Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: Keepsake by Sarina Bowen

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Series: True North Book #3
Format: Ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
How I Got It: Purchased
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Self-Published

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads

There's a first time for everything.

Lark Wainwright used to be fearless. Her life was a series of adventures, each one more exhilarating than the last. But her recent overseas adventure was one too many. Now she’s home and in one piece. Mostly. But her nights are filled with terror.

When her best friend offers her a stay at the orchard in exchange for help at the farmers’ markets, Lark jumps at the chance to spend fall in Vermont. But her nightmares don’t stop. Desperate to keep her fragile state a secret, she relies on the most soft-spoken resident of the Shippley Farm to soothe her when her dreams prove too much.

Zachariah is a survivor, too. It’s been four years since he was tossed aside by the polygamist cult where he grew up. He’s found a peaceful existence on the Shipley’s farm, picking apples and fixing machinery. But getting thrown away by your own people at nineteen leaves a mark on a guy. He doesn’t always know what to make of a world where movie quotes are the primary means of communication. Before hitchhiking to Vermont, he’d never watched TV or spoken on the phone.

Actually, there are a lot of things he’s never done.

Zach and Lark slowly grow to trust one another. One night they become even closer than they’d planned. But Lark may still be too broken to trust anyone. When she pushes Zach away, he will have to prove to himself that he's good for much more than farm labor.


Review

I went in thinking this would be my favorite in the series. It might be, but I'm very conflicted. THe series is unified but each book has it's own tone. The first one is very fun and sexy. The second is filled with so much heart-wrenching emotion. And this one is kind of a combination, but also shows how great human beings can be. I can easily see myself reaching for any of them when my emotions demand it.

Zach is just amazing. He was everything I expected and so much more. This is how you write a complex and multi-dimensional character. And I love him. He's basically my catnip.

Lark has my catnip all over her too. She's dealing with some PTSD which is always interesting to read. She's also sex-positive and a good friend. I shouldn't be surprised, she's a Sarina Bowen heroine after all. I connected with her so easily.

I've really loved this series and the Shippleys of course. I would be so happy if there were more books or a spinoff series just for them.

Thanks for reading!
Holly

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Recklessly Royal by Nichole Chase

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Series: Suddenly Book #2
Format: Ebook
Rating: 3 Stars
How I Got It: Borrowed from Library/Overdrive
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Publisher: Avon

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads
 
Catherine has spent her life being the perfect princess. She’s kept her hands clean, her head down, and most importantly—men at arm’s length. After all, most men are after only one thing, and for Cathy there’s a lot more at stake than her bed; she has to worry about the fate of an entire nation. But at the rate she’s going, Cathy is afraid she’ll give the Virgin Queen a run for her money. She is tired of waiting for someone good enough to come along. She has a plan, and it all hinges on seducing the one man who seems utterly unimpressed by all things royal. The one man she is tempted by more than any other . . .

When David arrives at the royal wedding of his friend, the newly ordained Duchess Samantha Rousseau, he expected to feel uncomfortable and out of his element, but he wasn’t prepared to be targeted by Prince Alex’s gorgeous younger sister. With Cathy’s giant blue eyes, killer figure, and sense of humor, it won’t take long before he gives in. But when he finds out just how innocent the crown princess really is, will he play the part of knight in shining armor or the dashing rogue?


Review

I don't remember much about the first book in this series, but this was pretty mediocre. And I think that's how I felt about the first one-Suddenly Royal.

The story and romance are cute and fluffy. It could easily be a made-for-TV movie. But it was lacking I wanted more David like some of his POV. Or it would've been nice if Cathy was further developed. She came across a little one dimensional.

The characters actually spoke to each other which was great. See, you can write about adults who use their words. But a lot of the times the dialogue felt unnatural and stilted. Cathy may be a princess, but she still lives in the 21st century. Dialogue is one of those things that really drag a book down for me.

Thanks for reading!
Holly

Monday, February 20, 2017

January Wrap-Up (2017)

January was a very busy and stressful month for me. Mostly that was caused by work. I took on some extra responsibilites for most of the month that left me incredibly worn out and exhausted. But I was still able to read 8 books (or 7 books and 1 novella) and I'm incredibly grateful for that.

I've been re-reading a paranormal series I read while I was in college. So, I don't remember a lot but it also doesn't require a ton of my concentration or energy to read and enjoy. I do plan on doing a series review on my YouTube channel in the next few months.

Speaking of which, I'm actually getting more on top of my YouTube content. I've caught back on my posting which has taken a lot of the pressure off. I've also been focusing on posting ahead of time and taking my time with developing my content instead of bulldozing my way through.

All but one of the books I read got a 4 star rating so it was a fantastic reading month from that perspective as well.

These are the books I read and the ratings I gave them.

The Darkest Kiss-4 Stars
2498983

The Darkest Pleasure-3 Stars
2712967

Hard Hitter-4 Stars
28869598

The Grift of the Magi-4 Stars
32877734

The Darkest Whisper-4 Stars
5509920

The Darkest Passion-4 Stars
6758331

Roman Crazy-4 Stars
27276297

The Darkest Lie-4 Stars
7519472

Thanks for reading!
Holly

Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

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Series: The Bourbon Kings book #1
Format: Ebook
Rating: 3 Stars
How I Got It: Borrowed from Library/Overdrive
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads
 
For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.

For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.

As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.


Review

I was very conflicted while reading this and still am. This reminds me a lot of an evening Soap Opera like Dallas and I tend to avoid those. I enjoy some drama, but those kind of things often feel like there's drama to just have drama. And the majority of the characters are super unlikeable. Even the ones that seem normal and sympathetic are being pulled down by others.

All that being said, I struggled to put this down. Sometimes I was hate-reading. Other I times I sincerely cared about the characters and their stories. So, I will keep reading the series.

This isn't a straight up romance and I don't know if it's being marketed as one. I see it as more of a family saga with mystery and romance. The story of multiple characters are blended together very well. But that isn't much of a surprise if you've read J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books.

Thanks for reading!
Holly

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: The Goal by Elle Kennedy

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Series: Off-Campus Book #4
Format: ebook
Rating: 4 Stars
How I Got It: Purchased
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Self-Published

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads
 
College senior Sabrina James has her whole future planned out: graduate from college, kick butt in law school, and land a high-paying job at a cutthroat firm. Her path to escaping her shameful past certainly doesn’t include a gorgeous hockey player who believes in love at first sight. One night of sizzling heat and surprising tenderness is all she’s willing to give John Tucker, but sometimes, one night is all it takes for your entire life to change.

Tucker believes being a team player is as important as being the star. On the ice, he’s fine staying out of the spotlight, but when it comes to becoming a daddy at the age of twenty-two, he refuses to be a bench warmer. It doesn’t hurt that the soon-to-be mother of his child is beautiful, whip-smart, and keeps him on his toes. The problem is, Sabrina’s heart is locked up tight, and the fiery brunette is too stubborn to accept his help. If he wants a life with the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to convince her that some goals can only be made with an assist.


Review

This was an enjoyable read, but probably my least favorite in the series. It actually felt very different in tone than the others. And it took me a little bit of time to understand a large part of this takes place at the same time as The Score.

So, I like Sabrina and Tucker as characters. Sabrina is a woman I don't read often. She is regularly described as a bitch and is, but she has to focus on a lot of things that don't include inter-personal relationships. My life is nowhere near as stressful as her's but I understand her. Then, there's Tucker. He is one of the sweetest and most gentle men I've read about. As fun as it is to read about the Daemon Blacks and Dean de Laurentises of the world, Tucker is the kind of guy I want to marry.

Potential spoilers ahead.

The major thing that pulled this down for me was the pregnancy thing. It's just a storyline I'm not a fan of. But Ms. Kennedy handled it fairly well. She explored the struggles of an unplanned pregnancy for a mna and a woman with respect. And I appreciated her honest look at the struggle parenthood can be.

I'm hoping/thinking there will be a spin-of series and I'm excited about that. Maybe it'll follow the apartment, because I need to know more about Fitzy.

Thanks for reading!
Holly

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: Beauty and the Blacksmith by Tessa Dare

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Series: Spindle Cove Book #3.5
Format: Ebook
Rating: 3 Stars
How I Got It: Purchased
Genre: Historical Romance, Small-town romance
Publisher: Avon Impulse

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads
 
Beautiful and elegant, Miss Diana Highwood is destined to marry a wealthy, well-placed nobleman. At least, that's what her mother has loudly declared to everyone in Spindle Cove.

But Diana's not excited by dukes and lords. The only man who makes her heart pound is the village blacksmith, Aaron Dawes. By birth and fortune, they couldn't be more wrong for each other...but during stolen, steamy moments in his forge, his strong hands feel so right.

Is their love forged strong enough to last, or are they just playing with fire?


Review

I remember liking this more the first time I read it. Now, it's still a good story and I don't regret reading it or anything. And the first novella is just a gem so this can't hold up against it.

This is really just a cute story. There's nothing wrong with that and is pretty standard for a novella. But there isn't a lot of depth to the characters or their romance. It feels a little insta-lovey which is weird because the characters have known each other for a couple years.

But I still enjoyed the read. And I would've liked to see more about Diana and Aaron as a married couple. She's taking a serious step down in status so that has a lot of potential. Hopefully, this will come up a little in futrue books like Charlottes's.

Thanks for reading!
Holly

Friday, February 10, 2017

Review: Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

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Series: Spindle Cove Book #4
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 373
Rating: 4 Stars
How I Got It: Purchased
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Avon

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads

Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, has no desire to wed this season—or any season—but his diabolical mother abducts him to “Spinster Cove” and insists he select a bride from the ladies in residence. Griff decides to teach her a lesson that will end the marriage debate forever. He chooses the serving girl.

Overworked and struggling, Pauline Simms doesn’t dream about dukes. All she wants is to hang up her barmaid apron and open a bookshop. That dream becomes a possibility when an arrogant, sinfully attractive duke offers her a small fortune for a week’s employment. Her duties are simple: submit to his mother’s “duchess training"... and fail miserably.

But in London, Pauline isn’t a miserable failure. She’s a brave, quick-witted, beguiling failure—a woman who ignites Griff’s desire and soothes the darkness in his soul. Keeping Pauline by his side won’t be easy. Even if Society could accept a serving girl duchess—can a roguish duke convince a serving girl to trust him with her heart?


Review

I thought this would be a re-read, but I quickly released I had never read this one before. And I really enjoyed it. Like it's right there with book two as the favorite of the series.

A lot of historical romances address social differences. Which I've said before I'm a fan of. But Tessa Dare really went for it on this one. Pauline is a straight up commoner/peasant. Is it historically accurate for a barmaid to marry a duke? No. But I love it and not everything was gumdrops and rainbows for them.

The characters were so great. Pauline is a wonderful woman. She's realistic and doesn't take crap from anyone-even when she probably should. And she wants to run a library so she's a girl after my heart. Griff definitely leans toward the angsty side which makes sense considering hes past. He's kind of a reformed rake character, but his reformation happens before Pauline which is a little different. Then, there's Griff's mom. I often read about cold and bitter moms, so she was a nice change. I just loved her.

The romance was cute and they complement each other well. There were some Pretty Women moments which I  thought were funny.

I do wish Pauline's sister had more of a presence, but this is still a fantastic book. This series is definitely staying strong.

Thanks for reading!
Holly

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review: The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston

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Series: Call of Crows Book #1
Format: ebook
Rating: 3 Stars
How I Got It: Purchased
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Romance,
Publisher: Kensington

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads
 
Kera Watson never expected to face death behind a Los Angeles coffee shop. Not after surviving two tours lugging an M16 around the Middle East. If it wasn’t for her hot Viking customer showing up too late to help, nobody would even see her die.

In uncountable years of service to the Allfather Odin, Ludvig “Vig” Rundstöm has never seen anyone kick ass with quite as much style as Kera. He knows one way to save her life—but she might not like it. Signing up with the Crows will get Kera a new set of battle buddies: cackling, gossiping, squabbling, party-hearty women. With wings. So not the Marines.

But Vig can’t give up on someone as special as Kera. With a storm of oh-crap magic speeding straight for L.A., survival will depend on combining their strengths: Kera’s discipline, Vig’s loyalty… and the Crows’ sheer love of battle. Boy, are they in trouble.


Review

This took me quite awhile to finish. I put it down for a couple weeks. I piecked it up after hearing raving about it on the DBSA podcast. And I was a little disappointed. However, based on what they said, Shelly Laurenston is kind of an acquired taste.

I think my biggest struggle is how confused I was. There are so many characters and I kept forgetting who they all are and their relationships. The mythology was also confusing. I could've used a character map or appendix.

Now, I am intrigued by some of the side characters. Jace has my catnip written all over her. Fortunately, it looks like they will become main characters.

Which I suppose answers the question I'm going to keep reading these. I am. A huge part of that is Jace. But I'm also hopeful I will start to understand the world more as I keep reading. We shall see. Eventually.

Thanks for reading!
Holly

Monday, February 6, 2017

Review: Rescue My Heart by Jill Shalvis

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Series: Animal Magnetism Book #3
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages:
Rating: 4 Stars
How I Got It: Borrowed from Library
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Small Town Romance
Publisher: Berkley

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads
 
After a tragic stint in the National Guards, Adam Connelly returns to Idaho and to Belle Haven, the animal shelter he owns with his brothers. All Adam wants is to be alone. Then he opens the door to the past—the woman whose heart he once broke. Still gorgeous, still tough-as-nails, but this time, unusually vulnerable.

Holly Reid learned the hard way to never depend on a man for anything. Now, of all men, it’s the last one she wants to see, and the only one she needs. Her father has gone missing in the Bitterroot Mountains and she could use someone with tracking skills to help find him.

For Holly and Adam, each with their ghosts, a trek this desperate, this unpredictable, and this intimate, will have its share of risks—including opening their hearts one more time.


Review

This was a really cute story and probably my favorite in the series so far. It's a cute little reunited lovers story. And I like the look at PTSD.

Adam has that sort of reformed bad-boy thing going on. But this is also a Jill Shalvis book so it isn't super dark and depressing. Holly is a strong woman-she kind of reminded me of Haven from Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas. Plus, she has the same name as me which doesn't happen very often.

Beyond all that I don't have much to say. But I do recommend this-like every Jill Shalvis book I've read.

Thanks for reading!
Holly

Friday, February 3, 2017

Review: Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase

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Series: Dressmakers Book #1
Format: Ebook
Rating: 4 Stars
How I Got It: Borrowed from Library/Overdrive
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Avon

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads
 
Brilliant and ambitious dressmaker Marcelline Noirot is London's rising star. And who better to benefit from her talent than the worst-dressed lady in the ton, the Duke of Clevedon's intended bride? Winning the future duchess's patronage means prestige and fortune for Marcelline and her sisters. To get to the lady, though, Marcelline must win over Clevedon, whose standards are as high as his morals are . . . not.

The prize seems well worth the risk—but this time Marcelline's met her match. Clevedon can design a seduction as irresistible as her dresses;and what begins as a flicker of desire between two of the most passionately stubborn charmers in London soon ignites into a delicious inferno . . . and a blazing scandal.

And now both their futures hang by an exquisite thread of silk


Review

This is my first Loretta Chase book and it was pretty good. I tried to read one before and it just didn't connect with me. And that doesn't surprise me. Even at about 30% in I was rather ambivalent. Or worse, I didn't want the couple together at all. But Ms. Chase pulled it together and I'm glad I pushed myself.

Both of the main characters are different for me. They're both selfish-she owns up to this regularly. They're also very arrogant. She's kind of ballsy which I appreciate. But their behavior was what made me so hesitant. I don't even know how she did it, but she made me believe that they were made for each other.

Normally, I don't like stories with kids, but Lucie was a little gem. I think she was one of the major things that brought me around. She even wrapped me around her little finger.

The side characters were also interesting-Clara is probably my favorite. And I am excited to read their stories at some point.

Thanks for reading!
Holly

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review: Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem with Jonathan Prince

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Stand Alone
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 Stars
How I Got It: Borrowed from the Library (Overdrive)
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads
 
Was diabetes evolution's response to the last Ice Age? Did a deadly genetic disease help our ancestors survive the bubonic plagues of Europe? Will a visit to the tanning salon help lower your cholesterol? Why do we age? Why are some people immune to HIV? Can your genes be turned on -- or off?

Joining the ranks of modern myth busters, Dr. Sharon Moalem turns our current understanding of illness on its head and challenges us to fundamentally change the way we think about our bodies, our health, and our relationship to just about every other living thing on earth, from plants and animals to insects and bacteria.

Through a fresh and engaging examination of our evolutionary history, Dr. Moalem reveals how many of the conditions that are diseases today actually gave our ancestors a leg up in the survival sweepstakes. When the option is a long life with a disease or a short one without it, evolution opts for disease almost every time.

Everything from the climate our ancestors lived in to the crops they planted and ate to their beverage of choice can be seen in our genetic inheritance. But Survival of the Sickest doesn't stop there. It goes on to demonstrate just how little modern medicine really understands about human health, and offers a new way of thinking that can help all of us live longer, healthier lives.

Survival of the Sickest is filled with fascinating insights and cutting-edge research, presented in a way that is both accessible and utterly absorbing. This is a book about the interconnectedness of all life on earth -- and, especially, what that means for us.


Review

During the first chapter about iron I was hooked. Unfortunately, the rest was weak. In the end, this feels like a lot of conjecture. Now, I am aware enough not to just believe everything I read.

But I thought it was going to be more specific and scientific. There were also parts where the author went off on tangents. I did not need a 45 minute lecture on global warming in a book about illness.

I will say that this did make me think about things I haven't considered before. Hopefully, I will be able to further educate myself on some of them. Or read scientific articles at least.

Thanks for reading!
Holly