Search Results for: label

Movie Review: The DUFF

Posted March 3, 2015 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Rowena’s review of The DUFF, the Movie.

Bianca is a content high school senior whose world is shattered when she learns the student body knows her as ‘The DUFF’ (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier, more popular friends. Now, despite the words of caution from her favorite teacher, she puts aside the potential distraction of her crush, Toby, and enlists Wesley, a slick but charming jock, to help reinvent herself. To save her senior year from turning into a total disaster, Bianca must find the confidence to overthrow the school’s ruthless label maker Madison and remind everyone that no matter what people look or act like, we are all someone’s DUFF.

After discussing movie reviews with Holly, we decided that we’re going to start reviewing the books that were turned into movies here on Book Binge and this is the very first movie review that I’m going to write.

Over the weekend I took my niece Makaela out for her birthday and she wanted to see this so I rallied up the troops and we made the 4:40 showing at our local theater. I thought the theater would be a lot more crowded than it was and that surprised me because the other teeny bopper books turned movies had bigger crowds than this movie did.

I read the book before watching the movie so I already knew that the movie was going to be different (you can tell from the movie trailer just how different the book was from the movie) so I wasn’t expecting to like the movie as much as I did the book but I did.

Bianca has two gorgeous and popular best friends in Jess and Casey. They’re into fashion and they’re hot stuff but they love Bianca so she never really paid much attention to how much more gorgeous they are than she is until her next door neighbor, Wesley Rush calls her their D.U.F.F.

DUFF stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend and Bianca isn’t at all happy that Wes has enlightened her on her DUFF status. This status bothers her so much that she obsesses over it and she goes through the five stages of grief throughout the movie. You know, denial and sadness and anger and well, you get the idea. The only way that she thinks she could get over her obsession is to reinvent herself and who does she go to for help?

Wesley Rush, of course.

Wesley needs help passing science so they agree on a swap (after Bianca asks in Monster voice, ha!) of services and the movie really takes off.

I really enjoyed the movie. I thought it was cute and fun and every single kid that I took to see this movie agreed with me. They loved it. They thought it was hilarious and immediately after the movie, they were trying to figure out who the DUFFs were in their circle of friends. They all wanted to be the DUFFs too, which I thought was funny.

The casting of the characters was pretty great, IMO. I adored Robbie Amell as Wesley Rush (and so did every single girl that went to see the movie with me) and I thought that Mae Whitman was a great Bianca. Madison was a new character (not from the book) and she was a great villain because I wanted to punch her every time she released a video that embarrassed Bianca and I wanted Bianca to punch her every ten minutes (at least). Ken Jeong and Romany Malco had me cracking up every time they came on screen and overall, it was just a fun movie.

My favorite scene in the movie was probably the scene where Bianca shows Wes her Think Rock. That whole scene had me cracking up because, well it’s a good scene. You’ll just have to take my word for it..until you watch the movie yourself. :)

I will definitely be getting this movie on DVD and I’ll probably watch this one every time it comes on cable.

Grade 4 out of 5

Movie Trailer

This movie was released by CBS Films. I bought my own ticket to see this movie in the theater with my kids.

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Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Posted March 3, 2015 by Rowena in Reviews | 3 Comments

Rowena’s review of The DUFF by Kody Keplinger.

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

I read this book right before the movie came out in theaters because, well, that’s just something that I like to do. I finished the book and thought it was pretty good. The difference between the movie and the book was that the movie focused more on the label DUFF than I thought the book did. The book, to me, was more of a contemporary YA romance between Wes Rush and Bianca Piper and that’s fine. I enjoyed their romance.

So this book follows Bianca Piper as she tries to deal with problems at home. Mainly, her Mom being away for a long time and her Dad struggling with trying to stay sober when the love of his life (her Mom) wants a divorce. Bianca isn’t equipped to deal with her Dad’s alcohol issues and what she feels at first as her Mom’s abandonment so to escape her problems, she jumps into a f*ck buddy relationship with the school man-slut, Wesley Rush. The guy that called her, The DUFF.

I call it a f*ck buddy relationship and not a friends with benefits relationship because Bianca HATES Wes. She hates that he’s a man-whore and she hates pretty much everything about him but when she kisses him and then continues to kiss him and then sex him, it allows her to escape everything that waits for her at home. So she does him every chance that she can and in between all of the sex (there’s a lot of sex in this contemporary YA book), they get to know each other and as much as Bianca wants to fight it, she develops feelings for Wesley and that screws her all up because her real crush, the guy that she absolutely loves? Toby Tucker? Yeah, he starts showing interest in her.

For a DUFF, she sure did get a lot of action in this book. Ha.

This book was well written and it was mature (what with all of the casual sex being had throughout the book) but still a lot of fun. Bianca was a great main character with a very likable voice (even when she was getting on my nerves) and I thought that Wes was a total dick but he completely grew on me as the story wore on. It was a quick read and it was a lot of fun too. I liked it but if you watched the movie and want to read the book, don’t expect the same story because you aren’t going to get it.

Grade: 4 out of 5

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

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Redeux: Fifty Shades of Grey is Not Romance

Posted February 15, 2015 by Holly in Book Confessions, Holly Says, Rants | 18 Comments

This post* was originally published in 2012. With the movie releasing this weekend, it seemed appropriate to dust it off and repost it. I have not yet seen the movie. Truthfully, I’m not sure I will. I did read all three books, however. These are my thoughts once I finished them.

It seems everyone is talking about Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. Whether you read it or didn’t, loved it or hated it, I bet you’ve either talked about it with someone or read about it somewhere. Maybe you only heard the title mentioned and know nothing else about it. Or maybe you’ve read it 18 times and can recite it line-by-line. Whatever the case, it’s out there.

First, let’s just get this out of the way: I read all three of these books in a day and a half. As soon as I finished the first one, I bought the second. Likewise with the third. I paid $9.99 PER BOOK for digital copies. It’s possible I was drunk at the time (or should have been). Especially while reading the third. That was just a big ball of WTF rolled up in 500-something pages.

There’s been a lot of criticism on many fronts for this trilogy. I’m not going to touch on the fanfic aspects, because frankly I know nothing about fanfic and I’d only come off sounding like a moron (if you’re interested, author Kate Davies posted an interesting piece about fanfic and Dear Author did an entire series about it) . I’m also not going to address the “mommy porn” label that’s been ascribed to these books. The term makes my head want to explode and I have too much to live for. I will say that “mommy porn” is insulting and it makes me want to punch someone in the junk (because I’m sure a man came up with that).

I would like to address two misconceptions that bother me greatly about this series.

1. This is a romance novel.

I disagree. While there are many similarities, what keeps this from being a romance in my book is the nature of the relationship between Christian and Ana, the main protagonists. Yes, it has many of the same tropes we find in romance: Billionaire, Tortured Alpha Hero becomes intrigued with Virginal, Malleable Heroine. She thinks she can save him and he only wants her for sex – but then becomes intrigued by her and decides he wants to keep her. On his terms, of course. Which she, naturally, doesn’t agree to. Much angst ensues. Until finally, Happily Ever After (complete with rainbows and unicorns a meadow full of wildflowers and mention of tasting breastmilk).

I know what you’re saying to yourself. You’re saying OMFG what do you MEAN tasting breastmilk??? “Gee, Holly, this sounds an awful lot like a romance novel to me.” And yes, I know on the surface it seems that way. But the truth is, at its core, this is a book about a sad, troubled man who tends toward being abusive and the woman who enables him in being this way.

After reading this trilogy I wanted to write a post titled Why Stalking Is Not OK. Actually, I still kind of want to write that post. But for now I’ll just say it here. Stalking Is Not OK.

I know some novels in recent years have glorified stalking. Most notably for me – probably because it’s marketed to young adults – is the Twilight franchise. But Edward sneaking into Bella’s room to watch her sleep without her knowing was nothing compared to this.

Let me outline a few examples for you.

A. Ana drunk dials Christian one night and he freaks out over the fact that she’s drunk and demands to know where she is. She hangs up on him. 15 minutes later he shows up at the bar. When questioned, he reveals he tracked her cell phone to find out where she was.

“How did you find me?”
“I tracked your cell phone, Anastasia.”
Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind. (Grey p.57)

B.  Christian sends Ana gifts to and drives her home.  Only, she never mentioned where she lives, so how did he know?

“He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live – yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter-owning stalker wouldn’t.” (Grey p.74)

C. He returns unexpectedly from a trip because she meets a friend for a drink instead of going straight home. Yes, he actually cancels a business trip because she met a friend. He specifically told her to go home and when she didn’t, he rushed home to spank scold her.

D. Despite having only known him for a few weeks, he knows her social security and bank account numbers. And he accesses them without her permission.

Now, Ana does call Christian out for his behavior. But she does it in a way that says she doesn’t think it’s a very big deal. Personally I would have stabbed him in the throat called the cops the very first time he said he used my cell phone to track my whereabouts 5 days after I met him. But that’s just me. Ana sort of laughs off most of the things he does. If she does become angry and points it out to him, he apologizes and she forgives him. And then he does it again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

As I was reading, I kept wondering in what world it’s ok to do the things he did. Were we, the readers, supposed to accept his behavior because Ana did? Or perhaps I was supposed to accept his behavior because he was just a sad little boy on the inside? One who was “Fifty shades of fucked-up” from the emotional and physical abuse he suffered as a child? Because that doesn’t work for me. Honestly, that just freaks me out even more. An unbalanced, self-proclaimed “fucked-up” guy is stalking me at my place of work, knows every detail about my life and follows me around town without my knowledge or permission? I don’t laugh it off and say “now, now, be a good boy”. I run screaming in the opposite direction.

2. This is a healthy, loving relationship.

No. This is a sad, destructive, abusive relationship. Over the course of the three novels it becomes slightly less destructive and abusive, but only slightly. When I finished the third book I did so with a heavy heart and a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, they are eminently readable. But they’re also depressing as hell.

The mind games and emotional bullying Christian indulges in to get his way; The fact that Ana seems more like a victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome than a woman in a healthy, loving relationship. These are textbook signs of an abusive relationship. Cutting her off from her friends unless he’s with her or can control the environment she meets with them in, following her on a trip to see her mother even though she expressly asked for time alone to digest things, having her followed and spied on, buying her a computer and a Blackberry and a car, so he can get in touch with her whenever he wants, ordering for her and steamrolling her when she complains:

“Two glasses of the Pinot Grigio,” Christian says with a voice of authority. I purse my lips, exasperated.
“What?” he snaps.
“I wanted a Diet Coke,” I whisper.
His gray eyes narrow and he shakes his head.
“The Pinot Grigio here’s a decent wine. It will go well with the meal, whatever we get,” he says patiently.
“Whatever we get?”
“Yes.” He smiles his dazzling head-cocked-to-one-side smile, and my stomach pole vaults over my spleen. I can’t help but reflect his glorious smile back at him.

These are not signs of a healthy relationship. That Ana tolerated this behavior – and even excused it, or worse, came to enjoy it – does not make it okay.

I think the worst part, however, is the way he casually dismisses her feelings. Especially in the beginning when it comes to being a submissive. The first time he spanks her, she’s very upset afterward. She tells him she felt demeaned and abused. His response?

So you felt demeaned, debased, abused & assaulted – how very Tess Durbeyfield of you. I believe it was you who decided on the debasement, if I remember correctly. Do you really feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this: Two very different things. If that is how you feel, do you think you could just try and embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me? That’s what a submissive would do.

And naturally, she’s thrilled he thinks of himself as hers, and brushes aside the fact that he’s told her to get over her feelings and let him humiliate and debase her.

As the series continues, Ana learns to stand up for herself a bit more and Christian learns to give in to her occasionally – oh wait, no. That didn’t actually happen. The author told us that’s what happened, but the actions of the characters didn’t change a whit.  Christian still ordered Ana about, cutting her off from her friends and managing her life whether she liked it or not. And she let him.

This does not a romance novel make.

Are these books very readable? Yes. Are they enjoyable? I would say no, but I think that depends on the individual person reading them. Are they romance novels? Not even a little bit.

Fifty Shades of Grey is not a romance.

*I made some minor editorial changes to the revised post

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Review: Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols

Posted January 19, 2015 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

perfect couple
Rowena’s review of Perfect Couple (Superlatives #2) by Jennifer Echols.

Perfect Couple is #2 in the Superlatives series about seniors at a Florida high school who are selected for their class’s superlative categories in the yearbook, and how the labels change the way they view themselves and alter the course of their lives.

Can your heart be put to a popular vote?

As yearbook photographer, Harper is responsible for capturing those candid moments that make high school memorable. But her own life is anything but picture perfect. Her parents’ bitter divorce has left her wondering what a loving relationship would look like. And ever since the senior class voted her and star quarterback Brody the “Perfect Couple That Never Was,” her friends have been on her case to ask Brody out.

Brody doesn’t lack in female admirers, but Harper can’t see herself with him. He seems confused about why they were matched together, too. They’re total opposites—the last people in the world who would ever be compatible, let alone the “perfect couple.” Yet ever since the class paired the two of them, they’ve found themselves drawn together–first by curiosity, then by an undeniable bond.

The trouble is, though they’re very attracted to each other and both of them admit this, they have a hard time getting along or even communicating clearly. If they’re the perfect couple, this shouldn’t be so difficult! Soon it becomes clear their class was wrong, and they throw in the towel. But after they walk away, both of them feel so changed from making the effort that they can’t forget each other. What if that means this match made in hell is the perfect couple after all?

This is the second book in the Superlatives series. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read the book or not but requested it, just in case I did. It took me a while but I finally got this one read and all I can say is that I’m glad I did because it was such a super cute read and the perfect read to pick up after being knee deep in paranormal romances.

Harper is Tia’s (from Book 1) friend and Brody Larson is the starting Quarterback for their school football team. The senior class voted Harper and Brody, the Perfect Couple that Never Was. Harper is shocked since she has absolutely nothing in common with him. He’s sociable and an athlete and she’s a photographer who would rather spend her time alone but none of that matters when she’s by herself with her huge crush on him. He doesn’t see her like that because he’s with the beautiful and blonde Grace but when the more they talk, the more interested they are in each other.

This was a quick read about two high school seniors that weren’t meant to be together until they were together. I thought it was such a cute story and if I had a complaint about the book it would have been I wish we had gotten inside Brody’s head. We only get Harper’s POV and I think the story would have benefited more from dual perspectives. Oh, well.

The book was still cute. Harper was a great heroine who acted the way a normal teenager would act. She was strong and when she decides that she’s had enough with letting others dictate her life, she becomes even more awesome. I loved the person that she was with Brody. She starts off really shy around him and Echols did a great job of showcasing the growth of their relationship. They didn’t jump into a relationship right after it was announced that they were the perfect couple that never was. Their relationship grew over time and it was genuine and real. I ate it all up.

Brody was a great love interest. I loved that when things got hard, he didn’t let Harper off the hook. He didn’t let her walk all over him. He made her make a decision and I liked that. I liked that Harper didn’t let up on herself as well. She knew when she made mistakes and she apologized when she was being an idiot. You certainly see the growth that both characters go through with this book and really, I just had fun with this whole book.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series. I hope Kaye gets that giant stick out of her butt where Sawyer is concerned and I hope that he finally mans up and goes after what he really wants. I liked them as characters and am pretty anxious for their story. It was good to see the gang back together again and to see Tia and Will doing well together. I liked their book and really enjoyed this book as well. I have every faith that I’m going to enjoy the heck out of Most Likely to Succeed. I think fans of Jennifer Echols will find this new addition to her back list a delight. I definitely recommend.

Grade: 4 out of 5

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

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Review: Fall Into Me by Linda Winfree

Posted January 15, 2015 by Holly in Reviews | 9 Comments

Review: Fall Into Me by Linda WinfreeReviewer: Holly
Fall Into Me by Linda Winfree
Series: Hearts of the South #7
Published by Samhain Publishing on November 1st 2009
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 274
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble

She's finally falling for the right the worst possible time. A part of the Hearts of the South series.

After two back-to-back romantic disappointments, bar owner Angel Henderson isn't looking for love. In the past month, she's been passed over twice by men she'd pinned her hopes on, both times in favor of a younger woman. She's ready to swear off men for life. The only problem? A certain younger man determined to prove he can be her right man.

Sheriff's deputy Troy Lee Farr is tired of being the department screw-up. The harder he tries to prove himself, the worse it gets. The only thing that's gone right recently is getting a second chance with Angel. Except she'd rather jam on the brakes than rush into a new relationship. Now he has to work hard to prove his worth as a romantic prospect.

Troy Lee is a patient man, and it isn't long before Angel is falling into him as hard as he's fallen for her. Just as Angel begins to think of him as more than a fun date, her past-and Troy's dangerous reality-threatens the tentative happiness they've found in one another. Reminding them both that security is tenuous...and unconditional love is the biggest challenge of all.

Warning: Cops who talk like cops, explicit older woman-younger man lovin', and two-boxes-of-tissues emotion.

This is book 7 in the Hearts of the South series. I don’t believe it’s necessary to read all 6 previous entries, I do think reading Hearts Awakened, the release immediately prior to this one, is a good idea. There are chapters in this book from the characters in that one and some of the plot threads carry over.

This is my favorite Hearts of the South series novel. When I read it the first time the ending frustrated me so much I didn’t give it the love it deserves. Troy Lee is amazing. I absolutely adore him and his relationship with Angel. I’ve now read a million times – and each time I fall even more in love with Troy Lee. The end still makes me very angry, but if I skip the epilogue and ignore the way Tick acted for most of the book, I could happily label this book (almost) perfect.

I’m a huge fan of Linda Winfree’s Hearts of the South series. When I first started reading Fall Into Me I had serious doubts, however, because it features two elements I generally don’t care for. 1) Angel is older than Troy Lee. 2) Angel had a one night stand with the hero of the previous book. I was also concerned because Troy Lee was shown as kind of a bumbling kid in one of the previous books. I wasn’t sure how Winfree was going to make this work, but she did. Luckily the younger man angle was only looked at casually and not the focus of the entire book.

Angel has been very unlucky in love. Her fiance of too many years goes on a trip to Biloxi and comes home with a bride. Yes, he’s gone for a week and comes home married to another woman. A woman he’d just met. Then she has a one night stand with deputy Mark Cook that she thinks might go somewhere. Instead she hears from someone else that he’s got a brand new girlfriend. Determined to forget all about men, she focuses on work. Until Troy Lee Farr shows up, that is.

Troy Lee has had his eye on Angel for years. He figured if he waited long enough her fiance would screw things up and he’d have a shot. He didn’t see his co-worker getting to Angel first, but now that she’s single wastes no time pursuing her. Angel is wary, he knows he has to romance her slowly.

I loved Troy Lee Farr. Seriously loved him. He was…perfect. And not perfect in a you’re-so-perfect-you’re-annoying kind of way, either. Just..perfect. He’s strong, funny, smart, sensitive and not afraid to put himself out there. Angel is having a really hard time moving into another relationship, but Troy Lee is patient and understanding. He doesn’t push her to move too fast, he just asks her to believe one second at a time:

When he lifted his head, she clung to his shoulders, both of them breathing hard. He cradled her cheek in one palm. “I’m not asking you to believe now. I know it’s too soon for that, after…well, after everything. If you can believe just for this second, then for the one after that, and after that, soon you’re believing in me, in us, all the while. Think you can handle that? This second?”
She smiled, desire pulling at her again. “I can do that.”
An answering smile flirted with his mouth. He kissed her. “What about this one?”
“I can do that too.”
He lowered his mouth to hers again. “How about this one?”

When a huge complication pops up with Angel, he’s understanding and supportive. If Angel had been stupid enough to turn away from him (which thankfully she wasn’t) I would have scooped him up myself. He was the definition of what every man should be.

I really liked Angel, too. Yes, she’d had bad luck in love. And yes, she was somewhat cynical about it. But she had a great sense of humor and really worked hard to get over her hurt.

“Are you still running that bar?” Maureen’s voice dropped to a shocked whisper on the last word and Hope rolled her eyes, working the pick through Maureen’s thick hair.
“The Cue Club? Yes, ma’am, I am.” Angel leaned forward with her best devilish wink. “But I’m thinking of changing the name to the Den of Iniquity and getting some exotic dancers. You know, strippers.”
Miss Maureen’s eyes widened, pencil-thin brows nearly reaching the salt and pepper curls falling onto her forehead.
“She’s just teasing, Maureen.” Mama waved a dismissive hand.


She didn’t let her past mistakes ruin her relationship with Troy Lee. Well, okay, she tried not to let them. She had a lot of baggage to deal with, but she didn’t run from him or try to push him away. She dealt, one second at a time:

His intense blue gaze held hers, willing her to believe. She pulled in a shaky breath. Each second, he’d said. This second, then another, then another, until she believed all the time. She closed her eyes. She wanted to trust in him, in them. Why did it have to be so darn hard?
Using his hold on her wrist, he drew her closer, leaned down to rest his cheek against hers. “I’m yours,” he murmured near her ear. “You have me. Believe that, baby.”
She nodded and slipped her arms about his neck, holding on hard. “I’m trying.”
“I know.” He rested a hand against her spine, dropped a kiss on the curve of her shoulder. “One second at a time, Angel. We have all the time you need.”

I really loved how they worked together, leaned on and supported one another. When Troy Lee was stressed over work he turned to Angel. When Angel was having a bad day, she turned to Troy Lee. And when she has a major problem they work on it together. That’s not to say they didn’t have problems – with both of them being stubborn and independent they were bound to. But they fought for each other. I do think Troy Lee put more into the relationship than Angel did, especially in the beginning. He didn’t let her get away with anything.

She paused and met his gaze straight on. “You should be seeing someone your own age, Troy Lee.”
“Please don’t start that bullshit again. It’s not the issue and you know it.”
“Really. What, pray tell, is the issue?”
“We’ve been out one time and already you’re looking for me to cut and run.” He shook his head. “You’re doing it again. Speeding ahead, looking for where you think you’re going, instead of seeing what’s along the way. You gotta learn to slow down and enjoy the ride, Angel.”

He was definitely the stronger of the two. But Angel didn’t disappoint me. She had some stuff to work through, and I saw major growth from her. Despite her being in her 30’s, she read as kind of immature in the beginning. That wasn’t the case by the end. Plus, once she committed to Troy Lee, that was it. She was all in.

Angel blinked hard and bit her lip, trying to stop the quivering of her chin. “I feel like I’ve waited my whole life for him, waited to get to this point where I could appreciate and value him most.”

Despite my love of Troy Lee and Angel, I did have some issues with this book. Some major ones.

First: Tick Calvert. Tick got his HEA in Hold On To Me. He was tortured and brooding in his book, but was reformed by the love of a good – oh, wait, no he wasn’t. Because Tick is an even bigger jerk now than he was when he was being “tortured” in his book. He was an asshole, plain and simple. He was dealing with a lot of stress in his life, but the way he took it out on Troy Lee was ridiculously petty and mean. He wasn’t hard on him because he saw potential and wanted Troy Lee to be the best he could be. He was hard on him because he didn’t like not being in control of other elements of his life. That’s makes him an asshole. Which annoys me because I really liked him prior to the last two books in this series (this one and Hearts Awakened).

My second issue is a big one, one that came close to ruining the story for me. The main conflict that arises between Troy Lee and Angel was resolved way too easily for my liking. I was really disappointed in the direction Winfree went.

I think I’m going to go ahead and talk about it.


spoiler alertShortly after she and Troy Lee start dating, Angel finds out she’s pregnant. Troy Lee stands beside her and tells her he’ll support her. He’s loving and kind and I just wanted to kiss him. But that isn’t the problem. The problem is, she doesn’t know whose baby it is. It could either be Mark Cook’s baby, Troy Lee’s coworker that she had a one night stand with, or her ex-fiance’s. Her ex wants nothing to do with it or her, and though Mark is willing to be supportive, he’s just started a new relationship and is afraid this will ruin it.

In the end, it is Mark’s baby. That was wrong on so many levels. First, that baby should have been calling Troy Lee daddy. Second, it was just too easy. No one had to suffer at all. Angel got a great man in her life and a great biological father for her baby. Tori accepted that Mark had gotten another woman pregnant even though she struggled throughout the book with jealousy over Angel (not to mention Mark lost a baby some time back and this was seen as a “fate” type thing). Even Tick, who was an asshole of extreme proportions throughout the entire book, just shrugged it off (as Tori’s brother he had reason to be upset that his sister’s new man had gotten another woman pregnant – even if he was best friends with said man). It was just too neat.

The third problem I have is related to the second: all the unprotected sex going on. Angel was a woman in her 30’s, and so were both the men who might possibly be the father of her baby. I get the author needed the conflict the situation created, but come on. Though I do have to give Winfree credit for writing a female character in this situation and not slut shaming her. Angel had concerns about how she’d be regarded when people found out she didn’t know who the father was, but Troy Lee was quick to put those feelings to rest. end spoiler

Those last two issues definitely hurt the story. I just can’t get over the easy resolution.

Despite that, however, I was really impressed with this entry. Troy Lee and Angel were spectacular together and Troy Lee is just…perfect (I know I keep saying that, but it’s true!). Because it had issues I couldn’t get over,I’m giving it a:

4.5 out of 5


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Books to Binge On: January 2015

Posted January 2, 2015 by Rowena in Books to Binge On | 7 Comments

BtBORowena: A new year is under way and there are still so many freaking books to look forward to buying. January promises a bunch of good ones too so I’m so freaking excited.

Like always, sorry not sorry? :)

1. I Was Here by Gayle Forman.

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

Rowena: I like Gayle Forman’s writing so it’s not surprising that I’m jumping on this one. I adore YA and NA books so I am definitely going to buy this one.

2. The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn.

Sir Richard Kenworthy has less than a month to find a bride. He knows he can’t be too picky, but when he sees Iris Smythe-Smith hiding behind her cello at her family’s infamous musicale, he thinks he might have struck gold. She’s the type of girl you don’t notice until the second—or third—look, but there’s something about her, something simmering under the surface, and he knows she’s the one.

Iris Smythe–Smith is used to being underestimated. With her pale hair and quiet, sly wit she tends to blend into the background, and she likes it that way. So when Richard Kenworthy demands an introduction, she is suspicious. He flirts, he charms, he gives every impression of a man falling in love, but she can’t quite believe it’s all true. When his proposal of marriage turns into a compromising position that forces the issue, she can’t help thinking that he’s hiding something . . . even as her heart tells her to say yes.

Rowena: It’s the last book in the Smythe-Smith quartet. Of course I’m buying it.

Holly: It’s Julia Quinn. Enough said.

3. Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols.

Perfect Couple is #2 in the Superlatives series about seniors at a Florida high school who are selected for their class’s superlative categories in the yearbook, and how the labels change the way they view themselves and alter the course of their lives.

Can your heart be put to a popular vote?

As yearbook photographer, Harper is responsible for capturing those candid moments that make high school memorable. But her own life is anything but picture perfect. Her parents’ bitter divorce has left her wondering what a loving relationship would look like. And ever since the senior class voted her and star quarterback Brody the “Perfect Couple That Never Was,” her friends have been on her case to ask Brody out.

Brody doesn’t lack in female admirers, but Harper can’t see herself with him. He seems confused about why they were matched together, too. They’re total opposites—the last people in the world who would ever be compatible, let alone the “perfect couple.” Yet ever since the class paired the two of them, they’ve found themselves drawn together–first by curiosity, then by an undeniable bond.

The trouble is, though they’re very attracted to each other and both of them admit this, they have a hard time getting along or even communicating clearly. If they’re the perfect couple, this shouldn’t be so difficult! Soon it becomes clear their class was wrong, and they throw in the towel. But after they walk away, both of them feel so changed from making the effort that they can’t forget each other. What if that means this match made in hell is the perfect couple after all?

Rowena: I read and enjoyed the first book in this series so I’m pretty stoked to read the second. I can’t wait to see what Echols has in store for Harper and Brody.

4. We Can Work it Out by Elizabeth Eulberg.

When Penny Lane started The Lonely Hearts Club, the goal was simple: to show that girls didn’t need to define themselves by how guys look at them, and didn’t have to value boyfriends over everything else. Penny thought she’d be an outcast for life…but then the club became far more popular than she ever imagined it would be.

But what happens when the girl who never thought she’d date a good guy suddenly finds herself dating a great one? She doesn’t need a boyfriend… but she wants it to work out with this particular boyfriend. And he wants it to work out with her.

Only, things keep getting in the way. Feelings keep getting hurt. Words keep getting misunderstood.

Penny Lane worked hard to declare her independence. Now she needs to figure out what to do with it — and how to balance what she wants with what everyone else wants. In We Can Work It Out, Elizabeth Eulberg returns to the world of her first novel, The Lonely Hearts Club, and gets to the heart of how hard relationships can be… and why they are sometimes worth all the drama and comedy they create.

Rowena: I read and adored the first book in this series so I’m excited to see what’s next for Penny. This book was a long time coming and I can’t wait to get my greedy paws on a copy.

5. Please Remain Calm (This is Not a Test #2) by Courtney Summers.

In this gripping sequel to THIS IS NOT A TEST, Rhys and Sloane are headed for a safe haven when they get separated along the way. Rhys is determined to reunite with Sloane until he discovers people who might need him more–people who offer him the closest he’ll get to everything he’s lost, if they can just hold on long enough.

Rhys thinks he has what it takes to survive and find the girl he lost, but in a world overrun by the dead, there are no guarantees and the next leg of his journey will test him in unimaginable ways …

Rowena: I like Courtney Summers stuff so this is going on my to be read list for 2015. It sounds like a good one.

6. No More Confessions (Confessions #3) by Louise Rozett.

ROSE ZARELLI is done confessing because ​confessions are for people who have done something wrong. ​And I haven’t done anything wrong. Here, I’ll prove it to you.

1) After my mother got that call, I “borrowed” her car. (Because you can’t steal your mother’s car, can you?) I don’t really remember driving downtown, but I do remember…

2) …getting past the bouncer at Dizzy’s (I mean, it’s his job to spot a fake ID, so that’s on him)…

​3) …and then later, telling my mother the truth about the bar but lying about how I got in. (A truth totally cancels out a lie, right?)

After all, what’s a little duplicity when finding Jamie Forta is the only thing that’s going to keep you from losing what’s left of your mind?

See? Junior year is off to a great start.

Rowena: I really like this series and I’m really looking forward to reading this book. What the heck happened to Jamie Forta?

7. Three Amazing Things about You by Jill Mansell.

Hallie has a secret. She’s in love. He’s perfect for her; he’s even single. But he’s out of bounds. And her friends aren’t going to help her because what they do know is that Hallie hasn’t got long to live.

Flo has a dilemma. She really likes Zander. But his scary sister won’t be even faintly amused if she thinks Zander and Flo are becoming friends – let alone anything more…

Tasha has a problem. Her new boyfriend is the adventurous type. And she’s afraid one of his adventures will go badly wrong.

THREE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT YOU begins as Hallie goes on a journey. She’s about to get a new heart. But whose heart is it?

Rowena: If Jill Mansell wrote it, I’m going to want to read it. On my TBB list this one goes.

8. Back to Before (Second Chances #1) by Tracy Solheim.

Chances Inlet, North Carolina, has an infamous power for second chances. But its charms are lost on the town’s favorite son—until she comes along…

When his father’s sudden death puts his family’s construction business in serious debt, architect Gavin McAlister is forced to put his dream career in New York on hold. Making matters worse, his fiancée calls it quits. Desperate to return to his big-city life, he discovers an opportunity to save his family, one that has him reluctantly starring in a home restoration TV show.

Former soap star Ginger Walsh hopes this job as a TV makeup artist will lead to better things. So far it’s only brought her to a hamlet full of people who don’t like her—except Gavin. After a wild night out leads to Ginger waking up in Gavin’s loft—and the rest of town talking—the two of them soon wonder if getting back to before is what they want. Because being in each other’s arms certainly feels like what they need…

Rowena: This one sounds like a good one. I’m sold.

9. Make it Last (Bowler University #3) by Megan Erickson.

After graduating from Bowler University, the last place Cam Ruiz ever expected to find himself is his hometown. A bad job as a bouncer and worry over his mom’s health make living in Paradise anything but. There’s only one thing that can make his return any harder—running into the only girl he’s ever loved.

Tate Ellison made a mistake when she was eighteen, one that cost her the best thing she’s ever had. She’s always hoped the regret of losing Cam would fade over time. Too bad it’s only grown. She took comfort in the fact she’d never have to face him again, so his presence in Paradise throws her for a loop.

The pull between them is instant and when the truth of what happened years ago tumbles out, they share a mind-blowing kiss…which leads to more. But the past has a way of repeating itself. When all the cards are on the table, Cam and Tate must decide what they are willing to do to make it last.

Rowena: I was intrigued by Cam in Book 1 of this series so I’m all over this one. I can’t wait to read it.

10. Catch a Falling Heiress (An American Heiress in London #3) by Laura Lee Guhrke.

She’s an American heiress. He’s a devilish earl. When these two collide, the sparks ignite a shocking scandal in USA Today bestselling author Laura Lee Guhrke’s unforgettable Victorian-era romance.

Linnet Holland wants nothing to do with fortune hunters. No, she’s determined to marry a man who loves her. But just as she’s about to accept the perfect marriage proposal from the man she wants, the rakish Earl of Featherstone interrupts and ruins everything, including her reputation, with his smoldering kiss.

Jack Featherstone knows all about Linnet’s “intended”, and he’s determined she won’t fall prey to that villain as other women have in the past. But when his attempt to save Linnet ruins her instead, he knows he has to make things right. So he sets out to win this golden beauty . . . and prove to her that being ruined by him was the best thing that could have happened to her.

Rowena: I read and enjoyed the other books in this series so I’m looking forward to digging into this one.

11. Unforgettable (Country Roads #4) by Shannon Richard.

One long, hot summer would never be enough…

Attorney Hannah Sterling lives a life she’s worked hard for. So when she unexpectedly inherits an inn, Hannah decides to take that long overdue holiday and settle her eccentric grandmother’s estate. She knew there would be challenges, but what’s hardest about returning to Mirabelle, Florida, is facing the man who gave her the most passionate summer of her life-and then broke her heart.

Nathanial Shepard never forgot the redheaded goddess who lit up his world and got away. Now that she’s home, Shep vows to make up for their years apart-and if the fire in her kiss is any indication, they’re well on their way. But when a devastating secret from their past threatens their future, Shep must fight to heal Hannah’s heart. Because this time, their love will truly be unforgettable…

Rowena: Shep’s book. Finally.

12. Falling from the Sky (Gravity #2) by Sarina Bowen.

She’s the woman he doesn’t remember meeting. He’s the man she can’t forget.

Bad boy Hank “Hazardous” Lazarus once had everything: a gorgeous girlfriend, a career as a freestyle snowboarder and a spot on the US Olympic team. Nine months ago, after a bad crash in the half pipe, he woke up in the hospital, unable to move his legs. Now he’s landed there again, but gravity is not the culprit. His family pressured him to try a groundbreaking treatment, but Hank self-medicated with a bottle of tequila instead.

Doctor Callie Anders has the courage to restart a patient’s heart with a thousand volts of electricity, yet she’s afraid to risk her own. So she doesn’t confess to her newest patient they they met just before the accident, an encounter that he doesn’t remember. Even as their friendship develops, she won’t admit that she regrets turning down his dinner invitation, or that her heart stutters every time those inked shoulders roll through the door of the therapy department.

With winter coming again, Hank needs a hand out from under the avalanche of his disappointments. If only Callie were brave enough to take the job.

Rowena: This woman won me over with her Ivy Years series so she’s got a new book coming out? I’m all over it.

Holly: I bought the first book in the series, but I haven’t read it yet. Still, like Rowena, Bowen won me over with her Ivy Years series, so I expect good things.

13. Playing Dirty (Bad Boys Undercover #1) by Helenkay Dimon.

As an elite Alliance agent—the joint undercover operation of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, and the CIA—Ford Decker lives for the adrenaline. But when he befriends sexy property manager Shay Alexander in hopes of finding her cousin, a known national security threat, Ford crosses the line, getting to know her better . . . in bed.

After being burned by her last relationship, Shay wants to take things slow. Yet she can’t keep her hands off the drop-dead gorgeous hottie who’s moved into her apartment building. So when Ford’s identity as an undercover agent is exposed, his betrayal cuts deep. Shay never wants to see him again, but Ford can’t let her go, not when her life is still in danger. He will sacrifice everything to protect her, then be prepared to walk away from the only woman he’s ever loved, even if it breaks him.

Rowena: I heart Helenkay Dimon. Of course this is on my to be bought list.

Holly: I heart HKD, too. Plus, I kind of love these betrayal plots. Don’t judge me.

14. Trade Me by Courtney Milan.

Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Technology. But when he makes an off-hand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.

To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.

But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart…but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.

Rowena: Courtney Milan wrote a contemporary romance? I didn’t even need to read the summary to decide on whether to read this or not but after having read it? DAMN, I WANT!

Holly: I didn’t realize CM was writing contemporary romance. The blurb really got me, too. I can’t wait to read this one.

15. Never Never by Colleen Hoover.

Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen. Complete strangers since this morning.
He’ll do anything to remember. She’ll do anything to forget.

Holly: I was really excited about this book, as I’m a fan of Hoover, until she made changes to it and decided to release it as a serial. Now I’m on the fence about buying it. I may just hold out until all the parts are available.

16. A Little on the Wild Side (Wild Thing, Book 3) by Robin Kaye.

A woman who gets what she wants…

Bianca Ferrari—ex-supermodel turned successful business woman—seems to have it all: beauty, brains and a career she loves. And she did it all by herself . . . through sheer force of will and ruthless determination. So when her life is suddenly turned upside down, it’s hard for her to admit that going it alone may not be an option…

A man who knows what she needs…

Sexy, rugged and down-to-earth, Trapper Kincaid has a knack for attracting all kinds of women—mostly the wrong kind. When he finds out that the exhaustingly independent and drop-dead gorgeous Bianca is in serious need of help, he knows he’s the man for the job. But Bianca isn’t going to make it easy…

Holly: I read some of Kaye’s early releases and enjoyed them. She kind of fell off my radar, but this looks good.

17. Contradictions (Woodfalls Girls, Book 3) by Tiffany King.

When everything starts spinning out of control . . .

Three years into college, Tressa Oliver’s life is a nonstop party. She’s skating by in her classes, and there’s no shortage of drinking, dancing, and general hell-raising. The only aspect that hasn’t been much fun: She can’t shake the toxic jerks that always seem to gravitate toward her.

It will take someone totally wrong . . .

Trent Lawson is the classic anti-bad boy: smart, boring, and way too serious. To a wild girl like Tressa, there’s no way in hell they’re compatible—especially since Trent seems to see straight through her defenses.

To set her right.

When a college prank goes terribly wrong, Tressa starts to suspect that her partying ways are leading nowhere fast. Now she has to turn to the last person she ever thought she’d ask for help—and quickly discovers that there’s more to Trent than meets the eye . . .

Holly: I liked the first book in the series and thought the second was just okay. I hope Tressa’s book is good.

18. Don’t Walk Away (DreamMakers, Book 3) by Vivian Arend and Elle Kennedy.

[summary of book]Dean Colter started DreamMakers to help others keep their love lives strong, but years before the love of his life walked out on him. He’s aware of the irony, but until Emma Lee shows up on his doorstep, getting a second chance at forever had never looked so possible.

Holly: This is such a cute series. I’m really looking forward to Dean’s book.

19. I Do! (Lovett Texas, Book 5) by Rachel Gibson.

In New York Times bestselling author Rachel Gibson’s newest novella, Vince Haven and Sadie Hollowell are headed to the altar, and all their friends are headed to Lovett, Texas, to join them for the party of the year.

But Becca Ramsey doesn’t have time for all that. Fresh out of beauty school, Becca’s all business … and the last thing she needs is bad boy Nate Parrish anywhere in her life.

In the past, Nate was trouble. He’s been trying to repair his reputation—heck, he’s even got just one girlfriend. The problem is, she isn’t Becca. Now Nate’s in a whole lot of hot water. He needs to get Becca from “I won’t” to “I do” … but how can he do that when she won’t even say “I might”?

Holly: I’m a fan of Gibson’s Lovett, Texas books. I’m not a big fan of her novellas. Some authors can do short stories really well (Meljean Brook, for example), but Gibson…eh, not so much. I’m going to buy this, but I’ll be going into it with low expectations.

20. Rise by Karina Bliss.

You have the ability to make controversial characters sympathetic. Maybe I just want to be understood.”

Acclaimed literary biographer Elizabeth Winston writes about long-dead heroes. So bad boy rock icon Zander Freedman couldn’t possibly tempt her to write his memoir. Except the man is a mass of fascinating contradictions – manipulative, honest, gifted, charismatic, morally ambiguous.

In short, everything she sought in a biography subject. When in her life will she get another chance to work with a living legend? But saying yes to one temptation soon leads to another.

Suddenly she’s having heated fantasies about her subject, fantasies this blue-eyed-devil is only too willing to stoke. She’d thought self-control was in her DNA, after all she grew up a minister’s daughter. She thought wrong.

Outside your comfort zone is the only place worth living…

Zander Freedman has been an outlier – many would say an outcast – for most of his life. But there’s no disaster he can’t overcome, from the break-up of his band to the fall-out on his reputation. His Resurrection Tour is shaping up to be his greatest triumph – if his golden voice holds out. Contracting a respected biographer is simply about creating more buzz; Elizabeth’s integrity the key to consolidating his legacy as one of rock’s greats.

All the damn woman has to do is write down what he tells her. Not make him think.

Or encourage the good guy struggling to get out. And certainly not to fall in love for the first time in his life.
Turns out he is scared of something – being known.

Rise – a redemption story of a rock star going straight(er) through the love of a good(ish) woman.

Holly: I loved What The Librarian Did. I’m so glad Bliss is continuing this series.

21. Bliss and the Art of Forever (Hope Springs, Book 4) by Alison Kent.

Now that she’s committed to leaving Hope Springs, she’s falling for the wrong man…but he just might give her all the right reasons to stay.

Two years after her husband’s death, kindergarten teacher Brooklyn Harvey is leaving Hope Springs for her in-laws’ vineyard in Italy—with no plans of coming back. That is, until she meets a disarmingly sexy biker-turned-chocolatier. He might be the man of her dreams, but he’s also the father of one of her students; as such, he’s strictly off-limits.

Callum Drake knows a good thing when he sees one, and he doesn’t want to let Brooklyn get away, even if his rival for her affection is the ghost of her dead husband. He’ll do whatever it takes to win her over, including making chocolates concocted just for her—chocolates that evoke memories of their time together. But can he create a second love bright enough to pull her, and her heart, out of living in the past?

Holly: I really like this series and I’m looking forward to the latest installment.

What books are you looking forward to in January?

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Review: Lead by Kylie Scott

Posted September 10, 2014 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Lead by Kylie ScottReviewer: Holly
Lead: Stage Dive 3 by Kylie Scott
Series: Stage Dive #3
Published by Macmillan Publishers Aus. on July 29th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, General
Pages: 255
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Stay up all night with the sexy rockers in Stage Dive, the epic rock star romance series from New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott, author of Lick and Play.
Lena is the only thing holding Jimmy back from total annihilation. But who will save her from him?
Lena Morrissey has had some lousy jobs in her time, but none of them compare to being the personal assistant to one of the rock world's biggest - and most egotistical - stars. As the lead singer of Stage Dive, Jimmy is used to having whatever he wants, whenever he wants it. But after a PR disaster landed him in rehab, it's Lena's job to keep him on the straight and narrow.
Lena's not willing to take any crap from the sexy rocker and is determined to keep their relationship completely professional, despite their sizzling chemistry.
But in the end, Jimmy always gets his way...

Jimmy spent most of his career as the lead singer of Stage Dive either drunk or high. Hell, he started long before the band did. After a meltdown that landed him in rehab, he’s determined to stay clean. To that end, the record label hired a “sobriety companion” for him. Someone who stays with him 24/7 to make sure he isn’t tempted to use again. 6 months and 4 companions later, he hasn’t managed to scare off Lena. Lena took the job with Jimmy because the money was good and it seemed like a challenge.

Things are fine until Mal’s (the band’s drummer) mother passes away and Jimmy is asked to speak at the funeral. He doesnt’ think he can do it and Lena ends up lending him emotional support in a way she never has before. They often bicker, but they never touch or open up to each other on a personal level. Jimmy’s breakdown before the funeral, the way he clings to her during and his upset when his mother shows up after break down barriers she didn’t even realize had been erected. Once those barriers come down, Lena finds herself becoming more and more attached to Jimmy.

When she realizes her professional feelings for him are long gone, she knows she needs to find new employment. There’s no way she can continue to work for him. Too bad Jimmy won’t let Lena leave. She’s gutsy, determined and refuses to take any of his crap. She’s also surprisingly supportive and easy to spend time with.  If Jimmy wasn’t so sure he was a complete loser who doesn’t deserve happiness, he just might want to keep her as his own. As it is, he’s determined to keep her as his companion. When she says she plans to quit, he has to pull out all the stops to get her stay.

He may not want to admit it, but he can’t let her go. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Jimmy. He wasn’t shown in the most flattering light (cough understatement cough) in the previous books. He’s jaded, angry and has no scruples. He slept with his brother’s girlfriend, trashed hotel rooms and compromised the band. I didn’t think he could come back from that. He ended up surprising me. He wasn’t a different or changed man in this book. He didn’t touch, talk or open up. He’s bitter and often makes snide remarks, but aside from that he’ keeps his emotions fully contained. Seeing him open up to Lena changed my perspective of him and softened him for me. I wanted to wrap him in bubble wrap and carry him around in my pocket.

“I lied. I cheated. I stole. I destroyed everything that meant anything to me and hurt everyone around me. I blacked out constantly, ODed twice, nearly died. What do you think that did to them … to the guys? Visiting me in the hospital, seeing me like that?” He looked everywhere but at me. A cold wind blew between us. “That’s the truth, that’s who I am. Don’t make excuses for me. I’m still the same moody selfish fuck I ever was, sober or not.”

It was good Scott didn’t gloss over his addiction or make it something that was magically better. It was a large part of the story because it was a large part of his life, but it didn’t consume the story. It was just something that had to be dealt with. I was surprised Lena admitted right out how she felt about Jimmy and her reasons for wanting to quit. It was kind of refreshing that it wasn’t a big secret. It was also frustrating at times, since I felt like she was humiliated on occasion. I really loved her. She supported and championed Jimmy, but didn’t take any crap from him while doing it. She saw him for what he was and called him out when he needed it.

“Throw one more thing, Jimmy, and I’ll shove my three-inch heel so far up your ass you’ll need a surgical team to extract it.” I glared up at him from behind my dark bangs. “Is that understood?” He scowled.

Jimmy’s determination to make her date so she’d fall in love with someone else was hilarious. Especially since he just ended up going with her to make sure everything went well.

“Where you taking her, Ben?” Mouth open, the bass player gave it some thought. “Ah, how about the sport’s bar? Allen’s?” “She doesn’t like sports and don’t be cheap. This is Lena, you gotta take her somewhere good. Relaxed, but good. Mood’s important.” Sweet baby Jesus. I sank lower in my seat. “Thank you for your concern, Jimmy. But Ben and I can discuss this later. In private.” “It’s all right. Let me think.” Ben scratched at his short beard. “How about the Japanese place we go to sometimes?” “No,” said Jimmy. “Not quite right.” “Well, where would you suggest?” asked Ben, amusement lighting his eyes. “Why don’t I book you a table at a place I know downtown?” “Done,” said Ben. “Thanks, Jim. Lena, I’m looking forward to our date on Saturday. Pick you up at eight.”

The entire book was surprisingly funny, considering how dark Jimmy was. Lena really lightened him up.

So what have you been thinking about?” “Your feelings,” he deadpanned, looking up from the magazine. I took a breath. “Jimmy, I’m impressed. You almost managed to say it in a normal voice this time.” “I practiced downstairs for a while.”

The progression of their relationship from employee/employer to friends to more was well done. I also really liked how Jimmy’s relationship with his brother, David, the lead guitarist for the band, progressed as well. There was some anger and resentment between them, but they hashed it out over the course of the novel and repaired their relationship. Overall this was a great read. Despite my hesitation in the beginning, I fell right into the book and stayed up all night to finish it.

4 out of 5


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Guest Review: Extreme Measures by Elisabeth Naughton

Posted August 12, 2014 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Extreme MeasuresJen’s review of Extreme Measures (Aegis Security #1) by Elisabeth Naughton

Being prepared for any scenario is the trademark of any good CIA operative, and Eve Wolfe is one of the best. But when her latest mission literally explodes in her face, she wakes up labeled a traitor and—even more surprising—in the custody of elite Aegis Security operative and ex-lover Zane Archer. Although she still secretly has feelings for Zane, he’s now demanding the one thing that she can’t give him: the truth.

When he caught her breaking the rules years ago, Zane let Eve walk away without an explanation. Now someone has not only sabotaged Aegis but also turned an American city into a war zone, and all signs point to Eve. Zane needs answers that can come only from Eve’s still-tempting lips, and he finally has the elusive operative right where he wants her—at his mercy.

The first book in bestselling author Elisabeth Naughton’s new steamy romantic suspense series brings a spy in from the cold…and sets her heart ablaze.

It’s always nice when a book for which you had no expectations turns out to be pretty good. That’s what happened for me with Extreme Measures.

Eve Wolfe is an elite CIA operative. When she almost gets killed on a mission gone wrong, she’s “rescued” by her old lover Zane Archer. I use the quotation marks because the only reason Zane was around to save her was because he was following her in order to exact his own revenge. Eve left him and sold out his team in the past, which resulted in the death of a hostage and a severe injury to Zane himself. He can’t forgive that betrayal, and he wants to make her suffer. Eve swears she’s innocent, though, and when other unknown parties start trying to kill them and both of them get branded national traitors, Zane realizes something more complicated is going on. Now he and Eve have to uncover the truth and decide whether they can ever trust each other again.

This is a fast paced, action packed story, as one might expect from a book about spies and secret ops. There are lots of twists as Zane and Eve try to figure out what the hell is going on. Who is out to get them and why? Who can they trust to help them, and who is trying to screw them? I also love these “private security agencies” that seem to be all over Romanceland. It’s utterly ridiculous that there would be so many agencies with limitless resources, gruff but caring bosses, connections in the highest levels of government, team members who are all the best of buds, etc. I know it’s crazy, but I don’t care! Zane’s employer Aegis seems like it’s full of great guys, and as this book is the first in a new series, you bet I’ll be checking out the future titles.

Eve is a bad ass agent. I always appreciate seeing a highly skilled, tough woman who can more than hold her own with the guys. She’s definitely got a sensitive side, though, and much of the tension in the story comes from her trying to handle her insecurities and fears. She loves Zane but just can’t see how she could be what he needs. It’s the kind of conflict we see so often in heroes–it is nice to see it in the heroine for a change. I really like her loyalty to Zane, too. At first he has to restrain her to keep her with him, but time and again she gets the chance to escape but sticks around for Zane. It was sweet and showed the depth of her feelings, which she herself didn’t even fully understand.

Zane is perhaps a little less complex than Eve, but he is enjoyable to read. When he basically kidnaps Eve at the start of the book, I wasn’t sure about him. Trigger warning: Zane is genuinely threatening to her at first. He has her tied up and drugged, and he is psychologically manipulative and physically threatening in an effort to try and get her to confess to her past betrayals. By the end of the book I fully believed this was an act and that he would never have actually hurt Eve, but at the start I didn’t know what to think. I like that once he figures out he can trust Eve, he goes all in. He wants to be with her and sticks by her even when it would be better for him to abandon her.

If you’re not a fan of spies, secret ops, or romantic suspense, this book isn’t going to convert you. But if those kind of things do appeal, I think Extreme Measures would entertain.

Grade: 3.75 out of 5

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


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Wendy Wax Discusses The House on Mermaid Point (+GIVEAWAY)

Posted July 3, 2014 by Rowena in Author Interviews, Giveaways, Guest Authors, Guest Blog | 8 Comments

author photo 2011 IMG_7757rc3

Wendy, thanks for joining us and sharing news of your new novel THE HOUSE ON MERMAID POINT.

So many readers are delighted to have a chance to be back with Maddie, Avery and Nicole, the characters you introduced in TEN BEACH ROAD a few years ago. Was it difficult to get back into their lives?

You know, I thought it would be. I was still so caught up in the fun of WHILE WE WERE WATCHING DOWNTON ABBEY and readers’ response to it, that I began to question whether I’d be feeling “at home” with the reassembled ensemble as I had when I wrote Ocean Beach. As it turned out, I found myself immediately at ease when I started that first chapter and looking forward to finding out how they would tackle the challenges I knew were coming. I know it helped that I had already spent time with them while writing my holiday novella, CHRISTMAS AT THE BEACH.

Has a lot changed for the women of TEN BEACH ROAD since OCEAN BEACH?

There have been some big life changes, but the characters are still friends, still taking things one renovation at a time. The case of “regulars” has gotten bigger as characters from the first book have become more involved from one book to the next and become known to readers. Mermaid Point becomes host to the entire Do Over cast and crew – some with small roles and others central to the plot. You’ll find everyone from Kyra, Dustin and Deirdre to Chase, Joe, Troy and everybody’s favorite, charming network executive Lisa Hogan, who once again claims the element of surprise as her ace in the hole.

For those who are just now discovering the novels these characters share, will you give us some background?

You bet. Readers first met Maddie, Nicole and Avery when the three were deeded ownership of Bella Flora, a crumbling historic home on Florida’s Pass-a-Grille Beach, in TEN BEACH ROAD. At that time, all they dared hope was that renovating and selling it would let them rebuild their lives and the bank accounts drained by a Ponzi scheme. They had no idea they’d end up living together for the next two summers, hammers in hand, starring in their own DIY reality television show, Do Over. Indeed, in their second book, OCEAN BEACH, the women – still in desperate straits financially — headed to Miami’s South Beach, with another project and cameras rolling to film their first season. In THE HOUSE ON MERMAID POINT, the show is about to make its on air debut even as they film their second season. This time they’re in the Florida Keys where they’re expected to turn Mermaid Point, the private island of aging, down on his luck rock legend William Hightower, into a bed-and-breakfast. Against his wishes, of course.

Rock ‘n roll and renovation? How did you arrive at that combo?

It started with again needing a character who, to begin with, could afford the sort of house that would make an interesting television setting. So I started thinking celebrity. Then, during my early research, I fell in love with the Florida Keys. I was headed to Key West when I was shown a private island in Islamorada that I just had to have. Then I needed a really high profile, extremely wealthy – at least at one time – mega star. Lots of musicians lived and partied in the Keys and before I knew it, I was thinking about some of my favorite bands and Southern rocker William “Wild Will” Hightower was born.

Who are some of your favorites?

The Allman Brothers, Lynrd Skynrd, Wet Willie…

It was a kick revisiting those times and walking down memory lane helped me imagine Hightower’s music being just as magical as that of the musicians I followed and the wild ride that is part of his past.

I may have had a bit too much fun with the musical memories called up during the writing, I actually ended up trying my hand at a ballad, Mermaid in you, one of the songs for which my mythical Hightower became famous. As part of the release of THE HOUSE ON MERMAID POINT, I touched base with two young musicians who are sons of a friend. Their group is the 10th Concession and they’re well known in the southeastern U.S. They looked at my lyrics, and while I was quickly demoted from writer to co-writer, they worked with me, created the music and now the song has been recorded. It had it’s live debut on June 30th and will be available as a free download. I hope you’ll check it out. Info is posted at

What’s next?

I am happily up to my neck in a new book. But I’m still debating so many different ideas that I don’t want to share too much yet. Lots keep changing. It is, however, set in Manhattan and at New York’s Lake George. More to come …as always, I’ll be sharing more book news on my site, on Facebook and other places. I hope everyone will visit with me in those spots. Also, appearances for and the latest about THE HOUSE ON MERMAID POINT will be shared online along with giveaways and other updates.

Thank you, Wendy.

Thank you! I appreciate being able to share THE HOUSE ON MERMAID POINT with you and visitors of your site.


There had been a time, many times actually, when William Hightower would have left rehab in a limo. That limo, sent by his record label, would have had tinted windows, a fully stocked bar, and an eager woman with long legs, big breasts, and a talented mouth perched on the back seat.
His release would have been celebratory and newsworthy with photographers and fans jostling each other outside the gates so that they could snap photos and scream his name as the limo sped by.

The articles and news stories would run for weeks after his release. Each would begin with pictures of him on a stage surrounded by a vast, undulating sea of enraptured fans. Back when the braid that hung down his back was darker than the night sky over a Florida swamp. When he’d swaggered across a stage as if he owned it. As if he were a real Seminole warrior and not a scared kid from a dusty no name town who had two drops of Native American to every gallon of Florida Cracker blood in his veins.

Back then the alcohol and drugs were just part of the gig. They hadn’t yet slowed his fingers or marred his voice, or eaten away the muscle and sinew that held him together, like termites gnawing on a wood shanty. The pain of watching his little brother leave their band, the aptly if offensively named Wasted Indian, in a hearse, hadn’t yet been carved into his face like a name slashed into a tree trunk. Back then the roar of the crowds had convinced him that he was alive. And destined to be young forever.

Today the car that whisked him away from rehab had not been sent by a record company and did not contain drugs, alcohol or a woman, eager or otherwise. It was a muddy brown BMW driven by his angry, tight jawed son whom he barely knew. The only one left from that once-vast sea, the only one bound by the obligation of blood.

“Thanks for picking me up,” Will said.

A grunt was his only answer. Which was perhaps more than he deserved.

“And for arranging my … stay.” It was as close as he could come to admitting that he, William Hightower, who had made and blown millions, couldn’t have afforded the month spent at Three Palms Whole Health Center, which practiced an holistic and adventure based approach to beating one’s demons. Not even if he’d wanted to go there.

There were no gates to drive through. No waiting press. No screaming fans. Just a clean modern building sandwiched between a lake where he’d paddled a kayak until his muscles burned and a pool where he’d numbed his mind and his body with lap after lap. He was leaving far fitter than he had arrived. Fitter than he’d been since he’d played his first gig at seventeen. He’d give the Three Palms folks one thing; they’d forced him to clean up his outside while they’d hammered away at his interior. As if there were anything left in there.

The hair that had once hung down his back barely brushed his shoulders; the glossy black was streaked with gray. His face, bruised and battered by 61 years of hard living was still dominated by a hatchet of a nose and high harsh cheekbones that the camera had once loved. His dark eyes were framed by a spider’s web of lines, but they were clearer than they’d ever been; allowing him to see the world around him as it really was; stark and unrelenting.

They drove south from the hermetically sealed town of Westin, Florida in silence, palm trees sliding by, bold blasts of tropical color climbing walls and snaking up tree trunks. The flat morning light was unforgiving, leaving only the stingiest triangles of shade.

In Florida City the turnpike emptied onto US-1 then onto the two-laned eighteen mile ribbon of asphalt that locals called ‘the stretch.’ It was here that the real world began to dissolve while paradise crooked its finger just ahead. Even on the crappiest day ‘the stretch’ could cause heart rates to slow, stress levels to drop, and brain synapses to fire less frantically. But today Will’s mind flitted at random as Tommy drove sedately, his eyes fixed straight ahead.
Despite the open windows the silence between them hung hot and heavy, stuffed with things that had never been forgiven and which Will sincerely hoped would never be discussed.

A chain link fence was all that held back the scrub and brush as they skirted the Everglades and crossed over the Monroe County Line. Will stole the occasional surreptitious glance at his son, who had inherited his size and coloring and who looked so much like the younger brother he’d been named for that it hurt to look at him. He thought about the boy’s mother, who’d been a casualty of the life they’d lived, too. So many people gone for no good reason.
From the top of the Jewfish Creek Bridge sun glinted off the impossibly turquoise water that flanked them and a warm salt breeze tinged the air and rifled Will’s hair. In Key Largo scuba and bait and tackle shops began to fly by. A strip mall sign promising Pilates in Paradise caught his eye.

The silence spooled out. Will’s eyelids grew heavy. He was close to nodding off when Tommy said, “I talked to the bank. Then I brought in a Realtor to look at Mermaid Point.”

Will’s eyes blinked open. This was what happened when you gave your only blood relative power of attorney. In case of emergency. Never thinking that you might be thrashing it out in rehab when they decided to declare one.

He’d bought the tea-table shaped key on a whim back in the early eighties when Key West had ceased being a place to hide out, kick back and chill. When cruise ships began to arrive and depart daily and crowds longing to be wild and eccentric planted a flag and declared Key West their capital of crazy. Everyone he cared about had fled. Will had only made it seventy-nine mile markers up US-1.

“I’m not interested in selling Mermaid Point.” Not his island. Not ever.

They were passing through Tavernier. Mariner’s Hospital and McDonald’s flashed by and then they were crossing Tavernier Creek. Soon they’d be on Upper Matecumbe, the third of Islamorada’s four keys.

Almost home.

“Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t sell the island without doing something about the house and the outbuildings,” his son said. “Not in the condition they’re in.”

It was Will’s turn to grunt. When he’d bought Mermaid Point it had been one of many homes Will owned. Now it was all he had left. All he wanted to do when he got there was stretch out in a chaise by the pool and zone the hell out. Which wouldn’t be anywhere near as easy without a drink or a joint in his hand.

At the moment he was trying not to think about how he was going to live the next week, let alone the rest of his life, without numbing up. He wasn’t sure his pool—or even the Atlantic Ocean, which his pool overlooked—were big enough to swim the number of laps it would take. He didn’t know if there were enough laps in this world to make the need to detach go away.

“The thing is if the house and grounds could be renovated it would make a great place for an island vacation or a corporate retreat. And you could keep the rooms rented out all the time — I mean you’re still a name. People would pay a fortune to come stay in a property owned and operated by William the Wild.” The tone was derisive. As if he were relating something that he didn’t understand but he knew to be true. “You could make a living as the ‘genial host’ of the Rock n Roll Bed and Breakfast. Or, I don’t know, maybe we should just call it the Wild House.”

“You’re joking.”

Will kept his voice even. He wasn’t even home yet. He was not going to get worked up. Hadn’t he just spent a month trying to learn how to stay calm and in control? “And it’s not like you’d ever get approval for a Bed & Breakfast. There’s an ordinance against them. And a moratorium on building.”

Tommy shook his head dismissively. “That’s just semantics and small town politics. And I never joke about money.” Of course, he didn’t. The kid was a damned Investment Banker with a calculator for a brain. If he didn’t look so much like a Hightower Will might have doubted the paternity test. “Unless you want to end up on the sofa sleeper in my living room? Or an old age home for former rock stars?”

Will crossed his arms over his chest and turned an eye on Tommy. He’d used this look to good effect with record people who’d wanted to turn him into some fancy boy crooner when he was a rocker through and through. And with fans who didn’t understand boundaries or personal space. “That won’t be happening.” If he’d earned anything in all the decades played out onstage, it was privacy. “There’s no way in hell I’m sharing my island or my home with strangers.” He shuddered when he thought of wide-eyed honeymoon couples or worse, sad-eyed retirees in the bedroom down the hall.

You didn’t own a slab of coral rock barely tied to land if you wanted strangers anywhere near you.

His son turned and looked at him. “Well, I’m afraid you don’t really have a choice. You don’t have enough money to live on without using your sole remaining asset one way or the other. You can sell Mermaid Point and the structures on it and live frugally for the rest of your life.” His tone indicated he didn’t believe William had the ability to do any such thing. As if he’d been born to wealth and hadn’t earned his fortune one damned song at a time. “Or you can renovate, play the host to anyone willing to spend the money, and at least keep a roof over your head.”

William’s throat was so parched he could barely swallow. He didn’t know how he’d made such an obscene amount of money and ended up with so little. Or how the son who despised him had come up with such a horrifying plan.

A drink would have smoothed things out. Would at least allow him to pretend he wasn’t a broke, recovering alcoholic. Slowly, he reached in his pocket and pulled out a tootsie roll pop. He unwrapped it carefully and placed it in his mouth as they passed Whale Harbor Marina. The Lor-e-lei whizzed by on his right. Pretty soon they’d see Bud n’ Mary’s Marina which would make him as good as home. He sucked on the thing in silence refusing — in a ridiculous test of will— to give in and bite into its chewy center like he wanted to.

Danielle, his favorite group leader at the facility, had given him a large bag of the pops as a going away present. Idly, he wondered why no one had ever invented a whiskey-flavored version with a shot of Jack Daniels in the center. Maybe that’s what he should do to get back on his feet. Invent an alcoholic version of the Tootsie Pop.

He turned his head to hide his smile, concentrating on the hard, sweet candy in his mouth. Maybe an alcoholic but sugar free version so all the poor alcoholics didn’t become diabetic on top of everything else. He crossed his arms on his chest and let his eyes skim over the familiar surroundings as he sucked on that candy shell.

He could tell by the position of the sun that sunset was only a few hours away. From Mermaid Point he could watch the sun rise over the Atlantic in the morning and see it set over the Gulf every night; both were sights he hadn’t gotten tired of seeing yet.

Back in the day he could have scribbled down a hit song on a napkin between sets in a bar. But that was then. Before he’d turned as old as the fucking hills and lost most everyone he’d ever cared about. This was now. And he was pretty certain that he didn’t have so much as half a melody hidden anywhere inside him.

Wendy Wax
A Berkley Trade Paperback Original/Fiction
On Sale 7-1-14/$15.00 ($17.00 Canada)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review: Unspoken by Jen Frederick

Posted February 21, 2014 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Rowena’s review of Unspoken (Woodlands #2) by Jen Frederick.

Whore. Slut. Typhoid Mary.

I’ve been called all these at Central College. One drunken night, one act of irresponsible behavior, and my reputation was ruined. Guys labeled me as easy and girls shied away. To cope, I stayed away from Central social life and away from Central men, so why is it that my new biology lab partner is so irresistible to me?

He’s everything I shouldn’t want. A former Marine involved in illegal fighting with a quick trigger temper and an easy smile for all the women. His fists aren’t the danger to me, though, it’s his charm. He’s sliding his way into my heart and I’m afraid that he’s going to be the one to break me.

Impulsive. Unthinking. Hot tempered.

I allow instinct to rule my behavior. If it feels good, do it, has been my motto because if I spend too much time thinking, I’ll begin to remember exactly where I came from. At Central College, I’ve got fighting and I’ve got women and I thought I was satisfied until I met her.

She’s everything I didn’t realize I wanted and the more time I spend with her, the more I want her. But she’s been hurt too much in the past and I don’t want to be the one to break her. I know I should walk away, but I just can’t.

I read the first book in the Woodlands book and found it enjoyable, but it didn’t knock me on my ass the way that I was expecting. The hero and heroine got on my nerves throughout most of the book and even though I ended up liking the book, it was the secondary characters in that book that sucked me in.

This book is Noah’s best friend Bo’s book. I was mighty intrigued by the guy that had Noah’s back no matter what in Undeclared. We didn’t get very much from Bo in Noah’s book but when I found out that he was featured in the second book, I was excited. I wanted more Bo. And holy cow did Jen Frederick give me more Bo.

I absolutely adored Bo. He wasn’t perfect. He had a quick temper, he was crude but getting to know him, I didn’t give a damn. He completely worked for me. His cocky demeanor, the way that he just kind of bulldozed his way into AM’s life, all of it worked for me. He was what he was and he made no apologies for it and I loved it. I loved the way that he was with his friends and I absolutely loved the way that he was with AM.

AM was a bit frustrating at times but for the most part, I understood where she was coming from. She was slow to trust and that was easy to understand, considering what she’d been through. She slept with one guy on the lacrosse team and then turned one down and all of a sudden, she’s fried socially for it all over campus. Rumors fly, reputations are tarnished and she kind of caved in on herself. She stopped hanging out on campus, she stopped going to campus unless she was going to class and what was surprising was that her best friend Ellie did the same thing.

What I really like about this series is the friendships we get to be a part of while we’re reading it. The guys at woodlands have a solid bond, a loyalty that I love but aside from that friendship, the girls are pretty solid friends too. I really liked Ellie in this book. The loyalty she showed to her best friend, the way that she was going to walk away from someone that she came to really like because he was associated with the people that hurt her friend solidified my love of her. Not a lot of people would make the kinds of choices that Ellie made for their friends and I really enjoyed the way that they cared for each other. They had each other’s backs and I really dug that.

The romance between Bo and AM breaks the steamy scale. It was hot and man did it make me cry. The lengths that Bo went to make the people who hurt AM pay made me all mushy inside and I just loved the hell out of him for it. This was a solid romance for me and I adored it. While there was some frustration on my part for AM and the way that she kind of took the abuse from everyone before Bo came into her life, I really came to like her. She was great for Bo and he was great for her. They made sense and I completely adored this story. It hit each of my love buttons so I couldn’t ask for a better reading experience.

Grade: 5 out of 5

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

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Review: Tethered by Meljean Brook

Posted December 24, 2013 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Holly‘s review of Tethered: The Further Adventures of Archimedes Fox and Captain Corsair (The Iron Seas, Book 2.5) by Meljean Brook

Surviving on the treacherous Iron Seas requires a heart of steel…but how can Yasmeen hope to survive when her heart has already been stolen by Archimedes Fox…?

Tethered along the south dock of Port Fallow, Captain Yasmeen Corsair’s magnificent new airship, Lady Nergüi, awaits its departure with adventurer and treasure-hunter Archimedes Fox. But this time, Yasmeen, a fearless mercenary who has always prided herself on a heart of steel, has reasons to worry when Miles Bilson, an acquaintance from Archimedes’ earlier smuggling days, sends an urgent message requesting help.

With a past marked by betrayal, Archimedes wonders what his former partner could want—other than revenge. Yasmeen fears that Bilson could threaten everything Archimedes holds dear. Though both Archimedes and Yasmeen love the exhilaration of veering wildly off course, neither is prepared for where there newest risk will take them…or what it might cost them.


This story had adventure, excitement, love and a full spectrum of emotion. I laughed, I cried, I was so angry I almost threw my Nook and my heart sighed, just a bit. And that was just in the first 30 pages.

We first met Yasmeen, Captain Corsair, in The Iron Duke, the first book in Brook’s Iron Seas series. She was the featured character in book two, Heart of Steel, where she fell in love with adventurer Archimedes Fox. This novella is a continuation of their story, which shows them after their happily-ever-after in HoS. Archimedes gets a visit from an old friend who wishes for his help rescuing his brother. Archimedes weighs the risks and decides against it…but is soon blackmailed into it. Neither Yasmeen nor Archimedes are anyone’s idea of a victim, but they play along while they figure out a way to stop their enemies.

Brook is one of the few authors I know who can write novellas just as well as full-length stories. There was no piece of this that felt rushed or disjointed. My only complaint was that it ended. If Brook decided to make a serial out of The Adventures of Archimedes Fox and Captain Corsair I wouldn’t complain.

A stellar read. I highly recommend it. Even to those who haven’t read the series.

4.5 out of 5

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

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Review: Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis

Posted December 19, 2013 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Holly‘s review of Forever and a Day (Chocoholics, Book 3) by Jill Shalvis


Grace never thought she’d be starting her life over from scratch. Losing everything has landed her in Lucky Harbor, working as a dog walker for overwhelmed ER doctor Josh Scott. But the day his nanny fails to show up, Grace goes from caring for Josh’s loveable mutt to caring for his rambunctious kids. Soon Grace is playing house with the sexy single dad…

With so many people depending on him, Josh has no time for anything outside of his clinic and family–until Grace arrives in town. Now this brainy blonde is turning his life inside out and giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “good bedside manner.” Josh and Grace don’t know if what they have can last. But in a town like Lucky Harbor, a lifetime of love starts with just one day…

It’s no secret that I love Shalvis. I think she writes fun contemporary romances with just the right blend of humor and emotion. But this, well, this is probably the best Shalvis I’ve read to date. As I was reading, I was reminded of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, with the dialogue and depth of emotion. Not to mention the humor.

Grace made a stop in Lucky Harbor after her life fell apart. One day she had a cush job at a well-known bank and the next she was jobless, homeless and there didn’t seem to be many prospects on the horizon. While she takes some time to figure out where to go next, she takes odd jobs around town. She also strikes up a friendship with two other women in Lucky Harbor, and they form an unlikely alliance as The Chocoholics. Then she sort of..fibs..her way into another job – dog walker for one  Dr. Josh Scott. Things don’t work out quite as planned, and he lets her go..then calls to hire her back. But this time as babysitter to his young son.

Josh has barely been keeping his head above water since he took over his father’s practice. When his parents died in an accident that crippled his sister, he stepped up and did what he had to do to provide for her and his son. But something’s gotta give..and Grace just might be the answer to his prayers. Too bad her stay in town is just temporary. Not that he wants to keep her for himself, of course, even if they do burn up the sheets. But she certainly has a way with his son, Toby, and Josh’s sister, Anna, and their wild dog, Tank.

Right from the beginning of the book I was sucked into Grace and Josh. They’re both struggling to figure out what to do with their lives. Josh wants to keep his father’s practice going, but not because he loves it. It’s more out of a sad kind of tribute and duty. His heart is in the ER. The hospital has offered to buy the practice, but he doesn’t want to make the wrong decision.

Grace was adopted into a family full of geniuses. She never felt like she fit in, but she’s been trying to tow the line and act like them, even if she isn’t one of them. She needs to find a high-powered job somewhere to make them proud. With the economy being what it is, opportunities are few and far between. While she hunts, she kind of gets labeled as the go-to girl for accounting help in town. Before she knows it she’s doing the books for pretty much all the businesses in town..and she loves it. Too bad that isn’t something her parents will look on as a great achievement, because more than anything she wants to prove herself to them. I thought this was pretty realistic for an adopted kid, especially one who is so different from the family she was brought into.

There’s quite a bit of depth and emotion in the way Josh and Grace deal with each other, but there’s a surprising amount of humor as well. I literally laughed out loud on several occasions. Especially when it came to Grace dealing with Josh’s son and dog.

Grace’s phone rang. A number she didn’t recognize.

“Grace Brooks?” came an unfamiliar voice in her ear.
“This is Serena, the nurse at Lucky Harbor Elementary. Toby’s not sick or hurt or anything.”
“But he fell in a mud puddle again…”

Since there was only a half hour left of school, Grace just took Toby home with her. She buckled him into his booster seat and slid him a look in the rearview mirror. “Do I want to know?”
“Camel flaunting,” he said very solemnly. “Me and Tommy needed to camel flaunt.”
This baffled her for a beat; then she had to laugh. “Camouflage?”
“Yes,” he said.
“For a battle.”

Toby was well-written and Anna, Josh’s wheelchair-bound sister, added a bit of drama to the story. It was great visiting Lucky Harbor again and getting to know Josh and Grace.

This is a sweet, lovely, funny, awesome read. I highly recommend it.

5 out of 5

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

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Guest Review: High Risk by Vivian Arend

Posted December 18, 2013 by Judith in Reviews | 0 Comments

High RiskJudith’s review of High Risk by Vivian Arend

LIFELINE: an elite search-and-rescue squad based out of Banff, Alberta. Specializing in high-risk rescue missions, this team goes wherever the job takes them…

Rebecca James was once revered for her devil-may-care attitude and backcountry survival skills. But ever since she lost her partner in a fatal accident, patches of her memory have been missing. And until she can recall those final, tragic moments before the accident, she can’t move on.

Since Marcus Landers was permanently injured during a mission, all his energies have been focused on his Lifeline team. When Becki—whom he had an intense affair with seven years ago—arrives in Banff, he’s inspired to reignite the spark they once had. Their mutual ardor slowly awakens Becki’s dormant, haunting memories.

New truths surface until Becki must at last confront her greatest fear. Remembering the past might mean a future without the man she loves.

This book was released in the first quarter of 2013 and is the first of a new series that takes readers into the Canadian Rockies where this search and rescue outfit attempt rescues that are almost impossible.  But this story with all its adventure and danger is really about two people who have been beaten down by occurrences that have upended their life.  For Marcus, the loss of a hand has seriously hampered his activity as a climber.  That’s to be expected.  But what hasn’t happened is a sense of acceptance of all that war has done to him and the loss of those he considered closer than brothers.  He made a choice to live even if it meant losing his hand.  His friend opted to die, but now Marcus is burdened with those memories and the frustration that seared him as his friend gave up.

Now Marcus is reunited with an old love, a woman he hasn’t seen for years and one he knew as a student climber preparing for a career as a  mountain rescue participant in Colorado.  Now she has suffered the loss of her own security, her sense of her vulnerability and the grieving over a climbing partner and lover has become overwhelming especially as she cannot remember how it all happened.   She has been cleared of all wrong doing but as snippets of that tragedy begin to reappear, her fears continue to grow.  Marcus is there as a support and they re-ignite their earlier affair.   Yet it just seems to become more and more traumatic as time goes on.

This is a story about strong people who are willing to train in order to bring others to safety.  They are willing to put themselves and their skills on the line, never becoming complacent about their training and abilities.  They know they have to be as sharp as a razor’s edge to meet the challenges.  Yet now Becky has been afflicted with an overwhelming fear and even though Marcus has agreed to re-train her and to help her over those panic attacks she is having now, just not remembering seems to keep her enslaved to her fear that somehow she caused the death of her partner and friend.

This is a story that will not give up its secrets easily.  The reader is going to have to slog through nearly to the end to get the complete story and it will be an emotional ride all the way through.  This first novel in the series sets up the scenario and relationship that is highlighted in the second book High Passion.  Yet each book is a stand alone read although I always think the reading experience become richer and more gratifying when all the books in a series are read in order.  This is a story that is also about the redemptive power of love and friendship, of the support that makes near miraculous recovery possible because of another’s belief in their friend.  As most of us know, there are times we all must rely on those important in our lives to believe “for” us when we are too stressed or tired or injured inwardly to believe in ourselves.  So it was with Marcus and Becky and it is the journey that they walk together that enriches them both and gives us such a good story.

I know this book has been around for several months, but I hope you will take the time to read a great story from a really terrific writer and enjoy it as much as I did.

I give it a rating of 4 out of 5

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

This title is available from Berkley.  You can buy it here or here in e-format.

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Anthology Review: Fire and Frost feat Meljean Brook, Carolyn Crane and Jessica Sims

Posted December 15, 2013 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Holly‘s review of Fire and Frost with stories by Meljean Brook, Carolyn Crane and Jessica Sims

From the authors who brought you Wild & Steamy come three all-new tales of lovers who create their own heat, even when they’re surrounded by ice…

This was a good collection of short stories. I’m familiar with Meljean Brook’s writing, as well as Carolyn Crane’s, but this was my first read by Jessica Sims. Though short, each story was well written and engaging.

 Speed Mating by Jessica Sims – Estrella may be going into heat, but she’s determined to remain in control. Just because she’s ovulating doesn’t mean she has to settle for just any man (or his beast). Her sexy alpha’s determined to find her a tiger to take care of her heat and father her child…but no one seems to look quite as good as the man in charge. Will giving in to her need for her alpha ruin her tenuous relationship with her clan or be a match made in heaven?

Estrella has always felt like an outsider. As the only liger in a tiger clan, she doesn’t fit in and feels the wariness of everyone deeply. She tries to keep to herself, but she can’t keep it quiet when she starts to go into heat. Not only does she need a male to help her burn it out, but this may be her only chance to have a baby..and she wants it, bad. What she doesn’t want is to be tied to an idiot male for the rest of her life. Sadly that seems to be all she can find…unless she looks at the alpha. But that isn’t a good idea…or is it?

This was a quick read. I liked that Estrella was determined to make her own future. No, she didn’t have control of going into heat, but she did have control over who she shared it with and she made the best of it. Some of the dates she went on made me laugh. It was obvious to me as the reader that the alpha was having a hard time not claiming her for himself, but she was clueless.

The only complaint I have is her plan at the end. I thought that was immature and not in keeping with her character. It didn’t ruin the story for me, it just made me shake my head.

A solid and engaging read.

3.75 out of 5

Conjuring Max by Carolyn Crane – The witches of the world ridiculed and rejected nerdy Veronica for trying to use newfangled computers to enhance old world spellcasting. Well, it’s 1984 now, and she’s perfected her spellcasting computer program. Hey, who needs friends when you can conjure virtually anything…or anybody? So when Veronica makes powerful new enemies, she conjures Max, a pitbull of a cop, to deal with the pesky hitmen who keep coming around. Maybe Veronica can finally get some peace and quiet so she can work on her computer. But tough-guy Max is in no mood to play lapdog to a gorgeous witch.

Veronica figured out how to complain technology and magic to conjure people and things from pictures. Basically, she scans a picture and the image comes to life. But it isn’t a copy of the’s the real deal. When she conjures Max, he comes with all his memories, baggage and natural protective instincts. The problem? He only lasts for 7 days before she has to conjure him again.

For months Max has been acting as Veronica’s bodyguard. He may disappear every 7 days, but he comes back with all the memories he made while with her. He sees past her tough exterior to the woman beneath and he’s fallen for her..big time. But he’s just a shell of himself and she isn’t interested…unless he’s more than that and she is…

Though short, I was really pulled into the story and became as attached to Max as Veronica did. Crane did a good job of creating a strong backstory for both characters. The action was good and kept the story moving forward.

I did struggle a bit with some of the deeper issues of conjuring a person. When either one would reference the future, it always niggled at the back of my mind that Max wasn’t really real. I also had a hard time with Veronica making decisions about Max without really thinking them through.

That aside, I enjoyed the story. The romance was believable and the characters solid. Plus, it was a kick being brought back to the 80’s..

3.75 out of 5

Wrecked by Meljean Brook – Elizabeth has spent the past five years running from her father; her father’s huntsman, Caius, has spent the past five years pursuing her. But when he finally catches up to her on an airship flying above Europe’s zombie-infested cities, Elizabeth discovers that Caius isn’t the only danger she has to fear—and now that he’s found her, Caius doesn’t intend to let her go…

Elizabeth thought she fell in love with Caius when he was her guard, but he betrays her and she realizes he was just his father’s henchmen after all. When he finally catches up to her, she’s surprised that he seems to want to help her. But can she really trust him? Or is he just determined to get her back to her father.

I love Brook’s Iron Seas series. This story is set in the same world.  Elizabeth is a strong, capable, independent heroine. She’s on the run from her father and knows how to take care of herself. I think her capability is especially noteworthy since she’s so young. Brook writes men I want to know in real life. Caius had a strong sense of right and wrong, but didn’t come off as pious or overbearing. I really enjoyed him.

My only complaint is the length. Though everything was wrapped up to my satisfaction, I wanted more time with them as a couple.

Though short, the story was engaging and well-written. Definitely my favorite of the three.

4 out of 5

This book is self-published. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

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Lightning Review: Spirit Bound by Christine Feehan

Posted December 5, 2013 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Holly‘s review of Spirit Bound (Sisters of the Heart, Book 2) by Christine Feehan

Lethal undercover agent Stefan Prakenskii knew a thousand ways to kills a man—and twice as many ways to pleasure a woman. That’s what made him look forward to his new mission: arrive in the coastal town of Sea Haven and insinuate himself in the life of an elusive beauty who had mysterious ties to his past, and a link to a dangerously seductive, and equally elusive master criminal who wanted only one thing: to possess her.

Judith Henderson was an artist on the rise—an ethereal, and haunted woman whose own picture-perfect beauty stirred the souls of two men who have made her their obsession. For years she has been waiting for someone to come and unlock the passion and fire within her—waiting for the right man to surrender it to. But only one man can survive her secrets, and the shadow she has cast over both their lives.

Feehan’s Drake Sisters series has long been a favorite. I try to re-read them at least once a year. When she announced she was writing a spin-off series I was elated. This is the second book in the new series. It had been awhile since I read the first book, Water Bound, and I’d forgotten some of the details. This one stands alone well.

Judith made a mistake as a young woman and fell in love with the wrong man. As a result her brother was tortured and killed. She’s carried around a lot of grief and guilt ever since. Stefan Prakenskii is a covert government agent who has been trying to get Judith’s ex-boyfriend. He believes she is the key to getting to him, so he goes to Sea Haven undercover hoping she’ll lead him closer to his target. Almost immediately Stefan realizes he wants Judith for himself, not because of some undercover operation. She’s slow to trust, but he’s determined to win her over.

I enjoy the way Feehan writes her heroes. They’re always alpha and often a bit over-bearing, but they love their women wholeheartedly. It’s hard not to love a man who wants nothing more than the happiness of his woman. Aside from the romance, which was done well, I really enjoyed the relationship Judith had with her sisters. Though they weren’t related by blood, they were true sisters of the heart. That came across well.

A very gripping novel. Not quite as good as the first, but still a stellar story. I really wish the 3rd book was out already.

4.25 out of 5

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

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