Author: Holly

Summer Reading Challenge Recap

Posted September 19, 2018 by Holly in Discussions | 9 Comments

Casee: I went about this challenge all wrong. Holly explains it perfectly below. Considering the fact that I loved (almost) every book I read in this challenge, I (almost) feel awful for the books that I chose for Holly. I overcame my aversion to first person in the last couple of months and I am so proud of myself, I could pat my own back. I actually have time or two. I was incredibly happy with all the books, but one on my list. Here are the links to my reviews.

The Year We Hid Away by Sarina Bowen
Sustained by Emma Chase
The Deal by Elle Kennedy
Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs
Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews

All but two of these books were in first person. Go me! So my least favorite read was The Year We Hid Away. It was too melodramatic for me. I just didn’t see in it what Holly and Rowena saw. I wish I did because I know that they adored that book. My favorite book is a tie between The Deal by Elle Kennedy and Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews. They were both such amazing books. I don’t usually do comedy in my books, but omg, The Deal was so funny and I loved every word. In Burn for Me, you have such a strong heroine, it’s impossible not to love the book. Overall, this challenge was a huge success on my part because I was introduced to two new authors and a series by Elle Kennedy that I would never have tried because it was first person.

Holly: Our Summer Reading Challenge has come to an end. It seems there was some confusion about how exactly the challenge books should be chosen. While Rowena and I chose books we thought our blogging partners would love, Casee chose books she thought we wouldn’t have read otherwise, whether she thought we’d love them or not. While I didn’t end up loving the books she chose for me, I can’t deny she pushed me to read outside my comfort zone. Below are links to my reviews.

Raphael by D.B. Reynolds
The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
The Trouble with Love by Lauren Layne
Satisfaction by Lexi Blake

My favorite read of the challenge was The Kiss Quotient. It was such a sweet, fun, often angsty read. I just fell right into it. My least favorite was probably Satisfaction by Lexi Blake, though I’d give a dishonorable mention to Raphael. The heroines in both books were awful. I couldn’t finish The Bourbon Kings, but I really did enjoy the writing, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d say about JRW.

Rowena: I’ll be honest and let everyone know that I’m surprised that I actually finished this challenge. I was not at all interested in reading several of the books on my list but I’m happy to report that both Casee and Holly chose well for me because I enjoyed every single book that I was assigned to read. Whether they chose books they thought I’d love or books I never would have read if not for this challenge, I’m happy with all the books on my list.

Untamed by Pamela Clare
Beyond the Night by Colleen Gleason (Joss Ware)
Coming Undone by Lauren Dane
In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks
Midnight Rainbow by Linda Howard

My favorite read of the challenge made me laugh because I dragged my feet the longest to read this book. I just wasn’t in the mood nor was I even interested in reading a book set in this time period and quite frankly, I forced myself to read this book and I ended up really liking it. That book was Untamed by Pamela Clare. It had a Last of the Mohican feel to it and that’s not something I thought I was interested in reading. Boy was I wrong.

My least favorite read of the challenge goes to Beyond the Night by Colleen Gleason/Joss Ware. I actually enjoyed the book but I enjoyed all of the other books on my list just a smidge more.

Did you participate in any summer reading challenges? How did you do? Have you read any of the books on our challenge? What are your thoughts on them?


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Summer Reading Challenge Review: Satisfaction by Lexi Blake

Posted September 14, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Summer Reading Challenge Review: Satisfaction by Lexi BlakeReviewer: Holly
Satisfaction (Lawless, #2) by Lexi Blake
Series: Lawless #2
Also in this series: Ruthless, Satisfaction, Satisfaction (Lawless #2), Revenge, Revenge
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Format: Print
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 384
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Goodreads
one-half-stars

The sizzling second novel in a sexy new contemporary romance series featuring the Lawless siblings—from New York Times bestselling author Lexi Blake.


Brandon Lawless is a man on a mission: obtain the information that will clear his father’s name. He’s willing to do whatever it takes—even seduce his enemy’s personal assistant, the beautiful and innocent Carly Hendricks. But with her beguiling smile and captivating intelligence, Brandon soon realizes he doesn’t want to deceive Carly, he wants to win her over—both in the boardroom and the bedroom.   Then a twisted crime leaves Carly vulnerable and Brandon finds himself reeling. The stakes of his mission are now life or death—Carly’s life. And Brandon realizes he’s lost his heart to an amazing woman and his plan must succeed, because the stakes are no longer just revenge, but a once in a lifetime love.

Satisfaction is the second book in Lexi Blake’s Lawless series. The series features four siblings who are on a quest to avenge their parents’ death and clear their father’s name.

Twenty years ago their father was accused of murdering their mother, then killing himself after setting fire to the house while the kids were inside it. Drew Lawless, the eldest, was able to get his siblings out, but he couldn’t save his parents. He knows his father didn’t kill himself or their mother, and he’s spent 20 years working to get in a place to prove his father’s innocence, and exact revenge on his four partners, who Drew believes murdered him and set him up. Bran, the youngest brother, got placed into foster care. Unlike his sister, Mia, who was adopted, Bran got shuffled around from place to place. Before Drew could get to him, something tragic happened and a girl lost her life. Bran holds himself responsible and, since then, has played knight-in-shining armor to down on their luck women – mostly strippers.

Drew’s latest focus is Patricia Cain, a formidable executive who runs a home and garden type magazine and cooking show. Drew’s plan is simple – seduce Patricia’s assistant, Carly, so they can get access to her home where her private files are stored. Only Bran has other ideas. After his sister-in-law was used, Bran wants to bring Carly in on their plan instead of pretending to be interested in her. He takes Drew’s place and tells Carly the whole story, hoping she’ll be willing to help.

Carly is stuck working for Patricia. Two years ago her now ex-husband embezzled a million dollars from Patricia’s company. He also set her younger sister up as a patsy. Patricia has been blackmailing Carly ever since. Because Carly isn’t just her personal assistant, she’s also the creative genius behind all of Patricia’s recipes. Carly can’t quit without Patricia having her sister arrested, but she can help the Lawless family get the proof they need to convict her.

Unfortunately, her ex-husband ran up some debt with the mafia before he went to prison, and they’re trying to collect from her. They make a deal – Carly will help Bran get access to Patricia if he’ll help her deal with her current situation. As they try to find proof of Patricia’s culpability and clear his father’s name, while trying to keep Carly safe, they also have to battle their attraction for one another. Carly isn’t interested in another relationship after she got so royally screwed the last time and Bran knows he isn’t worthy of more than a short term affair.

The first couple chapters of the book really pulled me in. Drew had set it up so he and Carly were matched on a dating site and Bran took his place at their first date. He was upfront and honest with her about why he was there, and I really liked how quick he was to bring her into the family fold. Unfortunately, it fell apart shortly after that. The suspense plot was weak, and both Carly and Bran made so many rookie mistakes it was like watching my six-year-old investigate a twenty year old murder. That wasn’t even the worst part, though. It was how immature, insecure and emotionally stunted they both were.

Bran doesn’t feel like he belongs with the family. He isn’t worthy to be a Lawless or have a relationship with his siblings – or anyone else for that matter – because of something that happened to him in one of the foster homes he was in. Despite everyone telling him they love him and want him around, he spends the entire book feeling sorry for himself and like no one wants him.

“He would never do that and you know it.” Because he felt guilty. They all did. Bran had gotten the short end of a shitty stick, and his siblings all felt bad about it. It was why they put up with him.

The.Entire.Effing.Book.

“Don’t worry about it, Bran. It’s going to be okay.” No, it wasn’t. Eventually everyone would get sick of putting up with his shit and he would be on his own again.

He’s either lashing out at everyone, getting into fist fights to “work out his anger” or feeling sad that no one wants him. He’s not 12, y’all. He’s a grown ass, 30-something man.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Carly was just as insecure and whiny. Her go-to was how everyone took advantage of her. Every time Bran looked at her, it was because she was fat and ugly and he was just pretending. Conversely, every time he didn’t look at her (or pay attention to her), it was because she was fat and ugly and he was just pretending.

“Did you think flirting with the fat chick was a public service? Is that how you view it?”

She does things like push him away, the try to kiss him. When he rolls away she throws a massive hissy fit because he doesn’t want her anymore.

“I tried to get you to make love to me and I got hurt when you pretty much jumped away as soon as you could.”

Uh..you kissed him once after you told him to leave you alone. That isn’t exactly trying to get him to make love to you.

“You haven’t touched me in a week. I get it. The physical part isn’t something you want anymore. Maybe you never did.”

She’s an adult, ffs. Yet she keeps jumping to all these conclusions and saying all this stupid shit. I swear I wanted to karate chop her in the throat.

And let’s not even get me started on how she kept thinking about him as a puppy. “Puppy needs some affection.” “Puppy needed to be domesticated.” WTAF?!?! Like he’s not a person?

The suspense plot surrounding the parents was predictable and, as I mentioned above, very poorly handled. They thought they were being sneaky and clever, but trust me. They weren’t. The plot twist at the end came as no surprise to me. I saw it coming from a mile away.

I’m low key curious about Drew and Shelby, a reporter Carly befriended who is also trying to take down Patricia Cain. But I have a feeling their story would frustrate me even more than this one did.

I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t committed to finishing the book for our Summer Reading Challenge, I would have DNF’d it less than halfway through.

1.5 out of 5 (the .5 because I liked some of the secondary characters)

Lawless

one-half-stars


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Summer Reading Challenge Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Posted September 13, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 10 Comments

Summer Reading Challenge Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen HoangReviewer: Holly
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 336
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Goodreads
four-half-stars

A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases--a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice--with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan--from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...

The Kiss Quotient was released earlier this year to much fanfare. Everywhere I turn people are talking about it. Rowena read it a while back and raved about it. She even made it part of our Summer Reading Challenge, so I’d be forced to read it. Still, I went into it with some trepidation. I don’t always love the books everyone else loves. In this case, I’m happy to report the overwhelming majority is right…TKQ is a wonderful, sweet, often intense romance that really worked for me.

Stella Lane’s mother wants grandchildren, and she wants them now. Though Stella has tried, she just can’t seem to make a relationship – or sex – work. She has Asperger’s, which doesn’t help matters. She uses her extra focus and intensity to her advantage in her profession, but in her personal life it holds her back. She can’t seem to make connections or personal attachments. She decides what she needs is a professional. Someone to teach her how to enjoy sex and relationships. She feels comfortable with Michael, so she asks if she can hire him.

Michael Phan is working as an escort to make extra money to help cover his mother’s medical bills. One night each week he meets a different woman and gives her whatever fantasy she needs. He doesn’t love it, but his family really needs the money. He never does repeats with clients, but when Stella asks if she can hire him to teach her how to like sex, he’s really intrigued. For the first time in a long time, he’s actually attracted to a client..and not just how sexy she is. She’s funny, sweet and so blunt he always knows where he stands with her. Although it goes against all his personal rules, he agrees to teach her everything she needs to know.

If you’d asked me prior to reading this book if I thought I’d enjoy a reverse Pretty Woman novel, I’d have said no. I’d have been wrong. This was such a sweet, lovely story. I think all of us can identify a bit with Stella. Her passion and drive, her intensity, her anger and frustration over her own limitations..we’ve all been there. There were several times her struggles brought me to tears. Especially when she unintentionally embarrassed herself by saying or doing the wrong thing, then not understanding why everyone was so upset. She was different, but she wanted to be treated as if she weren’t. I loved how well written her Asperger’s was, and how relatable she was a woman, even though she was so different than me.

I thought I’d have a problem with Michael being a male escort, but I didn’t. Stella was so matter of fact about it, and he was, too, the whole thing was easy to accept. That’s not to say I didn’t feel for him the few times he was out with Stella and his other clients recognized him, but that was such a small part of who he was. He was a loving son and big brother. The responsible one in his family who gave up a career for the good of them. I couldn’t help but love him.

There were times the story moved a bit slow for me, and I got a bit frustrated with the both of them toward the end, but overall this was such a sweet, wonderful read I couldn’t help but love it. With a diverse cast, super intelligent heroine, kind hero and strong plot, The Kiss Quotient really offers it all.

4.25 out of 5

four-half-stars


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Summer Reading Challenge DNF Review: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

Posted September 7, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 4 Comments

Summer Reading Challenge DNF Review: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. WardReviewer: Holly
The Bourbon Kings (The Bourbon Kings, #1) by J.R. Ward
Series: The Bourbon Kings #1
Also in this series: The Bourbon Kings, The Bourbon Kings, The Angels' Share, Devil's Cut
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication Date: July 28, 2015
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 434
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Goodreads
dnf

For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.

For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.

As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.

Casee chose this as a book for me in our Summer Reading Challenge. I listened to the audio. I managed to slog through 30+ chapters. If I were close to the end I’d probably finish it, because I want to know if my thoughts about where the plot is heading are right, but there’s still 20 chapters to go. I just can’t. Though I DNF’d it, I’m giving it two stars because the writing was smooth and I enjoyed the narrator.

Beware: Spoilers Abound! Also, lots of curse words! You’ve been warned.

This is a straight up soap opera. The Bradford/Baldwines are a family of Bourbon makers. The operation is huge and long-standing. There are 4 kids. Edward, Max (who we only hear about in passing in this book), Lane and Virginia (Gin for short). The book beings with Lane returning to his family’s estate, Easterly, after a two-year absence because the woman who raised him is deathly ill. He and his TRUE LOVE, Lizzie, fell in love over the course of a summer, then his ex, Chantal, showed up pregnant and he ended up marrying her instead. So Lizzie hates him because he broke her heart (even though she didn’t get the full story from him and jumped to conclusions about his actions). She works at Easterly still, and naturally they see each other as soon as he returns. He’s been gone for two years (ever since he married the wife…he only married her because she was pregnant and he regretted it immediately, esp since she went and had an abortion like a month later). He’s been sticking his head in the sand and refusing to deal with any of it, until he sees Lizzie again and realizes he’s a fucking dumbass for not divorcing his dumbass wife immediately (or better yet, not marrying her at all).

That part of the story isn’t bad. It’s pretty lame and high-schoolish, but whatever. I actually like Lane.

The problem is each of the siblings get chapters in this book. Edward, the oldest, got kidnapped 2 years ago during a business trip to South America and was tortured nearly to death. He’s barely healed now. He’s in constant pain and left running the Bourbon company in favor of taking over the racehorses the family owns. He’s an alcoholic and a recluse who just so happens to be in love with their largest rival’s daughter..someone he can never have. So he hires prostitutes who look like her to come out once a week to service him and wallows.

Gin had a baby at 17 and oops, sort of forgot to tell baby daddy, who she still hate fucks on a regular basis. Only she also fucks everyone else. The more married, the better. Then dear old dad tells she has to marry some old dude who will secure them a lucrative business contract. She’s like “Fuck you” and leaves, so he cuts off all her money and has her arrested for stealing a car. Then they (Lane and Gin) discover that dear old dad has somehow managed to put them $53 million in debt and they have no money. So she goes and begs Baby Daddy (who still doesn’t know he’s a baby daddy) to marry her. Only he turns her down. Because hello she’s a viperous bitch. So now she DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. Oh, you know what she’ll do? Marry skeevy guy her dad tried to force her to marry. He rapes her after she agrees and she just cleans up and goes on about her business. Because that’s what she deserves and honestly, it’s better than being broke. Then Baby Daddy comes back and says she’s right, they love each other and should get married. Except, oops, she’s already engaged to skeevy, rapist dude. Honestly, I’m kind of interested in Samuel T, the Baby Daddy, and how things progress with him and Gin. But not enough to read through three books.

But wait, there’s more…

Remember the unwanted pregnant wife, Chantal, who got an abortion? Turns out she’s pregnant again. This time with HIS DAD’s kid. If Lane doesn’t stay married to her and pass the kid off as his own, she’s going to tell his mom about it…and Mommy Dearest is a very “fragile” woman who lives in a drug-induced haze, so it would probably kill her. Oh, and guess what? Silly Lane didn’t get a prenup.

That’s where I stopped. I just can’t take any more. I mean, if this was almost the end and he was throwing the wife out and getting with the TRUE LOVE, okay. I could finish it. But there’s still twenty chapters left. And this isn’t even the end of the story..the next two books are just continuations of this one. So, nope. I just can’t.

For all my complaining, the story was very well written and I can’t deny it grabbed me and made me want to see what happens next. If the book had been 100 pages shorter, I’d probably have finished it – and read the next two as well.

DNF

2 out of 5 for what I did read.

The Bourbon Kings

dnf


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Throwback Thursday Review: Sabine by Moira Rogers

Posted September 6, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Throwback Thursday Review: Sabine by Moira RogersReviewer: Holly
Sabine (And the Beast, #1) by Moira Rogers
Series: And the Beast #1
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Format: eBook
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 68
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Goodreads
three-half-stars

A curse can erase her from his mind, but never from his heart.

" and the Beast, Book 1"

After three years at war, the High Lord of the Forest returns to his lands, a victorious wolf leader intent on claiming his mate. Instead Ciar finds an empty bed and a court with no recollection of the woman he loved. Following her long-cold trail proves far easier than facing what awaits him at the end.

Sabine s first instinct is to beg her beloved to leave. The High Lord s mother hired a witch to curse Sabine, desperate to wipe the lowborn wolf from her son s mind. But the spell worked too well, and Sabine has vanished from the thoughts of everyone who sees her. Including her own family.

The edges of his memory already blurring, Ciar and Sabine must race to find a way to reverse the spell. Yet every searing moment together is not enough to stop the curse s inexorable progress. His only chance is to bind Sabine to him too tightly to be forgotten, before she disappears once and for all.

Warning: This story contains cruel betrayal, destined love, vile curses, smoldering reunions, wicked deeds between wanton shapeshifters and a happily-ever-after worthy of any fairy tale. "

Every Thursday, we’ll be posting throwback reviews of our favorite and not-so-favorite books. Enjoy!

This review was originally posted on May 6, 2011.

This is a very short read, clocking in at just 41 pages. For such a short novella this really packs an emotional punch. Sabine and Ciar were going to be mated (this was personal choice – they were very much in love) when Ciar got called away to war. While he was gone, Sabine was cursed by her lover’s mother. Now no one remembers her – not even her mother.

When Ciar returns from war to find Sabine gone from his home, he immediately searches her out. He’s surprised to find her living in a cabin in the woods, cutoff from everyone and everything. Once she shares with him what happened, he determines to fix it by getting the witch to remove the curse. But..will he remember?

I loved the connection between Ciar and Sabine. Ciar loved Sabine just as much as she loved him. I can’t imagine how solitary and depressing it would be to not be remembered by anyone. Ciar remembers Sabine when he first returns, but forgets her soon after. While I would have liked to see this explored further (I think the emotional impact could have been much harder) I think Rogers did a credible job of making it work considering the page count.

I wish there had been more on the final resolution. Especially more about Ciar’s mother, and her part in what happened to Sabine. In the end it seemed too abrupt. I also want to read more about Ciar’s 2nd and his new wife. I’m hoping there will be another entry in the series featuring them.

3.5 out of 5

…and the Beast

three-half-stars


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