Friday, August 22, 2014

Sugar On The Edge (Last Call #3) by Sawyer Bennett

* * 1/2

Intended for New Adult readers 17 years+



He’s utterly alone…  

Tortured and existing in a dark spiral of despair, bestselling British author, Gavin Cooke, has come to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to escape the seedy lifestyle he had been living in London and in a desperate attempt to regain his writing focus. He’s twisted, bitter and angry at the world. He’s a loner… needing not a single thing other than his Scotch and a laptop upon which he can bang out his next erotic, dark thriller.

She’s running in place and getting nowhere…

Savannah Shepherd’s life is falling apart. Her dream of being a wildlife photographer seems a distant memory and she’s barely able to make ends meet. Driving herself forward with no clear goals apparent, she’s about ready to pack up her bags and head home with her tail between her legs.

Two unlikely lovers…

He’s raw, forceful and a dirty talker. She’s a flowers and romance type of girl. Yet within each other, they find a mutual craving that can only be satisfied by giving in to their desires for one another.
Lust turns into something more… something they were not looking for but tentatively accept. Will it be enough to push them past the obstacles of Gavin’s bitter past?

*SUGAR ON THE EDGE can be read as a stand-alone*

Did you order romance with an extra side of hot, heavy and dirty magic time? Well, your order’s up. Sugar On The Edge finds two people at very different and difficult stages in their lives drawn to each other for some reason.  I say for some reason because a) Gavin is a top-notch dbag - don’t worry, he freely admits to it, b) Savannah is trying to get herself and her career in order and finally, c) while I get the whole opposites attract thing, I’m not sure that I can fully understand these two getting together in this particular scenario.

I thought Gavin was interesting initially but once he got his hooks into Savannah, I wasn’t as keen on him. He’s very controlling and depraved while she’s simply too sweet and generous, so it stands to reason he'd be intrigued by her and want to unravel her.  There are moments when their attraction works.  Other times, it’s too much. There is a genuinely interesting story in there about these two’s past that gives you a better understanding of where they’re coming from.  Still it doesn’t change that Gavin has a lot of emotional baggage, is selfish and did I mention he's a dbag? Those are a lot of layers to dig through. 

Later in the story, when Savannah delivers some particularly shocking news to him, he reacts in an awful way.  Savannah’s response to that is understandable. It’s what she does later when she faces Gavin that doesn’t sit well with me, only because I felt it was resolved a little too easily.  I don't know, I just think that it's hard not to have mixed feelings about some of the stuff that occurs. And to be clear, I'm not referring to the sex in the story but the personal issues that they have to work through.

All in all, Sugar On The Edge has a nice "come hither" cover and the writing is very strong. I was very impressed with how it had me feeling that I was truly inside Gavin's head during his pov - messed up thoughts and self-loathing all included. Savannah's mind couldn't be more different with her hopeful innocence and constantly wearing her heart on her sleeve. These two opposites make for a very interesting dynamic but having a few of my own personal reservations regarding certain details is what holds me back. I haven’t read the other ones in the Last Call series and despite my mixed feelings about this particular storyline, I'd still like to read the others.

~ Bel







Thursday, August 21, 2014

Takeover by Anna Zabo

Takeover
* * * 1/2

Michael Sebastian thought Curacao would be the perfect place to have a little fun in the sun—and between the sheets. So far, no one has struck his interest, until Sam Anderson walks into the bar. With one look at his tense body and expensive suit, Michael knows that this is a man in need of release. And Michael is more than willing to lend a hand.

Shattered by the most intense sex he’s ever had, Sam has to face the facts—one night with a handsome, dominating stranger is all he gets before returning to the closet he’s been suffocating in for years. But when Sam starts his new job as the CEO of a failing technology company, he discovers that Michael is one of his new employees.


While Michael is desperate for another night with Sam, he knows he shouldn’t get involved with his boss, let alone another man who can’t accept who he is. But as they’re forced to work together to save the company, the desire sparking between them becomes impossible to ignore…




Review:


In a recent review I stated how I’m not a big fan of “love at first sight” stories.  But I do love stories about instant attraction that grow into something more.  So I guess I believe in magic just not that magic equates to love?  I don’t know.  There’s really no explaining how my bizarre brain works.  In any case…When Michael first sees Sam in that bar in Curacao there is definitely attraction.  And after a hot night and an exchange of power neither have experienced in years, they realize that it was a night neither will forget.  They might not know each other well enough to be in love with each other but they know enough to realize that they each have something the other needs.  If circumstances were different they might see where this relationship will go.  But Michael leaves for home the next day and Sam’s vacation is just starting.

Sam and Michael never expected to see each other again.  They didn’t even know each other’s last names.  But it’s a small world sometimes.  And that couldn’t have been more obvious when Sam shows up as the new CEO of the failing software company Michael works for in Pittsburgh.  A relationship in their current situation is impossible.  One, Michael is Sam’s employee.  Two, Sam is not out.  Sam made the decision to go back into the closet and lock the door when he decided on his career path.  Corporate America wasn’t ready for a gay CEO and Sam wasn’t willing to give up his dream of a successful career in the corporate world.  

But as I said, they each have something the other needs.   After managing and controlling every part of a company during the day, Sam wants nothing more than to surrender in the bedroom.  And Michael?  Well, he wants nothing more than to dominate in the bedroom.   Match made in heaven, right?  Almost.  There is that pesky business about Sam being Michael’s boss.  And then there is the ultimate deal breaker for Michael – Sam staying in the closet. 

I loved Michael and Sam’s dynamic relationship.  There was so much energy and intensity.   All of that emotion and sexual tension about jumped off the page.  The bedroom scenes in this book contain quite a bit of BDSM play.  That is the place Sam can let go and Michael is more than willing to oblige.  I don’t consider any of these scenes “hard core” but they ARE  hotter than hell.  Phew!


It wasn’t perfect.  I had a small yet noticeable issue with this book.  And that was the repetition of the word, “spine.”  Phrases like “Sam’s spine tingled” and “pinpricks ran up his spine,” were a bit overdone. 29 times overdone.  I got it the first time.  And just in case I’m really slow, I can forgive the second .  But 29 times?  Not cool.   There may have been repetition in other areas but that was the one that hit me over the head for some reason.   That’s really the only complaint I had.  And in the end it’s a small one.  A small one I can live with because Michael and Sam’s story is hot and sexy and romantic.  And when it comes down to it, hot/sexy/romantic is EXACTLY what I’m looking for in a romance.

Nat


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Long Way Home by HelenKay Dimon (Adult Romance)

* * 1/2

The Hanover brothers are trying to live down the con-man reputation of their late father. But they can’t blame their father for all their problems in life—or in love

Callen Hanover has led a tough life. But after years of roaming, he’s finally settled back home in Sweetwater to reunite with his brothers, and rebuild Shadow Hill, his grandmother’s crumbling home. The last person he expected to see at his door was Grace Pruitt—ex-girlfriend and partner to the FBI agent who’s determined to put Callen away.

Grace Pruitt is in town to save the two men she cares about the most—her former partner who seems to be on a downward spiral, and Callen, the man who ran before she could explain who she really was…or tell him some shocking news. Can the secrets of the Hanover family’s past be just the thing to save them all? Or is it already too late?



Review:

One night after meeting each other, Callen Hanover and Grace Pruitt move in together.  There were together for 4 months before Callen decided Grace had betrayed him and walked out without caring to really listen to anything she had to say.

Although I’m not a big “love-at-first-sight” fan, I DO enjoy reading about relationships that begin with an instant connection.  It may not be love YET but something is bringing our hero and heroine together in a way that will lead to a happy ever after.  And even though we don’t see those first 4 months first-hand, Long Way Home still manages to deliver the instant-connection-to-love story line.  But…there was something about this story really ruined it for me. 

That something is our hero, Callen.  He is a hot mess.  And not in a sexy way.  Early on the reader learns that during their four months together Callen was a heavy drinker with a very short temper.  And when I say heavy drinker I mean he was drinking 24 hours a day; even getting up in the middle of the night to drink.  Apparently Grace insisted he stop drinking.  He does.  His temper improves but isn’t non-existent.  Which is proven when and he just walks out during an argument.  He doesn’t stop to listen or to talk things out.  He just LEAVES.  He’s willing to go through the tremendous effort of sobering up for her but god forbid he have a conversation to save their relationship.

Fast forward 3 months later.  Callen left no trace; even changing his phone number so Grace can’t find him.  But she does find him.  In Oregon, helping his brothers sort out the house and legacy their con-artist father left behind.  Callen is still sober but he also continues to be uncommunicative.  When he is communicating it is to accuse Grace of lying (she’s not and has never given him a reason to think so), he’s exceedingly moody and ridiculously paranoid about everything.  He lacks self esteem. And he still runs away from everything. All I could think was that this guy needs serious therapy before continuing a long term relationship. 

The reason I gave this 2 1/2 stars is because the writing kept my interest and Callen seemed to have SOME redeeming qualities considering he didn't run away when he found out he was going to be a dad. And as I said before, he's a runner. The fact that he didn't run showed a little bit of character growth. Just not enough to make me feel anything other than a tremendous need to send him to a therapist. And Grace? Her desire to make Callen understand he's worth more than he realizes is commendable. But his issues are deep and messed up and the fantasy that she can fix him all on her own is too far fetched. Did I already mention that this guy needs a therapist?  Well, I’m suggesting it again.  This hero was TOO broken.  And had the story addressed that issue further rather than trying to portray love and romance as a fix-all, I would have been more forgiving and more interested. 



Nat

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J Maas

* * 3/4




Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

The way Crown of Midnight ended in such a frenzy, I thought Heir of Fire would be bursting with energy from page one. It didn’t.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, especially because of how much I love this series and have been looking forward to this but compared to the previous two books, Heir of Fire is slow moving until much, much later and by then the book is over.  Let me explain …

The biggest factor in the lack of action is Calaena. She’s mopey. She’s a mere shell of herself and I can’t blame her. She suffered so much loss in Crown of Midnight and was so manipulated by the king where she eventually had to leave Chaol behind to serve the ruthless monarch. She’s just defeated and when someone is defeated they dwell in self-pity and withdraw into themselves. Then Rowan, another Fae finds Calaena to bring her to her aunt, Queen Maeve. This is a good thing as it’s Calaena’s chance to ask questions and get answers. Of course, it’s not that easy. She is instructed to undergo training under Rowan’s strict tutelage in order to draw out her magical gifts. Only then will Maeve give her the answers she seeks.  Calaena essentially roughs it throughout her training as she and Rowan just antagonize each other. But no matter how grueling it is, the training doesn’t really do much good. It’s so bizarre and aggravating to see Calaena give up so easily. 

In the meantime, Chaol is back in Adarlan desperately trying to protect is best friend Prince Dorian and his potentially deadly secret that he has magic. Keeping the king’s suspicions at bay becomes his other full-time job, as is putting off his promise for as long as he can to his father to return to his homeland. Unfortunately, the events in the last book have left things a bit messy and it has strained his relationship with Prince Dorian. Both start to keep to themselves under the noble but misguided idea that the less the other knows, the safer they’ll all be.  Without each other, they seek alliances elsewhere. Learning who to trust is literally a life or death undertaking.

I mentioned above that the action does pick up towards the very end only because Calaena finally gets her head out of you know where. But that’s only because she’s had the crap beaten out of her several times by then. It does get more interesting because Calaena learns something vital about herself and what she needs to defeat the king and restore balance to the world. All of that comes after her long struggle to get over her depression and find her purpose again.

So while Heir of Fire may be a harder read because it isn't as fast-paced and the overall mood is downcast, it is a very crucial next step in Calaena’s story.  She's constantly met with the question of whether she will embrace her fey nature and fight for the good of all or if she will only seek personal vengeance and walk away when done. This is about her evolution. And then of course there’s my burning question: will she and Chaol reunite? Oh please let that be so. A sad Calaena and a sad Chaol make me very sad too.

~ Bel

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Peek In The BiblioBin #112


Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the BiblioBin) has been created by the lovely ladies at Tynga's Reviews.

Stacking the Shelves is a way for bloggers to share what books they have won, received for review, bought from the bookstore, borrowed from the library or friend, etc.



For Review:



The Oversight (Oversight Trilogy #1) by Charlie Fletcher via NetGalley


Received at RT14:




The Beautiful Ashes (Broken Destiny #1) by Jeaniene Frost



Purchased:




Opposition (Lux #5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout



Friday, August 15, 2014

Jane's Harmony (Jane's Melody #2) by Ryan Winfield

* * * *



Sequel to the New York Times bestseller Jane's Melody. 

Starting over is hard to do.

That’s what forty-year-old Jane McKinney learns when she quits her job, sells her home, and leaves Seattle behind to start a new life and pursue the man she loves in Austin. After the death of her daughter, Melody, Jane never thought she would find happiness again – until she met Caleb Cummings. Sensitive, loving, and mature beyond his years, Caleb is a handsome young musician struggling to make ends meet. But when his fortunes take an unexpected and drastic turn for the better, Jane is left wondering where exactly she fits in.

Can you ever leave the past behind? Jane must now decide if she really is willing to commit to a new beginning with Caleb – or if some wounds are just too deep to ever truly mend.





I totally fell in love with Jane’s Melody, a bittersweet story about a woman living in the aftermath of her daughter’s death but eventually finding her own bliss. She follows that bliss which comes in the form of a musician named Caleb to Austin where reality sets in. Here he’s living out his dream of making music and performing to intimate audiences. Jane is still in the throes of new love but finds settling into this world a little harder than she expected. Bless her heart, she tries her best and Caleb does what he can to ease her worries.

Things continue to be hot and intense with them. It’s nice to see that hasn’t change. They’re ready to take their relationship to a new level when the opportunity of a lifetime comes along that he just cannot pass up. Jane is incredibly supportive and encouraging of him pursuing his dreams. I think her confidence comes from not only being older but also having lived through some devastating events that have given her great perspective. Caleb may be young but he’s mature beyond his years. This path that he’s going on will test his convictions and his commitment to Jane.  I could not help but be awed by Caleb’s love for her but also by Jane’s trust in her man.

Caleb isn’t the only one facing changes. Jane has her fair share and some of the changes aren't exactly welcome. Some of her old insecurities come back to haunt her and make her question her ability to overcome them. I was honestly surprised by, but not judgmental, of some of her decisions. Having gone through the whole gamut of emotions in Jane’s Melody, I understood where Jane’s head was at here and why she was spinning. 

Some familiar characters pop up here including that curmudgeonly former neighbor but sadly no goat. There is, however, a raccoon. Don’t ask. Trust me, it’s rather funny.

I recently got to meet Ryan Winfield at RT14. Honestly, I was a wee bit starstruck because “Oh my god, this is Ryan Winfield! The guy who wrote THE sweetest and most touching love scene I have ever read!” Yeah, that was running through my head but I don’t think I was able to string together any words in his presence. Embarrassing for me and most likely amusing for him. He was gracious, a gentleman and tall.  See!



If you're a die hard romantic, live for romantic gestures of all sorts and yearn for that sometimes elusive happily ever after, Jane's Harmony will deliver. I urge you to read Jane's Melody first if you haven't. I'll admit that that is my favourite of the two because despite the tragic circumstance of their meeting, what the two of them discover and start to build is such a beautiful and wondrous thing. Jane's Harmony is a lovely continuation of that with them writing a new chapter in their lives. Oh go on and read it. I'm going to step over to the side and quietly shed a tear of joy.

~ Bel



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Playing By the Book by S. Chris Shirley

Playing by the Book
* * 

When seventeen-year old high school newspaper editor Jake Powell, fresh from Alabama, lands in New York City to attend Columbia University's prestigious summer journalism program, it's a dream come true. But his father, a fundamentalist Christian preacher, smells trouble. And his father is rarely wrong.

Jake navigates new and unfamiliar ways "up North." Starting with his feelings for a handsome Jewish classmate named Sam. What Jake could keep hidden back home is now pushed to the surface in the Big Apple.

Standing by his side are a gorgeous brunette with a Park Avenue attitude and the designer bags to match, a high school friend who has watched Jake grow up and isn't sure she's ready to let him go, and an outrageously flamboyant aunt whose determined to help Jake finds the courage to accept love and avoid the pain that she has experienced. 

Provocative and moving, Playing by The Book is a feel-good novel about the pain and joy we encounter in the search for our own truth.




Review:

So, have you seen Transformers 3?  Or what I like to call the “the movie that never ends?”   At one point I started calling this “the book that never ends.”  It’s not a long book.  But add the time I had to take to roll my eyes and sigh heavily and the book became three times as long.

I had two major issues with this book. The first issue I had was the overwhelming feeling that the author was completely disconnected from the young adult voice.  I am having a hard time describing what I mean so I am going to recommend you read this review of the same book.  Reviewer Stacia pinpoints perfectly the disconnect that bothered me so much. 

The other issue I had was with what seemed to be the author’s agenda.  I got the very distinct impression that Jake’s story was only there to provide the author with a delivery system that would allow him to attempt to reconcile sexuality and the Christian faith.  I’m not saying this discussion shouldn’t be had.  Quite the contrary.  It should absolutely happen.  But in this instance it was done too shallowly to have a hard impact.  Here is the thing.  I grew up in a fundamental Christian religion (add that to the list of things you now know about me) which means that the whole time I was reading it I was thinking, “well that reasoning wouldn’t work at all (or at least not that quickly),” or “in a real life situation that person would respond back with this.” 

The one thing I did like was Jake’s complete cluelessness.   I’ve been that guy (or girl) and could really identify with it. Jake is the kid that has been separated from all the amazing diversity in the world that he puts his foot in his mouth each time he sees or experiences something that doesn’t fit into the box he’s grown up in.

This book is really a perfect example of how reviews are so partial.  I am confident that a lot of people are going to read this story and absolutely love it because their life experiences allow them to read it differently.  Unfortunately, my life experiences made this story just “meh.”



Nat