November 27, 2013

Book Review: Snowbound with the CEO by Shannon Stacey

I've seen 3 different books
with this cover... so far!
The Deal: Ever since she started to work for Adrian Blackstone as his assistant, Rachel Carter has had a crush on her boss. But she's also very aware that her job with his company - which specializes in renovating and preserving old buildings - is one in a million. So she has never acted on her feelings, and she doesn't even suspect that Adrian might feel the same way. 

But her does, Adrian likes Rachel, and he knows she's his work "soulmate" as they have similar  sensibilities and work ethic and both of them enjoy the work and the challenge  that those beautiful, old buildings represent. And both of them are prepared to keep things professional. 

Until they get stranded at a luxurious hotel - where they were hoping to make a pitch for their next big project - and decide to have a fling. 

Which gets complicated when they try to keep it professional at the office once they get back. 

My Thoughts: Snowbound with the CEO was a really fun novella. I thought it did a great job in establishing whom Adrian and Rachel were, and since they already knew each other and worked together, I could easily buy into the idea of them deciding to have a fling, rather than it being a case of insta-love, which almost never flies with me. 

The complications also made sense and I appreciated that they were born out of them trying to be TOO professional when they got back, rather than some silly, overly-emotional reason. 

All in all a very satisfying short story, and really nice for the holiday season without overplaying the Christmas theme. 

November 22, 2013

Speed Date: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Have I mentioned how much
I don't like this cover? Because I Don't
The Plot: After taking the fall for her alcoholic mother (who trashed her boyfriends' car), getting arrested and ultimately sent (or dragged) off to live with her Uncle Scott in a town outside Louisville, Beth isn't having the best start to her senior year, as she's forced to leave Noah and Isaiah - the only people she could rely on during the last few years - and move in with the Uncle who abandoned her once before and his hostile wife

There is also Ryan Stone, best high school pitcher in the State and Scott's next door neighbor... who also happened try to get Beth to give him her phone number a few days before, on a dare. Beth doesn't like jocks, she was badly burned by one before, and she doesn't like that, deep down, she kind of likes Ryan anyway.

Ryan has plenty on his plate too... his parents are fighting all the time since Ryan's older brother Mark came out to them at the beginning of summer, and their dad kicked him out; and now both mom and dad spend their time pressuring Ryan to do what they want - Mom wants him to return to his old girlfriend Gwen, never mind that she dumped him, Dad wants him to abandon everything that won't mean he'll turn Pro once he graduates high school, like college and his other talents. 

For Ryan, Beth is prickly and complicated and he wants to be with her, dare or no dare. 

First Date: All right... this set up is taking for freaking ever, but I got it. Ryan is a spineless wonder when it comes to his parents, Beth is a scared little girl acting tough. Gotcha. 

Second Date: I have to say that I like Lacy, but by GOD if I were her I would have slapped the crap out of boyfriend Chris long ago, he of the stupid dares and who never knows when to shut up. Also, Beth is acting dumb. Sure, give your drug addicted and alcoholic mother all your money and your trust, that's SO going to work out well, dumb ass. 

Third Date: Sigh, I can't help feeling like that was a) way too long, b) anticlimactic as hell, and c) kind of predictable and boring.

Relationship Status: It's best if we don't see each other for a while...

Okay, so, last year when I read Pushing the Limits, I really liked it, the way secrets were kept and the dual point of views that helped to keep things moving at a brisk pace even though the book was a bit on the long side.

In Dare You To, that dual voice just make everything so slow, as both Beth and Ryan kept going over the same stuff over and over and over in their heads.

Neither of them started well with me, Ryan with his stupid dares and his "I don't lose"; and Beth with her stringing Isaiah along, willfully blind and TSTL ways - for someone so "tough" she has an impressive lack of survival instinct. 

Ryan redeemed himself for the most part, but just barely. Beth, though? not really. Maybe I'm a bit hard on her but she made no sense to me. And there were plenty of ways to make her side of the story better, if it had explored her relationship with Scott and Lacy, for example, if they had shown more about Allison - Scott's wife - who goes from hating Beth to embracing her with no in between or character development whatsoever - if she had had a transformation that wasn't "Oh, I'll decide to behave different today."

So yeah, we won't be riding into the sunset together and I'm going to take a break before I tackle Isaiah's book Crash into You.

What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all).

If you want to join in or just read other speed date reviews, check out The Book Swarm

November 19, 2013

Book Review: First and Again by Jana Richards

At First Sight: After a bad divorce that left her broke and dealing with a surly teenager daughter, Bridget Grant is back in Paradise, North Dakota, the town she left at 18 swearing she would never go back.

Bridget always felt out of place in Paradise, while her mother and sister quickly made of it their home, and she's not happy to be back as a failure, working at her mother's bar and barely making ends meet. Worse of all, Jack Davison - the guy she loved but left behind - is back in Paradise as well.

Trying to give her daughter some incentive to behave, Bridget is forced to contact Jack and make a deal with him: he'll help him cater an important business lunch and he'll give her daughter riding lessons in return. And arrangement that no only brings them together, but also will force Bridget to face her fears after a reception gone wrong a couple of years before, which destroyed her business in San Francisco.

Jack doesn't really want to get tangled with Bridget again, not after the way she left him, but her daughter Rebecca needs his help, and she's really nice to his own daughter, Leslie, who has a disability, so he's willing to try to help Bridget out, as long as his heart doesn't get involved.

Second Glance: First and Again was a fun book to read, it was interesting seeing things from both Bridget and Jack's perspectives. Particularly regarding their kids, Jack love his daughter but he treats her like she's useless and helpless because he hasn't quite dealt with what having a disabled kid means. Bridget is so dead set to shield her daughter from her father's indifference that she has practically turned into a doormat for Rebecca to bent her anger on.

But when the four of them are together, they balance each other out so well. Bridget is convinced Leslie can do more and sees that the way Jack has been bringing her up is just making her very vulnerable in the real world. On the other hand, Jack can talk to Rebecca when they are tending to the horses, and indirectly helps her see that maybe her own father isn't so great since he never pays attention to her.

That's where the book shines, when it shows what a wonderful family these four would make.

The problem comes when dealing with the couple stuff. Jack is always perfectly willing to believe bad things about Bridget and Bridget never quite grows a spine to tell Jack or her ex what she really thinks.

And the ending is quite rushed. 

Bottom Line: First and Again is a fun read for the most part, though it's not perfect and could have used a little more development in the relationship department.

November 16, 2013

Book Review: Almost Mine by Lea Darragh

At First Sight: Cate and Nick have always been friends, and no matter what type of self-destructive behavior Cate indulged in, Nick was always there for her.

Even when she turned out pregnant and - not sure if the baby was his - he married her, determined to make a go of it, since he has always been in love with her.

But they struggle through the first few years of their marriage, as Cate isn't sure she can love Nick as he deserves and he eventually tires and starts to pull back, prompting Cate to realize how much she does love him... even as he decides it's time to let her go. 

Second Glance: Almost Mine is a bit hard to review. For one thing, I Really liked the IDEA of the story, of these two friends tossed together and forced to deal with their feelings for each other.

But the execution wasn't stellar.

Most of it because of the structure of the story. The first chapter opens with them already strangled and them having an awkward dinner, then it goes back to them and the events that lead them to marry and how their marriage became such a mess even if they are young and attractive and successful.

The trouble is that MOST of the book is spent there in this prolonged flash back, and you already know it's going to end bad and that they don't get together and that they are going to screw up, but there is absolutely no tension since we're being told everything after the fact.

There is no big reveal of mystery.

Then we go back to the present and everything that was wrong with them gets inconclusively solved in a couple of chapters. You never see them work it out, or what's different that this time they are going to work. It's just all magically fixed.  

Bottom Line: I didn't like Almost Mine, is not a terrible book but the style of it left a lot to be desire regarding the narrative structure. And it definitely needed more time to develop 

November 15, 2013

Book Review: The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

Okay, so I've been trying to write this review for almost two weeks, but somehow the worlds wouldn't come out or adhere to format, so I decided I'm just going to do another Free-Form review. 

The Sum of All Kisses start the week before Marcus and Honoria's wedding (from Just Like Heaven), where the whole Smythe-Smith Clan is gathered at Marcus' home in Cambridgeshire. Sarah, Honoria's best friend and one of her plentiful cousins is the designated maid of honor and she gets the dubious honor of keeping Hugh Prentice company during his stay. 

Which wouldn't be a problem, except that Sarah hates Hugh and blames him, among other things, for getting Honoria's brother Daniel exiled for three years, causing a huge scandal and ruining her own life. Hugh has never understood what her problem was, and the few interactions they have had during the last three years have been awkward, uncomfortable and hostile. 

But now they have to spend the week together, at Honoria's and Daniel's request, who are trying to show everyone that Hugh and Daniel have put the past behind them, even though neither Sarah nor Hugh is happy about it. 

Still, they spend the required time together and get to know each other a little better, particularly after Hugh shows Sarah a little kindness after a thoughtless remark from her cousin Iris sends her mind spinning and finally makes her question her motivations in life. 

Seeing Sarah with her family, particularly with her sisters, shows Hugh that her over-dramatic manner is just how she is with her large, loving group of siblings. Yes she is given to grandiose statements, and tact isn't her strongest suit, but she loves her sisters and her cousins and is actually pretty smart and funny. And the more he likes Sarah, the more aware Hugh is of his own limitations: his limp and ruined leg, which often make him feel like less of a man. 

The story follows them along as they go from Honoria's wedding to Daniel's, and how they have a little unorthodox courtship but fall in love none the less. And, for the most part, I liked this story, it was sweet and fluffy and the dialogue was amazing. I loved Frances - Sarah's youngest sister and the awesomest character of the book, honestly, who is unicorn obsessed - and her interactions with Hugh were really sweet. 

I was so rooting for this book and loving every second of it, and, deep down, I still think it was quite excellent... but then we get to the last quarter of the book... for which I'm entering spoiler territory, I'll try to keep it light, but never the less, high light if you wish to see. 

Okay, so in the last part of the book, Hugh is going to ask Sarah to marry him and then Daniel finds out and MAKES SUCH AN UNHOLY FUSS AND COMPLICATES EVERYTHING, and without a really valid, makes-sense reason. Hugh did something pretty extreme to get his father - who was the one who was pissed off about Daniel shooting Hugh, while Hugh understood he kind of brought it into himself - to stop trying to kill Daniel so he could finally come home. And Daniel is adamant that Hugh tells Sarah, for which I didn't see much of the point, it made me dislike Daniel and he wasn't my favorite character to begin with. 

Then we get to the villain: Hugh's father. He's so mean and evil that he seems almost out of place in a Julia Quinn novel! The things he does are despicable and dark, and when is revealed what he did to Hugh's brother Freddie? Well, I felt like I was reading a book by whole other author, someone who likes torturing her characters, not Julia Quinn. 

Other than that, the dialogue and the rest of the story are fun. I even grew to like Sarah and I didn't think I would because she was a bit of a whinny brat in the previous two books. But, sadly, a book that could have been love, ended up in mere like.

Favorite Scene:
"Sarah doesn't believe in  unicorns either." Frances said. "None of my sisters do." She gave a sad sigh. "Im quite alone in my hopes and dreams."
Hugh watched Sarah roll her eyes, then said, "I have a feeling, Lady Frances, that the only thing you are alone in is being showered with the love and devotion of your family."
"Oh, I'm not alone in that," Frances said brightly, "although, as the youngest I do enjoy certain benefits."
Sarah made a snorting sound.
"It's true, then?"
"She would be quite dreadful if she weren't so innately marvelous," Sarah said, smiling at her sister with obvious affection. "My father spoils her abominably."
"He does," Frances said happily. 

November 14, 2013

Book Review: Ask Me for Tomorrow by Elise K. Ackers

The Deal: Dean Foster is finally getting back on his feet after the death of his beloved wife three years earlier, and finally going from a phase of merely going to the motions for the sake of his children to actually moving on.

He's ready to let go of the past and start a new. And part of it means expanding his business - an auto repair shop - and for that he needs someone to handle the office stuff so he can spend more time doing actual mechanical work and taking care of his two children.

Alice Jaye is struggling to make ends met for her and her son, so she applies for the job with Dean, and gets it. She is very private though, and doesn't like when people get in her business, specially her old childhood acquaintance  Dean.

But as her son starts coming around to the garage and following Dean around, and the two of them start hanging out with Dean's family and friends, she can't resist the pull she feels toward Dean, even if her life is too complicated right now. 

My Thoughts: Ask Me For Tomorrow was a very fun novella, and later I found out is part of a series of novellas about Dean, his brother and their best friend Cal; and that Dean's was the last.

Still, I didn't feel like I was out of the loop or anything regarding this story, but I did feel the sense of community  around the Fosters and their friends, and that was quite lovely.

As for the romance itself, well, I thought it needed a little more time to develop, since Dean and Alice don't interact that much with each other, is always Dean interacting with Ben (Alice's son) or all of them with their friends, but one on one time is rare.

All in all, it was a fun, easy read, and it made me want to go back and read the previous two titles Ask Me for More and Ask Me to Stay

November 8, 2013

At the Movies: Thor - the Dark World

After my second viewing of Thor: The Dark World (which will be quickly followed by my third, tomorrow) (yes, I love it that much), I feel ready to write a review about it. 

To start with, this is very much a sequel and and I don't recommend skipping Thor 1 or The Avengers, because you'll be depriving yourself of a lot of the scope of the movie if you do. 

It picks up relatively soon after the events of the Avengers with Loki being brought back to Asgard and Thor working to bring peace to the Nine Realms after the destruction and troubles his brother left in his wake. 

It might have been two years since he last saw Jane, but he hasn't forgotten her and he still cares very much about her. Meanwhile,  Jane is on Earth, trying to move on but still looking for Thor, which makes her come in contact with something quite dangerous, something that Asgard's enemies - The Dark Elves - want to get their hands on, prompting Thor to come back for her and protect her. 

This starts a chain of events that lead to an incredibly fun movie. 

I'm not going to spoil it of course, I'm not that mean, but there are 2 pivotal points in the story, one that changes Thor and Loki's journey, and another that does something JJ Abrams with his stupid Mystery Box approach to making movies wishes he could pull off: A Plot Twist that totally changes your perception of the movie, right at the end. And it has a great pace. 

I loved the movie, honestly, is so much fun. I loved Loki and Darcy particularly, as they made me laugh almost every time they were in any scene. I think Darcy is my favorite regular-human in this universe honestly. 

Anyway, as I said, totally loved the movie and Thor is shaping up to being my favorite avenger - or at least tied in first with Tony Stark - and that's saying something because, growing up I hated watching the Thor cartoon, it was the second most boring thing on TV after the Captain America cartoon, which was on a league of its own. 

Go see this movie for the fun of it, it's not perfect, but it's awesome and you will love it! And, as always, STAY through the credits!! there are TWO bonus scenes, and one comes  after ALL the credits have rolled up!!!. 

And yes, it's getting a Kissy Bear: 
Grade: A 

Fighting for the Edge Promo Post!

Fighting for the Edge Cover

Fighting for the Edge
Two friends. Two dreams. One night that changes everything… Ice dancer Aubrey London scoffs at romance. She’s focused on winning a medal at the upcoming Olympics and uses that as her excuse to avoid serious relationships. But when she and longtime friend Chris Grayden are thrown together by unforeseen circumstances, Aubrey finds herself questioning everything she's ever known about love, complicating her life both on and off the ice. 

Pairs skater Emily Petrov embraces romance. She and her husband Sergei still act like honeymooners two years after their wedding. As Emily’s coach, Sergei provides constant support while she prepares to challenge for gold at the Olympics. But Sergei’s support might not be enough to help Emily overcome the one challenge she never saw coming. With the Games only weeks away, Emily and Aubrey are on the verge of realizing their dreams. But one snowy, stormy night sets in motion a series of events that will test them in ways they never imagined, giving them more to fight for than Olympic medals.  

Praise for Fighting for the Edge "Emily and Aubrey's final challenge is Jennifer Comeaux's greatest victory. Both touching and suspenseful, Fighting for the Edge is a game changer that will have fans of the series giving both the characters and the author a standing ovation once they've turned the last page. If I could pass out medals, Jennifer would earn gold for writing my favorite romance of all time." - Jenna at Jenna Does Books "Jennifer Comeaux puts you in the action, makes you smell the ice and hear the roar of the crowd during the nail-biting competitions, and she's a master at creating first love jitters in your stomach from the steamy scenes that are so hot without being explicit." - Christina Jean Michaels, author of Epiphany 
Life on the Edge (Book 1) Nineteen-year-old Emily is new to pairs skating, but she and her partner Chris have a big dream–to be the first American team to win Olympic gold. Their young coach Sergei, who left Russia after a mysterious end to his skating career, believes they can break through and make history. Emily and Chris are on track to be top contenders at the 2002 Winter Games. But when forbidden feelings spark between Emily and Sergei, broken trust and an unexpected enemy threaten to derail Emily’s dreams of gold.
Edge of the Past (Book 2) Summary: Emily's skating career and personal life have never been more golden. She and her partner Chris have won every competition they've entered this season, and she's found the man of her dreams in her coach Sergei. But when one of the biggest competitions of the year takes Emily and Sergei to Russia, Sergei's past explodes into the present and makes Emily doubt everything in their future.  
Author Jennifer Comeaux
Jennifer Comeaux is a tax accountant by day, writer by night. There aren't any ice rinks near her home in south Louisiana, but she's a diehard figure skating fan and loves to write stories of romance set in the world of competitive skating. One of her favorite pastimes is travelling to competitions, where she can experience all the glitz and drama that inspire her writing.

When not working or writing, she is an avid follower of the sport of figure skating, travelling to competitions around the country. Those experiences allow her to see another side of the sport and serve as an inspiration for her writing. Jennifer is blessed with a wonderful family and many friends who have encouraged her to pursue her dream of being a published author.

  fighting for the Edge tour  

  Book Blast Giveaway $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 11/28/13 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 7, 2013

Book Review: Up to The Challenge by Terri Osbourne

At First Sight: Lucas Dempsey never intended to stay in Anchor Island once he graduated high school, in fact, he doesn't even like to go back there with any frequency, and certainly not now when, during his last visit, he lost his fiancée Beth to his older brother Joe.

But when his father suffers a heart attack, Lucas is forced back to the Island and gets roped into day-duty tending the family's bar & restaurant; along with Sid Navarro, a long-time family friend and all around awesome boat mechanic.

Sid has been in love with Lucas since they were children but, even though they were the same age, she was always more Joe's friend than his, but now that they are working together, he can't help but notice her.

Sid can swear like a sailor and dresses like a 14 year old boy, but under all that there is a body he can't ignore, and a quick witted mind that makes him laugh.

Sid doesn't want to get involved with Lucas, not when she knows that he's only in town temporarily and that he'll go back to his life as a lawyer soon enough; but before long, the attraction between them is too much to resist. 

Second Glance: First off, I loved visiting Anchor Island again, I really enjoyed Meant To Be (Joe and Beth's story) and I was happy to see them and Anchor again.

And, over all, I quite liked Up to The Challenge, I seriously loved Sid in the previous book, she was a lot of fun and I wondered about Lucas who was sort of in the background during much of Meant to Be.

Seeing things from his perspective helped me understand him better, though I do admit I liked Joe a little better. That's probably my one trouble with the book: I liked it, but I liked the previous one better, and a lot of it was because I didn't like Lucas as much. I understand him but I just wasn't as involved.

Sid I loved and I loved the way the collective story of Anchor moved forward, so I'm very excited for the next book: Home to Stay

Bottom Line: I definitely recommend Up to the Challenge and it's predecessor, they are both smart and funny contemporaries, with a lovely setting I'm happy to visit again and again. 


Speed Date: Return to Me by Mae Archer

The Plot: Lana Walters was walking home after the burial of her beloved husband Frank when she was involved in a fatal car accident. Still reeling from it - and not sure of what's going on - Lana finds herself transported somewhere else, into the body of Alana Walker.

Soon it becomes apparent that Alana is a some sort of parallel dimension version of Lana and her life; Alana has a similar background to Lana's, even the same mother, and many of the people she loved as Lana populate her Alana's life in one way or another, even Frank.

Only that in this reality, Frank is Tristan, he's healthy and strong - something Frank wasn't due to a birth defect in his heart - and he seems to have a lot of resentment against Alana.

Confused and hurt, is up to Lana to make the best out of the situation.

First Date: All right, this is a little strange and I'm a tiny bit confused, I feel like I missed something somehow or that there is something I need to know so things made sense. 

Second Date: Well, things get more confusing then less then more again. I like Lana, but Alana - before Lana body-jumped her, sounds pretty bad, though the more I find out about the two of them, the more things make sense, like things aren't always what they seem. 

Third Date: I think I'm down with the ending, actually, but I kind of wish things would be explained more.

Relationship Status: I think we can be friends, maybe

See the thing about Return to Me is that things are never fully explained, so a lot of things were just left in the air, and you kind of had to either take them at face value or suspend a little too much belief. I do like the plot - it was original, at least - and the writing was good, but I do think it could have been polished a little bit more. 

November 5, 2013

Book Review: Never Desire A Duke by Lily Dalton

At First Sight: Lord Vane and Lady Sophia married very much in love and enjoyed a rather auspicious start to their marriage: they were wealthy, in love and had a great position within society. They were even expecting their fist child when tragedy struck them.

In the aftermath of said tragedy, they both went their separate ways, Sophia retreated to her loving family and Vane took a diplomatic assignment overseas.

Almost a year later, they are brought together a gain during the holiday season, when they are faced with a difficult decision about the state of their marriage. 

Second Glance: Never Desire a Duke was quite a pleasant surprise, and over all, I think it was a nice book. Vane and Sophia had some big problems and have been through some very crushing stuff, and their reactions entirely demonstrate the kind lives they had previous to their marriage.

Sophia was very sheltered and adored by her family - who are always ready and willing to close ranks around her if she needs it - and as a result, she's also inmature in some ways. Vane on the other hand, had a less than perfect childhood once his mother died and his father took over and he has the hardest time expressing his feelings because, in his experiece, that never brings anything good.

So, yeah, the characters are more or less well drawn and they make sense.

The rest of the story, though, is a bit all over the place and a bit over the top. It's not all bad but it could have used a little more time to develop. 

Bottom Line: A good effort, with good writing, and I'm even intrigued by what this author will bring forth next. And it's even pretty Chrismasy. 

November 3, 2013

Book Review: I'm Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton

Like practically everyone else in the internet, I've come across Pusheen from time to time, and I've always liked her little comics on Cat-Life, they are adorable and Pusheen herself is quite cute. 

In I'm Pusheen the Cat, a lot of these comics are gathered in one place, telling Pusheen's story - along with her family. They are very cute strips, no doubt, and if you're the type of person who enjoys buying picture books you might like this. 

Totally PG, so you can give it to a kitty-crazy kid. 

One drawback, though? I had seen many of these comics already, they were cute and everything, but I don't know how much of it is new material. 

Anyway, is a nice little book, if you're the type of person who likes this style.