Playing Catch Up…

As you know from Sunday’s post my blogging has not been up to par recently. In an attempt to catch up on all the reviews I need to write I’ve penned several “catch up” reviews below. Hopefully some of the books spark your interest and make you want to read further!

ucmUnbound by Cara McKenna

Plot from Goodreads:

She set out to find herself, and discovered the darker side of desire.

Merry’s lost a lot recently—first her mother, then close to a hundred pounds. Feeling adrift, she strikes out in search of perspective. A three-week hike through the Scottish Highlands was supposed to challenge her new body and refocus her priorities, but when disaster strikes, she’s forced to seek refuge in the remote home of a brooding, handsome stranger…

Rob exiled himself to the Highlands years ago, desperate to escape his own self-destruction. Haunted by regrets, he avoids human contact at all costs…but when Merry turns up injured, he can’t very well run her off. And as he nurses her back to health, Rob can’t resist his guest’s sweet demeanor—or her flirtatious advances. The igniting passion between them rouses a secret appetite Rob has long struggled to keep hidden. But Merry craves nothing more than to help Rob surrender to his desires, and the journey draws the lovers into an entirely different kind of wilderness.

Reading BFF Kelly recently told me she had a new author I needed to start reading: Cara McKenna. When we discussed what book I should read first she immediately recommended Unbound. I’m really glad she did because it’s about two really odd but really fascinating characters.

Merry is a woman undergoing huge physical, emotional, and mental changes.  Her physical changes have led to her being a bit more adventurous and aggressive sexually, while also giving her new confidence in herself as a woman and as a person. This new-found confidence (and the unfortunate loss of her mother) forces her to reevaluate the track her life seems to be on – her job, the friends she’s surrounded herself with, and the man she’s been giving her attention to.

Rob, on the other hand, has been struggling to keep the person he is all tucked away inside. Due to his checkered past, he decides to leave society, his friends, and his job to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. No indoor plumbing, no electricity, no modern conveniences, and most importantly – no people. There in that cabin he hides what he believes is his most shameful secret – his masochist fetish.

Final Thoughts: If you’re ok with reading about sexual relationships that are Dominant/submissive and include bondage, then definitely check this one out. McKenna’s story about two people rediscovering themselves sexually and personally is really well done. I truly enjoyed Merry and Rob’s quirks and watching them get their shit together.

4 out of 5 Stars

Unbound by Cara McKenna
Penguin Group (2013)
eBook: 268 pages
ISBN: 9781101621998

tahdgThe American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Plot from Goodreads:

Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

This book frustrated the hell out of me. Nothing about any of the main characters endeared me to them at all. Cora is totally naive and aloof, Ivo has a bi-polar personality, Bertha has no mind of her own, and the whole story takes WAY too long to come to a resolution. When I finished the book I scratched my head and wondered what the point of it all was. The last chapter gave me a small amount of insight into Ivo’s head, but at that point it was too little too late. Every time he affected Cora in a negative manner there was never a resolution. For example, he leaves her for most of her pregnancy to go to India, returns to England many months later but doesn’t tell Cora, which angers her. Nothing is ever said between Cora and Ivo about this or about him not showing up until the birth of their child. Their relationship is so dysfunctional because of the lack of communication, and by the end of the novel that problem still isn’t really resolved.

Final Thoughts: The character development is so poor that you can’t appreciate any of the “world” that’s built (when I say “world” I mean the setting: the estates, the art, the fashions, etc.) It’s a shame because Goodwin’s writing had promise. The story she created had a great premise, it was just poorly executed.

2 out of 5 Stars

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
St. Martin’s Press (2011)
eBook: 480 pages
ISBN: 9781429987080

bemBelieve (True Believers #3) by Erin McCarthy

Plot from Goodreads:

Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she’s faced with being THAT girl, and couldn’t be more disgusted with herself. She can’t even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that’s good and oh, so bad…

Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin’s house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he’s drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn’t care that he’s done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.

But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it’s a naïve dream to believe that his record won’t catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…

Having previously read the first two books in McCarthy’s True Believers series (True and SweetI jumped at the chance to continue by reading book three, Believe.

To be honest I wasn’t a fan of how fast things moved between Robin and Phoenix. Robin has basically become a new person after her major screw up – and as such I wanted her to find herself and become independent before jumping into a super serious relationship with Phoenix. Phoenix is also changing. He’s adapting to a new life and new surroundings. The two of them are going through so many personal changes that their relationship with each other makes sense, I just wish they had more time to get comfortable in their own skin. It makes me wonder what they would be like if their relationship suddenly failed. Would they be able to continue making the healthy decisions they had started making in their new lives? Or would they both fall back to their old habits?

What I did think was great was the evolution of Robin, and the focus on drinking till you black out/binge drinking. It’s a serious issue for many college aged kids, and one I think McCarthy is smart for bringing attention to.

Final Thoughts: I’m glad I’ve stuck with the series this long. I’m excited to see how it’ll all come together in book four, Shatter, due out this fall!

3 out of 5 Stars

Believe by Erin McCarthy
Penguin (2014)
eBook: 232 pages
ISBN: 9780698148710

Special thanks to Penguin Group for my review copy via Netgalley!

mtrMisbehaving by Tiffany Reisz

Plot from Goodreads:

Wanted: Adventurous, open-minded man willing to try anything…

As a popular sex blogger, Beatriz gets paid to have orgasms. So being on deadline the week of her sister’s wedding isn’t as rough as it sounds. There’s just one hitch: Bea’s assignment is to write a review of a sex position manual, but she doesn’t have a plus one to play with.

The good news: Ben, the one who got away back in college, is also attending stag–and he’s as temptingly gorgeous as ever.

The bad news: Ben turned down Bea’s offer of graduation night sex five years ago.

The best news: He’s not planning on making the same mistake twice. 

I really enjoyed Reisz’s Original Sinners series and was excited to read something else that strayed from that world. Not that anything is wrong with the Original Sinners world, I was just eager for some new characters from her. I was definitely not disappointed. (Note: Misbehaving is a contemporary erotic retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.)

Bea is this badass sex education blogger who is completely confident in herself, except when it comes to Ben. He’s been the one guy to turn her down. The one guy she really wanted to give her heart to. And Ben knows that turning her down all those years ago was one of the biggest mistakes of his life. When the two are thrown together again at a wedding they realize they have the perfect opportunity to try again.

Misbehaving is a smart erotic novella about two individuals who are interesting, smart, kinky, and unafraid to explore their sexual appetites with each other. It is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Reisz – a story that explores human emotion with witty banter, hot (at times awkward) boundary-pushing sex, and extremely likable characters.

Final Thoughts: READ IT.

4 out of 5 Stars

Misbehaving by Tiffany Reisz
Harlequin (2014)
eBook: 108 pages
ISBN: 9781460326404

Special thanks to Harlequin for my review copy via Netgalley!!

rnacRusty Nailed (Cocktail #2) by Alice Clayton

Plot from Goodreads:

In this sequel to Wallbanger, the second book in the Cocktail series, fan favorites Caroline and Simon negotiate the rollercoaster of their new relationship while house-sitting in San Francisco.

Playing house was never so much fun—or so confusing. With her boss on her honeymoon, Caroline’s working crazy long hours to keep the interior design company running—especially since she’s also the lead designer for the renovation of a gorgeous old hotel on Sausalito. So with her hotshot photographer boyfriend gallivanting all over the world for his job, she and Simon are heavy-duty into “absence makes the heart grow fonder” mode. Neither has any complaints about the great reunion sex, though! Then Simon decides he’s tired of so much travelling, and he’s suddenly home more. A lot more. And wanting Caroline home more, too. Though their friends’ romantic lives provide plenty of welcome distraction, eventually Caroline and Simon have to sort their relationship out. Neither wants “out of sight, out of mind,” but can they create their own happy mid-ground cliché?

Rusty Nailed is the second in Alice Clayton’s Cocktail series, and is a direct follow-up to Wallbanger. When I read Wallbanger a year or so ago I remember laughing out loud SO hard. Clayton has this writing voice that you can’t help but get sucked in by. Rusty Nailed tackles the challenges involved with a relationship becoming more serious and more permanent. As such, the writing grows a bit more serious and reflective, but still includes the signature humor. Rusty Nailed chronicles this relationship growth excellently. I love all the characters and the situations into which Clayton throws them. I think she excellently illustrated the stress that comes with moving in and settling down with your partner.

Final Thoughts: Clayton introduces us to who will be the heroine of book three in the Cocktail series, Screwdrivered. It’s safe to say that I’ll be reading it, and that you should be reading Wallbanger and Rusty Nailed in preparation.

4 out of 5 Stars

Rusty Nailed by Alice Clayton
Gallery Books (2014)
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781476766669

Kim’s Guest Review of Most Truly: A Pride and Prejudice Novella by Reina M Williams

mtrwJane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is all about Elizabeth and Jane Bennet. Mary, Kitty, and Lydia Bennet exist as supporting characters that help demonstrate how different Elizabeth and Jane are from their sillier sisters and mother.

Recently several authors have felt (as I do!) that Mary and Kitty’s stories should be told. These women should be offered the chance to change and grow with proper tutelage to find their own happy ever after. Reina M. Williams is one of these authors, writing Most Truly: A Pride and Prejudice Novella, which gives Kitty a chance to showcase her new maturity while finding love.

I recently reviewed the novella for Austenprose, so for a direct link to my review, click here.

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Bling Ring

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How far would you go to be famous? Would you throw your family or other loved ones under the bus to achieve the slightest bit of notoriety? In a society where more people know who Kim Kardashian is rather than the author of the Declaration of Independence, one must question the morals we raise our kids with. In The Bling Ring, based on the article and book by Nancy Jo Sales, Sofia Coppola takes us on a journey that attempts to figure out how a group of youths was able to pull off a string of high-end burglaries. They target people who have what they want: money, nice clothes, power, and most of all, fame.

Marc (Israel Broussard) is the new kid in town, and one of the first students he meets is Rebecca (Katie Chang), who is obsessed with everything having to do with Hollywood. One night, the two enter unlocked cars and steal money and credit cards. Later on they are bored at home one night, and through an internet search find out Paris Hilton’s address and that she is out-of-town for an appearance. They decide to go to her house, break in, and see how the rich and famous live. After bragging about their achievements to their friends, Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farminga), and Chloe ( Claire Julien), they decide to pay their old friend Paris another visit. This sets off a crime spree against other rich and famous young stars, including Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, and Audrina Partridge. Consumed by their closeness to fame, the group starts becoming careless and soon their deeds begin to catch up with them.

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I thought the best part of the movie was Emma Watson’s performance. Even though in the trailer Watson (undoubtedly the biggest name in the film) was viewed as the main character, her role in the final film was that of a supporting character. Her character, Nikki, was based on Alexis Neiers, the suspect who gave the original interview that the film is based on. I felt that she had the whole attitude of her character down pat. Watson said that to prepare for the role, she watched a lot of reality TV and even created a fake Tumblr as her character. She had the accent of a party girl down perfectly, and even though she had such a small role (and such an empty character), she was really able to create something memorable.

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I also thought Coppola’s vision for the movie was very interesting. She based her screen play on Sales’ article entitled “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”, in which she interviewed Alexis Neiers and her alleged connection to the group. From there the story sort of took on a life of its own and those in The Bling Ring became celebrities in their own right. They each had their own story to tell, and I thought Coppola’s interpretation of those stories was really spot on. The film was quick-moving and the story didn’t drag. My only complaint was that some of the dialogue seemed a little too fake, and I got the sense that it was Coppola’s interpretation of how teenagers would talk in these scenes. It seemed too made up, and didn’t flow well at times.

All and all, I thought The Bling Ring was an interesting take on the lengths some people will go to achieve their 15 minutes of fame. The film, though not one of Coppola’s best works, was entertaining, and I thought Watson’s performance made the movie and showed off her comedic chops and how good of an actress she really is.

3 out of 5 Stars

The Bling Ring (2013)
American Zoetrope
R, 90 Minutes

Kim’s Guest Review of The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed (Billionaire Boys Club #3) by Jessica Clare

twbbjcI hope y’all have been loving all the joint reviews that reading bestie Kelly (from Reading With Analysis) and I have been posting. We’ve read so many of the same books lately that we’ve joined creative forces to help put an end to all the writer’s block we’ve been having.

Our latest joint review is on The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed by Jessica Clare. It’s the third book in Clare’s Billionaire Boys Club series. Book one was Stranded With A Billionairefollowed by Beauty and the Billionaire, which Kelly and I gushed about here.

For a direct link to our review of our pros and cons about The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed, click here.

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Wolf of Wall Street

twowsWhat makes a man successful? Is it money, nice cars, a big house, a good-looking wife, or all of the above? In the film The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the autobiography of the same name, Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Jordan Belfort, a tycoon who seemingly has it all. He has a good job, tons of money, and a beautiful house. Despite these riches, we are taken on a journey to see the other side of living such a life. The film poses this question: in order to have it all, does one have to lie, cheat, and steal to achieve that success?

Jordan Belfort is an up and coming stock broker who gets laid off from his first job after the market crashes on Black Monday.  To make ends meet, he takes a job in a Long Island boiler room selling questionable penny stocks. Due to his Wall Street training,  he is able to sell these stocks with ease and eventually recruits Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), as well as some other immoral characters to start a pump and dump company. This attracts the attention of federal agents, who question the ethics of this new company. Belfort enjoys the high life, but will he be able to keep this illegal business going or will his deeds eventually catch up to him?

Let me start this review by saying I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was really good in this role. Do I think it was his best performance to date? No, but I do think the role suited him well and showcases why he is one of the great actors of our generation. I would have been really upset if he had won the Oscar for this movie because I think he has had other, more deserving performances that have gone overlooked. I think this was a good performance in a not-so-great movie. After a while, the story became predictable. I got to one point in the movie where I looked over at my brother and said, “I bet he’s going to have sex with this hooker and then do a line of coke on her ass.” It was three hours of the same repetitive story line, and I think the film could have been edited down more, with some of the repeated scenes left on the cutting room floor.

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Another thing I questioned was Jonah Hill’s Oscar nomination. I thought he was very deserving of one for Moneyball, but in this performance he seemed to play an early 90’s banker version of Jonah Hill. I thought there was nothing memorable about his performance, which seemed very campy and appeared that he was trying too hard. I did think that Matthew McConaughey (in his one scene of the movie) was much more memorable as Belfort’s mentor and first boss Mark Hanna. Also a great breakout performance was given by Margot Robbie as Jordan’s second wife, Naomi. I thought acting-wise she was a great match for DiCaprio, and despite being a new comer to the business, she was able to hold her own and even outshine DiCaprio in some scenes. I look forward to seeing where her career takes her because I think she will be a big star.

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In the end, I thought The Wolf of Wall Street faltered more than it succeeded. I think the film was just too long. Had some of the less important scenes been edited down or cut out completely, the film would have had a better flow and been more enjoyable all around. I think it bought up a good point about the lengths some would go to for success, but the message was lost in too many scenes of coke binges and sex with random hookers.

3 out of 5 Stars

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Paramount Pictures
R, 180 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Great Gatsby

tggpAre there such things as second chances? If something doesn’t work out the first time, should we just let it be and not try again? If a book is adapted into a bad film the first time, should it just stay a book and never be made into a film again? As I expressed in my page to screen review of the original Great Gatsby film and book, I had hoped that this recent remake would be able to capture some of the magic from the book that the original film adaptation hadn’t. I had seen the trailers and my expectations were high given how dazzling and colorful they seemed. Could those two and a half minutes translate to a film that made me forget the travesty of the first attempt of adapting this novel for the screen?

For those of you who have never read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel (shame on you) or seen the first film (don’t waste your time), The Great Gatsby tells the story of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a recent Yale graduate who moves to West Egg, Long Island. There he is reunited with his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), who live on the other side of the bay in East Egg. While living in his modest cabin, Nick moves next to the mansion of the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), about whom not much is known. In fact people aren’t even sure he actually exists.  All that is known is that he throws the most extravagant parties, which are the social events of the year. One day Nick receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties, and through a private meeting with Gatsby finds out that he was once romantically involved with Nick’s cousin Daisy, with whom he is still madly in love. One afternoon, Nick invites Daisy over for tea at Gatsby’s request to reunite him with his long-lost lover. Sparks immediately fly between the two and they begin to have an affair. Who will Daisy choose, the man she gave her word to and has given her her current status in society or her former love, who seems to be the true love of her life.

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I am so torn about how I feel regarding this film. There were certain aspects of the film that I loved and really appreciated, yet there were other things that just fell flat. I thought that it was visually stunning. The party scenes were exactly as I imagined them, and I thought that director Baz Lurhmann did exceptionally well creating, at the same time, a world of mystery and delight . Another thing that was amazing about the film was the music. Lurhmann has a way of making the music another character in his films, which really brings the story and characters to life. The score for this film was executive produced by Jay Z and had many current artists recreating some jazz-age favorites with a modern twist. The music definitely helped bring to life the grandiose ideas behind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s characters.

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Something still fell flat in this translation. It was better than the first film, but still lacked some of the spark that existed in the book. I thought Carey Mulligan seemed very out-of-place as Daisy and looked like a baby compared to the rest of the cast. The way Lurhmann decided to tell the story as a flashback from Carraway’s perspective, as he’s being admitted to a rehabilitation center for alcoholism, was a good choice, but again something fell flat. It lacked the magic of the book, and the anticipation I felt when reading didn’t seem to follow me as I watched the film.

In the end I thought it was better than the first film, but still not as good as the book. Writing this review several months after I saw the film, has helped me write a more honest and accurate review. At first I was so enamored by the music and the lights I wouldn’t have given it such a critical review. I’ll end with this piece of advice: if you have to see a film version for a class pick this one, but if you have time, stick to the book (and this is coming from a non-reader.) Until next time, happy viewing.

3 out 5 Stars

The Great Gatsby (2013)
Warner Bros.
PG-13, 143 Minutes

Series Spotlight: The Summerset Abbey Trilogy by T.J. Brown

Up until now, every single Series Spotlight post I’ve written has been about a series I’m raving about. Sadly, this particular spotlight is on a trilogy that bothered me for a multitude of reasons. The Summerset Abbey trilogy by T.J. Brown started out with an enormous amount of potential.  However, as the series continued I found myself aggravated not only with certain characters, but with larger statements the trilogy was making.

sattjbAll three books revolve around three “sisters.” I say “sisters” because two of the three women, Rowena and Victoria, are actually sisters. The third young woman, Prudence, was their governess’s daughter and was raised like their sister after her mother’s death. When Rowena and Victoria’s father Sir Phillip dies, their uncle steps in to bring them to his estate for his wife to raise. Their uncle is not forward-thinking at all. He believes Prudence has no place in their lives and society, as she’s the daughter of a servant. Thus begins the tale of how one man’s death changes the ideals, lives, and futures of three young women. Rather than talk about each book individually, I’m going to discuss each of the three main female characters.

Prudence: Of the three women, she started out as my favorite. Her plight from a girl raised with wealth, freedom, and status to being thrust into a world of servitude and poverty was captivating. Her odd upbringing did her no favors in terms of helping her find her place in the world. In Rowena and Victoria’s home she was just as they were. Outfitted in nice clothes. Educated and not worked as a servant, though her mother was the governess. Sir Phillip was a man of forward thinking who didn’t believe in the rigidity of the social classes. He encouraged the girls to be freethinkers themselves, and all of this led to Prudence believing she could accomplish great things someday. The girls’ uncle, however, doesn’t believe in this way of thinking and tells Rowena that Prudence is not welcome at his estate. Rowena, needing Pru, tells her uncle that Prudence is really their lady’s maid. This is how Prudence finds herself in the servants quarters. She is not welcome above stairs nor below, as the servants recognize she’s not truly of their class.

I found Prudence to be the character that had the MOST potential and the one that flopped the hardest. She makes a decision at the end of book one that just doesn’t match up to her character’s intelligence at all. Over the course of the next two books we’re left to watch the repercussions of her decision. At the end of three books I still didn’t understand the motives behind her decision nor did I really feel like she was happy. She just seemed resigned to what her life was. And what kind of statement does that tell readers? Here is this young woman, brought up with education, music lessons, and access to the suffragette movement among other things. And where do we see her wind up? Struggling to bake bread and wash clothes. Her potential was completely revoked, the minute that decision at the end of book one was made.

Rowena: From start to finish, I disliked her. From our first introduction to her she’s selfish, impulsive, rude, and stuck-up. I cut her a bit of slack knowing her father had just died, but even in book three – she’s just…ugh, aggravating. All she cares about is herself and finding ways to make her feel “alive.” She allows her uncle to run roughshod over all of her and Victoria’s feelings on moving, their obligations to society, and most importantly, what they can “do” as women. Her inability to help herself or to help others truly bothered me.

Victoria: While she started out a bit boring for my taste, she quickly rose up the ladder in my mind and is the reason why I stuck with the entire series. I wanted to know HER story and her’s alone.  Of the three women she is the only one that fights for what she wants, and the only one that tries to better herself and the world around her. She fights with her Aunt and Uncle about Prudence constantly, even standing up to them pretty amazingly at one point. She becomes a nurse during the war to help those around her. She becomes friends with one of the scullery maids in the estate’s kitchen and brings her to London, giving her a more decent future. She’s definitely the most nurturing of the three women, as she is always worried about the causes of others (a bit naively at some points.)

So what are the larger points of this story that bothered me? For one thing, why were the majority of the women in the books bitches? Also, did the insanely crazy side of the Women’s Suffragette Movement have to be the only one shown? Sure there were women who did crazy things all in the name of women’s rights, but there were also amazing women like Alice Paul and Millicent Fawcett, who could have been used to show another less vindictive/less self-serving side of the movement.

Even with all of the nonsense above that bothered me I do have to give Brown props for her work on the historical front. Her incorporation of the clashing of social classes and overarching effects of the war were done brilliantly.

In (story) chronological order (with my ratings) the series is:

  1. Summerset Abbey – 3 out of 5 Stars
  2. A Bloom In Winter – 2 out of 5 Stars
  3. Spring Awakening – 2 out of 5 Stars

Series Spotlight: The Westfield Wolves Series/Regency Vampyre Trilogy by Lydia Dare

This past summer, as I was stalking the Nook sales site, I found several books by Lydia Dare that intrigued me. While I don’t read as many paranormal books as I used to (I’m not sure why), I still like throwing one or two into my reading pile every few months to help me mix things up. The “one or two books” I threw into the mix this year turned into seven, with another two being thrown into my to-read pile. The seven books I read turned out to be two series by Lydia Dare (actually two authors – Tammy Falkner and Ava Stone) that intersect each other. The first four books are part of The Westfield Wolves series, the next three are the Regency Vampyre Trilogy, followed by two more Westfield Wolves books (another wolf book is slated for 2014 release and will be the tenth in this dual series.)

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So why am I telling you to read these books? It’s because of the kick-ass, take no prisoner heroines. You see, all the male characters are strong, powerful, domineering men. They’re werewolves and vampires, so their domineering natures are to be expected. However the women that enter their lives are no simpering misses. These women stand up to their domineering partners, challenging them and effectively wrapping these men around their little fingers. There is nothing they won’t do for their women, especially fall in love, which is something they’ve all sworn never to do due to their wild natures. Yet these fearless women show them how much better life is with someone by their side; they are an equal partner with whom they can share the ups and downs, the good and the bad.

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The books that really stand out in this series are Tall, Dark, and Wolfish and It Happened One Bite. Tall, Dark, and Wolfish follows Benjamin, a werewolf who has suddenly stopped changing during the full moon, and Elspeth, a healer who is part of a coven of witches in Scotland. Ben travels to Scotland in search of a famed healer (Elspeth’s late mother) to help him with his “ailment”.  As Elspeth is the only remaining healer, he finds himself in her company often as she tries to figure out how to get him to turn back into a wolf.  The two have such sharp and witty dialogue that I couldn’t help but fall in love with their story and subsequent relationship.

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In It Happened One Bite, Elspeth’s coven sister Blaire travels to a castle in Scotland that she never knew belonged to her family.  While exploring the castle she finds a man, James Kettering, locked in her cellar.  It turns out that her mother and the four other witches of their coven locked him in the cellar 20 years earlier for reasons unknown to James, Blaire, or the current coven. What I liked about this one was the change in Blaire’s character over the course of the novel.  She’s the battle witch of the coven – she can shoot fireballs, is excellent with a bow and arrow, etc. Her personality is already a bit more hardened and tomboyish to begin with, but to watch her fall in love was great. And James – he’s never threatened by her tough exterior. In fact, he loves her sarcasm and dry wit. He knows deep down inside she’s capable of great warmth, kindness, and loyalty. Their story definitely hooked me and made me extremely excited to continue the series.

I hope that I’ve given you enough reasons to read these series, as they aren’t ones to miss. And for those of you nervous to read something that is a collaboration of two authors, let me assure you that their writing is so flawless and seamless that you truly cannot tell that it was written by more than one author.

In (story) chronological order (with my ratings) the series is:

  1. A Certain Wolfish Charm (Westfield Wolves #1) – 4 out of 5 Stars
  2. Tall, Dark, and Wolfish (Westfield Wolves #2) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  3. The Wolf Next Door (Westfield Wolves #3) – 3 out of 5 Stars
  4. The Taming of the Wolf (Westfield Wolves #4) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  5. It Happened One Bite (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #1) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  6. In The Heat of The Bite (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #2) – 4 out of 5 Stars
  7. Never Been Bit (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #3) – 3 out of 5 Stars
  8. The Wolf Who Loved Me (Westfield Wolves #5) – On my to-read list
  9. Wolfishly Yours (Westfield Wolves #6) – On my to-read list

Series Spotlight: The Artists Trilogy by Karina Halle

Kim here. Back with another Series Spotlight post! I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed putting them together.  In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a serious series book binger.  I find the first book in a series, enjoy it, and then need to read all of them ASAP.  It makes trying to describe each book as a single entity more difficult, as the series blends together as I progress through it.  Karina Halle’s The Artists Trilogy was one such series.  One story, told through three books and a novella, The Artists Trilogy is the perfect reading choice for anyone who loves anti-heroes.

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This dark, gritty, crime-filled series had me hooked from the get-go.  Halle’s characters are an anti-hero lover’s dream.  Ellie, Camden, Javier, and even Gus are people you’d never expect to find yourself rooting for.  Ellie is a con artist, dealt some shitty blows in life.  Her parents were also con artists, and after one of their cons goes wrong she finds herself with a bad acid burn on her leg. The revenge she’s sworn on the man responsible for her leg is what drives and motivates her. Camden, on the other hand, was thrust into a life of crime when he married the wrong girl.  His ex-wife’s brothers were into some bad shit and forced him to become a money launderer after the divorce. While deep down he’s a great guy with a great heart, he is capable of some serious “dirty work.” Javier isn’t a true anti-hero, at least not in my opinion (I believe him to be one of the villains of the piece.)  He runs a cartel and is Ellie’s former lover.  She left him after she found out he was cheating on her and has been on the run ever since. Finally, we come to Gus.  Gus is a former cop who is now into forging ID’s, license plates, etc.  He was a friend of Ellie’s parents and helped them (and later Ellie) with several cons over the years.

Now that you’ve met the cast, we should move to the story.  Ellie has spent years on the run from Javier and heads back to her hometown to catch her breath and regroup.  While there she rekindles her friendship with Camden, a former friend from high school.  She realizes something isn’t quite right with his situation and comes to learn of his money laundering.  She decides she wants to help him when Javier comes back into her life in full force.  After a few games of cat and mouse, Ellie is forced back into Javier’s company.  It’s there she learns that the revenge she has yearned for her entire life is in her grasp, as long as she works with Javier.

So why am I telling you about this series? First because there aren’t enough anti-heroes out there.  They need more love and I think this series helps to right that wrong. Second, I just really love the dark, gritty nature of this series.  I found this series at a time I needed a break from the “perfect” nature of romance novels.  I needed flawed characters, the triumph of evil characters, and frankly, chaos.  Halle gave me all that and more in a well-written series, and as a reader it’s my job to share that with you! If you’ve been looking for a series that is totally out of the box, filled with crime, gun fights, hot sex, and car chases The Artists Trilogy is a sure bet.

In (story) chronological order (with my ratings) the series is:

  1. On Every Street (Novella) –  3 out of 5 Stars
  2. Sins & Needles – 4 out of 5 Stars
  3. Shooting Scars – 4 out of 5 Stars
  4. Bold Tricks – 4 out of 5 Stars

Series Spotlight: The Beachwood Bay Series by Melody Grace

If you’ve been attempting to start reading books that fall under the New Adult genre listen up, this post is for you.  My latest Series Spotlight is on Melody Grace’s Beachwood Bay series, which currently consists of 2 full length novels and 2 novellas.

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So before I go into what I thought of the books and the series let me just chat about the reading order.  Though the novellas Untouched and Untamed Hearts take place prior to Unbroken and Unafraid, I’d recommend reading them AFTER you read their matching books.  I think you ruin certain elements of the big books by reading the novellas beforehand.  I liked learning about the history of the couples little by little rather than all at once, as the novellas are written.  So, I feel that it would be best to read the series in this order: Unbroken, Untouched, Unafraid, Untamed Hearts. 

Ok, with that out-of-the-way, on to my thoughts!

I really enjoyed Unbroken! It’s full of all the angst and drama that I love.  Not only that but there is also love that is selfless! Can we get more books like that?  A love that allows you to break your own heart, simply because it may be in the best interest of your partner (I know I’m being vague here, but I really can’t ruin Unbroken for you.)  Emerson (the hero of Unbroken) comes off as a major asshole at first.  However, once you understand his backstory and the true reasoning for his actions, I promise you, you’ll look at him in an entirely different light. And Jules? Jules shows us just what grief can do to a person.  Grief stemming from loss and also grief due to lost love.  She’s a really thought-provoking character (especially to anyone out there that has experienced loss and has grieved.)

Untouched was the perfect complement to Unbroken.  We get to experience Emerson and Juliet’s relationship at its beginning, chock-full of the blush of new love and the difficulties they faced due to the differences in their situations.

Unafraid is the story of Emerson’s sister, Brittany, and her beau, Hunter.  Hunter is in Beachwood Bay taking over the horse farm his grandfather left to him (I love him already. Any guy who loves horses? Yee haw!)  He comes from a very well-to-do family who expects him to just get a business degree and go to work in corporate America.  Be the guy who attends cocktail parties and is always “on.”  He has other plans in store, namely running the horse farm, and being with Brit.  In a way Hunter also helps us understand the depths of sorrow a person can feel from grief.  He and Juliet are similar in that way.

Brit on the other hand has dreams of becoming a fashion designer.  She’s trying to escape the small-town life she’s been stuck in, as well as the stigma that having a non-existent father and druggie mom can leave.  She’s pushed down every emotion she’s ever felt and tries to hide it all with meaningless sex.  She’s one of those characters who appears rough and tough on the outside but inside is broken in a million pieces.  Hunter and Brit’s story is all about overcoming the labels that society places on us and allowing one’s true self to overcome all odds.

So, why do I like this series?  First, they are great escapes.  While they are quick reads guaranteed to make you believe in love, they have some depth to them.  Second, I think it’s the characters dealing with grief that struck a chord with me.  As someone who has had their fair share of grief in their life, I know the emotions that grief can cause a person to feel.  To have stories that allow us to see that you can overcome grief and get beyond it? Fabulous.

In (story) chronological order (with my ratings) the series is:

  1. Untouched (Novella) – 4 out of 5 Stars
  2. Unbroken – 4 out of 5 Stars
  3. Untamed Hearts (Novella) – 3 out of 5 Stars
  4. Unafraid – 4 out of 5 Stars