Genre: Love & Romance

Review: Back to Us by Christi Barth

Posted December 15, 2015 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Back to Us by Christi BarthReviewer: Holly
Back to Us by Christ Barth
Series: Shore Secrets #3
Published by Carina Press
Publication Date: July 13, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Family & Relationships, Fiction, Friendship, Love & Romance
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three-half-stars

Ward Cantrell always went for the long shot. But that recklessness cost him his college scholarship and his chance to play pro ball, and—worst of all—it ended his relationship with the girl next door. Neither the town nor the girl has ever forgiven him. Now he's taking one last long shot by opening a boutique distillery on the family farm he inherited.
Piper Morrissey spent high school in Ward's shadow, but she's come into her own in the years since. Maintaining her spotless image, and that of her family's winery, is priority number one. Nobody knows that she still yearns for her golden-boy ex. Or at least they didn't—until Ward agrees to sell Piper the land she needs to start her precious port line. The caveat? She'll need to date him for one month.

Ward hopes a month is all it'll take to convince his former sweetheart that while he's changed, his love for her hasn't. But when the chance arises to thumb his nose at the town that turned its back on him, he can't afford not to reject Piper's offer. Will that make her reject him and his love—for good?

I really love friends-to-lovers and reunited lovers, so this was a win/win since it features both. Piper is a fiery redhead whose parents conditioned her early on to care a whole lot what other people think. Keeping up appearances is really important to her. So is doing a good job at the family winery and carrying on her grandfather’s legacy by creating the Port he always wanted. Her parents want nothing to do with the project, however, and as a result none of the landowners in the area will consider selling or leasing her land for it, since her parents are powerful in the area and no one wants to get on their bad side. Except the one man she wants to avoid at all costs.  Her heart still stutter-steps every time he’s near. She doesn’t need a month of dating to make it worse. On the other hand, there’s a lot of history between them, and if she still isn’t over him, maybe it’s time to explore what might still be between them. If she can get past his betrayal..and her parent’s reaction to him…and the way the town will react to her associating with him.

Ward knows he let the town down when he lost his scholarship and the chance to play professional ball due to an injury he brought on himself, but he wanted nothing more than to go home. When his father passed and left him the family farm – and a giant mountain of debt – he decided to make his dreams a reality and open his own distillery. The business is doing well – though he’d like to expand and can’t – but he still feels unsettled in his life, because Piper is missing from it. Sure, they’re kind of friends, but he wants it all with her – he always has. He was a pretty stand-up guy who did his best to do the right thing. He made some mistakes – like keeping things from Piper – but I understood why he made them.

I have to be honest, Piper drove me crazy for most of the book. For an adult woman of almost 3o, she really let other people dictate her life. Her concern over what everyone thought was silly and immature, and the way she jumped to conclusions about Ward and went off on him based on her assumptions was frustrating. Ward wasn’t perfect, but his regard for her came across clearly. He admired and respected, as well as loved, her. I didn’t get the sense she felt the same; not by her actions.  Oddly enough, I really liked her. She was funny and warm and had a great sense of family. I just didn’t necessarily love the way she acted toward Ward. I did think she redeemed herself in the end, though. She realized she was repeating the same mistakes over and over and corrected them.

There were a lot of loose ends that weren’t tied up. For example, Ward mentions Spencer quite a bit. He was his mentor and the man who acted as a father to him once he went to college. Yet Ward never visits him. Piper questions him about it and he brushes it aside, then it’s never revisited. I would have liked to know why he doesn’t visit and what their relationship is like now.

That aside, I really fell into the story. I loved the friendships the characters had with each other. There were strong family bonds there, even though they weren’t blood related. I also really liked the winery backdrop.

This is the first book in the series I’ve read, but I plan to go back and pick up the others very soon.

3.75 out of 5

three-half-stars

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Review: Finding Perfect by Kendra C. Highley

Posted September 10, 2015 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Finding Perfect by Kendra C. HighleyReviewer: Rowena
Finding Perfect by Kendra C. Highley
Published by Macmillan
Publication Date: September 14th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Love & Romance, General
Pages: 252
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four-half-stars

How far will you go for perfection?For "Perfect Paige" Westfeld, today is "D" Day. As in, she just got one on her calculus test. With her dreams of Stanford, her reputation, and her parents' expectations at stake, Paige needs to find a way to save face before everything she's worked for goes up in flames.
Ben Franklin (yes, he's related) is from the wrong side of town, with the wrong clothes and the wrong kind of life. He also knows an opportunity when he sees one, and he'll be happy to tutor Paige-if she makes him into the kind of guy her best friend, the hottest girl in school, will date.
It's the perfect arrangement. And Paige is determined not even the inconvenient-and utterly imperfect-attraction simmering between her and Ben will ruin it...
This Entangled Teen Crush book contains swoony situations, adult language, and a perfectly imperfect hero with an eye for calculus and a heart of gold.

I read one other book by Kendra C. Highley and the protagonist in that book drove me up the wall. I was very interested in the book because it features a young high school basketball player and my daughter is one so it was a world that I knew. A world that I understood and was comfortable in but the protagonist made a lot of bad choices so that got on my nerves and that affected my enjoyment of the book as a whole. I still enjoyed the book but it was hard to read. After remembering that book, I was a little wary going into this book. I was prepared to roll my eyes down the street a lot but the synopsis of this book sounded too cute for me to stay away.

I shouldn’t have been worried at all because I adored this book. Highley wrote one of the cutest YA books that I’ve read all summer. I thought both Ben and Paige were fantastic characters and their problems were real ones. They were going through some of the same things that my daughter is going through. They worried about their grades, they worried about getting into college and they worried about what ordinary teens these days are worrying about.

I really enjoyed seeing both Paige and Ben come together. I loved seeing their plans change over the course of the book and I really enjoyed that they acted and reacted like teenagers would. I loved how disappointed Paige was when Ben wanted her to hook him up with Zoey and I loved how much Ben came to like Paige. I also really liked that the parents were actively apart of these teenagers lives. They were intense and they were different but they were there and they were supportive of their kids. It’s nice to see that in contemporary YA since I’ve read more books where the parents are either never around or jerks.

I’m really looking forward to reading Zoey’s book. I loved that she was such a good friend to Paige and later on, to Ben. I can’t wait to see finally meet this Luke Hamilton. He’s got to be amazing if he’s got gorgeous Zoey salivating at the mouth.

Overall, this book was a cute contemporary YA romance that I couldn’t get enough of. The characters were real, they were fun and they were smart. I think fans of contemporary YA will enjoy this one. It’s not bogged with issues and drama and angst. It’s got the right amount of teenage drama and angst to make you thirsty for more. I definitely recommend.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

This book is available from Entangled Crush. You can purchase it here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

four-half-stars

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Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Posted July 29, 2015 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie WestReviewer: Rowena
The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
Published by Harper Teen
Publication Date: May 5th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Social Issues, Dating & Sex, Love & Romance, Friendship
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four-stars

When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she decides to do the unthinkable…convince the cute guy waiting to pick up his sister to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night. The task is simple: two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

The problem is that days after prom, she can't stop thinking about her fill-in boyfriend. But can Gia turn her fake boyfriend into a real one without exposing her lie and possibly destroying her friendships and her newfound relationship?

Smartly observed and wonderfully romantic, Kasie West's talent shines in this tale of one girl's unexpected quest to find love…and possibly herself.

Kasie West delivers another winner for me. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that I enjoyed this book. Kasie West is one of those authors that I will binge read like crazy because I love her stuff. The Fill-In Boyfriend was another great read and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next.

Gia can’t believe that she just got dumped by her college boyfriend in the parking lot at prom. He doesn’t even have the decency to walk her in and then break up with her in front of her friends (that don’t believe he exists) and to save face, Gia begs some random guy sitting in his car to be her date for prom and pretend to be her boyfriend Bradley. Sounds kind of dumb, right? Well, Kasie West makes this story line work.

When we first meet Gia and she’s more worried about her friends thinking she’s a liar than about being dumped on prom and then becoming the liar she doesn’t want her friends to think she is by bringing a fake Bradley to prom with her, I thought I wasn’t going to like her but I did. I liked her and wanted her to get her crap together…with Fill-In Bradley.

This book took me back to my high school days because who didn’t obsess over a boy? Seeing Gia’s crush on Fill-In Bradley grow with each passing page had me grinning like a school girl because Fill In Bradley was a great boy to crush on. I loved seeing them become friends and I really enjoyed seeing her friendship with Bec grow. I thought Bec was a far better friend than any of her regular group of friends and she was a great sister to Hayden too.

This was such a fun read and it took me no time at all to read it because I couldn’t put it down. It’s not a book that takes itself too seriously or is bogged down with angst, it’s the perfect summer read with characters that will make you laugh a sweet romance that will make you happy sigh. I definitely recommend.

Grade: 4 out of 5

This book is available from Harper Teen. You can purchase it here or here in e-format.

four-stars

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Review: Running Back by Allison Parr

Posted July 20, 2014 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Running Back by Allison ParrReviewer: Holly
Running Back by Allison Parr
Series: New York Leopards #2
Also in this series: Rush Me
Published by Carina Press
Publication Date: October 21st 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Friendship, Humorous, Love & Romance, New Adult
Pages: 229
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four-stars

Natalie Sullivan is on the verge of a breakthrough most archaeology grad students only dream of: discovering a lost city. Her research points to a farm in Ireland, but to excavate she needs permission from the new owner: the Michael O'Connor, popular NFL running back.

On TV Mike seems so charming and good-natured that Natalie figures getting his cooperation will be a breeze. So she's not prepared to deal with the arrogant—and adamantly opposed—man she meets in person. Or the way one look from him sends shivers down her spine…

Determined to kick-start her career, Natalie travels across the Atlantic and finds herself sharing an inn with Mike, who has come to Ireland in search of his roots. She tells herself her interest is strictly professional, but the more she gets to know him, the harder it is to deny her personal attraction to the sexy sports star. And when Mike confides why he refuses to allow the dig, Natalie must decide if she can follow her heart without losing sight of her dreams.

Natalie is a grad student who is planning a dig in Ireland to search for the lost city of Ivernis, which would prove a connection between Ireland and Rome, something she and her mentor have been working toward for years. It’s become something of a wild goose chase, but she’s done a lot research and thinks they may actually find it there. Only problem? The landowner who agreed to let her do the dig died and left the land to his nephew – New York Leopard’s running back Mike O’Connor.  He denies her request, stating personal reasons.

She decides to go on her trip anyway. Even if she can’t dig – which she hopes will change – there’s still research to do and she doesn’t want to pass up a trip to Ireland. As it happens, Mike and his family are also going to Ireland for the wake of his uncle and they’re staying at the same inn (the only inn).  Despite the tension over the dig, Mike’s family draw her into the circle and the two of them form a solid friendship, which eventually turns into more. But Natalie’s parents have taught her that love doesn’t last, and with the dig still there she knows they can’t last.

This was a fairly enjoyable read. Natalie and Mike were both fixed on their careers and neither was looking for love. They developed a friendship that seemed genuine and included a lot of heavy sharing and emotional support, which made the relatively short timeline of the romance work.

In the beginning Natalie’s assertion that love was a myth rang true considering her upbringing. It started to sound hollow the more their relationship developed, considering the amount of time they spent together and how committed they both were to one another.  It was hard not to feel sorry for her, though, especially once her family dynamics changed. The way she felt about Mike’s family was sweet. He was embarrassed and annoyed with them (as we tend to be with our families) but she made him realize they were a tight, loving group.

Mike was dealing with his own set of issues, namely the drama that came with inheriting the land and a secret about his parents he’d held close for far too long. His pain came through well. It was lovely how Natalie pushed him to open up and let him do the same for her. Both were damaged, which really worked in the context of the story. Their upbringing shaped them both and their family dynamics were interesting.

What was missing was the football. Since this story takes place in Ireland during the off season, there were no games and little from the other players. One of the things I enjoyed most about Rush Me was the football backdrop. It was definitely missed here.

There were a lot of editing issues in this book. Mostly spelling errors, but some continuity issues as well. I was surprised, since I read Parr’s first book, Rush Me, and don’t remember seeing them.

The Irish backdrop, strong friendships and heady romance made this a read well worth falling into.

4 out of 5

This book is available from Carina Press. You can buy it here or here in e-format. 

four-stars

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Review: Before You Break by Christina Lee

Posted February 10, 2014 by Holly in Reviews | 6 Comments

Review: Before You Break by Christina LeeReviewer: Holly
Before You Break by Christina Lee
Series: Between Breaths #2
Also in this series: All of You, Whisper to Me, Whisper to Me, Promise Me This, Promise Me This, There You Stand, Two of Hearts
Published by Penguin
Publication Date: February 18th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Romance, New Adult, General, Contemporary, Young Adult, Love & Romance
Pages: 304
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four-half-stars

A sexy, emotional New Adult romance about a bad boy on the edge and a good girl about to lose control…
A college baseball star isn’t supposed to have skeletons in his closet. But Daniel Quinn is hiding a guilty past so dark he refuses to let anyone get close. Except there’s something about gorgeous, studious Ella Abrams that goes beyond the electric attraction between them—something that makes him want to open up.
Ella has suffered enough heartache and guilt to fill one of her psychology textbooks, but she keeps that part of herself hidden behind a bubbly exterior. Until she receives an anonymous call while working a suicide helpline and the voice on the other end touches something inside of her that she can’t ignore.
Soon Ella and Quinn’s physical connection heats up, even as their deep and revealing hotline talks intensify. But by the time Ella realizes that her seductive jock and her sensitive caller are the same guy, it might be too late to save him—or to stop herself from falling too far…
Raves for Christina Lee’s All of You:
"Hot, sweet, emotional, page-turner, awesome." —New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Monica Murphy
“This is one New Adult you don’t want to miss.” —New York Times and USA Today bestselling author A. L. Jackson
"Steamy, honest, and full of heart.” —Roni Loren, national bestselling author

I really enjoyed Lee’s debut novel, All of You. The heroine of Before You Break, Ella, is best friend to the heroine of AoY. We saw her relationship with her boyfriend deteriorating in that book. I was curious about her and am glad to see her story carried over here. Though she’s featured in All of You, I don’t think it’s necessary to read that book first. Lee does a credible job of making this story a stand-alone.

This book is written in alternating first-person points of view and follows the story of Ella and Quinn. Ella is dating Joel. Lately she’s become really conflicted about staying with him. He’s a connection to her past, but he’s been partying more and treating her poorly. She isn’t sure if she’s holding on to him because she cares for him or if she wants that link to her past.

When she drinks too much at a party at Joel’s place one night and Quinn, one of Joel’s roommates, comes to check on her in the bathroom, she can’t deny she feels a connection to him. He’s strong and steady and everything Joel isn’t. But Quinn holds himself back and Ella isn’t sure if he feels the same way she does.

Quinn is carrying around a lot of guilt and sorrow. So much, in fact, he’s considered taking his own life. In a moment of desperation, he calls a suicide prevention hotline and connects with Gabby. She steadies him in a way no one else has been able to. Strangely enough, Ella, his roommate’s girlfriend, has the same effect. He wants Ella in the worst possible way, but he knows he isn’t worthy of her. His past is too seedy, his deeds too dark, to ever touch someone like Ella.  When Ella breaks up with Joel, Quinn can’t seem to stay away from her. Between Ella and Gabby, Quinn begins to heal. Slowly and painfully, sure, but he’s on the right track. Then Ella starts holding back, conflicted about his secrets and her poor judgement over Joel.

These two have a deep connection, but a deep fear of letting go of their past traumas. The emotional connection they share comes across strong. I wanted them to work things out, because it was obvious they cared for each other.

Lee’s second release was well done. I was drawn in from page one.

4.25 out of 5

This book is available from Intermix. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

four-half-stars

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