Sunday, September 24, 2017

Quick Reads and Quick Reviews...for catching up

Ravensdale by [Van Diemen, Daphne]This book took a really long time to get going. There were times that I was confused about what was supposed to be happening because things were very predictable but super slow in getting there. I will say that for the first half I was wrong about who she should end up with, but after that I knew where they were going and was slightly happier about it. As for the drama, there was a lot of anticipation and virtually no follow through until the end. I was very disappointed that someone so intelligent gave virtually no time to her thesis and almost nothing to picking up on the clues all around her and having enough gumption to see what was going on. Then with the romance...lots of extremely slow build and one big confession under duress and stress with virtually no foundation for anything that would last. With more of an HFN that wasn't exactly super happy the book felt incomplete. Sure the bad guy gets it, but that's pretty much where the story ends. He gets it and nothing else gets addressed or resolved. I mean, even the ambulance and the cops haven't shown up by this point. Overall, I wasn't impressed and failed to be impressed pretty much from the word go. Interesting premise with a very disappointing finish.  2 stars.

Heat: A South Beach Bodyguards Book by [McCarthy, Erin]I usually love this author.  This book felt like it was from early in her career, one before she hit her stride with good character depth, cohesive story lines, emotionally connected sexy times, and overall enjoyability.  Disappointing, to say the least, is how I felt when I finished this story.  The baby stuff was conflict enough, but add in the government, dead but maybe not dead ex, delusions about the past, secrets about the past, and man-whore flirting as an introduction and attitude toward the end and I've pretty much given up liking the book.  Miranda wasn't really a strong woman who knew her mind and what she wanted for her future.  She worked hard and did well for herself professionally, and that's great, but her maturity level felt more on par with late teens, early twenties.  Alejandro was sex on a stick, sure, but when I am introduced to him getting felt up in the extreme right in front of the person he says he's always loved?  Not a fan.  And then there was Max not really being who Miranda had glorified him into.  Overall, there was too much drama and not enough depth.  2 stars.

The Dragon's Lover (Elemental Dragons Book 2) by [Hartley, Emilia]I liked where the book was headed. There was a lot of promise with this story but I feel like it fell short on a few points. Overall, however, the book was enjoyable and the feels were relatively strong. It made me interested in the series as well as other books by this author.

Quinn had the potential to be a really strong character. She has the past, the excitement, the strength, the wit, the intelligence, and the beauty both inside and out to be a really well-rounded character. Where that fell short was in how much drama was packed into a relatively short book. There was too much going on and not enough focus to let her strengths really shine. Instead, she came off as being a bit flighty, unfocused, and overwhelmed by the emotions that came at her from virtually every direction. Being overwhelmed is understandable, I just feel like we read her as being constantly overwhelmed instead of level-headed, a trait we're made to think she has in the beginning.

Isaac had a great start too. He was passionate and interesting. The rest of the story didn't really do him justice though. We were also teased with learning more about his past but get no follow through there. Will there be more of him in the next book, even obliquely?

There could have been a great deal more of them together actually building something and establishing a connection and a foundation. What we were given was a bit superficial and then there's a ton of drama from many sources, and then the ending is hopeful and a little bit romantic.  The story itself could use a lot of paring down and refining to make the events cohesive and the romance one that connects both characters and you as a the reader.  2.5 stars.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Seek, Anne Conley

Seek (Pierce Securities Book 7) by [Conley, Anne]

I read the blurb and teaser months ago and was really excited for this book.  It mostly lived up to those expectations and I'm glad I signed up to read it.  I also enjoyed that Ryan played a pretty significant role in this book because I liked him so much in Craze, the first book in the Pierce Security series.  Each of the men in the security firm have their charm but I've only read Ryan's story and now Zack's, so while I'm interested in the others, I'm invested in the ones I've come to know.

So anyway, Zack is damaged, snarky, funny, blind, and completely in love with Bonnie.  Bonnie is totally in love with Zack but was hurt by something he did when they were young and together so she's become a bit closed off, feisty, and independent.  She's also become the target for a stalker and has come under the protection of her family and, by extension, the security firm which they own and run.  She's scared and mad that she's scared.  When all her drama seems to be in her rear-view she sets out to build a happy life but constantly runs into the walls her brothers have erected around her.  One of those walls is the one between her and Zack.  She thinks she's grateful for it because of how much she's been hurt by him, but by putting a wall there it has become a constant reminder of the one man who knew her better than anyone else.  Bonnie thought she knew him that well too.

Zack's blindness is a constant stumbling block, both literally and figuratively.  I liked that he was frustrated but learning to cope.  His frustration was real, believable, and drew me in because he was so determined to be useful despite his disability.  He's got a great support team.  What he doesn't have is the one person he always wanted and has been going about all the wrong ways of getting another view of her before it's too late and he's completely blind.  The exclamation near the end outside the hospital was absolutely gut-wrenching and made me so mad at Quinn.  Honestly, until I read his story I don't think I'm a huge fan of him at all.  It's one thing to be protective of a little sister, it's another thing to take the hurt from the past and to let it fester and ruin what was once a friendship so close it was like they were siblings.  To constantly hurl it in the other guy's face is overboard for me.

The drama is intense, nothing unexpected with the author, and was well-written.  Bonnie is kick ass and thinks more than acts.  I absolutely admire that about her.  Her immaturity when it comes to Zack isn't so nice, but when she allows herself to think about what happened instead of reacting to it she can see the events for what they were.  Seeing the truth behind the action brought her a new perspective that ultimately led to healing and forgiveness.  It didn't hurt at all that she and Zack were just as hot for one another as they've always been.

Overall, this was a really great book.  I liked how real and how strong these characters were.  The drama was big, crazy, interconnected with other plots, and still focused and clear.  Definitely worth reading!

*Start the Pierce Security series for free!
Craze (Pierce Securities Book 1) by [Conley, Anne]

Exposure, Aly Hayden

I was really excited about this book.  I was so hopeful for these men, the premise, and overcoming misunderstandings and untruths.  The reality, however, wasn't as awesome as I hoped.  Overall, though, the book was enjoyable.  It had feels, groveling, family, quirkiness, passion, and confessions.  All the makings of a delightful read.

So why did it not meet my expectations?  It was small things, really, and not even enough to base a full rant on.  I can honestly understand the hurt caused by lies.  I know that Sam was wrong to say what he did, but I never doubted his heart.  I feel like Ben was blind to that heart because of a dick for an ex.  Yes, that's absolutely valid.  But did it excuse Ben from making an awkward and hurtful situation worse?  No.  I'm not a fan of how he reacted.  Sam knew what he did was wrong and knew he only made things worse by not coming clean early on, but who could blame him?  He was constantly made to feel less-than by his parents and wanted to make them at least a little proud of him since his lifestyle wasn't something they understood or approved of.  They might have meant well, but the way they went about things was upsetting to say the least.  He padded the boyfriend brief because he wanted them to be satisfied and also to pave the way for them to like the not-so fictional boyfriend.  Those intentions were a bit cowardly but also honest from a hurt little boy's perspective.  It doesn't make it right, but it does make it understandable and not a little sad.

Why couldn't Ben look beyond that to see what Sam's intentions were, to see the truth beyond the words said to parents long before the weekend ever came around?  Ben was pig-headed and frustrating because he hurt Sam worse than the lie could have hurt Ben.  He also got so many people on his side to hurt Sam even further.  A place that was a home, a haven for Sam became a place of derision and insults.  He deserved some of what he got, but not everything they dished out on him.

The way that Sam groveled was really the best.  He was honest and his words were heartfelt.  There was no way to misunderstand his apology and he really tried his best.  That best was pretty much trampled on by Ben and Peter, but his heart was so visible, so vulnerable.  He eventually got his point across, though, and Ben's acceptance, though grudging at the start, was complete and open by the end.

These two men came from very, very different backgrounds and have a hard road ahead when they have to deal with those differences but their determination to make things work is commendable.  I have great hopes for them because I know how much they want each other, that they are also committed to being honest.  It helps that Sam's family is warmer to Ben and Sam after all the frustration that was caused by Sam's exaggeration of circumstances.  I'm also glad that Sam had people like his grandma and his brother-in-law on his side to love him, accept him, and to give him the kick he needs to be better.  Everyone needs support like that and as Ben and Sam make their way together that support will continue and help them grow into what they have every potential to become.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Love Me While I'm Gone, Diana T. Scott

Love Me While I'm Gone (Half of Me Book 2) by [Scott, Diana T.]

So on par with the first book.  The first half of this book made me want to place this as #1 in the ranking of this series but when I thought back to how much I was made to feel in Our Demons, Best Friends, I couldn't do anything but rank it a very, very close 2nd.

Sometimes when you have a series you get people who are mostly individuals but, and let's be honest here, they could easily be interchanged between stories and you wouldn't think the pairing odd.  Details about background and motivations would be different for each book but you could take one dude from one story and plop him in another one from the same universe and there wouldn't be much of a difference.  This book was so very far from that kind of situation that it's almost unbelievable.  I can't really figure out a way to describe exactly what I mean here except to say that we get a sense of who these people might be in the first book and then in this one we get to see all the facets of these dynamic, interesting, wonderful individuals.  They come alive, they change, they are utterly unique.  As individual as that word can mean.

What we learn of Collin in ODBF is little, but we see hot surfer looks, a sense of humor, and a generally happy mien.  We get a sense of his loyalty, his interests, his devotion to what he knows matters.  Then there's Emily.  We get quite a bit more from her because Ava is the MC and her new bestie is Emily.  She's fun, flirty, interested in Collin, devoted to her sister and her group of friends, loyal, determined, intelligent, observant, and has a great sense of humor.  There's not much to keep us from thinking that if Collin and Emily get together they'd be a great match.

But there's so much more to them just being a great match when we get into the meat of Love Me.  The meet-cute is exactly that, a meeting so cute I couldn't help but smile in real life.  For me to react in real life and not just in my head is pretty much a huge deal.  Just so you know.  Anyway, after the meet-cute we get a fast romance, something building an awesome foundation with very little steam but a ton of attraction and genuine feelings growing steady and strong.  Until tragedy intervenes.

I cringed when I read Collin's thoughts while he was deciding what to do about the tragedy.  Just knowing he was going to do what he did wasn't enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, it was, however, something that gave me hope for his return to Emily's good graces.  I wanted to see how he made up for what he did and how he did it.  Emily was right to do what she did and how she did it.  I ached for her bewilderment and her struggle to move beyond what was developing into something stellar.

Reuniting was bittersweet.  We knew it was coming, but how it came together was something that was written really well.  It wasn't fully predictable yet was expected, if that makes sense.  Seeing them dancing around one another and making peace with the past through the careful avoidance of it all with the outer framework provided in ODBF was really great.  We knew the basics but now get to see the specifics and why all the dancing might have been necessary.  It gave depth to what was perceived as shallow flirting and intimated attraction.

The interplay between Emily and Collin was awesome.  I smiled and laughed in real life and totally fell in love with them and how well they fit one another.  Getting both perspectives was a really nice change from the first book and suited their characters.  Overall, this was a perfect continuation for the series and a great book all on its own.  I cannot wait to get my hands on Color Me Yours to read about Paige and Miles.

*Get to know Emily and Collin from Ava's perspective
Our demons, best friends (Half of me Book 1) by [Scott, Diana T.]

Our Demons, Best Friends, Diana T. Scott

Our demons, best friends (Half of me Book 1) by [Scott, Diana T.]

I loved this book! There were so many feels all over the place, messy, inconvenient, self-sacrificing, heart-aching, triumphant, melty feels.

These two people were so broken and so perfect for each other because they each provided the balm of healing and the depth of understanding neither one had found thus far in their lives.  Not even Ava's parents could feel what she felt with the loss of her twin.  And for someone as intentionally isolated as Sebastian, her pain meant he found someone who could provide solace and empathy.  I am absolutely in love with both of these characters.

There were so many ups and downs in the story, but from the very beginning I was captivated by the MC's as much as they were by each other.  Ava struggled to be the best of both twins and was very lucky to find the group of friends she did right from the start.  They were easy and effortless but not the kind of ease that breeds carelessness or situations that are taken advantage of in a negative way.  Each of the people in their little group provided something different, something irreplaceable and Ava found in them a family and solid support system.  They all knew what to expect from their circumstances because they all faced the same ones, but each provided a different perspective, a way of seeing issues and dealing with them that made their whole experience less painful, stressful, and lonely.  You can see which characters will be featured in the connected stories and I'm SO EXCITED to read them!

When she meets Sebastian it's fascination and confusion at first sight.  Neither of those things ends until about the end of the book.  It's an intense ride from feel to feel, insight to insight, connection to connection.

Sebastian's point of view was implied and inferred and I really wished I had his thoughts throughout the story  When they came, though, I was almost glad I didn't get anything from him until then.  We skipped his internal angsting and self-sacrifice in the name of protecting Ava from his demons and go right to the new Sebastian, the one who finally accepts everything Ava can give him, the one who is so sappy and tender and passionate that we almost don't recognize him.  It. Is. AWESOME!!

Weeks later and I'm still thinking about this book and can't think of anything to decrease the rating or my enjoyment.

*Follow the whole series, connected but each stand alone and each are awesome!
Our demons, best friends (Half of me Book 1) by [Scott, Diana T.] Love Me While I'm Gone (Half of Me Book 2) by [Scott, Diana T.] Color Me Yours (Half of Me Book 3) by [Scott, Diana T.]

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Truth By His Hand, Casey Cameron

Truth By His Hand by [Cameron, Casey]

This is my first book by this author after a few attempts to sign up for ARCs prior to this one.  I was surprised to enjoy this book as much as I did.  Not because of the author's voice, but rather because BDSM is something that I don't read very often due to the fact that I just don't care for this particular element of personality and/or sexuality. The synopsis, however, was intriguing because there was something so innocent and interesting about River's self-discovery. That there was almost a promise that this was more than just an awakening to this particular brand of kink. As fortune would have it, that promise was fulfilled.

River has made more of a truce than a peace with his own idiosyncrasies over the years and fully acknowledges his awkwardness and ignorance regarding kink and where he fits on the spectrum. He's finding his place because he wants to but also because he's been strongly urged to learn the complexities he's drawing in his web comic. All of it fits together, his sexuality and his work, in the realm of BDSM, at least it should, but he needs serious guidance. His friends and acquaintances can only do so much for him. What he needs is a teacher, someone to fill the role he has mentally created for his Dom. Something he learns, very quickly, that it doesn't quite work like that. When you aren't sure of what to do and how to be what you think you are, you can't prescribe roles and then dictate who will fill them. Through a little trial and error River learns that who he thought couldn't teach him is actually the perfect teacher.

My favorite thing about this book is River's introspection and insightful understanding of why he does certain things and the articulation of his thoughts and desires. It made things so very clear and touching when he could get right to the heart of the matter. I imagine that was good for Ellison too, but we only get River's POV in this book, so we infer his pleasure by the descriptions of eye-glinting, smirking versus smiling, and the use of "Good boy". The fact that River knew his own mind made a large portion of this book much easier to swallow because I wasn't constantly second-guessing what he says he wants. This particular issue is addressed a couple of times and rightfully so. I was concerned that there would be a bit of that baby bird imprinting thing going on because emotions, self-discovery, expression, sexuality, and life changes all wrapped up in the experience with one person can result in that, but it was dealt with honesty and decisiveness.

It was interesting to read in this book that everyone involved with River and the group he's getting involved in was so open and fluid in terms of sexual identity. Most books have a few angsty closets and identity crises to address as part of what keeps the MC's from accepting themselves or moving forward together. That was definitely not here. The subject of kink is also open and bold and any negative stigma is mostly downplayed or discussed quickly and promptly dismissed. Focus is instead on River's particular difficulties. That seemed a bit simplistic but I didn't really mind too much because my attention could remain solely on River and Ellison's journey.

Overall, I was happily surprised to find that I enjoyed what I read. The book was much, much longer than I anticipated but the length was appropriate for the subject matter and giving enough attention to everything River was experiencing and learning and processing. I enjoyed the conclusion and how he and Ellison came together despite all their struggles with barriers and expectations. Educational, insightful, frustrating, and liberating. A really great read.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Someone Worth Saving, Ruthie Luhnow

Someone Worth Saving by [Luhnow, Ruthie]

4.5 rounded up!

Reed was so young in so many ways. I loved learning about him through Brady's eyes, the vulnerable, naive, and broken Reed that just needed love. He broke my heart with how little he knew about taking care of himself and how little genuine, unconditional affection he understood. Reed wasn't just a spoiled brat, he was misguided and had no healthy outlet for his frustrations and needs. Seeking attention when he could and having no real guidance left him in an untenable situation where his mother's only recourse was to send him off to somewhere he wouldn't be seen or heard from for a specific amount of time. What seemed like a curse was a blessing in the end because he found family. He found love and acceptance and, the best part, change.

Change isn't easy for anyone, really, especially when that change comes from somewhere and someone you were determined to loathe. Reed isn't sure what to make of the people he's forced to live with so he acts like an adolescent instead of a contrite adult who needs to rethink his direction. With the patience of at least four saints his aunt and her ranch care for Reed in the most fundamental ways allowing him to see that life is more than money, cars, sex, and rebellion toward the parents who ignore his existence for as long as possible. I really love the community and how they all begin to accept Reed for what he is and support him in what he should become. But there's not just the new mother figure in Reed's life, there's someone else that will be the catalyst and safe-haven for all Reed's biggest changes.

Brady isn't exactly keen on Reed at their first, second, or even fifteenth run-in, but finds that Reed is the kind of person that grows on you the more you give him space, quiet, and education. Unfortunately for Reed, their attraction seems one-sided and with all the baggage each one carries, it's a good thing that it takes quite a long time for anything romantic to develop between these two men. Brady and Reed are no stranger to abandonment but how that fear manifests is different for each of them. Throughout the story both men deal with that in very different ways and neither way brings them closer to one first. They're sweet, awkward, and frustrating in equal measure as their romance plays out. Tons of feels that draw you in and keep you firmly invested in their outcome.

This whole book was really enjoyable to read, start to finish I loved these men in all their flawed ridiculousness and tender realizations. Both men draw you in and make you feel for and about them. Family isn't perfect, we're all flawed, and love wins. Wonderful cast of characters and a ton of feels for this slow-burn romance with a well-deserved HEA.