Book Review Double Header: Come to Me Quietly/Come to Me Softly by AL Jackson

Come to me quietly

Title: Come to me Quietly (Closer to You #1)
Author: A.L. Jackson
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary
Length: 385 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis
Aleena Moore is content with her life.  She has goals and dreams and an easy smile.  She also has a secret she holds locked inside.

Jared Holt believes he doesn’t deserve to love or be loved.  He destroys everything he touches.  Haunted by the mistake that shattered his life, he’s fled from the memory of that pain.

Jared doesn’t know why he’s compelled to return, but finds himself drawn back to the place where it all began.  The exact place where it ended.  When he runs into his childhood best friend, Aleena’s older brother Christopher, he agrees to share Christopher and Aleena’s apartment while he looks for a place of his own.

Aleena is no longer the little girl Jared remembers from his past and evokes feelings in him he never wanted to feel again.  Terrified of destroying her, he fights to keep her away.  But her touch is something he can’t resist—the touch that sealed his fate.

Their pasts are intertwined and their futures uncertain.  The only truths they know are the secrets they whisper in the night.

My Review
This is a beautifully written story about a man with zero self-worth.

He isn’t looking for redemption.
He isn’t worthy.
He isn’t looking to remember.
He isn’t looking for happiness.

Sounds brutal, right?  It is, brutally heartbreaking.  But one woman changes it all and you get that light, a hope for something better. When Aleena (Aly) Moore reenters Jared Holt’s life, all the plans to build up a wall around his heart are destroyed.  His “Motherfucking trigger” as he calls her, unleashes feelings he hasn’t felt for four years, feelings he doesn’t feel like he deserves.

The title of this book comes from Jared’s visits to Aly at night.  While crashing at the apartment she shares with her brother, Christopher, Jared promises Christopher that he would stay away from Aly.  She’s not the floozies he has come to know in his past.  But temptation tests him, day by day.  As the story progresses, you get the feeling that Jared and Aly are meant for each other.  The bond of their childhood and current physical attraction draw them together.

Individually, their emotions for one another are expressed through other less physical outlets, for Jared through poetic words, for Aly through her drawings.

sketch pad

While neither is brave enough to expose those feelings for fear that they might show too much, Jared occasionally leaves a note on her pillow.

The foul spoils the beauty.

While his written words are few and far between, they speak volumes about his emotional state, which is sad.  If you like angst in books, Jared will give it to you in spades.  This guy is so consumed with guilt, he constantly tries to destroy the good things around him.

For a large part of the book, it is unclear as to what happened to cause him this pain.  Through alternating POVs from Aly and Jared, along with flashbacks to their childhood, you start to put the pieces of the puzzle together as to what happened.

Both Jared, Aly and Christopher seem to be avoiding the big white elephant in the room.  It is clear that Jared is in a bad place.  But for some reason, no one pushes him to do anything about it.  Their lack of action to help him, ultimately causes everyone pain.

This is the first book that I’ve read from this author.  While the book has all the character turmoil to give one chest pains, it is so skillfully written, I had a hard time putting it down.  The authors words are poetic and yet haunting.

sunlight

The connection between Jaren and Aly felt very real, and true.  Not forced.  Your heart will hurt for them for a good portion of this book, but there is hope.

“I see beauty and pain. Joy and sorrow. I see the good and I see the bad . . . and I love it all.”

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Warning: It is recommended that you don’t read the following synopsis and review until you have finished reading book 1, as it will contain spoilers. If you’ve already read book 1, then carry on.

Come to me softly

Title: Come to Me Softly (Closer to You #2)
Author: A.L. Jackson
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary
Length: 411 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis
A second chance at life…
A second chance at love…

Jared Holt never thought he deserved either—until he found both in the arms of Aly Moore. Aly has loved Jared for as long as she can remember, and she’s more than ready for the future they’re making together. But Jared can’t help remembering his own family. And he’ll never forgive himself for what happened to them.  How can he allow himself the very happiness he once destroyed?

To live a life worthy of Aly, Jared knows he has to stop running and finally put his past to rest.  But when he decides to face his demons head on, he encounters more than he bargained for: a dangerous mix of jealousy, lies, and dishonest intentions.  When those intentions threaten Aly, Jared loses all control, giving into the rage that earned him his bad boy reputation years before.  And he’ll fight to protect her no matter what it costs…even if he destroys himself in the process.

My Review
This book was a lot more uplifting than the first book.  Jared has a lot to prove to himself and Aly that he can make things work.  And he delivers.  Giving her everything a girl could dream for in a relationship. Using his hard work, determination, and blooming talents, he provides a safe haven for them to grow.

SexyHotJeansCouple

That doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and roses.  No longer hiding, their relationship is exposed, challenged and second guessed.  Some people around the couple still feel that Jared has a lot to prove, that he won’t leave again.  To others, they fear the guilt still buried inside him will come out full force one day, and cause the destruction he continually predicts.

Once again, I’m wondering why those around Jared didn’t push for him to get help and work through his demons.  Aly pushes him a bit, but it’s a little too late and only does more harm than good.  The brewing storm within Jared is a lot like a tornado.  Eerily quiet, the calm before the storm.  As that storm grows, the smart ones run for cover.  The not-so-smart ones *ahem* try to chase it, only causing them more harm.

The author’s words, like the first book, paint a haunting tale of a man who is unable to escape the guilt from his past.

Aly had always been a treasure I’d placed on the highest pedestal.  The girl was my perfection.  But maybe that foundation had its own fissures, cracks that could widen, cause her to crumple.

While I loved the commitment the two had to one another, I was surprised what eventually cause the cracks to form.  One blow up seems to destroy so much and I was disappointed they didn’t fight harder to fix it.  Do we get a HEA?  Yes, and what glues everything back together will warm your heart, and if you are a sap like me, may cause a few tears.

This book marks the end of Aly and Jared’s story, although I’m sure we will see them in the next installment.  I’m thrilled that book 3 in the series is about Christopher, Come to Me Recklessly.  I am dying to know more about his story, he definitely seems to be hiding something.

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Audio Review: Rock Chick Redemption by Kristen Ashley

Rock Chick 3

Title: Rock Chick Redemption (Rock Chick #3)
Author: Kristen Ashley
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Action & Adventure
Length: 14 hours and 41 mins

Synopsis
Roxie’s on the run from a bad boyfriend who will not catch the hint that it is o-v-e-r.  She’s in no mood for love at first sight, but when her eyes fall on Hank, it’s trouble from the get-go.  Roxie tries to hold Hank at arms length but Hank wants to be a closer (as in, a lot closer).  Roxie’s trouble catches up with her and Hank wants to help but Roxie knows in her heart that she’s no good for a white hat guy.  The problem is no one agrees with her, especially her crazy hippie best friend Annette or her parents; the even crazier small-Indiana-town Herb and Trish.  Toss into the mix the gang from Rock Chick and Rock Chick Rescue and Roxie finds herself totally outnumbered.

Climb in for another Rock Chick wild ride through Rock Chick Redemption. As the odds stack up against Roxie, she has no choice but to hold on and just ride it out through the kidnappings, car chases, society parties, a riot at the strip club, Hank getting “Mom Bombed” and one crazy night at the Haunted House.

During all this Hank works at convincing her she really wants to stay and he, along with the Hot Bunch, go all out to make her safe.  Hank also needs to work on showing Roxie that her past decisions don’t mean her future can’t include something as downright delicious as… normal.

My review
Story: 4 stars
Hank Nightingale is a good guy.  As a cop, he’s always on the right side of the law.  Until one day when Roxie Logan tears into Fortnum’s and his life is turned upside down.  As Tex, her Uncle puts it, “these Denver guys don’t fuck around” (not sure if this is a direct quote, the downside of audio is the inability to take notes, especially while driving).  But truly, Hank wastes no time in claiming Roxie.

Just like all of the previous Rock Chick books, the Hot Bunch, which includes Hank, are . . . well . . . hot!  These men fit the KA Alpha profile – bossy and controlling, but protective and swoon-worthy.  Roxie quickly nicknames Hank, Whiskey, for the color his eyes.  Saying it each time as though he takes her breath away. *sigh*

Roxie, like the previous Rock Chicks, Indy and Jet, is stubborn and a bit bitchy – she calls it uppity.  She puts up a fight against Hank and his controlling ways, but all it takes is a “conversation” and she gives in.

Holy cow, cow, cow.

Dealing with a Rock Chick never seems to be an easy feat.  Thankfully, Hank has the brains to match his brawn, and he deftly handles the never-ending shit storm Roxie seems to bring with her.

This is another fun adventure with the crazy Denver group.  There is drama galore.  I loved how Duke took one look at Roxie and knew trouble was brewing.  Based on the drama that seems to surround the Fortnum gang, I have mixed feelings – not wanting to get 2 feet from their drama, while also desperate to hang with the gang while enjoying a Tex latte special.

Once again, Kristen delivers a story that hits all of my emotions.  Most of the time, this story had me smiling like a goon, but it also had heartfelt moments, as Roxie struggles with the idea that she is just not good enough for all the good that is Hank.  He is sweet, sexy and knows how to tame the wild in Roxie.

While this book focuses on Roxie and Hank, I need to take a moment to appreciate all that is Luke Stark.  As Roxie’s temporary bodyguard, he is H-A-W-T!!!  Every move he makes, every breath he takes, I’ll be watching him (yes, I just channeled my inner-stalker, care of The Police).  I want to lie in Luke’s Zen Zone.  I am DYING to read his book, which is book 5 in the series.  Up next, Vance’s story.  And he’s nothing to sneeze at.  Let the swooning continue.

Performance: 5 stars
If I could give more than 5 stars for the performance, I would. Susannah Jones was A-MAZ-ING for this series, Kristen did an excellent job of selecting her as the narrator.  If they gave out awards for audio books, Susannah would surely deserve one, she is that good.

She perfectly captures the crazy insanity that is a Rock Chick and her posse.  Nailing each character’s voice – she’s like the Rich Little of audio books.  From Roxie’s wavering swooning over Hank and the fellow Hot Bunch’ers, to her uppity tone when being bossed around. Although I wanted to strangle Roxie at times for her stupidity, Susannah delivered her character in such a way that I was often more amused than annoyed.  And I can’t forget Tex’s BOOMING voice, Trish (Roxie’s Mom) with her prayers to Jesus, or Annette with her sass – “Yo bitch!”  I’m sure the DC drivers thought I was loony with the stupid grin on my face as I was driving.  I enjoyed this book so much, I truly didn’t want it to end.  About a nanosecond passed before I was 1-clicking the next audio book, Rock Chick Renegade (despite already using up my 2 Audible credits for the month).

As Allie would say, this performance was RIGHTEOUS!

Overall: 5 stars
This story and performance were pure entertainment.  So much so that I enjoyed my quiet time, sitting in DC traffic (whenever do you hear someone enjoying DC traffic).  I loved all of the Denver insanity. Every KA fan, whether you have previously read the Rock Chick series or not, needs to get these books on audio. They are a MUST!

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Book Review: Rule of Three by Kelly Jamieson

Quickie collage 2

Rule of three

Title: Rule of Three (Rule of Three #1)
Author: Kelly Jamieson
Genre: Erotica
Length: 253 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Side note: This book is not new, it actually came out in 2012.  It has been on my kindle for awhile, and with the release of book 3 in July, I thought now was as good a time as any to get started.

Before you start this book, you’ll either need this:
rabbit
or this:
Colin
on standby. Yes, after seeing Colin’s sex tape, I feel we have this unbreakable connection.  LOL

Anywho, on to the review. I’m making this quick, so pay attention.

Chris and Kassidy are in love.
Chris and Dag are best friends, who previously dabbled in threesomes together.
Dag has feelings for Chris.
Kassidy develops feelings for Dag.
Will Chris reciprocate Dag’s feelings?  Will Dag reciprocate Kassidy’s feelings?

What starts our as one fun night, turns into a night after night affair. There are a lot, and I do mean a lot of blowjobs in this book.  Along with Eiffel-towering (I think that’s the missionary position of the ménage world), rimming, DP, etc.

“I’ll do your ass. Dag’s too big for your first time.”

Even though this book is told in the third person, the author does a great job of describing the feelings and emotions of the main characters.

She left her body, she didn’t know where she went, but she floated and throbbed and soared on sensation.

Was he a sick, twisted perv? He’d never questioned the urges that had led him and Dag to do what they’d done. He’d just enjoyed it, reveled in it, took as much pleasure from it as he could get. But for the first time he wondered what drove him to do this.

While I spent a good part of my read fanning myself and my kindle (poor kindle, it doesn’t know what hit it), I was surprised at the level of character development in the book. These three, while driven by lust, where smart and thoughtful. They cared about one another, and as they come to be drawn to each other for more than sex, the direction of their relationship is tested. They are forced to challenge societies expected norms. Can you love two people equally? Can a threesome thrive out of the bedroom?

This book is part one of the trilogy. Next up, Rhythm of Three, where hopefully we learn the answers to the last two questions. Until next week (when I’ll post the review), happy humping.

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New Release: UnBeloved by Madeline Sheehan

UnBeloved

Title: UnBeloved (Undeniable #4)
Author: Madeline Sheehan
Genre: Contemporary
Length: 255 pages

Synopsis
Warning: This is not a conventional or predictable love story. It involves one woman and two men bound by a love so destructive it spans two decades, pitting brother against brother, and shattering the lives of those touched by it.

Dorothy Kelley is a born romantic, searching for her prince. Instead she finds herself pregnant at fifteen, and a in a loveless marriage by the tender age of eighteen. Then hope comes riding into her life on a motorcycle and within weeks, Jason “Jase” Brady, a member of the Hell’s Horsemen motorcycle club, sweeps Dorothy off her feet.

But nothing is ever simple for Dorothy. Jase is married with children. And as Dorothy patiently waits for Jase to give her the happily-ever-after she’s been dreaming about, James “Hawk” Young, a member of the Hell’s Horsemen with secrets of his own, sees an opening into Dorothy’s life and takes it. What follows is a long and painful journey of self-discovery and forgiveness, as Dorothy comes to realize that home was exactly where she’d left it, and the love she’d forever craved had always been within her reach.

This is the story of Dorothy, Jase, and Hawk.

We are all born pure; it is our journey that burdens us and leads us astray. Our mistakes that beat us down and cover us in guilt and shame, burying us a little more with each passing hardship. It is up to us to dig ourselves out, to come to terms with our faults, to embrace not only our imperfections but those of the ones we love, and to once again find the path we strayed from.

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Book Review: The Saint by Tiffany Reisz

The Saint

Title: The Saint (The Original Sinners #5)
Author: Tiffany Reisz
Genre: Erotica
Length: 448 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis
In the beginning, there was him.

Gutsy, green-eyed Eleanor never met a rule she didn’t want to break. She’s sick of her mother’s zealotry and the confines of Catholic school, and declares she’ll never go to church again. But her first glimpse of beautiful, magnetic Father Søren Stearns and his lust-worthy Italian motorcycle is an epiphany. Suddenly, daily Mass seems like a reward, and her punishment is the ache she feels when they’re apart. He is intelligent and insightful and he seems to know her intimately at her very core. Eleanor is consumed—and even she knows that can’t be right.

But when one desperate mistake nearly costs Eleanor everything, it is Søren who steps in to save her. She vows to repay him with complete obedience…and a whole world opens before her as he reveals to her his deepest secrets.

Danger can be managed—pain, welcomed. Everything is about to begin.

My Review
While it was not a traditional love story, Nora and Søren’s story couldn’t have been any more beautiful.  Once again, we find our beloved Nora (my favorite book heroine) recounting stories, this time in how she met and fell in love with Søren.  I was shocked at the tenderness Søren showed at times in this book, so unexpected from a sadist.

The most touching moments were those as Søren tries to fight off his feelings for Nora (or Eleanor, as he always calls her), knowing that their involvement with each other wasn’t right.  Knowing that she could never have a normal relationship with him.  And then, the moments when he finally gives into his feelings, perfection.  If you haven’t fallen for him prior to this book, or somewhere along the way in this story, I’m pretty sure you’ll be sold on him when Nora receives her birthday present (it’s not what you think).

I loved how Tiffany built their relationship.  It wasn’t an impulsive moment of passion, even though the yearning was always there.  He makes her wait, and punishes her when she disobeys, by making her wait some more.  Most women probably would walk away. But their love was destiny.

“Had it been any other man it probably would have scared me. But with Søren, everything felt like destiny. When we met he said, ‘It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.’ We’d both been waiting for each other, like it was meant to be that we would find and love each other.”

Even though Nora is tempted frequently to stray, she always comes back to Søren.  Surprisingly, not only did he understand her desire to stray, he pretty much encourages it.

Like the previous books, Tiffany does an amazing job of weaving together the story, both past and present, and adding some sexual humor.  Nora’s first meeting with Kingsley is hilarious, I just about highlighted the whole section.

Here’s just a glimpse of their banter:
“I get it,” Eleanor said to Kingsley. “I do. You’re Prince Charming if Prince Charming wasn’t charming.”

“I fucked a virgin last week. I didn’t mean to.”
“What happened? You trip and fall into her hymen?”

We are also introduced to some new characters, Nico and Wyatt.  I loved them both, but for very different reasons.  Nico offered physical and emotional support when it was needed.  Wyatt made me laugh.

“You told Dr. Edwards she was an idiot. I want to make love to your brain. Marvin Gaye-style.”

While those men and Kingsley play important roles, the heart of the story is the love between Nora and Søren.  Their confessions to each other are simply beautiful.

The Saint teaser 3

I’d quote them all, but its best for you to read them within the context – their words have so much meaning behind them.  I also loved finding out more pieces to their puzzle, like how he started calling her Little One.  And while it just seems like simple acts along the way, looking back you see how Søren is preparing her and himself for their ultimate union.  This was an unconventional entrancing love story for two souls meant for each other.

While I feared the ending, it didn’t leave me with the heartache that the Mistress did.  It only made more eager to hear Kingsley’s story.

*An ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

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Book Review: Five Ways to Fall by KA Tucker

5 Ways to Fall

Title: Five Ways to Fall (Ten Tiny Breaths #4)
Author: K.A. Tucker
Genre: Adult contemporary
Length: 384 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis
Purple-haired, sharp-tongued Reese MacKay knows all about making the wrong choice; she’s made plenty of them in her twenty-odd-years. So when her impulsive, short-lived marriage ends in heartbreak, she decides it’s time for a change. She moves to Miami with the intention of hitting reset on her irresponsible life, and she does quite well…aside from an epically humiliating one-night stand in Cancun with a hot blond bouncer named Ben. Thank God she can get on a plane and leave that mistake behind her.

Football scholarship and frat parties with hot chicks? Part of charmer Ben Morris’s plan. Blown knee that kills any hope of a professional football career? So not part of the plan. Luckily Ben has brains to go with his knockout looks and magnetism. After three long years of balancing law school with his job as a bouncer at Penny’s Palace, he’s ready to lead a more mature life—until his first day of work, when he finds himself in the office of that crazy, hot chick he met in Cancun. The one he hasn’t stopped thinking about.

If Ben truly were a smart guy, he’d stay clear of Reese. She’s the boss’s stepdaughter and it’s been made very clear that office romances are grounds for dismissal. Plus, rumor has it she’s trouble. The only problem is, he likes trouble, especially when it’s so good-looking.

My Review
This fourth installment of the series focuses on Ben Morris, the lovable man-whore, and former bouncer turned law school grad.  We first met Ben in Ten Tiny Breaths, as he helped Kacey with training and in return got a bad case of blue balls.  While he freely admits and frequently enjoys all types of women, he is more drawn to the “angry ones”, liking the challenge they present.  Let’s be honest here, Ben’s a former star football player, with a killer body and adorable dimples, so getting a woman barely requires any effort.  But those angry ones, who he’s categorized as: insecure, scorned, or hormonal, intrigued him and make getting laid, a fun game. Yeah, he is THAT guy.  You want to hate him. I tried to hate him in this book, but it’s impossible. Trust me.

On a trip to Cancun to celebrate his graduation from law school, he meets Reese, the purple haired pierced drunk, who he correctly labels as the scorned woman.

girl on bike 2

While his attempts to get laid and her attempt to get over her ex, end in disaster, the chance meeting creates a memory they both won’t ever forget.

Call it fate, coincidence, the Gods laughing at them, whatever.  The two find themselves working at the same law office, just two months later.  While Ben finds this hilarious, the hot tempered Reese is not amused.  But when she finds out her ex and his new wife Caroline have moved to Miami to torture her broken heart, Reese enlists Ben to help her.  Her intentions waver from trying to make her ex jealous, to seeking revenge.  Even though Ben thinks she should forget this loser guy who obviously is a self-centered prick who quickly falls in and out of love, he goes along with her plans, enjoying the time he gets to spend with her.   One incident involving paintball is both awkward and hilarious.

“No way a guy who’s been in you wouldn’t be bothered watching someone else stick his tongue in your mouth.”
“I think you should send that straight to Hallmark.”

On paper, Reese and Ben are night and day, they don’t belong together.  But they share a common problem, which is getting over the past.  Both have been hurt and that pain has guided their current behavior and outlook on life.

Reese has been left behind, not once but twice in her life.  Left by her father at an early age, Reese has spent years trying to get attention. Lashing out, breaking minor laws, you can tell she is desperate for some love and attention.  With a Mom who is more focused on appearances than actually providing some emotional support, Reese is a lost soul.  A spark is created when she meets Jared, but that spark dies quickly again.  And she feels she will never have the love that she craves, to become someone’s priority.

Ben’s issue are very much the opposite of Reese’s.  Raised by an alcoholic Dad, and a Mom who refused to walk away, Ben wants nothing to do with commitment or marriage.   He’s happy just to have a warm body to keep him occupied and tame the beast.

Like I said earlier, I didn’t want to like Ben.  Sure, he has a super fun personality, but as a BBF, I just wasn’t sure.  His dick often seemed to lead his actions.   He is that guy that would sit with a girl and check out all the other girls around him.   So, I was certain he would break Reese’s heart.  Turns out, I was wrong.  Not only that, he was an adorable Momma’s boy.  His relationship with her, and his sadness for how his family grew apart due to one toxic member, made me understand him a little better.

As for Reese, I waffled back and forth on whether I liked her.  I loved her spunk and wild attitude, but hated how she actually wanted Jared back.  Maybe she was desperate for the emotional connection she once had with him, but she really needed to open her eyes to his ways and move on.

Together, Ben and Reese were perfect.

Over a series of months, the two develop a friendship loaded with sexual tension.  They repeatedly try to redo their failed one night stand, however, they are continuously cockblocked.  What I liked about Reese and Ben was that it wasn’t an insta-love type relationship.  Sure, the attraction was there and the two personalities clicked.  But the love came slowly.  A sad tragedy pushed them into admitting that there was something more than sexual chemistry.  However, the foundation of their relationship was a friendship where they didn’t want the other to hurt anymore.  I liked how when they finally opened up to the idea of something more, the games stopped. They became committed to each other, despite the risks.

5 Ways

It’s sad to say, but I believe this is the end of the series.  I loved all four of the books in this series and all the couples within them.  The author did a great job with character development.  While each story featured couples struggling with their past, it wasn’t anything where you were annoyed with them and wished they were getting over whatever plagued them.  Instead, you were silently cheering for them. Hoping that love would come their way and overcome some of their issues.  Another great thing about this series is that each book could be treated as a standalone.  The books generally take place during the same time period, so while there would be some minor spoilers if read out of order, it wouldn’t throw you off or confuse you.  This book and the series are definitely worth checking out, if you haven’t done so already.

*An ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

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ten tiny breathsone tiny lie four seconds

Recap: My Favorite Authors

Authors

Kristen
Creator of the perfect Alpha males.  Her books are always entertaining, with a good blend of sexy times, humor, and tension.  The importance of family and community are an underlying theme, something that is missing from a lot of books I read.

If you are sick of the tortured male, then look no further.  These men are not weak in any way.  Their lives might not be perfect, but they fight for what they want, no matter how annoyingly frustrating their woman might be.  They aren’t sensitive, and may be a bit blunt.  But when the time comes, and they finally verbally express what they have been showing through actions all along, the words will warm your heart.  No one gives a better “wake the fuck up, I love you” speech then a KA Alpha male.

I really could go on and on as to why I love KA’s books, but I’m going to save some of that for a future post.

My Favorites Books:

The GambleCreed the will

Krista
To put it bluntly, I am ADDICTED to their books.  The Addicted series is so well written and the character development is top notch, that I am shocked more people haven’t read their books.  I adore all 6 of the main characters, and the love they have for their significant other.  Lily and Lo are one of my all-time favorite book couples.  Their love story might not be traditional, but their bond is unbreakable.

The authors draw you in, with smart dialogue and detailed emotions, you feel like you are part of the story.  My addiction is not exaggerated.  I frequently stalk all of the authors’ social media sites, eager for more of their words.  If you haven’t checked out their books, I implore you to do so, right now!

My Favorites Books:

Addicted for nowhothouse flower

Amy
The beauty of Amy’s work leaves me kind of speechless.  It’s hard to capture in words how much I enjoy her work, it touches me on such an emotional level.  Both A Different Blue and Making Faces were in my Top 5 list for 2013, with the latter being my Favorite Book of the Year.  Both produced waterworks, where I frequently had to take breaks because my tears were making it hard to see the words.

Her stories often focus on the everyday person, struggling through everyday problems.  There is a prevalence of history with a strong message that isn’t preachy, but makes you want to do better personally after reading them.  While her books are stand-alones, there is one common theme – the book hangover I have after reading them.  It sometimes takes days to recover from the message of her stories.  And once I’ve finally recover, I just want to read more.

My Favorites Books:

Making Faces A Different Blue

Tarryn Fisher
Queen of the mind fuck, her books play with your head and your heart.  You literally feel beat up after reading them.  It might not be right away, but sometime later, you will reflect on her brilliance and smile.

Recently Tarryn was talking on FB about having likable characters in books, and her frustration with people who dismiss a book merely because they didn’t personally like one of the main characters. After Dark confession: I didn’t like any of the main characters in the Love Me with Lies series, and guess what?  It was my favorite series of 2013.  I totally agree with Tarryn, that you don’t have to like the characters in a book to like the book.  If the writing is good, the overall story is what’s important.

My Favorites Books:

opportunistDirty Redtheif

Tiffany
The Original Sinners is not your typical romance series.  It challenges traditional beliefs about relationships and love.  The main heroine, Nora, is perfection!  She’s seductive, smart, sassy, and selfless.  The stories are much more complex than you might initially expect, with clues throughout the books that lead to turning points in the storyline.  Any author that can make you fall in love with a sadist should be applauded.

My Favorites Books:

the gift The Saint

Colleen
As one of the most popular authors in the New Adult genre, there is not much I can say that hasn’t already been said.  Hopeless will remain as one of the best romance stories I’ve ever read.  The pain and love the characters feel just jump off the pages.  Who can forget the “Best First Kiss” to end all best first kisses?

Colleen flawlessly incorporates poetry and music into her books, so it becomes part of the story.  The words in the poems and lyrics speak volumes about the characters.  I love how each of her stories is fresh, and not a repeat of her prior work.  While she takes some risks, the stories and characters are easy to relate to, drawing in the masses, and beautifully developed to keep you coming back for more.

My Favorites Books:

HopelessMaybe Someday

 

 

 

Book Review: Dirty Angels by Karina Halle

dirty angels

Title: Dirty Angels (Dirty Angels #1)
Author: Karina Halle
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Length: 300 pages
Rating: 5 stars

***AUTHOR’S WARNING*** This book deals with drug cartels and as such it contains a lot of sex and violence and some violent sex. It can get pretty ugly, pretty dark and pretty crazy. There is drug use, abuse, a bit of torture and dubious consent. The hero is not a hero and the villains…well, they’re even worse. If this sort of thing bothers you, PLEASE DO NOT READ IT. This ain’t no cupcake farting unicorn kind of book. If you are even a bit squeamish about violence, brutality and rape, this is your warning to stay away from a book that you certainly will not like (and why read books that you know you won’t like?)***

My Review
Reviewer side notes:  First, did you read the author’s warning above? Read it again.  I’ll wait. *taps fingers*  If you can’t handle the violence that occurs in real world drug cartels, then heed to the author’s warning.  Javier’s story is an honest look into that world.  Sure, there is some sexual tension and smoking hot scenes.  But, romance?  Not in the way you would expect.  Second, you don’t HAVE to read the Artist Trilogy before this book, you won’t be lost in the plot.  But really, you NEED to read the Artist Trilogy.  It was one of my favorite series’ for 2013.  A heart racing, crazy wild ride.  Ellie’s name is mentioned frequently in this book, so reading that series, will help you to understand better what happened between her and Javier.  And while you’re at it, you should read Dark Paradise, a short story featured in the recently released Moments in Time anthology.  That story, also isn’t absolutely necessary to read in order to follow along in this book, BUT, if you are one who likes to read things chronologically, then you should pick up this quick read, which takes place shortly before this story. It features Javier’s right hand man, Esteban Mendoza, and what happens in that story is referenced in this book.  Oh, and there’s a scene in that story that caused it to be banned from Wattpad.  So . . .

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to my review. Shall we?

Luisa Chavez has grown up in a life of relative poverty.  She spends all of her time and money caring for her blind Mom and Dad with Alzheimer’s.  She lives pay check to pay check and only has one friend, her co-worker at a Cabo cafe, Camilla.  Her life changes, for better or worse (mostly worse), when a well known drug cartel leader, Salvador Reyes, visits her cafe.  He’s not attractive, at all, and is terrifying to boot.  But, for some reason, Luisa is extremely selfless, and sees a relationship and later marriage to this leader, as an opportunity to help her family.  Unfortunately for her, the marriage to Salvador turned to a nightmare before the ink dried on their marriage certificate. Luisa manages to escape Salvador eventually, only to be kidnapped by another drug leader, Javier Bernal.  Cue the madness!
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When Luisa is taken from Salvador, the clock is set for one week.  One week for Salvador to meet Javier’s demands.  The author has an interesting way of counting down the days, using Javier’s name.  For each day that passes, he carves one letter of his name into Luisa’s back. Call it torture.  Call it claiming.  But you just know, this can’t have a good outcome.
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Power has always driven Javier.  Already establishing a dangerous reputation in Mexico, feared by many, he wanted more.  He thought his plan was perfect – using Salvador’s wife as a bargaining chip to gain access to a drug shipping lane that Salvador controlled.  Did he need Salvador’s extra shipping lane to be powerful?  No.  There were a wealth of other opportunities for him to remain one of the top drug cartel leaders.  But Salvador was the top dog, so to speak, and by taking something from the top, Javier expected more power. However, there was a major problem. Luisa’s relationship with Salvador was not good.  Salvador didn’t love her, and Luisa knew this.  Javier had planned to break her, but Luisa was already broken.

“Give me back to Salvador, “ she said, looking deeply at me, “and I promise you, you’ll never be able to piece me together again.”
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As a drug cartel leader, love is not a wise option.  In that world, love makes you weak and opens one up to an untold number of risks from enemies.  Javier made his first mistake years before, falling for Ellie and being obsessed to reclaim her.  It nearly got him killed, and did get him jail time.
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Luisa’s repeated attempts to escape and fight back only made her more appealing to Javier.  Nothing turns that guy on more than a girl who knows how to handle a weapon.

Luisa's back

Despite his unwillingness to express his feelings, we learn from his inner monologue how Javier is desperate for a Queen.  Someone to stand by his side and rule the (drug) world.  With each passing day, he begins to think of Luisa as his Queen.

And that’s when I knew, with nothing but a smile, my Luisa, my queen, she had broken me.

Strangely enough, some of Luisa’s strength, or power over Javier, came from her acceptance that her life was over.  She could die at Javier’s hands, or endure a worse fate with her husband.  Her willingness to accept her fate, only drew him in more.
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For the majority of her capture, Javier protects her, particularly from his own people, who aren’t used to treating hostages so well. However, one incident breaks their building trust, and you truly experience Javier’s dark side.  If I was watching this scene play out on screen, I would probably be trying to cover my eyes and ears.

What shocked me most about this book was that I actually felt sorry for Javier at times.  CRAZY, I know!  Through the Artist Trilogy, I had a love-hate-hate relationship with Javier.  This book alternates POVs between Luisa and Javier, and being inside his head, I found his thoughts to be very unexpected.  You could sense the struggle he had, trying to exude his power to his cartel, while fighting a developing connection with Luisa.  When the last letter is carved, you felt Javier’s will-power fall apart.
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Their time together is up.  Supposedly.  But a change of plans forces Javier to give in.  He can no longer deny what he wants.  And great balls of fire, the heat nearly melted my kindle. *checks kindle warranty*
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Despite Luisa’s strength through most of her ordeal, I didn’t always agree with her decisions.  Her desperation to protect her family at all costs lead her to make a series of bad decisions.  Thankfully, Javier isn’t dumb.  While his cartel thought his heart was guiding him to make bad decisions, he had a plan, and while risky, was smart.  Is there a HEA?  Depends what you consider “happy” in the drug world. Remember, “this ain’t no cupcake farting unicorn kind of book.”  But, I’m sure Javier was smiling.

Once again, Karina has put together a compelling and brutal twist on romance.  I was drawn to both Luisa and Javier for very different reasons.  Luisa for her spirit and fight during her ordeal.  Javier for his rare moments of tenderness.  I loved the struggle the characters faced to stay in control, as well as the moments when they surrendered that control.  Just like the Artist Trilogy, Karina has created a riveting storyline that keeps me guessing, and I can’t wait to see what is next.

Amazon

Goodreads

Book Review: Infinity + One by Amy Harmon

Infinity

Title: Infinity + One
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: Contemporary
Length: 322 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis
When two unlikely allies become two unwitting outlaws, will two unforgettable lovers defy unbeatable odds?

Bonnie Rae Shelby is a superstar. She’s rich. She’s beautiful. She’s impossibly famous. And Bonnie Rae Shelby wants to die.

Finn Clyde is a nobody. He’s broken. He’s brilliant. He’s impossibly cynical. And all he wants is a chance at life.

One girl. One boy. An act of compassion. A bizarre set of circumstances. And a choice – turn your head and walk away, or reach out your hand and risk it all?

With that choice, the clock starts ticking on a man with a past and a girl who can’t face the future, counting down the seconds in an adventure riddled with heartbreak and humor, misunderstanding and revelation. With the world against them, two very different people take a journey that will not only change their lives, but may cost them their lives as well.

Infinity + One is a tale of shooting stars and fame and fortune, of gilded cages and iron bars, of finding a friend behind a stranger’s face, and discovering love in the oddest of places.

My Review
I’ve admitted before to having an endless TBR list, and spending way too much time planning my next reads, so there are very few authors I would drop everything to read their latest release.  Amy Harmon is one of the few on that list.  I’ve loved every book she has written so far, both Making Faces and A Different Blue made my Top Ten List of favorite books for 2013.  Her writing is flawless, the stories both compelling and beautiful.  So my expectations were once again set high.  And she didn’t disappoint.

This story is truly unique about a bizarre road trip filled with pain, drama, overcoming prejudgment, and offering a helping hand, all of which lead to an unbreakable bond between two very different people.  Bonnie Rae Shelby has it all.  As a rising country singer, she’s has popularity, fame and wealth.  But she’s miserable.  Infinity James Clyde has nothing.  A recently released ex-con, he is struggling to figure out the direction of his life.  One fateful day on a bridge in Boston, their paths cross, setting into motion a crazy set of events that change both of their lives.

There is so much about this story that I loved.  Starting with the two main character’s names, her first name being Bonnie, his last name being Clyde.  Despite being on the run, so to speak, they aren’t really outlaws.  They are running from their past.  That doesn’t stop the media and Bonnie’s horrible grandmother/manager, from creating a multitude of lies or baseless rumors about the couple.  As they travel across the US, the media continuously reports of their possible crime spree a la Bonnie and Clyde, while they are actually offering assistance to various people they meet along the way.  With their journey, they realize they have more in common than at first glance. They begin to depend on each other and fear what might happen once they reach their destination.

One common theme in Amy’s books is how she weaves in history/academics within her books based on her character’s passions (she is a former teacher, after all).  Of her books I’ve read, A Different Blue featured a history teacher; Running Barefoot, it was music and Indian history; Making Faces, it was mythology; and in this book, it is math.  Sounds weird, right?  But she makes it work.  As an example of the author’s creativity, Infinity was named by his mathematician Father, because he was born on August 8th, and the Infinity symbol looks like the number 8.  So clever.

Along the road trip, Infinity (Finn), frequently talked about numbers. All of this was above Bonnie’s level of understanding, but it helped her to relax, with all the stress engulfing her life.  Numbers also play a key role in saving Finn near the end (to prevent spoilers, I won’t elaborate).

“The tattoo is a reminder that choices made out of desperation are almost always bad choices.”

This whole trip, screamed desperation.  While I liked what the road trip offered Bonnie and Finn, I admit to often questioning the characters decisions to not come forth and deny the awful media allegations about them, but then I realized that would have ruined the story.  The bond between Bonnie and Finn was formed through the road trip and only got stronger with each day.  If they had come forward earlier, that bond would have broken and we’d likely get a very different ending.  And I think the characters knew this too. Bonnie, in particular, knew that ignoring the media reports probably wasn’t right, but she was enjoying their private bubble, something she missed from her life, and she didn’t want to burst that bubble.

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It’s also clear that Bonnie is a bit too trusting, which is why people have taken advantage of her in the past.  She does use the road trip as a chance to gather her strength and finally show us some backbone when the time is right.

If you are familiar with the author, than you know the level of sexy times is low.  But I loved the intimate moments between the couple. They were random and spontaneous, one moment leading to a very interesting turn of events during their trip.

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This story isn’t your average love story, and that’s why I loved it. Amy’s work continues to amaze me.  Her plot lines are fresh and creative.  She is able to continually give the reader characters you want to care about.  Sure, like any good romance novel, the characters have issues, but it’s how the characters overcome those issues that draw you in.  They don’t sit around crying for themselves . . . much. They rely on the people they meet along the way, to guide them through their troubles.  Bonnie and Finn rely on each other, along with a supporting cast of characters they meet along the way, and two of their other halves, who they lost too early (this will make more sense when you read the story).  With that support, the rumors and efforts to keep them apart, don’t stand a chance.  After all, despite what math might say, in their minds, Infinity + One = Two.

“We’re Bonnie and Clyde!  Wanted and unwanted.  Caged and cornered.  We’re lost and we’re alone.  We’re a big, tangled mess.  We’re a shot in the dark.  We’re two people who have nowhere else, no one else, and yet, suddenly that feels like enough for me!”

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Audio Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gone girl

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Mystery, thriller, suspense
Length: 19 hours and 11 min

Synopsis
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

My review
Story: 4.5 stars
This is one twisted and messed up story, I LOVED IT!  Nick and Amy are a disaster.  While I had moments of liking one of them or feeling sorry for them, they are both selfish, stuck in their own self-pity and high expectations for others.  When those high expectations fall between them, and Amy’s psychotic tendencies take over, the book and their lives are put in a tailspin that is impossible to stop.  I repeatedly shook my head and said to myself: “I can’t believe she (or he) did that.” The decisions they make are beyond reason.  And like a car wreck, you can’t but help and stare

Tanner sums it up well: “You two are the most fucked up people I’ve ever met, and I specialize in fucked up people.”

The tension of whether Amy will be found and what will happen to Nick, pull you through the story.  You can theorize how it will turn out, but I doubt anyone could predict that ending.  FYI, it’s not a HEA.

Brilliantly written, great character development, with a shocking plot line, I loved every minute of it!

Performance: 5 stars
The narrators for Amy and Nick were flawless.  They perfectly captured the emotions of the characters to where I felt like I was watching a movie (I’m beyond excited to see this on the big scene now).  Within their own narrative, they often had to include other characters.  I typically don’t like when the female narrator reads a male voice and vice versa, but these two did a great job with it.

My only complaint, and it’s not really a complaint, was the length of the audio (obviously there is nothing that can be done about this – the story is the story).  Ideally I like audio books to be under 14 hours, that way I can finish them in two weeks.  This audio was 19 hours. BUT, and it’s a big BUT, I was so engrossed in the story, I actually listened to the last 3 hours at home, walking about my house like a tool with my ear buds in.  I HAD to know what happened!

Overall: 5 stars
When you finish this book, you will want to:
A) Push Amy & Nick off a cliff
B) Crown Amy as one of the Best Villains ever
C) Applaud the author for this psychotic brilliance
D) All of the above
Answer: D

Audible

Goodreads