The Opera House: Hans M Hirschi

The Opera HouseAuthor: Hans M Hirschi
Book Name: The Opera House
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Raphael doesn’t believe in a higher power, or in anything, for that matter. After the death of his son, his life shattered, Raphael regrets that he didn’t lie about some perfect paradise, and he pushes away everything that once mattered to him—his lover, his job, his reputation as a top architect.

Then he meets Brian, a homeless, maybe hopeless kid, a street kid. When he disappears, Raphael realizes that he cannot fail another person, and he launches a full-out search.

What he finds both breaks his heart and begins to heal it. The price of saving Brian is high, maybe too high.

But Raphael is no stranger to sacrifice, and he’ll risk everything to save Brian and reunite with the man Raphael now loves. The question is—how?

Like the architecture of the opera house Raphael designs, the steps to regaining his life will depend not just on careful planning, but faith, hope, and maybe just the magic of love.

Review:  I really wasn’t a fan of this one, which is sad because the beginning of the book was incredibly heart wrenching.

Once I got past that part, it was a real struggle at times to follow along.  The dialog just didn’t flow in a natural conversational rhythm and there were word choices and phrases used that seemed really off.  I’d guess that English is not the author’s first language and, based on the author blurb in the back and the fact that this author’s homeland is Sweden, those issues are potentially the difference between cultures and countries.

The struggle to follow or get over term or phrase hiccups made it difficult to really connect emotionally with the characters.  Some of the situations seemed extremely far fetched, even ridiculous at points.  The deeper into the book I got, the less in tune I was with what was going on.  In a few places, the plot timeline seemed out of order and there were several things that were flat out, word for word repeated at different points in the story, which became annoying.

I liked the basis of the story, but just not the follow through and how it was fleshed out.

All or Nothing: Trust No One, Book 1

All or NothingAuthor: Dixie Lee Brown
Book Name: All or Nothing
Series: Trust No One
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Someone wants Cara Sinclair dead. One minute she’s halfheartedly enjoying an Oregon Coast casino, and the next she’s being chased by hit men. Rescued by a total stranger, Cara must decide whether she can trust her safety to this Joe Reynolds and his team of ruthless mercenaries. The more time she spends with Joe, the more her desire for him grows. But can he truly protect her, or is she placing them all in mortal danger?

Joe agreed to protect Cara as a promise to a dying man. He never expected to feel such heat between them, or her total lack of faith in him. Now he must convince her that her only hope lies with him. Because Joe is starting to realize that he won’t be satisfied with just saving her life . . . now, he wants it all.

Review:  Should have stuck with my first impression on this one and skipped it.

This was more of a book about the Too Stupid to Live chick from the horror movies rather than a book about people coming together and falling in love.  I’d go into the details about all the ways that Cara’s character proves her utter lack of basic self preservation and common sense, but I’d be reciting the whole book and it wasn’t worth it the first time around.

The yo-yo effect going on here is enough to make anyone dizzy.  Not sure but I think we saw a change of heart at least three times in less than a dozen paragraphs at one time.  The I don’t trust them, I love them, I don’t trust them, Oh!  I really do… oh… no…  got old by the 4th chapter, but it never ended.  Not even by the end of the book.

The plot had lots of places where it fell down as well.  It was so incredibly unbelievable.  Sorry, but no one suddenly becomes an expert at anything after a half hour or so of instruction and training, let alone self defense techniques, knife skills and explosives.  It is even less believable from some with the intelligence level of a peanut.

Apparently this is my week to break my rule about not bashing books, but it was so hard not to with this one.  I think the only reason I didn’t drop the rating lower is the fact that the book was actually edited and there was a plot.  It wasn’t a great one, but at least it had one.  So, yeah.  Didn’t like this one at all.

 

 

When Skies Have Fallen: Debbie McGowan

When Skies Have FallenAuthor: Debbie McGowan
Book Name: When Skies Have Fallen
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT/Historical
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  For many in war-torn 1944, love blossoms in the dance hall, and airman Arty Clarke is no exception. He’s a thinker and a dreamer; however, it’s not the beautiful, talented dancer in his arms—his best friend Jean—who inspires his dreams. For when his gaze meets that of Technical Sergeant Jim Johnson, Arty dares to imagine a different dance.

Their love is forbidden, by both the armed forces and the law, but with Jean’s cunning and support, Arty and Jim try to bridge the distance between them and find true love despite the danger and a life-threatening disaster that could destroy Arty’s dreams for good.

Can the pair stand strong together, no matter how many skies have fallen?

Review:  While at times a little slower paced, this is a beautifully sweet, endearing story.  The characters are warm and heartfelt.  This story spans decades so you get more than just the falling in love part.  You get the working and living through the love and enduring all the bumps and sink holes in the road along the way.

The author does an amazing job of sinking the reader into the middle of those difficult times, pulling you right along with these characters.

The Life List: Lori Nelson Spielman

The Life ListAuthor: Maddie Dawson
Book Name: The Life List
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  One woman sets out to complete her old list of childhood goals, and finds that her lifelong dreams lead her down a path she never expects.

1. Go to Paris
2. Have a baby, maybe two
3. Fall in love

Brett Bohlinger seems to have it all: a plum job, a spacious loft, an irresistibly handsome boyfriend. All in all, a charmed life. That is, until her beloved mother passes away, leaving behind a will with one big stipulation: In order to receive her inheritance, Brett must first complete the life list of goals she’d written when she was a naïve girl of fourteen. Grief-stricken, Brett can barely make sense of her mother’s decision–her childhood dreams don’t resemble her ambitions at age thirty-four in the slightest. Some seem impossible. How can she possibly have a relationship with a father who died seven years ago? Other goals (Be an awesome teacher!) would require her to reinvent her entire future. As Brett reluctantly embarks on a perplexing journey in search of her adolescent dreams, one thing becomes clear. Sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places.

Review:  When a book starts you out near tears within the first couple of pages , it is easy to assume that this is going to be a good one.  This definitely ends up being a roller coaster ride, but only because there are times that all the pieces just don’t seem to work together at all.  The peaks and valleys of that roller coaster define the good and the not so great parts in this book.

My first issue is with Brett.  She is 34 but most times her maturity level comes across as barely adult.  She is self centered in so many cases and tends to feel more desperate than genuine.  Every single potential romantic interest seems to be all about how the guy looks and she quickly jumps from one to the other without much depth to support the her interest.  She is really flaky.

I was also hugely confused by the whole will and list demands.  As a parent, you want the best for your children, but you would never force them to suffer.  Not only does the mother force Brett to jump through all these hoops but does so along with taking away her job and not giving her any real kind of support, like even letting her stay in her house until she can find some solid footing.

The demand to have a child and find true love with a time limit on those demands, while interesting in a general romanticized sense, is more likely to force someone to make decisions for the wrong reasons only to seriously regret them later.  Yeah, this is a book, but come on!

Another big confusion factor in the will is why the brothers get a free pass.  It is obvious based on some of the BS that gets spewed from them that they are just as far from perfect as Brett is, but they get their millions delivered in Waterford crystal, yet Brett has her entire life upended.  Again, it makes so little sense that it is hard to sink into the concept.

The lack of real reaction or trauma that occurs after it is discovered that the mom had an affair also doesn’t quite ring true.  The brothers have zero reaction and Brett is all “Yup, that makes sense.  The guy that raised me didn’t treat me like a princess so he is a jerk that means nothing to me”.  Yes, the guy was so not a good father, but to just drop that relationship with zero real emotional baggage and welcome real dad with complete open arms is hard to believe.

Also wasn’t a fan that you have all this build up with the letters and the inheritance and, in the end, the reader never sees the final letter or learns what the actual inheritance is.  It leaves you feeling like you missed a piece of the story.  The version of the book I read did end up having that last letter in some Q&A in the back of the book, but having to read it out of the context of the story loses all emotional impact.

There are absolutely some great parts to this book.  Parts that had me in tears and really feeling for Brett.  Others, like the ones above, negate the emotional momentum that those parts generate.  I’d even go so far as to say that the not so great parts made me really dislike Brett’s character by the time I got to the end of the story.

The Opposite of Maybe: Maddie Dawson

The Opposite of MaybeAuthor: Maddie Dawson
Book Name: The Opposite of Maybe
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Jonathan and Rosie have been together so long they finish each other’s sentences–so when he (finally) proposes and asks her to move across the country with him, everyone is happily surprised.

But when things suddenly unravel, Rosie sends Jonathan packing and moves back home with Soapie, the irascible, opinionated grandmother who raised her. Only now she has to figure out how to fire Soapie’s very unsuitable caregiver, a gardener named Tony who lets her drink martinis, smoke, and cheat at Scrabble.

It’s a temporary break, of course–until Rosie realizes she’s accidentally pregnant at 44, completely unequipped for motherhood, and worse, may be falling in love with the sentimental, troubled Tony, whose life is even more muddled than hers.

It’s not until Rosie learns the truth about her mother’s tragic story that she wonders if sometimes you have to let go of your fears, trusting that the big-hearted, messy life that awaits you may just be the one you were meant to live.

Review:  I just really could not get into this book and it was all because of the characters.  Every single one of them comes across as a dopey sheep that cannot manage to think for themselves and just takes whatever anyone tosses at them as okay.

Jonathan is so incredibly selfish that he cannot see beyond his tiny, narrow little world and treats every single person in his life as if they are not individual beings with feelings or emotions.

Rosie is just… she has no spine and really doesn’t care that she has no say in her life and is beyond willing to live with less than mediocre when it comes to a loving relationship.  Even when she has the opportunity to have real, honest mutual love and respect, she still chooses mediocre until it has practically beaten her bloody over the head.

Tony is a walking door mat who is willing to do just about anything to have even a scrap of a portion in someone else’s life.  Sorry, but being willing to only see your kid for 4 hours a week because your wife’s new girlfriend is some child specialist and says that anything else might be harmful?  Yeah, that so doesn’t work.  Anyone that loves their kid that much is not going to just roll over because someone said so.  They are going to fight.

I also couldn’t stand the snobby attitude of most of the characters and then the complete and utter dumbing down of Tony to the point of bumbling idiot.  It makes them all so far from realistic it is crazy to think they’d be even remotely believable.

Beyond the insipid personalities of the characters, this story was overly bloated and took so long to get to a resolution that it made reading the last 1/3 of the book a huge chore.  We get the characters are clueless, but it really, really takes that long to figure out that you aren’t happy where you are?

I’m not really a fan of just out and out bashing a book, but this is one of those that I kind of wish I’d just put down right away and not wasted the time.

 

Ugly Love: Colleen Hoover

Ugly LoveAuthor: Colleen Hoover
Book Name: Ugly Love
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she doesn’t think it’s love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Hearts get infiltrated.
Promises get broken.
Rules get shattered.
Love gets ugly.

Review:  Holy crap this was amazing!  From the very first word this book sets a deep emotional tone and it sticks with it without fault through the entire book.

I loved the way the bits of the past are sprinkled in with the present here because, even though you are getting a look into why Miles is the way he is, you still do not know for sure until close to the end.  There are so many scenarios that were possible from the start, I kept thinking that I might have a clue but when that next glimpse or two is revealed and proved me wrong, I’d move to the next theory.  I still didn’t know how it was going to play out until it did and what it gives us is even heavier and deeper than the rest.

One of the absolute best things about this book and why the emotional aspects are so powerful is that it is so easy to understand where that emotion is coming from.  It is easy to step in to the characters shoes and know why they feel the way they do.

This is not a typical cookie cutter romance.  You cannot help but love all of Miles’ broken pieces and Tate for being willing to hold onto whatever jagged pieces she can, even if they do cut her up.

I’d have to say that this is the best romance book I’ve read all year.

 

Sweet Salt Air: Barbara Delinsky

Sweet Salt AirAuthor: Barbara Delinsky
Book Name: Sweet Salt Air
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  On Quinnipeague, hearts open under the summer stars and secrets float in the Sweet Salt Air

Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole’s coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets, have kept the women apart. A successful travel writer, single Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, keeps house in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian. When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she invites her old friend Charlotte back to Quinnipeague, for a final summer, to help. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for talking to people and making friends, and Nicole could use her expertise for interviews with locals. Missing a genuine connection, Charlotte agrees.

But what both women don’t know is that they are each holding something back that may change their lives forever. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage, but it could also save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole’s friendship, but could also free her to love again. And her chance may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own.

Review:  Try as I might, I struggle to come up with a better descriptor than the word bland.  The pace of this was pretty slow and the book over long for what we get out of it.  The characters didn’t have anything all that impressive to offer other than maybe Julian who came across as a self absorbed pompous ass.

This kind of peeved me with the callous handling of the safe sex situation.  Even going so far as to have a hate mail letter to Leo about safe sex in his book, yet her own characters treat it with a very blase attitude and completely disregard it.  Safe sex isn’t just about birth control.  This is a button for me and I’m not a fan of authors who treat the subject so lightly.  Having your characters, even with their history, still not give the subject any level of real importance is incredibly annoying.

Don’t get me wrong.  The book wasn’t awful or anything.  It just didn’t do much for me intellectually or emotionally outside of the above irritation.  To say that was the only thing of real note in the story kind of says it all.

 

 

Treble Maker: Perfect Harmony, Book 1

Treble MakerAuthor: Annabeth Albert
Book Name: Treble Maker
Series: Perfect Harmony
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  On Perfect Harmony, the ambitious competitors heat things up on stage and off…

Cody Rivers is determined to be a rock star, but couch-surfing between bar shows gets old fast. Joining an a cappella group for a new singing competition show could be his last chance at real fame–unless the college boy from the heart of the country messes it up for him. Lucas Norwood is everything gothy, glittery Cody is not–conservative, clean-cut, and virginal. But when a twist in the show forces them together, even the sweetest songs get steamy as the attraction between them lights up the stage. Lucas wants to take it slow, but Cody’s singing a different tune–and this time it maybe a love song…

Review:  This is a sweet story where both characters work to find themselves and what is truly important to them.  There is much that is good and much that is on the cheesy, stereotypical side.  It did make me stop and think a few times about my own personal views and stereotypes and where I might need to rethink those lines occasionally.

I liked both Cody and Lucas, but their characters fell kind of in the middle of the road between being strong and just not doing it for me.  It is as if there just wasn’t quite enough to push them into the range of really loving them, as though they were missing some essential part to make them go from good to awesome.

It was kind of the same with the story as a whole I think.  It is a good, decent, sweet story, but nothing that makes me want to keep coming back for more.

Shatter: Phoenix Rising, Book 4

ShatterAuthor: Joan Swan
Book Name: Shatter
Series: Phoenix Rising
Order: #4
Genre: Romance/SciFi
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  For seven years, Halina Beloi has been in hiding. But she’s never forgotten Mitch Foster, the long, lean man she had to leave behind. Until, that is, Mitch shows up with a list of questions and a 9mm in his hand.

All Mitch knows is that Halina broke his heart and disappeared. But new information has surfaced implicating her as a player in the deadliest game of Mitch’s life. This time, he’s not letting go without answers. Now terror, danger and heat will fuse them together or shatter the future. . .

Review:  This has been something of a roller coaster series for me.  Each book progressively got closer and closer to breaking the bounds of believably.  As a SciFi book that is kind of the point and you are willing to let that go for the sake of the story, but this one just pushed all of that right out the door.

Not sure if this is the last book in the series as the major, overarching story line gets resolved in this, but it is honestly kind of a let down resolution after all the drama this series built.  Also, when you take into account all of the secrets and the level at which they are being kept, it is incredibly hard to swallow and believe this resolution.  It just didn’t work.

I was disappointed by Mitch’s story because he has been this attitude filled badass so far and we didn’t really see any of that out of him here.  I also expected to get a better understanding of why and how he is such a badass with all the cool connections.  Again, didn’t get that.  Halina didn’t really have a personality that balance or complemented him.  It was nearly impossible to connect with her and believe in their relationship.

Also hard to not choke on was Owen.  In the last book, he was desperate over the loss of Jocelyn, the one who supposedly was the reason his marriage didn’t work, yet days later he is all about the FBI agent who he supposedly had this really deep connection with in the past.  Yeah, not buying that either.

Some books in this series have been really good and others just haven’t.  I hated that this one fell into that second category.

 

The Ones We Trust: Kimberly Belle

The Ones We TrustAuthor: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: The Ones We Trust
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  A moving and evocative exploration of grief and guilt in the wake of one family’s devastating loss

When former DC journalist Abigail Wolff attempts to rehabilitate her career, she finds herself at the heart of a US army cover-up involving the death of a soldier in Afghanistan–with unspeakable emotional consequences for one family. As the story of what happened comes to light, Abigail will do anything to write it.

The more evidence she stumbles upon in the case, the fewer people it seems she can trust, including her own father, a retired army general. And she certainly never expected to fall in love with the slain soldier’s brother, Gabe, a bitter man struggling to hold his family together. The investigation eventually leads her to an impossible choice, one of unrelenting sacrifice to protect those she loves.

Beyond the buried truths and betrayals, questions of family loyalty and redemption, Abigail’s search is, most of all, a desperate grasp at carrying on and coping–and seeking hope in the impossible.

Review:  After reading The Last Breath and loving it so much, I had pretty high expectations for this one.  While it came close, it just didn’t quite reach the same level.  This is still a really good book, but it was missing some of the depth of emotion in its characters that was one of the reasons I loved the other book.

There were a couple of events in the story that I didn’t quite understand the point as they weren’t explained.  We know where the tail came from (I think), but we never understand why.  What was the purpose other than to create a level of suspense?  There is also the unknown point of the key, something that doesn’t get addressed.  I can take a guess that it is there to point out that not everything needs to have an answer and that it is okay to let some things go, but it kind of bugged me that it was even there if there wasn’t going to be something more with it.  There was enough else that was going on at that point, that I didn’t feel that it had a purpose.

One of the hardest things in reading a great book from a new author (new to you or to writing) is knowing that everything else that you read from them from that point on is going to be held up to that first book.  If it measures up, awesome! That is exactly what you want and expect.  If it doesn’t, even if only by a little bit, it is disappointing.  I hate to say that I was truly disappointed by this book, but I was hoping for something on the emotional and plot level of what I’d read before and this slid in just under that.  Considering how much I loved the other one, that is pretty telling, even with the things that I’m nit picking.

 

 

A Life Intercepted: Charles Martin

A Life InterceptedAuthor: Charles Martin
Book Name: A Life Intercepted
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Twelve years ago Matthew “the Rocket” Rising had it all. Married to his high school sweetheart and one of the winningest quarterbacks in the history of college football, he was the number one NFL draft pick. But on the night of the draft, he plummeted from the pinnacle of esteem. Falsely accused of a heinous crime with irrefutable evidence, it seemed in an instant all was lost—his reputation, his career, his freedom, and most devastatingly, the love of his life.

Having served his sentence and never played a down of professional football, Matthew leaves prison with one goal—to find his wife, Audrey, whom no one has seen since the trial. He returns to an unwelcoming reception from his Gardi, Georgia, hometown to learn that Audrey has taken shelter from the media with the nuns at a Catholic school. There she has discovered a young man with the talent to achieve the football career Matthew should have had. All he needs is the right coach. Although helping the boy means Matthew violates the conditions of his release and—if discovered—reincarceration for life, he’ll take the chance with hope of winning back Audrey’s love.

Review: I had a hard time with this one.  There are parts that I really enjoyed, which is pretty rare for me and male authors.  Then there are parts that were incredibly hard to swallow.

One of the biggest hurdles for me was connecting with and believing Audrey’s character.  Someone who manages to earn her own nickname as a girlfriend or a spouse in the world of sports because of her support and defense of the guy she is with doesn’t work as the same person that breaks so easily or quickly when things get ugly.  I felt this way about the fact that Matthew’s teammates also don’t stick by him and believe in him more.  If you spend so much time and that closely with another person, you know their character and what they are capable of for the most part.  When something so utterly outrageous occurs, even with the evidence provided, there is should be a whole lot more support there that what is presented in this book, especially from the wife.

The fact that the wife then only visits once while he is in prison, for 12 years, yet he stays loving and loyal to her when she didn’t stay by his side makes it all that much harder.  Then, when the truth comes out, everything is all roses and light on both sides.

The entire story, no matter how well written and presented, runs along that ultra perfect line.  The most perfect football career, perfect wife and then the everything is beautiful and perfect in the end with everyone able to forgive everything.  The guy was sent to jail for 12 years and had his entire life destroyed.  Sure, you have to be able to find peace with that on some level or it will eat you alive.  The way it was presented here just didn’t work for me.  Apparently, I’m not that forgiving of a person.

I also could have done without the football lessons.  There is a level that is needed to understand the story and get the gist of what is going on, but a huge chunk of this could have easily been cut down.  I ended up skimming over large portions because it started to feel like I was reading playbooks and primers on how to play football.  Once you get to a certain level of that, it becomes tedious filler.

All of that said, this author has a way with words that really drags the reader in to what is going on.  I was excited by the overall story, just not some of the specifics that round it out.

 

Ashes: Sarah Gilman

AshesAuthor: Sarah Gilman
Book Name: Ashes
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Accidents happen for a reason…

Journalist Ambrosia Pellerin accepts an assignment involving the legendary phoenix, expecting, if nothing else, a little entertainment. Instead, she winds up pregnant—by a surprisingly human-looking firebird, Reece Bennu.

As the Phoenix prince, Reece is next in line to the throne and expected to marry a purebred royal. A common human such as Ambrosia is not in the cards. He swears, though, he’ll never be an absentee father.

As Ambrosia’s due date grows closer, so do the soon-to-be parents. But will their tentative love survive the prejudice of Reece’s grandmother, who will stop at nothing to tear the two apart?

Review: Reading the blurb for this raised some doubts for me about whether I was going to like this, but I was willing to take a chance anyway.  You never know where an author is going to go with a plot.

Stating right up front that the main female character gets pregnant left the door wide open, but I really didn’t expect it to go the route of immaculate conception via ashes.  That was a bit odd, but this is a fantasy novel, I’ll play along.

The story was okay and I think I would have liked it better, but the ending is so incredibly anticlimactic and it doesn’t actually resolve much other than, “Oh, yeah, I actually love you”.  The family issues on both sides don’t really get a resolution.  How did they resolve the issue with her family supposedly not being allowed to know (yet there are humans all over the place in their little private community).  There is no real reason presented for the total personality transplant the grandmother underwent at some point or an explanation as to why she’d even come close to hurting her grandchildren.  I guess she just felt like it.

This really did fall right between the okay and not liking it at all.  There are some good points and I give credit for creativity, but it fell down with fleshing out that creativity.

 

Wedding Ring: Shenandoah Album, Book 1

Wedding RingAuthor: Emilie Richards
Book Name: Wedding Ring
Series: Shenandoah Album
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Three generations of women discover the healing gift of family, memories and love

Needing time to contemplate her troubled marriage, Tessa MacRae agrees to spend the summer helping her mother and grandmother clean out the family home in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. But the three women have never been close. Helen, the family matriarch, is domineering and sharp-tongued. Nancy, Tessa’s mother, appears to be little more than a social climber. And Tessa herself is in turmoil following a family tragedy that has affected them all.

Now, with the gift of time, Tessa’s eyes are opened, and she begins to see her mother and grandmother for the flawed but courageous women they are. As she restores a vintage wedding ring quilt pieced by her grandmother and quilted by her mother, the secrets that have shadowed their lives unfold at last. And each woman discovers that sometimes you have to clean house to find the things you thought were lost forever.

Review:  Powerfully emotional and beautiful, this is a poignant reminder that love isn’t always perfect, just like the people that experience it aren’t.

Every single character is richly layered in their imperfections and history and their struggles with the relationships in their life.  This is a story about families and the difficulties in loving those in your family, seeing them all the way to the inside and the truth of who they are and learning to love the whole of them, not just the parts.

This tugged hard and deep on the emotional strings throughout the entire book.  Smiles and tears and smiling through tears, it just sticks you in a place that is sometimes hard to get to.  It is the kind of book that kind of forces you to examine your own relationships in a new light.

Truly an awesome one.

 

For You: The ‘Burg, Book 1

For YouAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: For You
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Lieutenant Alexander Colton and February Owens were high school sweethearts. Everyone in their small town knew from the moment they met they were meant for each other. But something happened and Feb broke Colt’s heart then she turned wild and tragedy struck. Colt meted out revenge against the man who brought Feb low but even though Colt risked it all for her, Feb turned her back on him and left town.

Fifteen years later, Feb comes back to help run the family bar. But there’s so much water under the bridge separating her and Colt everyone knows they’ll never get back together.

Until someone starts hacking up people in Feb’s life. Colt is still Colt and Feb is still Feb so the town watches as Colt goes all out to find the murderer while trying to keep Feb safe.

As the bodies pile up, The Feds move in and a twisting, turning story unravels exposing a very sick man who has claimed numerous victims along the way, Feb and Colt battle their enduring attraction and the beautiful but lost history that weaves them together.

Review:  I knew that this series was out there, but I hadn’t gotten around to getting started on it for various reasons.  When I saw that my library finally had this, I grabbed it.  It is going to kill my book budget, because now I’m going to have to get the whole series.

This is classic Kristen Ashley with her super hot, badass guys and her quirky, fun adorable females with a darker twist than I think I’ve seen in most of the other books of hers that I’ve read so far.  And damn if this didn’t bring me to tears a couple of times.

There were a couple of times where I was wondering if the 20+ year span in the history between Feb and Colt was going to keep me from really getting into this, but once I got the full story, I was a total goner.  I just loved this and it probably climbed pretty darn close to the top of my KA favorites list.

 

 

Red: Transplanted Tales, Book 1

RedAuthor: Kate SeRine
Book Name: Red
Series: Transplanted Tales
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  “My name is Tess Little. But everyone calls me Red.”

Once upon a time, a spell went awry, stranding Make Believe characters in the ordinary world. Since then, Tess “Red” Little–a/k/a Little Red Riding Hood–has worked as an Enforcer for the Chicago branch of the Fairytale Management Authority. But, consider yourself warned–she’s not just some waif with a basket of goodies. All grown up and with nothing to lose, a gun and combat boots is more her style. And Red’s new assignment threatens to be short on happily ever afters…

Someone is murdering transplanted Tales in gruesome fashion. The list of fictional characters capable of such grisly acts is short and includes more than one of Red’s old flames. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s another complication, in the form of sexy, enigmatic Nate Grimm, the FMA’s lead detective and part-time Reaper. Used to following her own rules and living life on the edge, Red has managed to avoid taking on a partner until now. But Nate’s dark side makes him perfect for a case like this. That is, if she can trust him. Because if there’s one thing Red knows for sure, it’s that believing in the wrong person can have big, bad consequences…

Review: When I first picked this up and started reading it, I really wasn’t too sure how I was going to like it, because it is a re-imagining of fairy tales and that has kind of been done to death between TV and books, but I was willing to try it out.  I was pleasantly surprised.

You absolutely get fairy tale characters, but you get other literary figures tossed in there as well, which made this a little different.  That and not all of the characters you meet fit the classic stereotype.  Some do, but definitely not all of them.

There is a lot going on in this story with the plot and the introduction of all kinds of characters, which made it a bit hard to get going in the beginning, but once you got a feel for the world and the people, things went more smoothly.  There were a few times, though, that I got a little lost on which characters where which fairy tale/literary figure.

I did like Red and Nate, though I think I would have liked Nate better if he would have had a little more badass in him.  He is a Reaper, so there should have been some more of that going on.  The lack of it made him a bit bland.

In all an entertaining read and I’ll be grabbing the next one to add to my list.

 

 

The Deep of the Sound: Bluewater Bay, Book 8

The Deep of the SoundAuthor: Amy Lane
Book Name: The Deep of the Sound
Series: Bluewater Bay
Order: #8
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Cal McCorkle has lived in Bluewater Bay his whole life. He works two jobs to support a brother with a laundry list of psychiatric diagnoses and a great uncle with Alzheimer’s, and his personal life amounts to impersonal hookups with his boss. He’s got no time, no ambition, and no hope. All he has is family, and they’re killing him one responsibility at a time.

Avery Kennedy left Los Angeles, his family, and his sleazy boyfriend to attend a Wolf’s Landing convention, and he has no plans to return. But when he finds himself broke and car-less in Bluewater Bay, he’s worried he’ll have to slink home with his tail between his legs. Then Cal McCorkle rides to his rescue, and his urge to run away dies a quick death.

Avery may seem helpless at first, but he can charm Cal’s fractious brother, so Cal can pretty much forgive him anything. Even being adorkable. And giving him hope. But Cal can only promise Avery “until we can’t” — and the cost of changing that to “until forever” might be too high, however much they both want it.

Review:  I just couldn’t get all wrapped up in this one.  It was on the sweet side, but the meat and bones of the story just kind of didn’t work for me.

It took until nearly a quarter of the way in before our MCs even meet each other for the first time, so it started out really slow.  The fact that Avery came across as a complete door mat in the very beginning had me nearly putting this down before I even got to that point.

Things got a little better after that, but I still just wasn’t all that into either character.  There were lots of little things about both of them that I just didn’t like all that much.  They weren’t awful, but I just didn’t really connect with them. They also felt as though they were way younger than they supposedly were.  Emotional maturity just didn’t come across for me for either of them.

I especially didn’t like the fact that Avery never really stood up for himself, either with the ex or the parents.  It isn’t noble or compassionate to allow someone to treat you like crap or to take your money then blame you for a bad relationship after the other person is the one that was using you and cheating on you, hence the door mat comment.

I’m also not a fan of the miraculous windfall or save at the end of a book.  I want to have my characters work through their issues, not have a perfect solution just fall into their laps.

So yeah, this one was just okay.

 

Never Coming Home: Evonne Wareham

Never Coming HomeAuthor: Evonne Wareham
Book Name: Never Coming Home
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  All she has left is hope

When Kaz Elmore is told her five-year-old daughter Jamie has died in a car crash, she struggles to accept that she’ll never see her little girl again. Then a stranger comes into her life offering the most dangerous substance in the world: hope.

Devlin, security consultant and witness to the terrible accident scene, inadvertently reveals that Kaz’s daughter might not have been the girl in the car after all.

What if Jamie is still alive? With no evidence, the police aren’t interested, so Devlin and Kaz have little choice but to investigate themselves.

Devlin never gets involved with a client. Never. But the more time he spends with Kaz, the more he desires her – and the more his carefully constructed ice-man persona starts to unravel.

The desperate search for Jamie leads down dangerous paths – to a murderous acquaintance from Devlin’s dark past, and all across Europe, to Italy, where deadly secrets await. But as long as Kaz has hope, she can’t stop looking…

Review:  I really struggled with where to rate this book because I really liked it, but there were a couple of things that kept me from putting this into the excellent category.

The personal connections and how coincidental a seemingly random event manages to tie some of those connections together was hard for me to buy.  Combine this with the apparent lack of fact checking that seems to have occurred at the accident scene that begins this whole story, it makes it just a little hard to swallow how the rest of the story manages to unfold since it all hinges on that first event.

That said, this book is really well written.  It is rare for me to not get utterly tripped up by issues that are on the unbelievable side, but with the quality of writing and how well the rest of the story flows, those things really didn’t detract too much and I was able to get beyond that and get immersed into the story.

I really enjoyed Kaz’s character, but Devlin was a bit harder to connect to as he came across as a little cold.  I did warm up to him eventually.

Absolutely loved the fact that this wasn’t a Scooby Doo ending where the bad guy is confronted and then spews the confession with all the details all over the place.  By the time you get to that point in the story, Kaz and Devlin have 99% of it figured out and only that 1% is left to be clarified, though I’m pretty sure the reader is already way ahead of them by that point.  The characters get to that point by hard work, research and smarts rather than dumb luck and the bad guy just giving it up.  So, awesome change of pace on that aspect of the story.

 

The Last Breath: Kimberly Belle

The Last BreathAuthor: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: The Last Breath
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Humanitarian aid worker Gia Andrews chases disasters around the globe for a living. It’s the perfect lifestyle to keep her far away from her own personal ground zero. Sixteen years ago, Gia’s father was imprisoned for brutally killing her stepmother. Now he’s come home to die of cancer, and she’s responsible for his care–and coming to terms with his guilt.

Gia reluctantly resumes the role of daughter to the town’s most infamous murderer, a part complete with protesters on the lawn and death threats that are turning tragedy into front-page news. Returning to life in small-town Tennessee involves rebuilding relationships that distance and turmoil have strained, though finding an emotional anchor in the attractive hometown bartender is certainly helping Gia cope.

As the past unravels before her, Gia will find herself torn between the stories that her family, their friends and neighbors, and even her long-departed stepmother have believed to be real all these years. But in the end, the truth–and all the lies that came before–may have deadlier consequences than she could have ever anticipated….

Review: Truly well written and emotionally gripping, you cannot help but get emotionally involved in this book.

Every single one of these characters were compelling.  Some you loved from the beginning to the end, like Gia.  Others, you liked then hated then liked again or the other way around.  There were so many layers to each one it was easy to connect to them.

The plot had so many variables that you just didn’t know for sure which way it was going to resolve.  Sure, some potentials were stronger than others, but there was just enough doubt to not be absolutely certain how it was going to end keeping the door open on several possibilities.  At the same time, there wasn’t so much that it was bloated or overwhelming.  It was a perfect balance.  For this type of book, that is extremely rare.

Not only is there a wide range within the plot, but also within the emotional responses this book generates.  It may be intense, but it has its lighter funny moments that have you laughing at the characters as well as the softer sweet parts that give you warm fuzzies.

I seriously loved this book all the way around.

 

Targeted: Deadly Ops, Book 1

TargetedAuthor: Katie Reus
Book Name: Targeted
Series: Deadly Ops
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Hidden in plain sight…

Former Marine sniper and current NSA agent Jack Stone has a new face to go with his new identity. But he still has the same tortured memories – which include the woman he let get away years ago, when they were teenagers. Now his new assignment in Miami will put him so close to the woman he’s never been able to forget, he could reach out and touch her – if only she weren’t under suspicion.

When Sophie Moreno uncovers evidence linking the medical supply company she works for with arms smuggling – and worse – she doesn’t know who to turn to. After a shocking betrayal, she realizes the only person she can trust is a mysterious new person in the company – a man with hauntingly familiar eyes.

As Sophie questions her intense attraction to this man and Jack struggles not to blow his cover, the two of them must race against the clock to stop terrorists from killing scores of people – starting with them.

Review:  This just didn’t wow me all that much.  It was definitely good, but not really good or great.

I did enjoy the characters as they were solid and well written with one major exception. It just kind of bugged me that a good 90% of the thoughts between the two revolved around absolutely nothing but sex.  Don’t get  me wrong, I love sex as much as the next gal, but it made both of these characters seem like hormonal teenagers.  Especially in several of the situations they were in.  Writing “Even though it was totally inappropriate in that moment, I still couldn’t help thinking…” doesn’t absolve your characters of being ridiculous in those thoughts.  When your mature, adult characters come across that way, it kind of negates whatever other positive characteristics they may have.

There were also a couple of hiccups in the plot line that, while minor in one case, still kind of stood out like a neon sign.  One point it talked about Sophie grabbing her purse out of the car.  This is after a big deal was made about the fact that the purse got left in a car that sank to the bottom of the bay.  The other, bigger one was when her boss found out that Sophie had been in the hanger and had taken pictures.  This was actually written at two totally different points in the story.  Either it happened early or it happened later, you cannot have it happen twice.

So, yeah.  This was decent but not great.

When We Fall: Emily Liebert

When We FallAuthor: Emily Liebert
Book Name: When We Fall
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Ready for a fresh start, Allison Parker moves back to her hometown in the suburbs of New York. While she’d once savored the dynamic pace of city life, sadly, it lost its allure after her husband’s untimely death. Now, ready to focus on her art career accompanied by her ten-year-old son, Logan, Allison doesn’t anticipate that her past will resurface. When the wife of her husband’s best friend from summer camp takes her under her wing, things begin to spin out of control.

At one time, Charlotte Crane thought she had it all—a devoted husband, a beautiful little girl, and enough financial security to never have to worry. But behind her “perfect” facade lie a strained marriage and a fractured relationship with her sister. When “new girl” Allison arrives in Wincourt, Charlotte welcomes the chance to build a friendship. Before long, Charlotte begins to see her life through Allison’s eyes, and the cracks in her seemingly flawless existence become impossible to ignore.

As Allison heals from the loss of her husband—even wondering if she might be ready to date again—Charlotte feels more distant from her loved ones than ever before. The emerging friendship between the two women appears to be just the antidote both of them so desperately need…until everything falls apart.

Review:  This isn’t a romance.  Not in the terms that most people would classify that genre in any case.  It is a story about bored, wealthy, materialistic, greedy, snotty, self-centered, entitled idiots that underneath it all are really miserable little people with zero self esteem.

I honestly didn’t find anything redeeming in a single one of the characters in this book.  For the majority of the story, I thought that Allison was the only decent person in the whole mess.  Turns out, she is just this paragon of virtue that can forgive any offense, no matter how horrid and awful, which actually makes her a door mat.

With some of the stuff that happened in this book, there should have been some claws unsheathed and some serious ass kicking, but no.  It was, I was just utterly shredded so I’m going to go cry in a corner until I get an apology and then everything is back to rainbows and bunny farts perfect.

I cannot stand the personality types that are everywhere in this book in real life.  I can tolerate them even less in the book world.  Spiteful, catty, social climbing, elitists.  You get pretty much every bit of this here.  It is not entertaining.

You have Allison, the doormat.  Charlie, the asshole husband that thinks the wife that doesn’t have a job outside the home doesn’t actually do real work and that it is totally okay to not do squat at home to help out but that it is totally okay to go help some other woman with all her stuff.  Charlotte, the wife with zero self esteem, suspects everyone of hiding ulterior motives, is maybe a size 6 and cannot get over how fat she is and practically has dollar signs running through her head with regards to everything in her life.  Elizabeth, the sister that can’t be bothered to do a thing for herself and has no problem mooching off her sister and letting her sister do everything that needs to be done for their parents.

I seriously disliked this on so many levels.  The fact that you read through all of these truly awful people and think there is no way that this is going to be a pretty end, but it is.  From all sides and seriously, forgiveness and acceptance of awful people and the things they do is only believable to a point.  The fact that this ended with everyone perfectly okay with each other and are still friends or their marriage is now all fixed and perfect is just not even remotely realistic.  So, yeah.  Not a romance.  Fantasy?  Yeah, not even in that genre does it work.

His Road Home: Anna Richland

His Road HomeAuthor: Anna Richland
Book Name: His Road Home
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Special Forces medic Rey Cruz needs to find a fiancée, fast, or he’ll end up in a marriage orchestrated by an Afghan warlord. Finding a picture online of a girl he barely knew back home, he fakes an engagement photo, thinking no one else will see it. But when Rey loses both legs and the ability to speak while rescuing a local boy, the image goes viral.

Seattle marine biologist Grace Kim is shocked to find out she’s engaged. When she’s offered a plane ticket to visit her “fiancé,” she takes it, looking for the answer to one question: Why did he lie? Touched by Rey’s funny texts and the determination she sees in him, Grace offers her friendship—a big step for someone who prefers whales to most company.

And when Rey is finally sent home, Grace agrees to help him drive his classic car cross-country over Thanksgiving—a once-in-a-lifetime road trip that leads to what feels like real love. In front of his friends and family, she plays the caring fiancée, but what place will Grace have in Rey’s new life once he’s ready to be on his own again?

Review: Sweetly endearing and heartwarming.  This is a beautiful little story.

Both main characters were vibrant and solid, strong characters that were genuinely fun to read about.  Often romances go towards the wishy washy, drama intense self doubting characters that constantly question if they are good enough for each other which leads to huge back and forth issues between characters.  In this story, Rey and Grace are just generally well adjusted, self aware good people.  They do what feels right to them, which means not being loaded with teenage angsty drama.  They are mature adults with mature attitudes and a desire to be good to and for each other.  It was a refreshing change to see characters that felt enough about themselves and their personal ideas of right and wrong to just be there for each other and solid throughout the entire story.

Dealing with Rey’s loss could have made this story turn towards the really dark and ugly, but this stayed on the brighter side for these characters.  It wasn’t all rainbows and perfection.  We did get tiny bits and views into what other people were potentially struggling with that was on that ugly side, but it wasn’t the focus of this story.

Again, a completely refreshing and beautiful story.  I just can’t emphasize that enough.