it flew past.

“Have you ever seen Garden State?” Riley asked.

I dropped my hand back to the railing. “Garden State?”

“Yeah, it’s a movie.”

I shook my head, “No.”

He swallowed and looked back at the canyon as he spoke. “Well, the main character is depressed, and he’s been on drugs a lot of his life to deal with it. But then he stops taking them. He said he wants to feel, and he wasn’t sure he ever needed them in the first place.” He took a breath. “Anyway, there’s this scene where he and his friends visit an abandoned quarry. He climbs on top of this old construction vehicle in the pouring rain on the edge of the quarry and yells down into it. Just yells into the infinite abyss, as he calls it. And he’s happy because he’s feeling that moment, you know?”

Riley looked at me, his eyes wide. I didn’t know what he wanted me to say. Because that sounded kind of weird, for a guy to stand and yell into a hole. Maybe he just wanted to hear his voice echo. Some guys liked to hear themselves talk. So all I did was nod.

In response, Riley stepped closer. When he spoke again, his voice was lower, softer. “Standing here like this, how does it make you feel?”

I licked my lips and broke Riley’s gaze to look at the other people walking the bridge. Some were holding hands and talking. Others were pointing at the canyon below. Then I looked back out, staring at the tan rocks of the canyon walls. The best way to describe all of this was beautiful, in the way the sun baked the ground, the way the gentle breeze ruffled my sweat-dampened hair. The way plants shoved their way through cracks in the rock to reach the sun and thrive.

I wasn’t so good at this, talking about how I felt and shit. But he’d asked me, so I thought about how to answer as honestly as I could. “I guess . . . I guess I feel pretty small. And I feel pretty lucky that I’m here. I’m alive and the sun is shining, and I get to see one of the greatest sites in the world.”

I winced a little, wondering if that all sounded stupid.

Riley rolled his lips between his teeth, and his eyes lowered until he stared at his hands folded on the railing. “That’s . . . that’s good, Colin.”

So I guessed I’d done all right. “How, uh, does it make you feel?”

Riley’s eyes fell closed slowly. “About the same,” he whispered. But there was something in his voice, something that made me scratch my head, but also made me think he was lying a little.

“You happy you got to see this?” I waved a hand out into the infinite abyss.

“Yeah,” he whispered again. But he didn’t look happy. And his eyes looked wet.

He blinked and turned away, and when he faced me again, some cool mask had slipped over his face. His eyes looked a little too bright, his smile forced. “Thanks a lot for bringing me.”

July 17, 2015

LET'S TALK: Motorcycle Club Series - Why Do We Love Them?

MC Books

Why do we love books about bad ass motorcycle clubs so much? I mean, most of these guys are bad dudes. They willingly commit crimes. They are certifiable manwhores. They love to fight and drink a lot - I mean, what are we thinking loving these guys so much?

I can't speak for you, so I don't know what gets your tailpipes hot, but I think for me, it's a couple different things. First of all, these MC guys are hot in the most manly ways. They're all big and strong and confident and the alphaest of alphas. They are total badasses, and they know it. There is something so sexy about a man who knows who he is, you know? And, they are hot. Like, HOT.

Do you find it odd that we're okay with overlooking these guys faults because they look really nice in a cut and are expert dirty talkers? I do. I've read a bunch of MC series now, and in most of them, the club members do things from running guns and drugs to outright murder. So, I can't say it's only their pretty faces that appeal so much.

Maybe it's also because, when these guys meet "the one," something in them shifts, and all of a sudden, they are not the center of their whole world. That center now includes someone else. And fight it though they might, they start to change. Oh, in some series, they never go completely straight, especially if they are in a 1% club. But, we see shades of who they might be if they hadn't been part of the club life.

We see how they lay down their lives for their women. How holding their children can soften even the toughest of them all. For a hopeless romantic like me, that stuff is crack, I tell you. All of a sudden, the illegal drugs, the gun running, the manwhoring, the killing - it fades into the background, and this alpha caveman who is willing to do anything - ANYTHING - to protect his woman and keep her by his side becomes... well, a hero.

I'd love to hear from you. What do you think about MC series? Do you love them? Why? And, what MC series do I HAVE to read?

July 16, 2015

REVIEW: Caged (Mastered #4)

Caged (Mastered #4), by Lorelei James
Publish Date: July 14, 2015
Berkley Romance
e-ARC, provided by the publisher.
adult contemporary romance
To Buy:
Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads)
In order to survive a life of tragedy, Deacon McConnell embraced his roughest edges and learned to fight on the streets. Then a life-changing jujitsu seminar led by Sensei Ronin Black led Deacon to become a professional fighter. With his muscular physique and his body covered in tattoos and scars, the MMA fighter defines mean, both on and off the mat.

But everything changes when innocent Molly Calloway signs up for his kickboxing class. Molly is Deacon’s opposite in every way: She’s kind, sweet, thoughtful, and educated. After a heated argument between them turns into a passionate encounter, Deacon realizes Molly is eager to experience more, and she looks to him to take her to the darker edge of lust....

The last thing either of them expects is how deeply their lives will be thrown upside down by the passion they find together.

I love Lorelei James' Mastered series. Every book so far has been a winner, including CAGED. Molly and Deacon have been dancing around each other since book 1, so I've been looking forward to this one for a long time.  

So, let's face it - Deacon isn't the romantic sort of guy. He's a big, hard MMA fighter who lacks a brain-to-mouth filter and scares the pants off all the people in the classes he teaches at Black Arts. You'd figure his ideal woman to be some bad ass fighter. So, the fact that it was meek, mousy Molly who caught his eye is unexpected. 

We could tell in previous books that Deacon and Molly had some sort of pull toward each other, but it's always seemed pretty volatile. Are you surprised? I mean, it's Deacon. Of course it's volatile. And, he's not the most tactful guy around. But, honestly, Deacon surprised me in Caged. More than once. After a disastrous first date that never really happened, Molly had all but written him off, even though she still thought about him all the time. Tried to forget her attraction by dating other guys. But, once Deacon decides something, he gives it singular focus. And, Deacon has decided that He. Wants. Molly. 

A focused Deacon is a thing of beauty. He might not have the pretty words or the grand romantic gestures, but when this guy throws his heart into the ring, he is literally all in. He wines and dines Molly in his own way, and because she knows that and because she likes him just the way he is, it doesn't take long before Deacon wins her back over. 

Learning about one another means learning about their pasts and their families, and that's a touchy subject for both Molly and Deacon. Neither of them had rosy, happy childhoods - especially Molly. And when a relative of hers dies, and Molly has to go home to deal with the funeral and her awful family. And Deacon really comes through for her. He's an unexpected hero, and I love that about him. 

Except, Deacon's not quite as forthcoming about details from his side as Molly was. He carries this big secret with him through all his dates with Molly, through all his training sessions with Maddox, through his fights in the ring, and it starts to wear on him as his feelings for her grow. You know how secrets always have a way of coming out when you don't want them to? 

One thing is for sure - the Molly in Caged is nothing like the Molly from Bound. In the time that has passed, she has found her inner strength, and that was due in large part to Deacon. At first it was because of his self-defense classes. And, then it was because of his love and support. But, I love the development in her character. And, Deacon has kind of met her in the middle. He was always on the opposite end of the spectrum. He was this unapproachable, mean, scary dude, and Molly brought out the softer side of him. 

Not that Deacon ever went soft. Geez - he's a total caveman. His protectiveness knows no bounds when he's in love. And he can really tear it up between the sheets. But, being in love, opens him up in new ways. He starts being a real friend to his friends. He asks for help when he needs it. He admits when he's wrong. Again - the character development is stellar. 

There's lots of time spent with the couples from the previous books - Ronin and Amery and Knox and Shiori. Knox and Deacon are besties and Ronin is sort of his mentor, so we see lots of them. We also see much more of Maddox, whom we were introduced to in the last book. I can't wait for his story - I just know it will be a good one. 

Every book in this series has been a winner for me. The strong, alpha men of Black Arts blow me away every time, and Caged was no different. I can't wait for more.  

July 14, 2015

REVIEW: Grey (Fifty Shades #4)

Grey (Fifty Shades #4), by E. L. James
Publish Date: June 18, 2015
e-book, purchased
adult contemporary romance
To Buy:
Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads)
Christian Grey exercises control in all things; his world is neat, disciplined, and utterly empty—until the day that Anastasia Steele falls into his office, in a tangle of shapely limbs and tumbling brown hair. He tries to forget her, but instead is swept up in a storm of emotion he cannot comprehend and cannot resist. Unlike any woman he has known before, shy, unworldly Ana seems to see right through him—past the business prodigy and the penthouse lifestyle to Christian’s cold, wounded heart.
Will being with Ana dispel the horrors of his childhood that haunt Christian every night? Or will his dark sexual desires, his compulsion to control, and the self-loathing that fills his soul drive this girl away and destroy the fragile hope she offers him?
I first read Fifty Shades of Grey a little over three years ago, and when I did, it sorta changed things for me. I wasn't concerned so much about the writing or the world building or the morality of Christian's actions. All I knew was that I absolutely Could. Not. Put. This. Book. Down. I read for the escapism, and this series absolutely took me away. And, it continues to do so. 

I won't bore you with a recap of the story. Provided you haven't been living under a rock for the last four years, you already know it. What you really want to know is, is Grey worth it? Worth the time and money to read? 

Yeah. It is. 

Grey is Fifty Shades of Grey from Christian's POV. In my opinion, this was even better than FSOG. Let's face it - Christian is the star of this series. This isn't Ana's story - it's his. It's always been. Christian is secretive and pensive and he's dealing with so much inside his head. He spends all three books fighting his inner demons in an attempt to try and make himself worthy of Ana's love. And, he's never very forthcoming with information. Is it any wonder that fans were clamoring for this story from Christian's POV?

I loved every second of Grey. It paints Christian in a totally different way. We see him more like the Christian he became in book 2. The Christian he shows the world is self-assured, dignified, confident, stoic. He's master of all he surveys. King of his ivory tower. But, internally, he's kind of a mess. 

When he meets Ana, he's intrigued by the fact that she intrigues him. After they get together, and he learns more about her, he starts to redefine what he thought he wanted, or in other words, Ana's concept of "more." The thing is, the closer Christian gets to "more," the more insecure he gets. In his mind, he's always worrying about whether Ana will accept his offer, whether she'll sign, whether she's going to run. It's incredible the facade he puts up. 

I got what I always said I wanted the most - to see what Christian did during those five days he and Ana were apart at the end. And it was every bit as satisfying as I hoped. 

I can't imagine how hard this was for E.L. James to write. There are millions of fans out there that know FSOG inside and out, and I'm sure they would all write to her if she got an e-mail exchange between Christian and Ana wrong. I didn't sit here and compare the two versions while I read Grey (although, I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it). I don't really care if the scenes didn't line up perfectly. She gave fans what we had been begging for, and that's the most important thing. 

I always said I'd be happy with just the first book from Christian's POV, but let's face it. Now that I'm finished, I only want more. When I look ahead to the next two books, there are so many scenes absolutely key to Christian's growth - getting Ana back, hunting Leila down and then finding her, becoming "submissive Christian", letting Ana touch him, Charlie Tango's crash, the final showdown with Elena, THE WEDDING, Jack's stalking, Ana's birthday, the pregnancy news, Ana's time in the hospital, and finally, the happily ever after with Teddy and Phoebe. I want to see them all through his eyes now. It's like Grey just whetted the appetite. 

You know, reading is such a subjective, personal thing. That's what makes it one of my favorite pastimes. I like what I like and so do you. We can talk about the things we like and the things we don't and know that, no matter what our feelings are on the subject matter, in the end, we have something in common - a love of the written word and of stories that take us away. I think that so many people have erected so many soap boxes lately, that this lofty view has been blocked out. 

All I've heard lately in regards to the FSOG series is how it glorifies abuse and rape and that Ana is such a weak-minded woman to put up with it all. I've now read the series four? five times? (I've only read Grey once - so far.) This time, when I read it, I kept a keen eye out for these themes. Here's a shocker for ya...


Ana is never, ever in a million years raped by Christian. Every single thing they do is done with her consent. In regards to abuse, I think there is a whole legion of people who practice the BDSM lifestyle that would disagree with that notion. Guys - we live in America. It's a free country. If a girl wants to get tied up and have the guy she loves smack her with a riding crop to get her off, more power to her! 

And, I think Ana is one of the most strong, powerful female characters ever. Knowing she had nearly zero sexual experience, she willingly and openly put herself out there and tried these new, heady, kinky things with a man who intrigued her. I know enough about myself to know that I wouldn't have had the guts to do everything she did - including walk away when she felt she had to. 

So, I think that all the haters out there have spent so much time sitting on top of their moral high horses that they haven't gotten laid in, like, forever, so they're feeling sexually frustrated and confused. I, for one, give mad props to E.L. James for giving fans what we asked for and for continuing to take me away to a world of hearts and flowers and kinky fuckery. 

Laters baby.

July 13, 2015

NEW ADULT MONDAYS: The Dare (The Bet #3)

The New Adult genre - their bad boys and big problems and epic loves make them engrossing tales that are so easy to lose yourself in. What's not to love about that? And, now, thanks to the cool chicks at Bewitched Bookworms, we can show these books the love they deserve in a weekly feature - New Adult Mondays.

The Dare (The Bet #3), by Rachel Van Dyken
Publish Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-book, purchased
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) Boring Beth Lynn has always lived up to her nickname… until she wakes up in a hotel bed next to a sexy as sin state senator she re-connected with at a wedding the previous night.

The biggest problem? She can't seem to remember anything about the night before except for crying into a box of cookies, and she’s pretty sure Grandma Nadine slipped something in her drink. And what should have been a one night stand turns into a six day adventure when Grandma whisks them off to Hawaii to save them from the ensuing media firestorm.

Jace isn't looking for commitment — he believes he made that clear when he left the wedding with Beth. Then again, he can't remember much of anything other than the way her skin felt beneath his hands. Now he's stuck with her at some lame couple’s retreat and trying his hardest to fight the attraction only a woman like Beth could invoke.

He doesn’t think it can get any worse.

But one spider attack… A donkey ride from hell… And an unfortunate episode with Viagra tea — and there’s one thing Jace knows for sure: He should never have agreed to Grandma Nadine’s suggestion in the first place. Because if this isn’t paradise, and it isn’t a vacation — that only leaves one option.


But to make it through alive… they might lose their hearts in the process.

Whenever I'm in need of something light to read, I know I can count on Rachel Van Dyken's The Bet series. Everyone who has read it knows that Grandma Nadine and her matchmaking machinations steal the show, and that is never more true than with The Dare. It seems that Grandma was only practicing with brothers Travis and Jake so that she could pull out all the stops with family friend Jace and Beth, Jake's new sister-in-law. 

So, Jace and Beth actually have some history. Twelve years earlier at Beth's disastrous senior prom, Jace was the only bright spot when he saved her with a dance and a kiss. And then she never heard from him again. But, neither of them forgot the other person, and it's purely coincidence that Beth's sister Char married one of the Titus brothers, who are friends with Jace. They see each other again at Char's and Jake's wedding, and the morning after, wake up in bed together with no memory of the night's extracurricular activities. 

Grandma Nadine is on the case, as she whisks Jace and Beth away to a couples retreat in Hawaii so that Jace, a state senator, can escape media scrutiny. Once they get there, it's one hilarious activity after another. 

Beth is a chemist working to cure cancer. She's also a thirty-year-old virgin. Men just aren't interested in "Boring Beth." And, to be honest, I think she's always been a little stuck on 16-year-old Jace when he swooped in and saved her from her douche canoe date Brett. She decides to carpe diem when she finds herself in Hawaii with Jace for a week, and she asks him to romance her pants off - literally. She has no illusions about what this is - she knows that Jace would never be there with her if Grandma hadn't practically kidnapped them. But, she's willing to take advantage of the situation 

For his part, Jace is inexplicably drawn to Beth, but has no desire to leave his bachelor lifestyle. Despite all the wonderful things he finds he loves about her, he continues to keep the finality of their week together in his mind. He is absolutely convinced that at the end of the six days, no matter what, he will walk away and have no problems doing so. Jace's cavalier attitude when it came to Beth bothered me at times. He had no problems giving her her romance - taking her on excursions, kissing her every chance he got, wining, dining and protecting her caveman style - he really led her on. Gah - so many times I wanted to smack Jace around a bit. Luckily, Grandma Nadine did it for me.  

Of course, Grandma Nadine was everywhere in The Dare. You know she set everything up, and her evil matchmaking ways are hilarious. There's a spider mishap, a donkey named Shit, drugs of various types in beverages... I laughed out loud through most of this book. Of course, not all of this book is in any way believable, but that's okay. I didn't expect it to be. 
The only downfall is that Grandma Nadine stole the show. I mean, the book should be about Jace and Beth finding their way back to each other and falling in love again. Instead, that was the backdrop. Some of the stuff that happened to Jace and Beth in their pasts was kind of serious, but because discussion of what happened was, most of the time, laced with banter and jokes, it diminished the impact of their pasts. I'm not sure that's entirely a good thing - there needs to be a nice balance of funny and serious, and that balance felt off. 

That's not to say that the banter was unwelcome. Beth and Jace are fun together. They give each other crap, they're not sappy and swoony with each other, but there are sweet moments. They are sarcastic and have so much fun together. And, that's the bottom line with this book - this is just a fun book. So, if you're looking for a quick, light read that is funny and sweet, this book will not disappoint. And, best yet - the epilogue which recaps all three couples five years later is the absolute BEST.  

July 10, 2015

REVIEW: I Want You To Want Me (Rock Star Romance #2)

I Want You To Want Me (Rock Star Romance #2), by Erika Kelly
Publish Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Format: paperback, provided by the publisher
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) Derek Valencia finally has the success he’s worked so hard for. His band is touring its debut album and great reviews are rolling in. But when pictures of him tossing naked groupies off a balcony go viral, it’s damage-control time. He’s assigned a “babysitter” whose sole job is to keep him out of trouble.

Violet Davis swore she’d never work in the music industry again, but being a minder for a rock star will earn her enough to pay off the mortgage on her wildflower farm. And for a girl brought up in the foster care system, owning her own home means more to her than anything.

Though at first the two bang heads, the rocker and the farm girl soon grow close and realize that they make sweet music together. But can a girl who craves the stability of life on a farm really make it work with a man whose life is spent on the road with his band?

Derek Valencia was my favorite side character from You Really Got Me (Rock Star Romance #1), so I was so excited to see he was getting his book next. What was great about this book is that Derek's relationship with Violet was only one of the key relationships in his life that is explored, and all of them were fascinating. Anything involving Derek would be. 

Derek has always been the heart of Blue Fire, in addition to its bass player. He was the business manager and the publicist before they could afford to hire professional ones. He mother henned the other guys in the band and always tried to keep them on the straight and narrow in the face of all their new-found fame. But, not even Derek could prepare them all adequately for that. Which is where Violet comes in. 

She's a minder - someone who insinuates herself into someone's life so as to keep him or her or them away from the bad things and substitute them for good. Needless to say, her presence in the band's life isn't very welcome at first. But, the thing about Violet is, she is used to it. In her line of work, she gets berated a lot. And, Violet is well suited to her job since emotion isn't something she was brought up with, so it's not something she engages in. She can approach her job stoically and distantly. Violet doesn't think she's capable of love. 

Honestly, Violet frustrated the hell out of me. What she went through as a kid was awful - being abandoned and growing up in foster care. So, I can understand why it might be harder for her to trust others and to give her heart away. Even Derek saw that about her, which was why he was infinitely patient with her. Once Derek got to know her, he saw so many things about her that he liked. She is beautiful and smart and compassionate and giving. But, she doesn't let anything about herself that is real out, and Derek becomes determined to help her do that. 

But, Violet has talked herself into a box, and she absolutely refuses to think outside of it. No matter how many times Derek or Emmie or her friends Francesca and Mimi tell her that she IS capable of feeling the full scope of emotions - including love - she refuses to believe them. Even after Derek shows her time and time again what love is, she refuses to see it. And, even after Derek begs her to take a chance on him and on their relationship, she refuses to do it. And, it was all I could do to keep from throwing my book across the room. 

Derek is a complex guy. He's fighting an uphill battle with Violet, but he also has this terrible relationship with his father to deal with too. His dad is a former famous jazz musician that is looking to ride his kid's coattails for an additional 15 minutes of fame. To do that, his dad blasts him in the press, shows up at events to antagonize and embarrass him, and is constantly putting down his talent and his choices. Derek has been looked over his entire life by the people who are supposed to love him, and my heart broke for both the little boy he was and the good man he grew into. Derek's relationship with his dad is interesting and complicated and so sad. 

But, Derek's relationship with his band mates is incredible. They are the family Derek and Emmie should have had growing up, but didn't. Slater, Cooper, Pete, Ben and Derek are super tight, and I loved their banter and joking with one another. When one of them has a hard time, the others rally around him. And, when tough love has to be shown, it's done with no pleasure or delight. 

The best thing about this series is the focus on the music and the music industry. A lot of rock band series focus mostly on the coupling of the band members with a song here and a concert there thrown in for show. The Rock Star Romance series puts so much more of a spotlight on the things that make the music business go round, and I absolutely love it. It makes these books shine and stand out among the others. 

I Want You To Want Me is written in dual POV. Because Slater is in the band and Emmie is Derek's sister, and they're all on tour together, there is a lot of time spent with the couple from book 1. Despite Violet's frigidity and lack of trust in Derek's and her relationship, the sexy times are hot and plentiful. And that cover - So. Gorgeous. I can't wait to see who the next guy will be to find love. Will it be goofy guitarist Cooper? Or maybe the adorable drummer Ben. And, I'm thinking that Mimi would be perfect for either of them. Either way, I'll read it, because these books so far have been a sure thing.