Kim’s Review of Everywhere and Every Way (Billionaire Builders #1) by Jennifer Probst

eaewjpIf you’ve read this blog for anything longer than a few minutes, you probably have found out that I’m a big fan of anything and everything related to Jane Austen. Secondary to this, you may have also discovered that I have a certain type of fantasy-husband: the billionaire. I realize that putting that filter on the general population would narrow the field about 99.9%, but hey, a girl can dream. Anyway, I’ve come across some great series that have billionaires at their centers, notably the Billionaire Boys Club books by Jessica Clare and the Love in the Balance series by Jessica Lemmon. This time around I figured I would try to dip my toe into the Billionaire Builders series via its first installment, Everywhere and Every Way by Jennifer Probst. Previously I had the pleasure of reading the Marriage to a Billionaire series by Probst, and it was a ton of fun. I figured if this new series was anything like the other great billionaire-centric books I’ve enjoyed so much, than I would be in good hands with this latest acquisition.

The plot, courtesy of Goodreads:

Ever the responsible eldest brother, Caleb Pierce started working for his father’s luxury contracting business at a young age, dreaming of one day sitting in the boss’s chair. But his father’s will throws a wrench in his plans by stipulating that Caleb share control of the family business with his two estranged brothers.

Things only get more complicated when demanding high-end home designer Morgan hires Caleb to build her a customized dream house that matches her specifications to a T—or she’ll use her powerful connections to poison the Pierce brothers’ reputation. Not one to ignore a challenge, Caleb vows to get the job done—if only he can stop getting distracted by his new client’s perfect…amenities.

But there’s more to icy Morgan than meets the eye. And Caleb’s not the only one who knows how to use a stud-finder. In fact, Morgan is pretty sure she’s found hers—and he looks quite enticing in a hard hat. As sparks fly between Morgan and Caleb despite his best intentions not to mix business and pleasure, will she finally warm up and help him lay the foundation for everlasting love?

One of the first things that caught my attention with Probst’s work is that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. That is not to say that the characters aren’t full of their own depth and strength (more on that later), but there is a ton of sharp dialogue and a healthy obsession with the Property Brothers show on HGTV that made me crack up. I thought it was great that Morgan was obsessed with the show, only to find that she now worked with three good looking brothers in her new job that all remind her of the Property Brothers themselves. It’s this tongue-in-cheek humor that kept me reading and engaged with the story. It made the later, more serious topics easier to handle and held my interest in a good way.

Speaking of the character development, Probst does a great job of bringing Morgan and Caleb to life, making them deal with complex issues, such as illness and family infighting, all the while maintaining a healthy attraction for each other. The quality dialogue and good chemistry that they exude makes their story a joy to read and time definitely stood still for me while I read this book. It was a great intro to this series and you can bet that I’ll be picking up Any Time and Any Place (the second in the series) quite soon!

Fast moving, humorous, and filled with depth, Everywhere and Every Way is one book you’re going to want to make sure you read this summer. Equal parts fun and sexy make this a great beach read!

4 out of 5 Stars

Special thanks to Ms. Probst for my review copy!

Everywhere and Every Way by Jennifer Probst
Simon and Schuster (2016)
Paperback: 448 pages
ISBN: 9781501124259

Advertisements

Kim’s Review of Desire After Dark (The McCarthys of Gansett Island #15) by Marie Force

dadmfSeveral years ago I was scavenging on the Barnes & Noble website for a new nook book to read. I stumbled upon Maid for Love by Marie Force and was transported to a tiny New England island called Gansett Island, which was modeled after Block Island.  I read Maid for Love in a night, downloaded the next books available in the series (6), and proceeded to read them all over the next two days. Since Maid for Love I’ve downloaded each new book on its release day and completely devoured it. Yesterday, Force released the 15th book in the series (!!!) Desire after Dark.  All I can say is, what a wonderful return to Gansett Island! Every new book in the series feels like a homecoming. Each book and each love story given to us is another glimpse into the lives of our Gansett family, because that’s what this group of characters has become, family. We’ve been with them as they’ve found love, started families, dealt with miscarriages, abusive parents, new career paths, divorces, and grief. Just when you think you’ve experienced everything possible with them, Force surprises us and gives us something new to love.

Plot from Goodreads:

Tobias “Slim” Jackson has the perfect life as a pilot on Gansett Island in the summer and in Florida in the winter. He’s happiest when he’s in the air, or at least that was the case before last summer when he met Erin Barton, Gansett Island’s newest lighthouse keeper. Now he can’t seem to find his usual enthusiasm for flying, winter in the sunny South or anything that doesn’t include her.

Erin has been stuck on pause since she lost her twin brother. She’ll tell you herself that her life has been a hot mess since Toby died. After dropping out of law school, she’s flitted from one pointless job to another, existing rather than truly living. Then she comes to Gansett Island to take over as the new lighthouse keeper and meets Slim, who happens to share her beloved brother’s first name. That small coincidence is enough to convince Erin that she needs to spend more time with the dashing pilot—except for the fact that he’s spending the winter more than a thousand miles from her.

Now Slim’s come home to Gansett for the holidays and to hopefully pick up where he left off with Erin. He’s got twelve days before he’s due back in Florida to finish out the remainder of his winter obligations. A lot can happen in twelve days, but will it be enough to convince Erin that it’s time to start truly living again? Read Slim and Erin’s story and catch up with the rest of the Gansett Island cast in Desire After Dark!

If you’re new to the Gansett Island series, I highly recommend starting with Maid for Love and working your way through the series and ending with this fantastic latest installment. I know that 15 books may seem daunting, but trust me, it’s worth the wait. Each book acts as an additional chapter to the overall story of the island and its inhabitants, and you get the opportunity to revisit couples from previous books as time passes. Force does a wonderful job immersing the reader in the story, and before you know it the books fly by. This new work is no exception.

Erin and Slim’s story is yet another wonderful chapter to the Gansett series. When I first learned about Jenny (the heroine of Meant for Love) and Erin’s past and the substantial amount of grief that existed in their lives I wanted so badly for them to find their happy-ever-afters. They are such beautifully strong women, and the men who love them treat them like the queens they are. They are showered with so much love and desire that they can’t help but fight against it for fear from their past losses. Thankfully Slim and Alex fight through their grief and prove to them how wonderful love can be.

Not only was Erin and Slim’s story a pure joy to read, I was SO excited to get more of Owen & Laura, Grace & Evan, and David & Daisy. Force is a master at giving you JUST enough of the other couples and rotating the focus of each new book so as to never feel like you’re missing out on anything important in their lives. Sweet, romantic, and fun, this is the perfect read to get you in the mood for summer!

4 out of 5 Stars

Special thanks to Ms. Force for my review copy!

Desire After Dark by Marie Force
HTJB, Inc (2016)
eBook: 280 pages
ISBN: 2940157747572

Todd’s Review of Deck Z: The Titanic by Chris Pauls & Matt Solomon

Every now and again, Kim hands me her Nook and asks me to scroll through a list of books that are highlighted, usually for a sale or a particular event or 51hhDGkGAEL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_season. One time I was flipping through a list of science fiction titles and one book in particular stood out. A creepy and undead hand was reaching up towards a picture of the Titanic steaming along the ocean. Intrigued, I began to read the synopsis. Two minutes later, I purchased Deck Z:The Titanic by Chris Pauls & Matt Solomon.

It is 1912, and the White Star Line is preparing to flex its muscle as one of the most powerful British shipping companies in the world with the debut of its flagship, the Titanic. Meanwhile, in a remote village in Manchuria, a mysterious sickness is spreading. Characterized by a black, oily substance that exits the mouths and noses of those infected; the patients often beg for death before descending into a subhuman state. Theodore Weiss, a German scientist, is sent by Kaiser Wilhelm II himself to investigate. What he finds is purely terrifying, and he is able to capture one of the infected and retrieve a vial of what he notes is “the Toxic” from which this infection spreads. Meanwhile, he discovers that he is not the only one who is interested in this mysterious disease, and he runs for his life as he is pursued in order to gain access to “the Toxic.” Weiss finds safety on the Titanic just as it weighs anchor and leaves port. None of the thousands of passengers aboard have the slightest idea of the grave danger they face on a ship which they believe to be unsinkable. What follows next is a tale of terror and action that doesn’t stop until the very end.

Being such a fan of science fiction and zombies, I knew that I was going to find this book entertaining. What I was curious about was the level of detail the book would provide about the zombies. If it was just going to be a gory zombie-fest with the undead chasing Titanic passengers around their cabins, I was going to be a little disappointed. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I read the opening chapters. In fact, there is a good amount of time before any action happens aboard the Titanic at all. Pauls and Solomon do a great job at setting the stage and describing “the sickness” in vivid detail. I felt as if I was with Weiss, investigating the illnesses in remote villages and his own lab, with little-to-no idea of the gravity in which he was placing himself.

After things get going on the Titanic itself, the action only picks up more, chapter by chapter. Weiss is a likable character, and I found myself rooting for him throughout the story. Pauls and Solomon also add a touch of softness with a side story line involving a young girl, which helps to round out all the horror and action that is going on otherwise. Overall, although things do get a bit predictable at points (there are only so many ways to describe a zombie, I suppose), the authors did an admirable job keeping me entertained and cheering for Weiss to the end. This is well worth a pickup for a quick read that will leave you turning the pages (or in my case, tapping the screen) until you discover what really happened on the Titanic that day.

4 out of 5 stars

Deck Z by Chris Pauls & Matt Solomon
Chronicle Books (2012)
eBook: 218 pages
ISBN: 9781452108032

Series Spotlight: A Gilded Newport Mystery by Alyssa Maxwell

For me, vacations as a child were spent on Cape Cod. Every year we would pile in to our old Ford Explorer and take the 5 hour-long trek from New Jersey to Cape Cod. For small children, 5 hours in the car can be an obscenely long time. Tired of listening to my sister and I moaning, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” my mother decided that stopping in Newport, RI would be a great half-way point to stretch our legs. It was during these stops in Newport that we began exploring Bellevue Avenue and discovered the Newport Mansions. They are large, enormous summer homes built during the Gilded Age by the Vanderbilts, Astors, Berwinds, Oelrichs, etc. They are BEAUTIFUL. In the 22 years since my first visit I’ve been to the mansions more times than I can count. I’ve introduced my husband, brother-in-law, and friends to these amazing feats of architecture and grandeur. Alyssa Maxwell is now introducing a whole new set of people to these museums with her A Gilded Newport Mystery series.

agnmam

So why am I telling you guys about this series? First, because the murders are solved by a super awesome heroine, Emma Cross. She’s smart, fiercely independent, creative, gutsy, strongly supportive of everyone around her, and one of the most generous women ever. But above all that? She’s a woman who refuses to be what the society of the time dictates. She’s a newspaper reporter – in the 1890s!!! She’s a distant Vanderbilt relative but doesn’t let that stop her from letting her house become a haven for societal outcasts. Regardless of her lower financial status, she always puts others first. She’s truly an incredible heroine.

Second, the locations and time period! I’ve been to these mansions. They are transporters to another place and time. The Gilded Age was one riddled with extravagance and extreme poverty, while also shepherding many changes on the social front. Women’s suffrage was rapidly increasing among the classes, as well as the abolition of child labor and introduction of many new industrial technologies. The amount of social, political, and economic upheval during this time period really helps drive the subplots of the mysteries.

And about those mysteries? They unfold for the reader and Emma at the same time. Nothing is kept from you that Emma herself hasn’t discovered or thought up. Mysteries told in first-person narrative are my favorite, because I think they offer the reader the ability to solve the crimes at the same time as the heroine/hero. Maxwell does a great job at letting you think you’ve figured it all out early on, then throwing a wrench in your (and Emma’s) hypothesis by adding in a new element to the crime. She really does a spectacular job.

Can I lastly just mention how beautiful the artwork on the covers is?

I highly recommend you pick up these fast-paced mysteries to take with you to the beach this summer. You’ll have a great time helping Emma solve the mysteries that just seem to keep happening in Newport!

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

  1. Murder at The Breakers – 4 out of 5 Stars
  2. Murder at Marble House – 4 out of 5 Stars
  3. Murder at Beechwood– 4 out of 5 Stars

Special thanks to Kensington Books for my copy of Murder at Beechwood via Netgalley!

Kim’s Review of Before I Go by Colleen Oakley

bigcoA few years ago I read a novel entitled The Replacement Wife. It had a similar premise to this one: a woman with cancer searches for a replacement spouse for her husband. This entire idea intrigues me because I feel like if I were to become terminally ill, my first thought would be for my spouse and his future well-being and happiness. The Replacement Wife turned out to be one of the worst books I’ve ever read, and generally made me nervous to read any novel with a similar plot line in the future. For some reason when I heard about Before I Go by Colleen Oakley something niggled in my brain to give it a chance and I’m so glad that I did. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year to date.

Plot from Goodreads:

A heart-wrenching debut novel in the bestselling tradition of P.S. I Love You about a young woman with breast cancer who undertakes a mission to find a new wife for her husband before she passes away.

Twenty-seven-year-old Daisy already beat breast cancer three years ago. How can this be happening to her again?

On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant “Cancerversary” with her husband Jsack to celebrate three years of being cancer-free, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it’s an aggressive stage four diagnosis. She may have as few as four months left to live. Death is a frightening prospect—but not because she’s afraid for herself. She’s terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but otherwise charmingly helpless husband when she’s no longer there to take care of him. It’s this fear that keeps her up at night, until she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife.

With a singular determination, Daisy scouts local parks and coffee shops and online dating sites looking for Jack’s perfect match. But the further she gets on her quest, the more she questions the sanity of her plan. As the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy’s forced to decide what’s more important in the short amount of time she has left: her husband’s happiness—or her own?

When starting out reading a book like thisyou have to prepare yourself for the tumultuous ride of emotions you’ll be taken on. Before I Go was one of the most heart-achingly beautiful journeys I’ve ever had the pleasure (and privilege) of reading. In a way the book isn’t about a specific plot, but more about the emotional journeys that the characters take with themselves as well as each other.

Front and center is Daisy. Cancer survivor patient. Wife. Best friend. Worrier. Keeper of socks. She puts forth great effort in making sure her charming husband eats, has clean clothes, and exists socially outside of work. She worries that when her cancer wins he’ll be devastated and defeated. Her single most important job and function becomes finding him a new partner. Little does she realize that undertaking this quest will shake and test the very foundations of her marriage (and also her friendship with BFF Kayleigh). Daisy’s attempts to be stoic, strong, and self-sufficient backfire. Her inability to let Jack see how weak the cancer is making her and how much his comfort would give her strength pushes him away from her. He ultimately stops pushing her, which in turn begins to make her anxious and doubtful that finding him a new wife would solve everything. This back-and-forth emotional tug of war will have you crying, laughing, and learning from beginning to end. And while Daisy eventually figures out that it’s ok to grieve for yourself, it’s not ok to let that grief make the grief of your loved ones any less important.

Through Daisy, Oakley teaches us extremely valuable lessons. Live your life to the fullest. Spend time with the people you love. Do things that make you happy. Life offers us no guarantees. We never know which day will be our last, so live up to the potential every day offers. Oakley’s masterful and emotional storytelling will have you recommending this book to everyone and adding her to your favorite author lists in quick succession.

5 out of 5 Stars

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy via Netgalley!

Before I Go by Colleen Oakley
Gallery Books (2015)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781476761664

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen Blog Tour + GIVEAWAY

tsoppjkAs you may have noticed by now, I’m a huge Julie Klassen fan. I’ve reviewed five of her works thus far, and her wit and immersive writing have kept me coming back for more each time. It was a no-brainer then that I decided to be part of the blog tour for The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Matching Klassen’s lively writing style with a dash of mystery was bound to create an adventure that I couldn’t pass up.

From Goodreads:

Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her–a longtime friend–has fallen for her younger, prettier sister.
When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll’s house left mid-play . . .

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor’s past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

Hoping to improve her family’s financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks…or very real danger?

One of my favorite things about Klassen as an author is seeing the influence that both Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters have in her works. The themes and spirit of her writing borrow from their famous works, and it always makes me happy to see, being such a fan of these authors myself. For example, reading Abigail’s search for the secret treasure room had many parallels to when Catherine Morland was attempting to find out if Henry Tilney’s mother was murdered in Northanger Abbey. Just like in Jane Eyre, there is a serious undertone of Gothic mystery to the plot as a whole, and you get a sense that there is a bigger picture hiding behind all the clues that one comes across during the course of events. I felt this way as clues began piling up while Abigail searches for the secret room and tries to uncover the mysteries of Pembrooke Park. I knew that the anonymous letters, warnings, and other seemingly independent events would weave together in a larger picture, much like Jane’s dealings with Mr. Rochester belie his true intentions until much later.

In addition to these overall themes, I felt that the plot moved well, with the revelations coming quickly enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. Of special note are the twists at the end, which had me actually gasping out loud (much to my husband’s amusement from the other room.) Not only did the plot and themes hook me, but the characters did as well. Abigail, Leah, William, and even Miles were the cause of my ability to read the entire book in one sitting. Overall, Klassen has produced yet another gem in her lineup. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was everything I thought it would be, and if you’ve never had the pleasure of reading any of Klassen’s works, this is a great one to start with.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishing (2014)
Paperback: 464 pages
ISBN: 9780764210716

Special thanks to Bethany House for my review copy!

Author Julie Klassen 2015 x 200AUTHOR BIO:

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about Julie and her books at her website, follower her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Four Fabulous Prizes

Secret Pembrook Park Blog Tour Prizes x 350

In celebration of the release of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, four chances to win copies of Julie’s books and other Jane Austen-inspired items are being offered.

Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie’s novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary’s Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor’s Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure.

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen’s website on March 16, 2015. Winners have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Good luck to all!

Secret of Pembrooke blog tour horizontal bannerClick here for more details of the blog tour!

 

Kim and Sam’s Review of Landline by Rainbow Rowell

lrrSo if you haven’t heard of Rainbow Rowell yet, let staffer Sam and I gush over her for you. She’s an author who writes both Adult and Teen contemporary fiction. She champions the people whose voices aren’t always heard. The voices of the different. The small. The people who sometimes need a push in the right direction. Her stories take you on emotional journeys that irrevocably change you (you can read my gushing reviews of her teen novels Eleanor and Park here and Fangirl here.) Today, Sam and I are discussing her latest adult venture, Landline.

From Goodreads:

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Sam: I must start by saying that I have yet to meet a Rainbow Rowell book that I didn’t like (thanks to Kim). That said, there was something about Landline that was EXTRA awesome. What I liked most is that Rowell used her YA formula with a married couple on the brink of big changes and decisions. I found Neal and Georgie more than relatable, they were parts of myself in a way I haven’t seen in a book. Not for a long time at least.

Kim: I think what made this book SO special for us, Sam, is that we’re married, and have been with our partners for several years. So we immediately could relate to the ups and downs of Neal and Georgie’s marriage.

Anyone that’s been in a long-term (read: very long) relationship will tell you that at some point you feel comfortable with your partner. That honeymoon period doesn’t necessarily end, but it evens out. There isn’t a crazy mad dash to spend every second of your day with your other half. You feel comfortable in silences. You can wear your sweats and yoga pants with them. Your love becomes more than that immediate infatuation present with new love. However what keeps a marriage together is making sure that comfort doesn’t become laziness.

For Neal and Georgie their marriage has become a bit TOO comfortable. They don’t talk about their hopes and dreams and wishes anymore. It’s become a focus almost solely on Georgie’s hopes and dreams and wishes. When Neal takes the kids to Nebraska for the holidays and leaves her behind, she is finally faced with what her life would be/could be without them. And when her old landline gives her the opportunity to talk to a young version of Neal, she finds that the person she swore the rest of her life to might be the one with all the answers.

Sam: I think that Young Neal in particular is such an interesting character because to me he represents  a typical 18-year-old faced with the dilemma: “what am I going to do with the rest of my life?” So, here is this kid from Nebraska who sets off for the West Coast to study marine life because he has never seen the ocean. (There is something poetic about going too far away to study something so “romantic.”) Then he hates it. Because at 18 who knows what they want to do? BUT he meets this girl. And maybe he doesn’t know who he wants to be, but he knows who he wants to be with. THEN their relationship gets so comfortable that they marry , have children, and still he’s never figured himself out, so he stays home. He falls into the homemaker role, becomes the center of his kids’ universe, a universe that Georgie admits is hard to be part of. I do appreciate that by the simple fact that Present Neal LOVES his kids, he ends up doing exactly what he wants.

Kim: I totally agree with you! Young Neal puts all his faith for his future into his love for Georgie. It doesn’t matter to him early on that he’s unsure of his future. His future IS Georgie, and that’s enough for him. I can seriously relate to Young Neal because when I met my husband I was just like Young Neal. Sure I had dreams for my future, but everything got completely reworked once he entered the picture.

This is another thing married people would probably agree with us on. As important as your dreams and future hopes are – finding a way for your partner to be part of them will always matter more. In this we see how selfish Georgie is/has become. Present Neal is a homemaker so that Georgie can see her dreams come true. But what dreams does Georgie ever help Present Neal accomplish?

Sam: Yes. I agree, though I think the subtlety is that she never helps him uncover a dream. In many ways he’s still lost because his world is so wrapped up in hers. What’s worse: a dream never accomplished or one never found?

Kim: Damn. Good question.

Sam: Then there’s Georgie. She’s been able to pursue every dream she’s ever had and she’s found success in it. With her best (awful) friend, Seth, they have found success in the TV comedy writing world. What I like about Georgie’s relationship with Seth is that you can tell it’s hard. I liked seeing Georgie struggle with him because it amplified the feeling that her moments on the phone with Young Neal were easy.

Kim: UGH Seth. I have SO many thoughts on him.

Sam: I try not to.

Kim: HAHA! My first thought is, “how blind is Georgie that she can’t see that Seth doesn’t have her best interests at heart?” Like HOW can you consistently call someone your best friend who doesn’t care that your marriage is ending? Like Georgie tells Seth that Neal has gone to Nebraska with their kids and he sees her falling apart a little more each day without them. All Seth cares about is writing their show.

At what point do you ask yourself is my dream worth my best friend’s downfall?

Sam: My blood is boiling just reading that. He’s not a good person and his influence on her is sad. He knows how to manipulate her. The way he speaks to and about her is alarming and the fact that she can’t see it despite the lovely things that Neal says and does and draws is baffling.

Kim: Completely agree. Present (and Young) Neal is a complete foil to Seth. Seth provides Georgie with NOTHING that she needs. Neal, on the other hand, is unconditional in everything he offers her. It’s heartbreaking to see how blind Georgie has become to that.

Sam: My heart hurt when Neal’s late dad picked up the phone that first time. How wonderful to get a moment with someone after you thought there wouldn’t be another. I think it’s amazing that Georgie was the one to hear his voice an extra time because it’s that reminder that sometimes the last time you see someone, or talk to them, or tell them you love them is the last time.

Kim: SUCH A GOOD POINT. Georgie takes her comfortable marriage and her comfortable husband for granted. Something I’m sure we’ve all done to a loved one at some point. Talking to her deceased father-in-law is one of those “come to Jesus” moments that really makes Georgie evaluate her present path.

I also think that seeing her younger sister falling in love for the first time with the pizza delivery person is another “come to Jesus” moment. To realize that love can be fleeting and to grasp it when you’re luckily given the chance to….well it all helps Georgie realize how important and necessary Neal is in her life.

Sam: So the pizza delivery person might be the most badass and swoonworthy character in the book (not counting Neal…of course.) Side note: I LOVE the expression “come to Jesus” and will now use it at least twice this month. Double side note: I would really LOVE to read a whole book about sister and said delivery person…

Kim: LOL to your first side note. And YES YES YES YES to your second.

Dear Rainbow,

Sam and I would REALLY love for you write that story. Like omg please do it.

Love,

Kim & Sam

Sam: *whispers* This is where you have your “come to Jesus” moment.

Kim: In the end what makes this story so amazing is its bottom line: True love always offers you a chance at redemption.

Sam: That and the fact that it is so damn magical. To truly rediscover all of the best parts, maybe long forgotten parts, of your person is such a beautiful idea. After reading Landline my eyes were open once again to the amazing, loving, sweet person that I get to spend every day with. That’s a gift. Thanks for the magic, Rainbow Rowell.

Kim’s Rating: All the stars in the universe for this book.

Sam’s Rating: What Kim said.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s Press (2014)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781250049377

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 Passionate Persuasion by Rosemary Clement-Moore

pprcmIf you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s Persuasion but prefer your romances to take place in this century, let me tell you about Rosemary Clement-Moore’s novella Passionate Persuasion.

Alex realizes he messed up hugely years ago when he broke up with his college girlfriend Kiara. When life throws the two of them back together years later he knows he has to somehow win her back. Will he be able to repair the damage he did to Kiara’s heart and claim her for his own?

For a direct link to my review, click here.

Kim and Kelly’s Dueling Review of Laugh (Burnside #2) by Mary Ann Rivers

lmarIt’s not a surprise that Kelly and I are back, together again, reviewing another Mary Ann Rivers novel. We are both in love with Mary Ann’s characters, stories, and the way there are ALL the feels in her books (you can also read my review of her first novella, The Story Guy, and our review of Heating Up the Holidays.) Kelly and I jumped for joy when Mary Ann announced her Burnside series. We loved the first book in the series, Live, so much that we wrote our review as a love letter to Mary Ann about it. The second book in the series, Laugh, blew us away (as expected). Thus, we are here to fan girl all over it and its main character, Sam.

From Goodreads:

Dr. Sam Burnside is convinced that volunteering at an urban green-space farm in Lakefield, Ohio, is a waste of time—especially with his new health clinic about to open. He only goes to mollify his partner, suspecting she wants him to lighten up. Then Sam catches sight of Nina Paz, a woman who gives off more heat than a scorcher in July. Her easy smile and flirty, sizzling wit has him forgetting his infamous need for control.

Widowed when her husband was killed in Afghanistan, Nina has learned that life exists to take chances. As the daughter of migrant workers turned organic farmers, she’s built an exciting and successful business by valuing new opportunities and working hard to take care of her own. But when Sam pushes for a relationship that goes beyond their hotter-than-fire escapades, Nina ignores her own hard-won wisdom. She isn’t ready for a man who needs saving—even if her heart compels her to take the greatest risk of all: love.

Kim: I need to start off by saying that this book was a balm for my soul. Sam Burnside is in MANY ways an extreme version of myself. We’ve both been diagnosed with ADD and have had it be debilitating for us in some way, shape, or form. We’re both highly obsessed with needing the people around us be happy. This results in us trying to fix all their problems or protect them from hardship. While you may be saying, “Hey! That’s a pretty generous thing to do,” it’s my unfortunate duty to tell you that it often results in animosity from the people we love, much to our chagrin. They perceive us as interfering with their lives. Lives that they need no help with.

I can tell you firsthand it’s really difficult growing up like this. Knowing you’re struggling with concentration issues, hyperactivity (for some ADD people), and a constant sense of letting everyone around you down all the time. It certainly doesn’t help when people tell you that you don’t work hard enough, tell you everything you do is wrong, or tell you that you’re just too _____. A lifetime of feeling this way begins to make you feel less and less adequate of a person until you find people who realize you are filled with an fathomless amount of love.

Kelly: I really wish we’d known each other when we were younger. I would have been OK with a fathomless amount of love. 🙂  [Here’s my own personal rant: I will never understand why people choose to go through life thinking the worst (or, at least, not thinking the best) of the people around them. I don’t understand why it took people so long to figure out that you, Kim, are amazing. And, shifting to the fictional, I don’t understand why Sam’s own family was so perfectly blinded to his sterling qualities. I cannot fathom why anyone would tell him to be anything other than what he is.]

Kim: First, you’re the best. Second, I totally agree with your above statement. Sam is NOT a bad guy. He’s a doctor who wants to open up a clinic in his hometown to help people who are struggling. He wants to help out Nina’s farm and create a lasting partnership for his community. He wants to take care of his sister Sarah, badly injured from her racing accident. He wants to help his sister Des, who is all the way overseas, traveling and falling deeply in love for the first time. His list goes on and on. All he does is care about the people around him, to the detriment of his own self sometimes. His house is an absolute disaster zone, one that reflects how his mind is always jumping to his next task.

Kelly: Laugh is definitely Sam’s book. Sam, through a lifetime of being told what he is, being told that he’s too much this or that and (very much) not enough this or that, is not able to see himself clearly. He believes what he’s been told, and that’s heartbreaking. But let’s think for a second about ourselves: Sam’s not the only one who believes these things that are not true. He’s not the only one who can’t fathom that failure is not (or does not have to be) the motif of his story. We all suffer, to one degree or another, from the terrible messages that surround us, those sent to us by our (if we’re lucky, well-meaning) parents, friends, siblings and those sent by our society and culture. We all see a funhouse-mirror version of ourselves and need to learn how to see the shapes that are really there, learn to love ourselves — our real selves — before we can truly love anyone else. Laugh shows us what that process looks like, and it does it in such a beautiful way. I wish that Nina’s journey towards seeing herself more clearly were given a little more page time, but… I find so much value in Sam’s journey (and Nina’s involvement in it) that I don’t actually care as much about it as my brain tells me I should.

Kim: I agree. As much as I would have liked to see more of Nina’s journey of self-discovery, Sam’s was just perfection. I cared about Nina a lot, especially as she started telling the people around Sam to lighten up on him. Realize that his love for them was endless. Self-less. Pure.

Kelly: Nina’s journey felt very private to me, even though she has more friends and — on the outside, at least — appears that she’s got her shit together. I mean, Sam’s chaos is super obvious. His apartment is a wreck; he’s going through a crisis dealing with the responsibilities associated with opening the clinic; he’s taking extra shifts at the hospital to avoid thinking about it all; he’s not talking to two of his siblings (well, more accurately, they’re not talking to him) and is sending desperate emails to Des; he’s choosing to spend time learning about urban farming to avoid thinking about all the balls in the air that could (and will) come crashing down at any moment. He’s a hot mess. But Nina, who has built a business from the ground up, who has cultivated the earth and the people around her, is just as messed up. She’s an uprooted plant struggling to grow. She’s the other side of Sam’s coin. Where Sam is root bound by his past, Nina is surgically cut off from hers. Where Sam is certain of his ability to love, Nina is certain that she sacrificed her ability to love.

Nina resonated with me… and I know I said before that the story feels like Sam’s story and I almost wish that Nina’s journey had been a little more front and center, but I wonder if Mary Ann Rivers was just giving Nina the space and freedom (and privacy) to live out her grief and learn how to make room for love. Maybe that’s the most generous thing Mary Ann could have done for Nina (and for all of us reading the story) is give us the privacy and respect to let grief fill us up and then let it all flow out. Does that make any damn sense?

Kim:I think you’re absolutely right. Maybe it’s just me, but when I am overwhelmed with grief it all comes out as a huge scream (i.e. pounding on pillows and my bed.) I need to let it all out physically in a cathartic way. I can’t even imagine what Nina would need to do to get all the grief out that she’s felt all those years due to her husband, her dreams, her family, etc. The glimpses of her grief that we’re given are heartbreaking. And as Kelly said above, her inability to see how she can love. How she already does love, but just doesn’t see its value or weight.

I know that those of you reading this review must think this book is such a downer. But it’s really not. It’s beautiful in its honesty. In its realness. It doesn’t even matter if you see yourself as Sam or Nina – there is someone in your life that is like them. Reading this book will have you seeing them in a new light. Maybe realizing you need to be overly compassionate for someone who still grieves, and trying to understand someone like Sam (or me!) that wants the best for you and sometimes may not go about expressing that in the best way. We all have quirks within our personalities that make us puzzles to the people around us. It’s the people like Nina and Sam (and Kelly & I) that work to figure out those puzzles, knowing that once you do the love you’ll receive is boundless.

Kelly: Yes! There are a handful of books that felt very important to me for one reason or another. (I have felt that way about every single piece of writing — novels, novellas, short stories, blog posts, and tweets — I’ve read by Mary Ann, by the way.) I felt that way about Snowfall and The Story Guy and — in a huge way — about Ruthie Knox’s Making it Last. (And Laura Florand’s Snow Kissed, if we’re making a more comprehensive list.) And Laugh is another. It’s an important book. It’s important to me because it says something true that resonates with me, that lifts me up, that reassures me, and that teaches me. It’s important to all of us (if I can make such a pronouncement) because its message is universal. We need more love. We need more acceptance. We need to love and accept ourselves, and we need to love and accept each other. We need to give each other the space to grieve, and we need to step in occasionally to help cultivate the best parts of our loved ones.

Kim: So in closing, as always we’d like to write Mary Ann a letter.

Dear Mary Ann,

THANK YOU for Sam. And for Laugh. And for writing a story that gives voice to people like Sam and Nina. For showing that a disability doesn’t have to be debilitating. Its effects can be disastrous, but they can also have amazing outcomes. The ability to love unconditionally. To care more about others than yourself.

Thank you for showing the world that being “too ____” isn’t always a bad thing. For giving a voice to those of us who are sometimes so burdened with the amount of stress we put on ourselves that we have no voice. For showing that giving “too much” love is never a bad thing. But most importantly for giving me a character that I related to more than any other character I’ve ever read in my entire life. That act alone has shown me I’m not alone in my feelings. For just that, I’ll thank you for a lifetime.

Love,

Kim

Kelly: Dear Mary Ann,

Thank you for Nina, for her background, her grief, her hangups, and her strengths. Thank you for her friends (and for writing a book that passes the Bechdel Test. Seriously… thank you so much for that.). Thank you for showing her full life (alongside Sam’s full life) and for writing her so generously that I was free to accept her generously (and to accept myself generously as well). Thank you for loving Nina and for allowing Nina to love Sam, to see him clearly, and to fight for him. And also to fight for herself.

Love,

Kelly

Laugh by Mary Ann Rivers
Random House – Loveswept (2014)
eBook: 288 pages
ISBN: 9780804178228

Special thanks to Loveswept for our review copies via Netgalley!