Saturday, June 29, 2019

Review: American Dreamer

American Dreamer American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Nesto has decided to take a big chance and take his Afro-Carribean food truck from New York City to Ithaca. His mother and sister live up there but he'll be leaving behind a bunch of friends who provide a great support system.
Growing up, books were important to Jude, it's no wonder he became a librarian. He's been dreaming of getting a mobile book van going but funding is tight.
Nesto and Jude both have dreams and when they meet, their chemistry can't be denied. Nesto is outgoing but a workaholic, Jude is shy and reserved, and not everyone in Ithaca wants change.

Getting the rundown of a burrito menu should not be this erotic.

First in the Dreamers series, American Dreamer, introduces us to a Nesto, Jude, and their friends and family. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, I felt a little overwhelmed at times but Nesto's friends play such a important role in his life, they had to be there supporting him. The contrast of how supportive Nesto's family was with Jude's intolerant religious one was sad and maddening. I did think the drama with Jude's family at the end felt rushed in; it was introduced and over with before I could get a big emotional reaction from it. Jude simply talking to Nesto about his family had me feeling more.

Nesto's family couldn't have been more different from Jude's and even though there were a lot of characters to keep track of, it did fill out the story and create a sense of community for the setting, along with some series baiting characters. I feel like I got a fuller and better understanding of Nesto's character through his interactions with his friends and family. Jude being a more self-contained person, he does have a bestfriend he works with that give us an insight to him, he didn't pop off the pages as much to me. I occasionally did have problems remembering who was speaking at times, this is first person pov with switching povs, when Nesto and Jude were together as their written voice tended to blend together every so often.

The attraction between the two is pretty immediate and even though they don't jump into bed right away, their sexual relationship is ramped up pretty quickly. I missed a more gradual getting to know, instead of this insta, but with later on two wrenches thrown in to create some angst. There was also some time jumps that I thought kept us from getting those relationship building blocks, we're told they've spent every night of the week together but don't get any scenes of them bonding. The story gives you a sense that they are just in love and even though I'm told that, I'm not sure I felt it or was given enough evidence for it.

I looked for a reason to be afraid of what I was feeling, but the only thing I felt was peace.

Along with Nesto's workaholic ways, which by the way, I would have given the guy more slack with how hard it is to try and start a business and Jude's reserved emotional issues and late in the story family ones, there was a “villain” causing some problems for these two. Misty, the wannabe town matriarch, described as “wearing one of those workout outfits people don't actually workout in” (we all know this person) and trying to shut down Nesto's food truck so her son's truck would have a better chance to succeed. She's a bit of a pencil sketch character as she only pops up to spew her hatred, I think getting some scenes with her son with the food truck would have helped this a little bit, but while the danger of her lingers throughout the story, we don't actually see her a lot. Her character works to show how racism and bigotry from even one person can have the power to use and influence societal structures to continuously keep some down.

As I mentioned, I thought Nesto was the stronger character, he had so many wonderful little details, like the name of his food truck was OuNYe. This was worked from the Yoruba word “ounje”, which means nourishment and of course to include New York, love details like this. The friendships were written great in this and helped to create a community and framework I believed in. The romance was a little too insta for me and I missed some relationship building blocks but Nesto's outgoing personality that Jude couldn't help but be drawn to and Jude's shy, cute, and funny personality that Nesto couldn't help but want to get to know more was a sweet romance to read.

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Thursday, June 27, 2019

30%

American Dreamer: A Multicultural Romance (Dreamers Book 1) - Adriana Herrera Garibay
He was so beautiful, and his face looked so open, so earnest. I almost told him I wanted to hear all of it, to know him. I almost said, "want you here" even though it felt sort of ridiculous.

Jude, you little shy, heartfelt guy, SAY IT!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Reading Update: Page 1


I have never seen or received better author swag in my life, recipe cards of food talked about in the book!

I made the Dominican Red Beans, I think mine came out a little more soupy than they are suppose to but they still tasted great

I love the added dimension this swag adds to the reading experience, not to mention the yummy

Ready to spy on your romance, Nesto and Jude... 

Review: Justified / It's All About That Cowboy

Justified / It's All About That Cowboy Justified / It's All About That Cowboy by Jay Crownover
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

If there was anyone I didn't expect to lean on when my own house of cards went up in flames a few years later, it was the newly appointed sheriff of Loveless, Texas, Case Lawton.

When Aspen moved to the small town of Loveless, Texas, her pale skin and black clothes had kids calling her “weirdo girl”. The one bright spot was Case Lawton, a popular jock who Aspen had a big crush on and treated her with kindness.
Nine years later, Aspen is back in Loveless, married to the town rich boy and a lawyer trying to fight for women and children usually ignored by the system. She gets pressured by her father-in-law to represent Case's ex-wife in their divorce, any sweet high school memories are in danger of getting wiped away.
Case was the town golden boy who had circumstances work against him to finally be able to leave Loveless for good. His corrupt sheriff father was a nightmare to live with and as his boss, Case does all he can to limit any damage his father can do now. Even though its been nine years later, he still blames Aspen Barlow for helping to take away his son. When it looks like her life is in danger, as the new sheriff, he won't act like his father and let personal grudges dictate how he does his job, so he puts himself in charge of her safety.
From high school friends, to enemies, to forced proximity, Aspen and Case might finally end up where they belonged all along.

There were worse things in the world than being the focus of Case Lawton's concern. I just had to remind myself not to get used to it.
After all, he was only doing his job.


The first full length novel in the Loveless, Texas series, we are introduced and reacquainted with some characters from Crownover's other books. I wish I had read the starter novella to this series, as I felt like I was missing out on some introduction to this town and to the Lawton family. Case's sister Kody was a developed secondary character and we got some scenes that provided insight into their sibling relationship but I felt that lacking with Case's younger brother Crew, who was the star of the novella. The Lawton siblings seem to have a tight knit relationship but Crew remained in the shadows too much for me to fully feel this, helping to fill out insights to Case's character and personality. The trauma filled childhood these three seemed to have had, felt emotionally removed here; this could have been more addressed in the novella.

The same could be said about Aspen's relationship with her parents, I had troubles fully grasping her background. I was missing some emotions from her childhood and relationship with her parents (this becomes even more important as it plays a big role in the ending) and an understanding and feel for her relationship with her ex-husband. They're not the core of the story but they are a foundation for Aspen's character that I felt was missing and caused me to not fully grasp her.

My hands tightened into fists in front of me, and I lifted my head so I could look at her in the mirror. Her dark eyes met mine with a mischievous gleam.
“What exactly are you doing, Counselor?”
She laughed, and the puff of air was warm against my shoulder. “I honestly have no idea, but it's the only thing that's felt right in a very long time. You said no kissing. This isn't kissing.” Her thumb traced the delineated lines on my lower abdomen, and her fingernails dragged through the thin trail of dark hair that arrowed below my belly button.


For the most part, I believed in the journey Aspen and Case went on from friends, to enemies, to hot and heavy for each other. I thought there was enough relayed to see why Aspen liked Case growing up, how Case placed blame on Aspen (I thought there were too many scenes of Aspen mentally playing martyr over being the ex-wife's lawyer), and these two had sexual chemistry. I can't say I totally bought into their “I love yous”, though. Whether it was missing some background foundation to their characters, not enough scenes hashing out, growing together, or depth, I thought they both got to love too quickly. Some of the sexual situations felt awkward, as they were immediate fade to black, leaving a feeling of “what happened now” and others were deliciously drawn out, bathroom scene, anyone?

As I mentioned, Crownover brings over some previous characters seen in her other series, Sons of Sorrow with Marine Shot and even Case is a character featured before. I enjoyed how she utilized these secondary characters, creating an “oooh I know him!” and helping out to fill and broaden this story. I do wish some were filled out more, the villain of this will make you gasp, but while there is shock, there wasn't as much weightiness to the reveal as there could have been. The villainy plot gets a bit convoluted in the whos and whys.

Overall, the story wasn't completely rounded out or had depth in some areas to my satisfaction but there's charisma to Crownover's writing and magnetism to Loveless and the residents she has created. I'm completely locked into wanting to see Case's younger sister Kody and her deceased fiance's brother, Texas Ranger Hill Gamble, fight to deny their chemistry in the next book.

One second, we were staring at each other as I held her like she was the most precious thing on the planet, the next my mouth was all over hers, and I was kissing her the way you kissed someone you loved and hated at the same time. A little sweet, a little mean, and with enough passion to make us both forget we had a long, twisted road paved with mistakes and memories running between us.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

40%

Justified (Loveless Book 1) - Jay Crownover
I didn’t feel like I was being placated or patronized. I felt like I was being heard and sympathized with. I never would have guessed a big, tough, hyper masculine man like Case was so full of empathy and compassion. I was starting to see him in an entirely new light, and I liked what I was seeing.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Review: Rogue Most Wanted

Rogue Most Wanted Rogue Most Wanted by Janna MacGregor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Fifth in the Cavensham Heiresses series, you'll remember Will Cavensham as the sweet but closed off brother to the previous heroines and hero in this series. We learn that he was coldly jilted in his youth and has therefore locked his heart away for good. When his aunt tells him about her neighbor who needs their help, he's stunned by his feelings for her.
Thea has been on her own for a while. Her grandfather took her in at a young age when her parents died but in his older age and decline of health, all the estate responsibilities of Ladykyrk fell to her. Now that he has died, the new heir is also claiming that the title she inherited that makes her a countess and the rightful owner of Ladykryk, should actually go to him.
Will and Thea become fast friends but they doth protest too much about being more.

All her thoughts were consumed by the declaration that the new duke wanted Ladykyrk---her home, her life. Not only must she find a new solicitor, but also a husband.

The set-up of Thea thinking and being told she should have a husband to give her credibility and a man's added power to fight and win her claim of the rightful owner of Ladykryk was a good and all too familiar look into how women lacked certain rights at this time. What failed to work for me though, was how quickly Thea and Will's feelings for one another developed. Will is supposed to be this completely walled off man but he instantly feels a connection to Thea and is all in on helping her fight for her claim. As the reader, I just couldn't buy into his feelings or feel any depth to his emotions for Thea.

From Thea's side of things, her instant refusal to marry Will, at first simply because she doesn't want to marry the first man she meets, was confusing as there was a stated sense of emergency to the purpose she wanted/needed to marry. The plot falls apart as it was simultaneously laid out and then kind of ignored.

Her cheeks were flushed with excitement rather than nervousness. She wasn't just lovely.
She was beautiful.
Will turned to his brother. “But she's just a friend.”


This was a pretty sweet, almost tooth achingly at times, and low angst story. The pace dragged for me as most of the story was Will and Thea speaking out loud that they are only friends but then completely acting and thinking differently, it gave the story a very conflicting feel. There really isn't a reason or challenge to these two getting together (there is a last second wedge thrown in there at the very end that is resolved very quickly) and therefore their weak denials, especially when their actions are the opposite of just wanting to remain friends, slows the pace of the book way down and kind of started to annoy me with their actions.

There are some racy sex scenes in this but I had a hard time getting into them. That level of sexual intimacy didn't jive for me with how and where the characters felt to be mentally; sex added in for sex sake.

Will ran a hand down his face. He didn't think he was a playing a game, but if he was, he wished he understood the rules.
One thing was becoming clearer.
What he and Thea shared was becoming all too real.


What I did enjoy about this was how the author wrote the Cavensham family, you'll see past heroes and heroines and the author incorporates them perfectly. They never steal the show but they added some warmth and dimension to Will and some lovely nostalgia if you've read the previous books in the series.

As I mentioned, there isn't much conflict or angst in this one and if you're looking for a very slow to come to terms with what everyone else has already figured out couple, this would fit the bill, along with some open door steamy scenes.

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Reading Update: Page 1


Such an inspiring cover ;)
Nothing but rich decadent brownies would do for this reading experience.
And the hero is a sheriff with a grudge against the heroine he now has to protect.
Deliciousness all around!


Not going to lie, these are a commitment to make, have at least three hours available.
I flipped them on their sides so you could see all those yummy layers. So rich and so yummy

Sunday, June 23, 2019

40%


“How did we end up here?” she breathlessly whispered. 
He stood still, not daring to move closer to her and her enchantment. “You led us here.”

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Reading Update: Page 1


It was a week, so I’m having Oreo Fluff for breakfast this morning 

Can’t wait to be swept away by these two, a sheltered but tough cookie heroine and hero who thinks he could never love again. 



Rich and creamy, only added half the Oreos when I made it and then added more right before I ate to keep Oreos crunchy.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Review: Her Other Secret

Her Other Secret Her Other Secret by HelenKay Dimon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.3 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Everyone around here really does have a secret, don’t they?”
Ben’s smile came roaring back. “Welcome to Whitaker.”


A small island off the coast of Washington with only a little over two hundred residents, Whitaker has become an unofficial destination for people looking to escape into obscurity. Hansen Rye is taking a breather from his high pressured life and turmoil resulting from his sister Alexis' death. He's strengthened his even usual grumpy personality and tried to become even more walled off but has still become friends with Ben, local head of police, and Tessa Jenkins, the woman he is currently trying to not fall for.
Tessa is hiding out in Whitaker, trying to lay low from her own family drama but can't help teasing the impromptu handyman, Hansen. His grumpy demeanor gives way to can't help but fix things for local residents and the look in his eyes when he's staring at her, draws her back for more.
However, after a body turns up on Tessa's lawn, secrets are about to get revealed and feelings are about to be confronted.

“Not you.” He shrugged. Even took a step back. Generally looked uncomfortable in his skin, which never happened. “You, I like.”
She almost spit out a mouthful of coffee. “Since when?”
“Let’s say you’re growing on me.” He sighed and crossed his arms. Then uncrossed them again.


Her Other Secret was a mixture of mystery, thriller, romance, and ending suspense. When the reader comes into the story, Hansen and Tessa already have a friendship established and are just trying to not act on sexual feelings. I missed seeing their initial draw and spark, it feels like we missed out on some great teasing and poking of the bear (Hansen) by Tessa to break down his walls. Their chemistry and back and forth was good, the word love was brought up far too quickly for the lack of building blocks I was getting from them emotionally, some sex scenes felt a bit out of place, and while they had good friendship chemistry, they didn't heat up the pages as much as I would have liked. The majority of the story focuses more on the murder mystery and as such, the romance plot suffered some.

All Hansen knew was that his past had caught up with him in the worst possible way.

This was more mystery/thriller than romantic suspense to me, the pace of the characters investigating is slower as the reader's mind is supposed to be racing as to who is involved, why, and for what purposes. There is a locked room mystery feel to it with the setting being an island currently experiencing storms that is keeping residents from getting off the island or on. The connection of the murder victim to Hansen was intriguing and kept the high stakes feel alive but some of the key players felt removed from the story. Hansen's family is discussed and his close relationship with his brother, but we never meet them and for the murder victim playing such a key role, we never got a pov or scene with them before they died. The villain/s also had a removed feeling to them, their wrap-up and reveal didn't quite have a big impact or feel like a rewarding payoff. The last twenty percent had more of the romantic suspense feel but the change of pace gave the ending more of a rushed feel than crescendo conclusion as characters were found out or cleared.

The author has definitely created a place rife with intrigue but I felt a bit lost at times, how we're just supposed to go along with how Whitaker is both a known place to disappear on and yet you can disappear on it. If this is indeed a start to a series, the structure of the island, how the island is owned by a mysterious rich person but gives the running of it over to a board, and some short but poignant introductions to some characters encumbered this story at times but it would make sense as laying groundwork for a series.

There was some missing character development, Hansen and Ben had a enjoyable relationship but would have liked to have seen how it started, same with Hansen and Tessa's friendship that their chemistry eventually dictated had to be more. I also thought Tessa's secret, that we don't get let in on until around the sixty percent mark, felt somewhat tagged on; not enough time to gain an emotional footing and a resolution that felt partially empty. The word love was used too quickly but Dimon always writes couples that have believable connections and are compelling in any small way to read about. I think I caught a hint of something possibly brewing between our local PD Ben and the extremely mysterious woman named Maddie who answers the department phones remotely. Whitaker seems like it has residents with stories to tell and I'm curious enough to show up if there are more books to come.

She didn’t believe a woman needed a formal partner to feel whole. She’d seen her mother thrive and love without ever walking down the aisle. But the idea of sharing the burden, having someone to help her fight in situations like this . . . The way he kissed her, touched her. The smile he saved only for her. Yeah, love.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

50%

Her Other Secret: A Novel - HelenKay Dimon
“But someone . . . did you see . . . anything?” When he didn’t say anything, she knew. Her knees buckled but he held her up. “Ohmigod. It wasn’t you.”
“No.”
“So then . . .” But she couldn’t finish. She knew and dreaded him confirming her suspicions. “There’s someone else out there.”

This is less rom suspense and turning out to be more locked door (island) mystery. Usually I'm a nosy reader but I'm kind of enjoying the methodical relying of information to keep my mind working. I do wish we knew a little more about some of the island residents for more red-herrings, right now the mystery feels like it stems from off the island which dulls some of the thrills and chills. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Reading Update: Page 1



Heroine looking for sanctuary, a handyman hero with secrets, and a killer on the loose
Excited to start this!


These were super messy to eat by the pineapple combined with other flavors was tasty. We had leftovers and instead of making them lettuce wraps again we cheated and used taco shells, lol.

Review: Magician's Hoard

Magician's Hoard Magician's Hoard by Celia Lake
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Pross' is a widowed bookseller and when someone approaches her with a research project, she can't help but take it on. When she realizes she needs help, she goes to the Research Society. There she gets directed to someone named Ibis.
Due to racism and classism, Ibis is stuffed into a corner in the offices of the Research Society but when Pross gets sent up to him, it will set-off a chain of discoveries that will shake the very fabric of their lives, in more ways than one.

“Are you saying there’s something wrong at the Society? Badly wrong?” He’d said that, but she needed to hear him admit it flat out.
Ibis looked up to meet her eyes , and then he nodded. “I am. I do think there is. I just don’t know what. That’s why we’re here.”


The Magician's Hoard is book three in the Mysterious Charm series and I wish that I had started with book one. The setting is 1920's England, with some forays into Paris, and while the history of the world seems to be based in reality, there is mention of “the war”, magic is part of everyday life. When kids go to school, they are sent off and put into different factions, Fox, Owl, Seal, and etc.; close to Harry Potter-ish. No one really knows how and why people are put into the categories they are but this directs their courses of study. People also travel by portals, which makes going from London to Paris a simple, not time consuming trip. There really wasn't an explanation or relaying of the structure of this world, probably provided in book one, so starting in book three with no help, I was lost in the framing of the world and therefore, very lost in the meanings of things and how magic existed.

Singularly, Pross and Ibis were interesting characters. Pross a widowed bookseller with a daughter in school. We get some scenes with Pross and her daughter, more towards the middle and end that helped fill out her character and some talk about her previous marriage. Ibis is half Egyptian, with a sister in school and other family members living in Egypt. He has a flatmate, we see them interact together, but otherwise his background feels a bit murky. While there was some sketching out of these two, I wanted some color pencils used, I had trouble feeling them and their emotions for the first half of the book. The second half they start to warm up and I felt we got to know them more but it was a little difficult to make it there. Their attraction starts off mild, shy, and then moves into the bedroom. There was an ending bedroom scene that felt a tad out of place, in regards to how the story was flowing previously, with a sexy toy joining in on the fun. They were cute together but their relationship felt more studious than steamy.

The reason for Pross joining up with Ibris, the search for a Roman hoard, was hard for me to keep track of; the aforementioned magic and how it existed in this world, the secondary characters who pop up and aren't really fleshed out, and the time jumps. There would be a scene with something learned by Pross or Ibris and then a week or some sort of time jump would occur. This gave the story a stop and go feel and hurt the flow for me. I honestly felt lost in the plot about the hoard, from how it was important, to what it was, and who the villain/s going against Pross and Ibris' search for it.

The writing was wonderfully technically sound but the overall story structure felt off, but again, I didn't read the previous two books in the series, so I could have missed out on key information that would have helped out here. It took until the second half for me to feel like I finally felt the emotions from characters and feel like I had solid grip on them but I'm not sure I ever accomplished even that with the Roman hoard plot. The 1920's era doesn't usually show up in new romance releases, so if looking for that time period and a bit different vibe with some magic in your stories, back track to book one before taking this one on.

He felt her hand slip into his, and the delighted whisper in his ear, “Keeping you.”

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

50%


Magician's Hoard (Mysterious Charm Book 3) - Celia Lake

“She loved books. You know how some people love books for what they hold, and some people love books for the beauty of the object? She loved all the books, forever, but she loved them in different ways. The gorgeous incunabulum and the scruffiest chapbook, turning into pulp in your hands.”

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Reading Update: Page 1


Archaeology, a bookseller, an Egyptian researcher, adventure, and magic. Can’t wait to start this one :)


Black Forest Chocolate Cherry Smoothie recipe
Not my favorite smoothie, maybe I used too much ice? I also thought there was a bit of a chalky taste to it 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Review: The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Was yours ever hit?”
“No. Not a scratch. I suppose even bombs have a sense of irony.”
“Not really,” I say. “That's just human illusion. We imagine there's an order to things, because it's too awful to consider the randomness of fate.”


The Golden Hour is historical fiction that mainly follows two women decades apart while slowly but surely weaving their stories together. We first meet Elfriede in a Swiss clinic where she was sent after she can't feel anything for her newborn and talks about a darkness that dwells in her. Today we would call it postpartum depression but in the early 1900s, no one quite knows what to do with her. There she meets an Englishman recouping from pneumonia and they have a soulmates connection but with Elfriede still married, they can't really act on anything.
The other woman we follow is Lulu in 1941 just as she is arriving in the Bahamas to cover gossip about the scandalous Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Edward and Wallis Simpson. There she gets caught up in possible treasonous acts and meets Benedict Thorpe, a man she thinks is more than he is letting on.

It's so easy and so safe to fall in love when the universe is against you.

While Elfriede's story is relayed from the beginning, chronologically, we start more towards the end with Lulu's story and are constantly backtracking and shooting forward to gain information on how she ends up in London with Benedict's sister, which is where we first meet her and the mysterious government agent, Mr. B. The pov changes also include first person and third person different narratives; it works to keep the two women drivers of their own stories but I can see how this could affect the flow of the story for some.

While Lulu and Elfriede are fictional characters, they are surrounded by real events and real historical figures of their times. World War I plays a part in Elfriede's story, affecting her life's course and World War II obviously plays a big part in Lulu's story. For the most part though, the gravitas of the Wars are kept to the outside, Pearl Harbor is discussed but being in the Bahamas during the time and lack of Internet keeps the news to feeling surreal. The focus is more microcosm and how the Wars are personally affecting these two women and how it will connect them.

I thought it was intriguing how the author made the Windsors, somewhat, central and key, along with the real murder mystery of Henry Oakes; little moments in history that aren't completely solved are fun to read different takes on.

“Life is made up of these little crossroads, after all,” he said. “A million daily forks in the road.”

The slow weaving of Elfriede and Lulu may feel meandering for a while, I thought the latter half started to drag a bit but it was still curiously interesting to see how the author ultimately ended up placing all the characters to culminate in the ending. The ending was rushed and key emotional moments were crammed, taking away from the reader from getting time to digest and deliver a bigger impact on key moments. However, if looking to disappear for a few hours, The Golden Hour will keep you intrigued about how all these characters touch and impact each other's lives and how it could feel so helpless and hopeful all at the same time during World War I and II.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

70%


The Golden Hour - Beatriz Williams

You know, it's a funny word, loyalty. Loyalty to what? And why? And especially how, that's the kicker. It seems to me that loyalty requires a suspension of logic, of truth even. Like faith, like superstition, a thing you cling to in defiance of what lies before you in plain sight. On the other hand---like faith or superstition, like love itself---where's the comfort in a world without it?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Review: Unbreak Me

Unbreak Me Unbreak Me by Michelle Hazen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

L.J. loves horses but opportunities to make a living training them in New Orleans are slim, so when he manages to get offered a job in Montana, he wants to take the chance. Leaving the Ninth Ward community and his mother who suffers from Lupus is hard but L.J. has a dream and when he catches sight of Andra, she starts to become a part of them.
It's been five years since Andra was kidnapped but her panic attacks haven't stopped and the only time she feels free is working with her horses. She has to fight to hire L.J. onto her father's ranch but there is something about him that calms her being in his presence.
L.J. and Andra are two souls looking to separate their pasts from their futures and through each other might just find the strength to love everything about themselves.

Everything that had been done to her body was public property.

Unbreak Me was a very character driven story focusing almost completely on the lead characters Andra and L.J. Their backstories and all the pain that came with them, matched each other even in their differences. In college Andra was drugged, kidnapped, and raped. She lives in a smaller town in Montana, so the trial and all the details were public knowledge. The townspeople know the whole story and side-eye her all the time and her own family isn't quite sure how to act around her. The author did a commendable job getting Andra's pain across the pages, the isolation, the guilt, the anger, and caged in feeling from people only seeing you one way now. Her father, brother, and bestfriend didn't quite get enough page time to be fully flushed out characters but even their absence from the pages helped to show how Andra felt alone and trapped into this new singular existence.

L.J. was a character who at first seemed completely affable, fun, and carefree but as we get to know him more, you see that while that is part of his natural disposition, he still works at coming off that way. He carries the pain, anger, and horror from surviving Hurricane Katrina and what it means to be a six foot five black male in America. His struggle to take care of his mother, still give back to where he comes from, and honor his own dreams was affecting. The attraction and connection he felt towards Andra seemed a bit fast or instant, in terms of the repercussions he could experience from it but their time together was slow moving and written very deliberately.

“I don't want your daddy to be right about me, Andie-girl.” The words were so low they were no more than a rumble in the places where his neck touched her forehead.
“I don't want him to be right about me, either.” she whispered back. And she didn't let go.


Through L.J. and Andra, this story touches a little on sexism and heavier on racism. The societal stratagems aren't expounded or deeply thought out but rather how internally racism effects L.J. emotionally and externally physically and opportunity wise. Andra's father plays a role in showing how ignorance isn't an excuse and how Andra needs to learn to see what L.J. is telling her instead of trying to explain instances away to try to make things more comfortable. While these weighty issues aren't delved very deep into, they are touched on in how though L.J. and Andra might have a connection, relationships don't happen in a vacuum, racism effects become a conflict between the two but not enough to give such a weighty issue it's due.

These people weren't untouched by their past, and they didn't expect her to be, either.

This was a very deliberately paced story with L.J. working to get Andra to be comfortable around him and be able to act on and enjoy the chemistry they had between each other. Even with a more thoughtful pace, I thought the story worked well on capturing the reader but I also thought a little latter in the second half the story started to drag and lose it's drive when L.J. and Andra were in New Orleans.

The ending was also quick to wrap up, these two had some pretty big issues laid out and the bow felt somewhat simplistic. However, L.J. and Andra were two characters that definitely pull you into their world and you'll feel for all their emotional ups and downs. There are no easy answers to hard problems but having a caring hand to hold along the way can make all the difference, and it doesn't hurt if they're a Stetson wearing man who can cook southern style.

She grinned, and blushed the tiniest bit. “Next time we do that, will you wear your cowboy hat?”

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Monday, June 10, 2019

50%

Unbreak Me - Michelle Hazen
"When they looked at me, it seemed like the filth of what had happened was all over me." Her voice rasped against the silence in his kitchen. "I had to say, out loud in court, what Gavin did."

The writing style in this is very deliberate, it's stark and subtle all the same time.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Review: Fix Her Up

Fix Her Up Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.7 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

They could be friends, him and Georgie. That’s what was wrong. He didn’t want one—especially her. She was too young, too positive, and too related to his best friend.

Starting off the Hot and Hammered series, Fix Her Up is a perfect sweet and hot summer read. Georgie has been in love with her brother's bestfriend Travis ever since she can remember but has never been able to get him to see her any other way, she can't even get her family to see her as an adult. When Travis comes back to his hometown, Georgie can't stand seeing him depressed over having to retire from baseball because of an injury and decides to try some tough love.
Travis' father always said he'd never amount to anything and even though he's won the World Series, Travis is back right where he started. After living the flashy life as a star baseball player, Travis is struggling with who he is now. His bestfriend Stephen's little sister is pushing him to put the bottle down and clean his apartment and all the while Travis can't stop thinking about how sexy she has become.
Georgie and Travis are sick of being stuck in a box and so they make a plan to fake date to get people to see them a different way, but there will absolutely be no real feelings, nope, nope, nope.

But the more she got to know Reality Travis, the more Fantasy Travis started to fade, leaving this real, breathing, complicated man in his place. He appealed to her even more. So much more.

I thought this story was an absolute delight, a perfect summer read. Georgie was a combination of sweet, goofy, determined, and vulnerable. She works as a party clown, which doesn't help getting people to see her as an adult, and wishes her family would see her more than the “baby” of the family. I thought the author did a good job moving Georgie from childhood infatuation to getting to know Travis on a deeper level to make her love for him seem more solid. Georgie finds Travis sexy and grew up starry eyed over him but as she deals with his grumpiness, depression, and abandonment issues, the reader can see a stronger foundation start to grow.

Travis was the perfect amount of grumpy and soft towards Georgie, he's never blatantly mean towards her and I delighted in seeing him starting to crack against his will. He's about five years older than Georgie, so he was off playing baseball when she grew up and when they meet up again, he firmly tries to put her in the no touch little sister friend zone. He fails at this and it is not only because he finds her attractive but because she reaches him and connects with him in a way no in his life ever has.

Travis and Georgie's chemistry, rather it be friendship or sexual, popped off the pages and I loved every second they made me smile or sent a tingle down my spine. There was a little bit of abruptness to their first sexual encounter and from there, it's on with these two. You'll get a kissing in the rain moment that morphs into a Georgie on her knees in a dugout, along with some other heat inducing scenes. For a sexy summer read, I thought there was a good balance between sex scenes and relationship building; the author doesn't completely abandon the emotional aspect.

Seeming at odds with himself, he eventually wrapped an arm around the small of Georgie’s back, tugging her into the warmth of his chest. “A few minutes won’t hurt,” he muttered, seemingly to himself.
She nuzzled into his chest hair to hide her smile.


The fake relationship plot doesn't happen until a little later in the book and you kind of have to just go along with it for the sake of the story. There was also a mini-subplot mainly involving Georgie, her sister, sister-in-law, and a friend where they form a “Just Us League”, a group of women supporting each other to accomplish their dreams, that came off a bit series baiting. It was a way to introduce and get to know some secondary characters that will probably get their own stories later on. It wasn't intrusive and actually added some nice women bonding time while flushing Georgie's character out more but it was also obvious as series baiting.

I thought Travis' relationship with Stephen could have been shown more and the issues he had with his parents definitely was missing some depth but even though Travis and Georgie's relationship moves a wee bit quickly, they still felt true. There were times were it came close overly focusing on Travis being so much more experienced than virgin Georgie but stopped shy of being harped on. These two were there for each other and the way Georgie sunshines her way into Travis' grumpiness, “forcing” him to commit some seriously sweet actions was at turns adorable and sexy.

This girl could make a man crawl and had no idea.

The ending wrapped up far too quickly, in regards to a last minute mess up by Travis and having no epilogue. However, thinking of Travis and Georgie embarking on their new adventure together, left a smile on my face. I'm also dying for Rosie and Dominic's story, a highschool sweetheart couple that has lost their connection, there is a scene between the two that will have everyone turning into a thirst factory for their book. As a summer read Fix Her Up excels, sweet, vulnerable, hot, and oh so sexy.

She’d set out on a sneaky mission to make Travis believe in himself, but he’d slowly been doing the same for her. They’d been doing it for each other, hadn’t they?

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Friday, June 7, 2019

70%

Fix Her Up: A Novel - Tessa Bailey
“I’m ready.” The world tilted when Travis picked her up by the waist, tossing her into the center of the bed like she weighed less than a feather. 
He crawled slowly up her body. “No. You aren’t.”


Y'all, this is the perfect summer book, sweet and sexy as hell. This is probably going to get close to 5 stars from me. 
Think Hate To Want You but way lighter on the emotional angst & family drama, more cuteness

Thursday, June 6, 2019

30%


Fix Her Up: A Novel - Tessa Bailey

"Seriously, Travis was the reason she couldn’t hear “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” without getting horny.

I don't know if it because the MN Twins are having a great season or the fact that this is hitting my personal sweet spots - little sis/bestfriend, grumpy guy/sweet positive woman, a little goofy/a little emotional, but I had to force myself to shutdown my Kindle last night. #GrumpySweetness

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Reading Update: Page 1



I’m loving that the series name for this is “Hot and Hammered”!

This one sounds cute, excited to start reading and digging into my dessert. 
Happy hump day!


Review: The Friend Zone

The Friend Zone The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Friend Zone is a debut with chapter switching povs between the heroine and hero, laughs, serious life issues, and a easy paced flow. Kristen suffers from uterine fibroids that cause her to have long heavy periods with extremely painful cramps and other intensified pms symptoms. Even though she feels she would eventually want children, her medical condition makes it implausible, so she is considering a hysterectomy. She's currently dating Tyler, a Marine overseas who is not planning on re-enlisting and coming home to live with her. Tyler doesn't want kids, so even though Kristen isn't sure she loves him, she thinks they are a good match.

Josh just broke up with his girlfriend and is moving from South Dakota to California to work with his bestfriend Brandon, they're fireman. He comes from a large family, six sisters, and has always wanted kids. He's not looking to get into a relationship until he feels settled in but Brandon's fiancee's maid-of-honor captures his attention.

“Fine. Stay. But don’t go catching feelings. I mean it. We are not a thing. Got it?”
“Using me for sex. Got it.” He pulled me closer and kissed my shoulder.
“Stop!”
“Good night.”
I could tell he was smiling.


Kristen and Josh definitely have chemistry on the pages, they have similar tastes, attitudes, and sense of humor; I enjoyed the playfulness between the two. There's a little bit of love triangle with Kristen dating Tyler but being extremely attracted to Josh. At first I liked how the author didn't immediately demonize Tyler, but about halfway through Kristen gets an easy out solution and the love triangle conflict lost a lot of its umph.

The main conflict of the story is Kristen knowing that she probably will never be able to have children, knowing Josh wants them, and so feeling she isn't good enough to be with him. Kristen is a sassy, tell it like it is character, easily discussing or mentioning her period issues but clams up and refuses to tell Josh that it could lead to her never having children. This creates a situation where Kristen is constantly pulling Josh in, because she is incredibly attracted to him and doesn't want to admit to herself that she loves him, but then harshly emotionally pushing him away, it started to get a bit exhausting and annoying. Lack of communication becomes part of the premise of the story and with two leads who otherwise have no problem communicating, it felt somewhat forced.

Josh for his part, plays a pretty understanding sensitive guy. He constantly bends and makes way for Kristen's needs, so often and completely that while he is definitely sweet, I didn't feel they had an equal relationship, how was Kristen meeting Josh's needs? Kristen is twenty-four and Josh twenty-nine, I felt this had a bit of a New Adult feel to it, Kristen came off young and immature at times and Josh felt a bit stand-in for Fairy Tale Submit To All Your Wants and Desires placeholder hero.

But being with her wasn’t even something I had to think about. I did want kids. But I wanted her first. Everything else was just everything else.

I thought it was great that the author showcased Kristen dealing with the health issues she did, we don't often get to read heroines with these issues but the ending had a bit of a surprise to it that I know will leave some readers feeling betrayed, it almost felt like a bait and switch to me. (view spoiler)
There was also an ending heavy emotional situation that came off feeling somewhat manipulated, it was shocking but I wasn't completely invested in the secondary character because they weren't fully fleshed out and it ended up feeling more set-up for the second in the series than adding to the emotional fabric of this story.

Overall, this author has a very easy reading style that does keep you reading the pages. There was some “cool girl” vibes going on with Kristen that I could have done without, women who eat cheeseburgers aren't necessarily cooler than those who don't; comes to close to the manic pixie girl vibe promoting for me. The main conflict of the story ended up feeling bait and switch, Kristen's push and pull with Josh started to drag, and there was some layers and depth to characters I was missing that kept me from fully sinking into the story. This is an author I'm going to keep an eye on though, there's some charisma to her writing.

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Monday, June 3, 2019

50%


The Friend Zone: the most hilarious and heartbreaking romantic comedy of 2019 - Abby Jimenez

He was like that puppy that you swear will never sleep in the bed.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Reading Update: Page 1


So, the author of this has a cupcake shop, Nadia’s Cupcakes, near me. I bought a cupcake and a pupcake to take a picture with the book but Raiden (he starts humping when I walk in the door with their pupcakes) and I were so excited to eat them, that it wasn’t until an hour later that I realized I’d forgotten to take the picture.

Enjoy this fiesta chicken instead. And yes, I did eat dessert before my supper.


Review: Tailspin

Tailspin Tailspin by Sandra Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Tailspin is a suspense ride from start to finish, the story takes place over a 48hr period, most of it in just 24hrs. Rye is a retired Air Force pilot dealing with guilt over a crash he felt he could have prevented from happening. He now is a “freight dog” flying for a cargo company and when the weather turns extremely foul, he's the only one willing to fly a black box to a doctor in Georgia.
Brynn is the doctor that shows up to pickup the mystery cargo but a plane crash and unconscious air traffic controller, there is a lot to explain to the cops. Especially when Rye and Brynn go on the run as life and death hang in the balance.

He was in this damn thing whether he wanted to be or not.

A standalone that keeps the pace up, Rye was a calm, cool, character that anchored the story. His background is hinted at and through his thoughts, actions, and feelings, the reader gets a pretty good idea of what emotional turmoil is affecting him. When he finally tells the story to Brynn, he almost works through the guilt at the same time and it felt like a quick resolve for an issue that had previously drove his character actions.

I wish we could have gotten more of Brynn's background, she didn't feel like a completely flushed out character. In order to keep some mystery to the story, Brynn's thoughts and reason for actions is kept veiled. When we reach around the half-way point, her reasons are revealed and we get to know her a little better. The side tangent with her father helped humanize her and was a great little emotional additive to a heavy action plot.

She gave him a murderous look, which only caused him to grin.

As this takes place over two days, the romance doesn't really have time to fully develop. Brynn and Rye are pretty much together from the beginning to end but the on the run aspect really does dominate this. I thought the first half was a bit hard to get into, as I mentioned, to keep the mystery up, the author leaves some motivations and explanations veiled. This caused me to be confused by some of Brynn's actions, not buy into why Rye would keep it a secret what caused him to crash, and how all the character pieces fit into the puzzle. The second half was easier to get into the flow, with some key information revealed, characters began to make more sense. There were multiple povs, the senator and his wife, the two goons, the two police detectives, and Violet, Brynn's patient. For the most part, I liked this, it gave a better rounded out look into the story and helped place all the moving pieces.

He sighed. “You're gonna make me come after you, aren't you?”
“If you want me, it's required.”


The ending was somewhat messy with betrayals and finger pointing whirling around to and from everyone; there was a truly unnecessary double cross that clogged up the end and only was surprising because there wasn't any character ground work for it. I wish things could have slowed down for the romance between Rye and Brynn, their love wasn't truly felt but the plot and action dictated the pace. If looking for lighter on romance depth but an on the run with some emotional depth occasionally popping up, Brown's writing is always worth a read.

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Giveaway!


Publisher accidentally sent me two copies of this, so doing a giveaway!

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