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

Advertisements

Kim’s Review of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

frrEleanor & Park was my first foray into the world of Rainbow Rowell books. What a wonderful way to “dip my toe” into the Rainbow Rowell reading pool. Upon finishing it I was quickly directed to read Fangirl, also by Rowell.  Given how much I enjoyed Eleanor & Park, I was eager to start Fangirl immediately. Little did I know the profound way it would change me….

From Goodreads:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I thought Eleanor & Park was stellar. I still think it’s stellar. But when compared to the absolute perfection that Fangirl exuded they are simply incomparable. Fangirl speaks to a demographic of people who typically aren’t the heroes and heroines of novels. It champions people who are different. People who go against the flow. People with anxiety. People with learning disabilities. It speaks to lovers of fan fiction. To people so in love with fictional characters that it inspires them to continue writing their story. It’s a story for all the people who had to grow up too fast. Who had to be adults way before their time.  Fangirl is a love letter for anyone who’s gone through a difficult time in their life – whether it’s an issue with family, friends, or themselves – Fangirl speaks to the underdog in each of us. Fangirl gives voice to the confident person living (dormant for some) inside all of us. It is in essence, a love letter to the goodness that exists in human nature. The goodness that exists in us.

I don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to fully express the feelings I had reading this book. All I can tell you is what I said above and that upon finishing the book I went back and re-read if three times. I urge everyone to read it. Then re-read. Then tell a friend to read it.

5 out of 5 Stars (Really 100 Stars)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s Press (2013)
Hardcover: 448 pages
ISBN: 9781250030955

Kim’s Review of Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always (The Secret #4.5) by Jessica Sorensen

laefaajsWhen I found out that Jessica Sorensen had written one more novella to add to her Secret series I’ll admit, I was nervous. I was already really happy with the outcome of the events of the previous four novels (my reviews of those novels can be found here, here, here, and here!)  I was nervous as I thought Sorensen would potentially create another conflict only in the interest of extending the series, and didn’t think much more could be added to the story.  How wrong I was!

From Goodreads:

Lila Summers just wants to know one thing for certain: that Ethan Gregory will be with her always. Once her friend, he’s become so much more, melting the pain of her past away with each kiss. Now Lila is on a road trip with Ethan, in the wilderness under the stars, and she can’t imagine her life without him. But when she talks about the future, something in Ethan changes . . .

Ethan has no doubts about his feelings for Lila. His life with her gets better every day-and that’s the scary part. How can he walk into a future where he has everything to lose? With Lila, his whole heart is on the line for the very first time. But if Ethan can’t give her the promise she needs, his greatest fear might come true: he’ll lose Lila for good.

Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always was a perfect “final act” to The Secret series.  As I said earlier, I was afraid that the main conflict contained within the story-line would be contrived and unnatural.  Fortunately, this was not the case, as the discord between Lila and Ethan seemed to stem from the natural growing pains any relationship would experience.  As these concerns were dealt with and worked through, I was happy to follow along as Lila and Ethan learned even more about each other as they dealt with these problems.  In a way, these differences made their relationship seem even more real and relatable.  I know we as readers are sometimes conditioned to look for the “happy ending” in most stories, but I believe that Sorensen has accurately reproduced the problems that most couples face once the honeymoon period is over, and I was happy to follow Lila and Ethan along for one last adventure.  If you’ve been a fan of the series thus far, you owe it to yourself to finish this final chapter.

5 out of 5 Stars

Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always by Jessica Sorensen
Forever (Grand Central Publishing) (2014)
eBook: 128 pages
ISBN: 9781455584659

Special thanks to Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for my review copy via Netgalley!

Kim’s Review of The Ever After of Ella and Micha (The Secret #4) by Jessica Sorensen

teaoeamjsI am a big fan of authors who write imperfect characters who learn to find the beauty in their flaws. Ella and Micha from Jessica Sorensen’s The Secret series are two of my very favorite flawed characters. In The Ever After of Ella and Micha we finally get to see them achieve their happy ending.

From Goodreads:

The day Ella has waited for is just around the corner. It’s the day she’ll marry Micha, the love of her life, the light that guided her out of the darkness. It looks like it will be the perfect Christmas-until an unexpected package arrives with a harsh reminder of Ella’s past. Suddenly Ella doesn’t feel as confident about her future. Can she really have a “happily-ever-after” if she’s never even seen one?

Micha will stand by Ella no matter what she’s going through-though he worries that she might leave him standing at the altar again. When he’s offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tour with his favorite bands for three months, Micha knows he can’t leave Ella behind. But can he ask her to uproot her life to join him on the road?

Now Ella and Micha must find a way to balance their fears, their dreams, and their love . . . if they ever want to hear wedding bells.

As much as I love this series and its characters, I hope this is the last book focusing on Ella and Micha. I think we’ve reached the end of their story arc in a perfect manner. The growth these characters have displayed over the past three books (reviews of book one, two, & three) has been conducive and organic to the story. Their problems weren’t ones that could have been believably solved over the course of one book. I respect Sorensen as a storyteller immensely for not compromising the integrity of her characters with a quick finish. She let Ella and Micha grow naturally as individuals and as a couple, allowing readers time to grow with them. Their journey has been one wrought with difficulties and misunderstandings, but it is one that teaches us the beauty in flaws, the beauty of true love.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Ever After of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen
Grand Central Publishing (2013)
eBook: 272 pages
ISBN: 9781455582679

Special thanks to Grand Central Publishing for my review copy via Netgalley!

Kim’s Review of Sweet (True Believers #2) by Erin McCarthy

semWhen I read True by Erin McCarthy back in July I’ll admit, I wasn’t wowed.  Having just come off of a new adult reading high I chalked some of my disappointment up to that (I mean I can’t LOVE everything I read….)  Giving McCarthy the benefit of the doubt I continued with the series, promptly requesting Sweetbook two in her True Believers series, as soon as it became available. From Goodreads:

Jessica Sweet thought going away to college would finally make her free of her parents’ constant judgments and insistence she play chastity club role model for their church events, but if anything, the freedom has made her realize she can’t go home and be a hypocrite anymore. Tired of dodging their questions, she stays at school over the summer and lands in an unexpected crash pad: Riley Mann’s house.  Sarcastic, cocky, and full of opinions, Riley is also sexy personified with tattoos and biceps earned from working as a roofer all day. Not the right guy for her even if Jessica was looking for a relationship, which she is definitely not. But Jessica knows that Riley hides the burden of having to raise his younger brothers behind that grin and as she helps him get his house in order for a custody hearing, they begin to fall hard for each other, and she is forced to question what she’s hiding herself.  Jessica has never had a problem getting naked with a guy, but when it comes to showing Riley how she truly feels inside, her fear of rejection may just ruin the best thing—the best guy—to ever happen to her…

I’m glad that I gave this series a second shot, because Sweet was ten times better than True. I think it’s directly related to the characters.  First, let me say that I love when authors write characters that were raised wealthy and then throw them into situations where they have to be frugal/poor. I like seeing how believable an author can be at developing the character, as I think this particular transformation can be difficult to accurately achieve.  Jessica Sorensen did it really well with Lila in The Temptation of Lila and Ethan and I can happily say that McCarthy achieves success with Jessica in Sweet!  

Jessica was raised in an extremely stringent and hypocritical household, yet she was also raised with the best of everything. She’s never had to worry about money; she’s only had to worry about pleasing parents that are never satisfied with her. Refusing to be the good-girl martyr they expect her to be, she decides to rebel for the summer and work at a steakhouse near college.  Needing a place to crash, she winds up at Riley’s house while his brothers are all away. It’s here in his run-down, almost bank-owned home, that she begins to understand life and herself. Her development from start to finish is awesome.  Starting out as a bit of a princess, she becomes this fierce tiger, unafraid of going after what (and who) she wants.

And then we have Riley. He’s one of those bad-boy characters that has a heart of gold and kindness you never imagined.  He struggles every day to make sure his younger brothers are taken care of and kept out of the child welfare system. Blow after blow keeps threatening to tear him down, but somewhere inside of himself he finds the gumption to keep the battle alive. And when he falls for Jessica…..he falls hard.

I loved the dynamic of their relationship. While they were raised in two different lifestyles, their remarkably similar people: neither of them back down from challenges, they’re both rash, opinionated, and are at times unrelenting. Together they make each other better, stronger. McCarthy definitely hooked me into Sweetso much so that I’m eagerly awaiting the January release of book three, Believe.

4 out of 5 Stars

Sweet by Erin McCarthy
Penguin Group (2013)
eBook: 232 pages
ISBN: 9781101623169

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

Kim’s Review of The Temptation of Lila and Ethan (The Secret #3) by Jessica Sorensen

ttolaejsIt’s not a secret that the new adult genre has found a fan in me this year. It’s a genre that catches a lot of flack (unfortunately.)  That makes me sad because I truly think there are great reads to be found within it.  Your late teens/early 20’s are an extremely difficult time to navigate.  Most people are in college at that time, which leads to navigating those years with people new to your life that may or may not know you as well as the people you left at home.  It’s a time that you experiment. A time filled with peer pressure. A time to question the things you’ve been taught your whole life. But above all, it’s a time to experience life.

This is why I’ve found the new adult genre so important and awesome.  It’s filled with books that truly speak to the fears, issues, and experiences that occur during that time of your life.  I’ve found books like Tammara Webber’s Easy to help promote knowledge of rape culture and sexual assault.   Cora Carmack’s Losing It is all about the pressure in today’s society to lose your virginity.  The Temptation of Lila and Ethan by Jessica Sorensen is being added to this list of new adult must-rec’s for tackling of drug abuse, specifically prescription drugs.

From Goodreads:

On the surface, Lila Summers is flawless: good looks, expensive clothes, and a big, beautiful smile. But a dark past and even darker secrets are threatening to bubble over her perfect façade. She’ll do anything to keep the emptiness inside hidden-which leads her into situations that always end badly. Whenever she hits bottom, there’s only one person who’s there to pull her out: Ethan Gregory.

Ethan set the rules a long time ago: he and Lila are just friends. He doesn’t do relationships. Although his tattooed, bad boy exterior is a far cry from Lila’s pretty princess image, Ethan can’t deny they have a deeper connection than he’s used to. If he’s not careful, he could be in serious danger of becoming attached-and he’s learned the hard way that attachment only leads to heartbreak.

When Lila falls farther than she ever has before, can Ethan continue to help as a friend? Or is he also getting close to falling . . . for her?

Jessica Sorensen is an author you need to add to your must-read list.  She tackles this difficult subject matter with hope and beauty.  I’ve loved this series from the beginning (see my reviews of book one and two); it is filled with characters that have realistic flaws and the strength and courage to view those flaws as beautiful.  In The Temptation of Lila and Ethan Sorensen is preaching to her readers that it’s ok to be flawed.  Striving for perfection will kill you because perfection is unattainable.  Our flaws are what make us “us.”

She shows us the dangers of drug addiction, and what such an addiction can do to a person’s life.  I applaud her emphasis on prescription drug abuse, which is becoming more rampant in younger generations, and it gives hope to those who think they are powerless over these substances.  Speaking to the young adult target audience directly about these issues, Sorensen is most likely saving lives.  That is extremely important, and more proactive writing like this is needed to show young adults that they are not alone and can fight drug addiction just as the characters in Temptation do.

Therefore, I heartily encourage any fans of the new adult genre to give The Temptation of Lila and Ethan a try.  It’s a powerful read with a serious message that is worth spreading.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Temptation of Lila and Ethan by Jessica Sorensen
Grand Central Publishing (2013)
eBook: 336 pages
ISBN: 9781455574902

Special thanks to Grand Central Publishing for my review copy via Netgalley!

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.

tatkh

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.

bbmg2

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

Kim’s Review of Glittering Promises (Grand Tour Series #3) by Lisa T. Bergren

gpltbSeveral months ago I had the pleasure of reading Glamorous Illusions and Grave Consequences, the first two books in Lisa T. Bergren’s Grand Tour series.  The drama immediately took a hold of me, sweeping me with it to Europe.  I was mesmerized by the fashions, the characters, and non-stop action.  For several months I anticipated the release of the conclusion of the trilogy and was pumped when Glittering Promises finally appeared on Netgalley.

From Goodreads:

America’s newest heiress must decide if her potential fortune is rationale enough to give up her freedom and all that God is leading her toward. And when her newly-discovered siblings are threatened with ruin, her quandary deepens. Then as Cora nears Rome, more journalists are track the news story of the decade—“Copper Cora,” the rags-to-riches girl—and want to know more about her family and the men vying for her attention. Meanwhile, a charming Italian countess decides that if Cora isn’t going to claim Will’s heart, she might just try…

Sadly, I was a bit disappointed with this final chapter of the Grand Tour series.  After the tumultuous first two books I was expecting a story that would be moved along by an action-filled plot, not one of repetitive relationship misunderstandings.  I don’t mean that I was expecting 47 kidnapping scenarios, or robberies, or anything of that sort.  I just meant that I was expecting the plot to be more about the conclusion of the tour, and a conclusion to the crimes of book one and two, rather than Cora’s decision over who she was going to love.  Having a few misunderstandings when it comes to the romantic side of the story is acceptable, but when it becomes the only device used to move the plot, it can get slightly stale.

On the other hand, I enjoyed the character development of Cora and her siblings.  Seeing them hone their strengths, accept their weaknesses, and become adults responsible for their own futures was a reward for sticking with all three books in the series.  Cora’s journey was unarguably the most well done of all.  The complete transformation from books one through three was incredibly well written and probably my favorite part of the whole series.  This book would have been a total win for me if the plot had more moving it, but I can’t say I’m not satisfied with the trilogy’s conclusion.  The final plot twist in this book really shocked and surprised me (Bergren sure knows how to keep you on your toes!)  If you’re looking for a clean historical fiction that focuses on finding one’s self, this series is a sure bet.

3 out of 5 Stars

This is my twenty-second completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Glittering Promises by Lisa T. Bergren
David C. Cook (2013)
eBook: 496 pages
ISBN: 9780781410854

Special thanks to David C. Cook publishing for my review copy via Netgalley!

Kim’s Review of Born of Persuasion (Price of Privilege #1) by Jessica Dotta

bopjdPride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Jane Eyre are my three favorite novels.  It’s no surprise then that a novel being marketed with Austen’s humor and the dark drama of a Brontë novel immediately made it on to my must-read list.  Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta is a unique combination of these two opposite traits, and definitely seemed like something I couldn’t pass up.

From Goodreads:

The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

I was at first very iffy about my feelings towards this book.  Born of Persuasion is the first in the Price of Privilege trilogy and is written with a serious amount of foreshadowing.  I think what made me feel so conflicted with all the foreshadowing is that much of it is foreshadows books two and three (it is a trilogy after all.)  While I enjoy dark drama (hello, I love Jane Eyre!) I sometimes became lost in what was going to be future story and what was the present story.  By the end of the novel, however, I had become so mesmerized by the characters that the foreshadowing issues fell away.  In fact, by the end I was eagerly anticipating the next two novels.  The final third of the book flew by must faster than the first two-thirds, and before I knew it I was ready for round two (book two, Mark of Distinction, has a possible publication date of early next summer.)

Dotta’s writing truly shines with all of the crazy plot twists and turns.  Just when you think you’ve figured out a plot line or a character, something shifts and you’re left trying to piece it all together again.  It’s evident that the gothic-ness of Brontë’s writing and social humors of Austen’s writing were inspirational for Dotta.  Born of Persuasion truly feels like a book that the two women could have worked on together.  Julia herself is a cross between Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennet, and Anne Elliot (to say the least).  So, if you’d love to see this pseudo-collaboration firsthand, pick up a copy.  Janeites and Bronte fans (as well as historical fiction fans) will love it!

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my twenty-first completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta
Tyndal House Publishers (2013)
Paperback: 435 pages
ISBN: 9781414375557

Special thanks to Silver Seas PR for my review copy!