Friday, May 22, 2015

One Night by A.J. Pine

When she lost it all, Jess decided to cope by living a lie. 
But you can’t keep on pretending forever…
Twenty-one-year-old Jess used to have everything—a loyal best friend, a boyfriend she loved, and a future that was right on track. But in a single night, her whole world changed.

Now, Jess lives for the impersonal connection of drunken hook-ups and to-go coffee cups in the morning. All she needs is one night to pretend everything is fine…until she meets Adam.

Thanks to a sports injury, gorgeous, charming basketball star Adam Carson is stuck in physical therapy at the hospital where Jess interns—giving her the perfect opportunity to see his sweet, considerate nature and making her realize that maybe she does want something more.

But while Adam might be the best thing that’s happened to Jess in a long time, letting him past her carefully constructed walls means letting him know what happened...and why he'd never want her for more than one night.

One Night poses an interesting situation, how does someone overcome a terrible loss and learn to forgive themselves and move on?  Jess gets through the day by keeping to herself, going through the motions at school and at her physical therapy internship and especially with guys, preferring drunken one-night hook-ups to relationships.  Which is why she has Carson firmly in the friend zone.

Basketball god, Adam, is drawn to Jess during his physical therapy for a knee injury, but she is clear that they are just friends.  She's clearly been through something awful, but she's not talking.  

Adam, despite being the popular jock, is the epitome of a good guy.  He's patient, kind and caring with Jess.  Jess, for her part, is a mess and is completely lost.  She's full of self-loathing, depressed and angry, very angry. These themes can be a little difficult at times, but it's an interesting story, with some twists and turns thrown in to keep you interested.   

~ Shel

Thursday, May 21, 2015

That's What HE Said Thursday #29

Image courtesy of Kei at The Lovely Pages Review

That's What HE Said is a weekly meme hosted by the wonderful ladies at Chapter Break. It's a chance for us to spotlight and gush over a quote from our current book crush to the object of his desire. We like to pretend it's us ;)

What better way to celebrate our book boyfriends?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

My pick this week is from Sweet by Tammara Webber. There are so many excellent quotes to choose from but this one is by far my favourite because it encompasses what Boyce and Pearl's relationship has been about from the beginning -- protecting and looking out for each other. Not that they can't take care of themselves. It's just that sometimes your friends can see things a bit more clearly and they're there for you no matter what. Here they're discussing why Boyce isn't fond of Pearl's controlling ex.

If you haven't read Sweet yet, you should! I'll have a review coming soon.  ~ Bel

"I may be jealous, but jealousy isn't why I don't trust him, " I said, and she turned her face to mine. I wanted to fall into the deep wells of her eyes. "I protect you, Pearl. It' s just what I do."

~ Boyce to Pearl
Sweet (Contours of the Heart #3) by
Tammara Webber


      Sweet (Contours of the Heart, #3)

Galgorithm by Aaron Karo

Galgorithm* * * * *

A romantic comedy about high school, heartbreak, and having all the answers.

What if the secrets of dating and love were revealed in one simple formula? That’s the tantalizing proposition high school senior Shane Chambliss offers the hopeless and hapless guys who come to him for relationship advice.

After the girl of his dreams breaks his heart, Shane devises a mysterious formula called the Galgorithm and establishes himself as the resident dating guru at Kingsview High School. But his attempts to master the art of romance go outrageously awry.

As Shane tries to navigate the ensuing drama, he must follow his heart, abandon all the rules, and ignore his own advice in a quest for true love. What he discovers, no formula could ever predict...


After a terrible heartbreaking love affair ended at the very tender age of 14 (or was it 15? Whatever..) Shane Chambliss chose to protect his heart by concentrating on helping the other woeful geeks at school get the girl of their dreams.  He’s developed a “formula” which he has chosen to call the Galgorithm.  A little tongue in cheek homage to his dad’s sexist insistence on referring to women as gals.  Shane is basically a teenage Hitch, helping guys up their game so they can get the girl.  A great service that is also a perfect recipe for disaster.

Between maneuvering a new relationship with a slightly obsessive mostly crazy girl, working with his newest client, saving a former client’s failed relationship and trying to escape an over-zealous teacher that wants to secure his services, something is BOUND to go wrong.  And to top off the chaos, all this nonsense is keeping him from spending time with his best friend, Jak.  Of course, he can’t tell Jak why he can’t spend as much time with her because he’s never told her about the secret services he’s offering to guys at school. That one secret might end up ruining a friendship that was forged years ago over naked bath time at the very young age of two. 

I love it when a book that I think I will enjoy turns out to be a book that I absolutely love.  I haven’t read very many books this year that made me want to tell the world to buy and read it.  But Galgorithm IS that book.  How can it not?  Not because it’s a romantic comedy.  Although we all know that I love those.  Not because the hero is adorable.  Although he absolutely is.  And not because the reluctant heroine is kick ass.  Oh, yeah, she’s totally kick ass.  All those things were great.  But what put this book above so many others was the dialogue and Shane’s inner monologue.  At certain points I thought that maybe Aaron Karo was spying on Bel, Shel and Me and listening to our ridiculous conversations.  But I’m 110% certain that isn’t even a possibility.  Still, it was like getting an outside view of the three of us sitting around eating pie and devolving into utter ridiculous conversation and laughter. 

There isn’t much more I can say about Galgorithm without ruining it for you.  The plot isn’t a new one but the delivery is so fresh and funny that all I can say about this book is “Amor y Cacahuetes”.  Love and Peanuts my friends.  Love and Peanuts.   


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Snowcroft Safehouse by Christi Snow

Snowcroft Safehouse (Snowcroft Men, #2)*** 1/2

A year ago Declan Jasper was entertaining sold-out arena crowds as the lead singer of Black Rainbows. But that came to an explosive end when the band got caught up in a criminal cover-up, one that ended with the entire band dead. At least that’s what everyone is supposed to think. 

Now, Dex is hiding in plain sight, working as the school band director in a sleepy little mountain resort town while under the protection of a hard-nosed FBI agent. Instead of eyeliner and black leather, he now wears glasses and corduroy. Instead of having sexy coeds—both male and female—throw themselves into his bed, he’s dealing with teenage angst and grumpy parents. 

At the top of his troubles list is Kelsey Walker, a junior high bundle of rare musical talent in the form of one confused, messed-up adolescent. Dex figures the problem comes from her broken home and wants to help. But when he meets her father, sexy bar-owner, Jack Walker, he realizes that instead of helping he’s probably just bringing more trouble and danger to their door. 

Dex has to stay alive until the trial to bring his bandmates’ murderers to justice, but can he do that if it means sacrificing his own happily ever after?


Snowcroft Safehouse opens with Dex Jasper and his bandmates buoying up their bassist, Michael.  Michael’s ex-boyfriend has left him beaten and scared for himself and those around him.  The band is dealing with the issue but the show must go on.  Unfortunately, the show doesn’t go on.  An timely placed bomb puts an end to lives of everyone in the band except Dex.   

A year after the night that irreparably changed his life, Dex finds himself living in Snowcroft, NM.  The world thinks he’s dead and Dex is living under WitSec protection until the trial that will hopefully convict the man responsible for taking the life of his friends.  Dex arrives in town with a new name (Finn Alexander), a new handler (a hot straight-laced FBI agent that will hopefully have his own book one day) and a new job teaching band to a small group of middle school students.  All things he thinks he can handle temporarily.  What he doesn’t expect his the instant attraction he feels for the local bar owner…and of course, father of his brightest and most talented student.

Jack Walker is pretty happy with life.  Except that he has no idea how to handle his 12 year old daughter’s mood swings.  Nor does he know what to do about his sex life.  The thing is, Jack is gay.  He knows this.  But he isn’t out.  Being a single dad to a middle-school aged kid in a small town has made embracing that part of himself difficult.  But when Finn Alexander walks into his bar he has hard time hiding his interest.

In a small town it’s impossible to avoid each other and soon Jack and Dex find themselves exploring the possibilities of a relationship.  Jack will need to decide if their relationship is worth coming out and possibly putting his daughter’s small town social life at risk.  And Dex will need to decide if he cannot only tell Jack his true identity but also put him at risk while the trial is still underway.

This was an extremely satisfying m/m romance.   Both men were extremely likable.  I found Dex’s reactions to life after such trauma and loss completely believable.  And although I didn’t LIKE the reason for Jack’s resistance I completely understood it.   There is a perfect amount of mystery built into the story.  It was almost like watching a ramped up episode of In Plain Sight.  Which is one of my favorite shows so it’s no wonder I seriously enjoyed this book.

If you love small town romance with a touch of drama and mystery I can’t recommend this one enough.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

* * * * 1/2

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

Suspenseful and disconcerting. That’s how I sum up Tiny Pretty Things. Underneath the alluring cover and innocent title, is a sinister story about ambitious people who want to get ahead regardless of the price. In the process, they each lose a little bit of their soul.

Each character has a unique identity. Gigi is the vibrant, happy-go-lucky girl who revels in the pure joy of dancing. Bette, is the diva of the school who has everyone under her thumb. Her older sister's success pushes her to elevate her game which would be resorting to pranks, intimidation and manipulation. Gigi’s innocence and popularity are threats to her success. Then there’s June, whose stand-offish nature is her weapon. June doesn’t have friends. She has competition. She has a surgical approach in how she analyzes everyone to target their strengths and weaknesses. At times Gigi’s charismatic personality almost breaks down her iciness but June is exceptional at compartmentalizing. Despite their differences,  all three want the same thing: to be the lead in the next production.

These young people undergo intense auditions and grueling rehearsals. It's a sensational environment where things can often get fierce. As the story progresses, the characters become more distraught and desperate. The things they do to each other and to their bodies are horrifying. They make you wonder at what point they lost their moral compass to blur the line between right and wrong. I mean, do they still love the art of ballet, or performing or are they so deeply entrenched in its dark underbelly that they don't know anything else? I know I became more distressed with each chapter as “mishaps” and foul play became more serious. Gigi, who is the only genuine person there, appears to be the innocent lamb nestled deep in the lion’s den.

The feeling I had as I read Tiny Pretty Things was the same jittery feeling I had when watching the tv show Revenge - always on edge because you never know what the next surprise will be. I both cared about and despised these characters for all their heartache and their flaws. There are reasons why Bette and June are as vile as they are but even those don't erase the the truth that these girls are treacherous when it comes to achieving their dreams. At times they’re something to be feared and at others, they’re close to crumbling.

Charaipotra and Clayton have written an enthralling story about bloodthirsty ambition featuring dynamic and diverse characters from different backgrounds, even breaking some stereotypes.  The fact that these characters sway back and forth between being decent and wretched, leaves you guessing as to how things will turn out by the end. 

~ Bel

Monday, May 18, 2015

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

* * *

A voice-driven mystery perfect for fans of Veronica Mars.

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks -- and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father's murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.

This is a story driven by a smart, sassy and fearless young woman who knows what to say and how to get her way. Scarlett is often nonplussed when things don’t go exactly as planned. She manages to make the most out of situations and get to the point.

Scarlett is hired by a young girl who is worried about her older brother’s strange behavior as of late. She suspects that her brother has something to do with the recent death of a friend. This person’s death was all over the news and at first Scarlett's instinct is to decline the case. But when she sees how scared this little girl is, she can’t turn her back. After meeting this brother and getting strange vibes off of him, Scarlett thinks that her client may actually be on to something.

Scarlett is a resourceful young detective who isn’t afraid to seek out the truth. And as she digs further into this mystery, she becomes a target. It turns out that this case may hit closer to home than she realized as she starts to make connections between a cult-like group of kids and her father’s murder. Here the story branches out into the paranormal with some intriguing myths and history.

This was a fun mystery to read but in all honesty, I was drawn to this story after hearing that the heroine was a Muslim-American. I was curious to see how that would factor into the story itself. If anything, it exposes the reader to some of the customs and how those are integrated into their every day lives. Scarlett to a certain extent is more progressive with regards to her religion. Scarlett’s older sister, who’s studying to become a doctor, has found comfort in many of the traditions since the death of their parents. Both girls show a healthy respect for their beliefs though both practice differently.

However, this is only a small part of the person Scarlett is. She’s a compassionate person who looks after her client. She’s a fighter who refuses to be shut down. She's a snarky opponent who sees through people's bull. She's loyal to her family and friends. And she’s a young girl in love. All these aspects combined make Scarlett a fine role model for young readers everywhere. Scarlett Undercover is a fun read and I’m excited to introduce my daughters to this!

~ Bel

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Friend Zone (Game On #2) by Kristen Callihan

* * * *

The last thing star tight-end Gray Grayson wants to do is drive his agent’s daughter’s bubblegum pink car. But he needs the wheels and she’s studying abroad. Something he explains when she sends him an irate text to let him know exactly how much pain she’ll put him in if he crashes her beloved ride. Before he knows it, Ivy Mackenzie has become his best texting bud. But then Ivy comes home and everything goes haywire. Because the only thing Gray can think of is being with Ivy.

Ivy doesn’t have sex with friends. Especially not with a certain football player. No matter how hot he makes her…

Gray drives Ivy crazy. He’s irreverent, sex on a stick, and completely off limits. Because, Ivy has one golden rule: never get involved with one of her father’s clients. A rule that’s proving harder to keep now that Gray is doing his best to seduce her. Her best friend is fast becoming the most irresistible guy she’s ever met.

Which means Gray is going to have to use all his skills to get himself out of the friend zone and into Ivy’s heart. Game on.

There is no shortage of heat in The Friend Zone as this one picks up with Drew’s best friend and teammate, Gray. We were given a tempting glimpse in The Hook Up, and the wait was well worth it!

Where Drew’s confidence makes him oh so irresistible, Gray’s humor charms effortlessly and it’s one of the reasons why Ivy falls so hard for him. They have a bizarre start to their friendship when her dad, the sports agent trying to woo Gray, lends him her car while she’s away in England. Her car which happens to be very pink, is her baby. So she sends Gray a text warning him of consequences if any damage comes to it. Thus begins a peculiar but fun relationship through texts where they come to look forward to daily updates, bad jokes and anecdotes from each other..

Ivy returns State-side and finally meets Gray. Being face-to-face is rather intimidating considering how emotionally intimate they’d become. One thing’s for sure, they cannot keep their eyes of each other but they’re off limits. Ivy has plans to return to England and manage her mother’s bakeries while Gray has graduation and his career to think of. Also, Ivy has made a point of staying away from the sports world that her father lives and breathes. She eyes it with bitterness as something that’s kept him away from his family. That and the many temptations that her father experienced throughout his career have made her very skeptical of being in a long-term relationship with an athlete. As for Gray, he’s vague about his his post-college plans with good reason. He just hasn’t bothered to share that with anyone else yet.

In spite of these hurdles, Ivy and Gray’s encounters are often sexually-charged and hysterical. They get on easily and genuinely enjoy being together. They just refuse to be official.

Compared to The Hook Up, I felt The Friend Zone had more laughs due to Ivy and Gray’s playful natures. One particular outing at a bar provided a very audible laugh-out-loud moment that still makes me giggle hard. And as with The Hook Up, they’re faced with a life-changing event that could make or break them. 

The bigger question by the end of this book for fans of this series is are you Team Drew or Team Gray? I know I went into this thinking that there was no way anyone could usurp Drew in my heart but Gray has made a serious play for my affection. I mean, who knew the guys was so smart? Thank goodness this is just a fictional quandary!

If you’re into college sports romances and love knowing that there’s more to these hot athletes than just their looks and sexual prowess, then The Friend Zone is one that you just have to read!

~ Bel