Brooklynaire by Sarina Bowen

Anyone reading Sarina Bowen’s Brooklyn Bruisers series has been dying to read Becca and Nate’s story. It’s finally arrived with Brooklynaire and it was totally worth the wait.

35053870.jpg A sexy new standalone from USA Today bestseller Sarina Bowen.

You’d think a billion dollars, a professional hockey team and a six-bedroom mansion on the Promenade would satisfy a guy. You’d be wrong.

For seven years Rebecca has brightened my office with her wit and her smile. She manages both my hockey team and my sanity. I don’t know when I started waking in the night, craving her. All I know is that one whiff of her perfume ruins my concentration. And her laugh makes me hard.

When Rebecca gets hurt, I step in to help. It’s what friends do. But what friends don’t do is rip off each others’ clothes for a single, wild night together.

Now she’s avoiding me. She says we’re too different, and it can never happen again. So why can’t we keep our hands off each other?

The best thing about Nate and Becca is the slow burn attraction that we’ve seen sprinkled throughout this series in other people’s stories. All their stories overlap a bit, and it seems everyone knows that Nate is in love with Becca except Becca. And to finally see it come to fruition made this book my favorite from this series. (Technically, this story is a standalone, but I’d recommend reading the other Bruisers books first. Who doesn’t want more Sarina Bowen?)

I particularly enjoyed the agonizing pace at which these two got together. It made their connection natural and more real. I also enjoyed the way the obstacle of dating your boss’s boss for a woman was portrayed. It’s a serious thing in the modern world, and it wasn’t just swept under the rug in an Oh-well-love-conquers-all way. Nate took her seriously and gave her the time she needed. Plus, I loved the way this was all resolved at the end of the book. Find you a Nate, ladies and gentlemen!

My favorite side character had to be Bingley – the Alexa-like Artificial Intelligence, but you know, ten times better because Nate designed it. Their conversations/commands with Bingley were downright hilarious and I particularly enjoyed the misunderstanding when Bingley thought Becca was talking to him during a particularly steamy session with Nate.

Brooklynaire was everything I wanted and more. It was romantic, practical and a fairy tale all wrapped up into one.

STARS: 5 out of 5


Brave by Jennifer Armentrout

When I heard Brave by Jennifer Armentrout, the final book in the Wicked trilogy, was being released this December, I quickly read Torn and followed up immediately with Brave.

 23149316.jpgIvy Morgan hasn’t been feeling like herself lately. Not like anyone can blame her. After all, being held captive by a psychotic fae prince hell-bent on permanently opening the gates to the Otherworld is bound to leave some mental scars.

It’s more than that, though. Something dark and insidious is spreading throughout Ivy, more powerful than she could ever imagine… and it’s coming between her and the man she’s fallen deeply in love with, elite Order member Ren Owens.

Ren would do anything to keep Ivy safe. Anything. But when he makes a life altering choice for her, the fallout of his act has far reaching consequences that threaten to tear their lives apart.

If Ivy is going to have any hope of surviving this, she must put aside the hurt and betrayal she feels, and work with not only those she loves, but with an enemy she would rather kill than ever trust. War is coming, and it soon becomes clear that what Ivy and Ren thought they knew about the Order, themselves, and even their enemies, has been nothing but a cluster of dangerous, deadly lies.

Ivy knows she must be more than just brave to save those she loves–and, ultimately, to save herself.

Because behind every evil fae Prince, there’s a Queen….

Brave was a fitting conclusion, and Armentrout’s writing was as strong as ever with badass fight scenes and deliciously steamy love scenes.

It’s refreshing to read some classic paranormal romance. I forget how much I love it until I’m back in it again. *Looks back fondly on the Twilight-obsessed days.* This story was action-packed and heart-wrenching.  I loved Ren. He never gave up on Ivy and I love him for it. I’d even argue that Ivy doesn’t deserve him, but *Cue Kermit Meme* that’s really none of my business. *sips tea*

I have to admit that Torn was probably my favorite book of the three, which is surprising because it’s book two, but it had the most angst and horror with Ivy being trapped under the Prince’s control. There was a lot of stuff happening there, whereas Brave started with a whole lot of emotional angst and self-reflection, where Ivy shut everyone out and made dumb decisions which was very frustrating for me as a reader.

However, by the end, Ivy was a fighting machine and I loved the action scenes, especially when she fought a certain evil lady. I liked how it all wasn’t wrapped up with an unrealistic bow but it had enough closure to come full circle and leave the reader satisfied. I know this is the last book in the trilogy but I’m kind of hoping for more or at least a spin-off because there’s some unresolved tension between Tink and a certain Prince. There’s a novella titled “The Prince” in the 1001 Dark Nights collection. I may read that to get my fix.

STARS: 4 out of 5

Tied by Carian Cole

Tied by Carian Cole was worth the wait.

34454485.jpgHe was the myth and the legend of our small town. But no one knew the truth… except me.

My childhood was stolen by a monster. I’ve forgotten what love feels like. What happiness feels like. What hope feels like. I am numb.

He’s possibly as damaged as I am. Maybe even more. Scarred just as much on the inside as the outside. Just like me. He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t smile. He hides in the woods like an animal. I should be scared of him. But I’m not. He’s the only one who has ever made me feel. And I want to make him feel, too.

Since I discovered Cole, I’ve devoured everything she’s written. There is just something about her characters and the situations she puts them in that calls to me. I’m like her ideal reader. She also writes about some taboo subjects that I usually don’t entertain, but from her, I’ll try anything.

Tied was a story that I can only describe as the dawn breaking into the night. Her characters are both in such dark, dark places at the beginning and it was amazing to watch them slowly unfurl and ultimately flourish with each other by the end.  I laughed. I cried. I held the book close. I threw it across the room. I devoured it in one sitting.

The pain that Cole created with just her fingertips and the way she weaved their story together had me gobbling up her words like it’s Thanksgiving. I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to know more. More. More. More.

By the end, Cole left me a satisfied reader. I loved this story. It’s a story of love and redemption and the strength that can only come from pain. I can’t wait to read more of her work.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Until It Fades by K.A. Tucker

Until If Fades by K.A. Tucker was a delightful surprise. It wasn’t what I expected at all.

31208654Twenty-four-year-old truck stop waitress and single mother Catherine Wright has simple goals: to give her five-year-old daughter a happy life and to never again be the talk of the town in Balsam, Pennsylvania: population two thousand outside of tourist season.

And then one foggy night, on a lonely road back from another failed attempt at a relationship, Catherine saves a man’s life. It isn’t until after the police have arrived that Catherine realizes exactly who it is she has saved: Brett Madden, hockey icon and media darling.

Catherine has already had her fifteen minutes of fame and the last thing she wants is to have her past dragged back into the spotlight, only this time on a national stage. So she hides her identity. It works.

For a time.

But when she finds the man she saved standing on her doorstep, desperate to thank her, all that changes. What begins as an immediate friendship quickly turns into something neither of them expected. Something that Catherine isn’t sure she can handle; something that Catherine is afraid to trust.

Because how long can an extraordinary man like Brett be interested in an ordinary woman like Catherine…before the spark fades?

I am a sucker for a hockey sports new adult romance. I eat those suckers up like candy. I mean, Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy, Toni Aleo…I can go on and on. There’s just something about hunky hockey guys and the girls who love them that’s the perfect formula for nighttime entertainment. So, I was super excited to hear that Tucker had written one. However, it’s not what I expected.

Tucker’s take on a New Adult Hockey romance is slower, more realistic in that she spends more time in the details than the typical formula. In fact, I was surprised how much of the book was the “before” they sparked a romance. There was a lot of background and character building. Even though it was about more of the mundane things in life, I never got bored or felt the pace slowed. I could have read about Catherine’s mundane life all day.

Even though this book is the typical trope-y Cinderella story, where poor girl meets handsome rich guy who solves all her problems with his wealth, the story had eccentric qualities that didn’t match the formula I was talking about earlier. For example, it didn’t have the pivotal “I love you” scene nor the expected sex scenes. This book was definitely more sweet and wholesome than the typical New Adult novel. It had unexpected depth that kept me reading late into the night.

Despite the unexpectedness, I didn’t miss anything that I expected to be present in the story. It left a big ole smile on my face and it’s a must read to anyone who’s a sucker for the classic boy meets girl, boy saves girl story.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Mini-Reviews in anticipation of UTOPiAcon 2017

This week, I’m going to UTOPiAcon in Nashville with my best friend. I’ve been to this conference before in 2014 and had a blast. I’m looking forward to another weekend of fun and spending way too much money on books.


There’s going to be a variety of indie authors there, and I’m always on the hunt for my next favorite read. Plus, I’m always down to support an indie author. In anticipation of my trip, I picked up books to try from the list of authors attending. (Ya know, so I can fangirl when I meet them.)

Here’s what I’ve read so far…

#Nerd by Cambria Hebert

23493256Two people from completely different worlds are about to be thrown together…

In more ways than one.

She wants to keep her scholarship. He wants to stay on the team. An awkward alliance doesn’t even begin to cover Rimmel and Romeo’s relationship.

But that’s about to change.

It starts with a dare. An initiation. A challenge.

Quickly, it turns into more. But when you’re a victim of your status, there is no room for anything real. The rules are clear and simple.

Stick to your circle.

And never fall in love with anyone on the outside.

This book was so cute! Yes, it was the typical hot jock falls for nerd because of a bet trope, but it was so well done. I was laughing, swooning and pretty much grinning from ear-to-ear while reading.

VERDICT: Read it if you like sweet contemporary romance. I’ll definitely be reading more from this author.

The Opposite of You by Rachel Higginson

33932353I’ve sworn off men.

All men.

Famous last words, right? You’re expecting some epic tale of reluctant love and my dramatic change of heart? Well, you’re not going to get it.

I’m stubborn. And headstrong. And I’ve just survived the worst three years of my life. After escaping an abusive boyfriend to live in hostels and cheap hotels while I worked my way across Europe, I’ve come to two conclusions.

The first? Now that I’m back home, I’m going to squander my expensive culinary degree on a food truck that caters to the late night drunk crowd.

The second? I’m going to prove to the bastard across the plaza that my street food is better than his fussy five course monstrosities.

Killian Quinn might be Food and Wine’s Chef to Watch Out For. He might have a Michelin Star. He might have every food critic in the city wrapped around his too-large fingers. But he’s also pretentious and unbearably arrogant and the very opposite of me.

So he can keep his unsolicited advice and his late night visits and his cocky smiles. I want none of it. Or him.

I want the opposite.

The Opposite of You was an unexpected surprise. This is an enemies-to-lovers romance, and they hold out from admitting their feelings to each other for a very long time. However, there is plenty of anticipation-building, witty banter between Vera and the hot chef. The star of this book, however, is the food. There is so much emphasis on cooking, recipes and eating.  I was hungry the entire time I was reading.

VERDICT: Very enjoyable. It dragged out a little too long but I was ready to gobble this couple up once they were baked juuuust right.

Nine Minutes by Beth Flynn

23253863On May 15, 1975, fifteen-year-old Ginny Lemon is abducted from a convenience store in Fort Lauderdale by a member of one of the most notorious and brutal motorcycle gangs in South Florida.

From that moment on, her life is forever changed. She gets a new name, a new identity and a new life in the midst of the gang’s base on the edge of the Florida Everglades—a frightening, rough and violent world much like the swamps themselves, where everyone has an alias and loyalty is tantamount to survival.

And at the center of it all is the gang’s leader, Grizz: massive, ruggedly handsome, terrifying and somehow, when it comes to Ginny, tender. She becomes his obsession and the one true love of his life.

So begins a tale of emotional obsession and manipulation, of a young woman ripped from everything she knows and forced to lean on the one person who provides attention, affection and care: her captor. Precocious and intelligent, but still very much a teenager, Ginny struggles to adapt to her existence, initially fighting and then coming to terms with her captivity.

Will she be rescued? Will she escape? Will she get out alive—or get out at all? Part psychological thriller, part coming-of-age novel, filled with mystery, romance and unexpected turns, Nine Minutes takes readers into the world of one motorcycle gang and inside the heart of a young girl, whose abduction brought about its fall.

This book messed me up! It was like an intoxicating drug — super harmful but very addicting. I’m still reeling from all the feels. Look for a full review later on, but I both loved and hated this book. I’m pretty sure I should join a support group. Let me know if you know of one.

VERDICT: Read it, but beware of the major heart-wrenching side effects.

Badd Motherf*cker by Jasinda Wilder

32333456Your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, right? That’s what they say, at least. I went into that day hoping I’d get the happiest day of my life. What I got? The worst. I mean, you really can’t get any worse of a day without someone actually dying.

So…I may have gotten just a little drunk, and maybe just a tad impetuous…

And landed myself in a dive bar somewhere in Alaska, alone, still in my wedding dress, half-wasted and heart-broken.

Eight brothers, one bar.

Sounds like the beginning to a bad joke, yeah?

I kinda think so.

Wanna hear another joke? A girl walks into a bar, soaking wet and wearing a wedding dress.

I knew I shouldn’t have touched her. She was hammered, for one thing, and heartbroken for another. I’ve chased enough tail to know better. That kinda thing only leads to clinginess, and a clingy female is the last thing on this earth I need.

I got a bar needs running, and only me to run it—at least until my seven wayward brothers decide to show their asses up…

Then this chick walks in, fine as hell, wearing a soaked wedding dress that leaves little enough to the imagination—and I’ve got a hell of an imagination.

I knew I shouldn’t have touched her. Not so much as a finger, not even innocently.

But I did.

This book is exactly what you’d expect it to be based on the title and cover. It’s a hot and sexy romance with an alpha male and fiery heroine. I was thoroughly entertained but it was kinda cookie cutter, in my humble opinion. HOWEVER, this series follows a family of brothers, who are incredibly diverse on the hot spectrum — from brainy, boy-next-door to tatted and dangerous.

VERDICT: If you’re looking for an alpha male fix, try this. I’m looking forward to reading about the different brothers, and I’m hoping to see growth in the writing and originality of plot.

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

27237358Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

Amy Harmon is going to be speaking at the conference, and I have a lot of her books but I’ve never read them. I started with Making Faces, but I have to be honest, I couldn’t finish it. I DNF’ed it at 40%. It was sooooo slow and boring. Her characters had depth but it was like watching a National Geographic documentary. It’s good to know but is it necessary to tell me every little detail? I’ve struggled with this because I’ve read so many good reviews. I WANT to like her and this book had so much promise from the premise. If you have any insight, let me know. Otherwise, I digress.

VERDICT: Didn’t finish it. Maybe she’s just not my cup of tea?

This is Falling by Ginger Scott

22756190First, I had to remember how to breathe. Then, I had to learn how to survive. Two years, three months and sixteen days had passed since I was the Rowe Stanton from before, since tragedy stole my youth and my heart went along with it.

When I left for college, I put a thousand miles between my future and my past. I’d made a choice—I was going to cross back to the other side, to live with the living. I just didn’t know how.

And then I met Nate Preeter.

An All-American baseball player, Nate wasn’t supposed to notice a ghost-of-a-girl like me. But he did. He shouldn’t want to know my name. But he did. And when he learned my secret and saw the scars it left behind, he was supposed to run. But he didn’t.

My heart was dead, and I was never supposed to belong to anyone. But Nate Preeter had me feeling, and he made me want to be his. He showed me everything I was missing.

And then he showed me how to fall.

Gah! I LOVE Ginger Scott! She’s becoming one of my auto-buy authors. She writes the best kind of sports romance with realistic characters that face hard life challenges and obstacles. This was such a sweet romance. It was endearing and made me laugh, but watching Rowe struggle was heart-breaking. It was so well done!

VERDICT: Read it! Read EVERYTHING by Ginger Scott. I know I will.

Honor by Jay Crownover

So I’m left unsupervised in a bookstore, but it’s okay because I have a gift card. (Not that it would stop me from using the big guns [i.e. the credit card]) And I’m trying to find a book to buy, normally this isn’t a problem but I’m trying a new thing where I go into a bookstore and buy a book that I don’t already know about and that I haven’t read a review for. I’m trying to go in blind.

I stumbled upon Honor by Jay Crownover in the smaller than usual romance section (since when is romance only two aisles?!?) and I’m kind of cheating because I LOVED Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series, and once I cheated by picking a book by an author I knew, I continued the downward spiral by looking up reviews to verify my choice. The gushing and fangirling on Goodreads had me feeling pretty confident, and the combination of the reviews and the author’s note in the beginning had me excited for this super dark and gritty read.

26072600Don’t be fooled.

Don’t make excuses for me.

I am not a good man.

I’ve seen things no one should, done things no one should talk about. Honor and conscience have no place in my life. But I’ve fought and I’ve survived. I’ve had to.

The first time I saw her dancing on that seedy stage in that second rate club, I felt my heart pulse for the first time. Keelyn Foster was too young, too vibrant for this place, and I knew in an instant that I would make her mine. But first I had to climb my way to the top. I had to have something more to offer her.

I’m here now, money is no object and I have no equal. Except for her. She’s disappeared. But don’t worry, I will find her and claim her. She will be mine.

Like I said, don’t be fooled. I am not the devil in disguise… I’m the one front and center.

I finished this book in pretty much one day. I liked it but I think I went in with too high of expectations because it wasn’t nearly dark and gritty enough for me to consider it as dark as everyone thought it was. At no point while reading did I feel uncomfortable at the violence or the fact that the main character runs a sex club. Overall, I thought the book was pretty tame, and when the main character is literally described as the “devil,” I was expecting a damaged and dangerous dude.

Now, did I like the characters? Yes. BUT, they weren’t the kind of dark characters I expected. That disappointment bled into the rest of my reading experience and left me feeling pretty meh about the book. Don’t get me wrong, the writing was fantastic, but there were points the plot felt too forced, or the action felt too much like a plot device to get the story moving as opposed to naturally occurring plot progression.

I went in with high expectations and came out a little disappointed. However, that may speak to my reading past – the dark AF books I’ve apparently been reading to leave me jaded enough to think this is tame – and the fact that I think Jay Crownover writes good guys better than bad guys.

STARS: 3 out of 5

Fake Fiancée by Isla Madden-Mills

Fake Fiancée is such a fun, cute read! I was glued to the pages and read it in two days.

33095590A new standalone romance from Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author Ilsa Madden-Mills…

They say nothing compares to your first kiss,
But our first kiss was orchestrated for an audience.
Our second kiss…that one was REAL.
He cradled my face like he was terrified he’d f*ck it up.
He stared into my eyes until the air buzzed.
Soft and slow, full of sighs and little laughs,
He inhaled me like I was the finest Belgian chocolate,
And he’d never get another piece.
A nip of his teeth, his hand at my waist…
And I was lost.
I forgot he was paying me to be his fake fiancée.
I forgot we weren’t REAL.
Our kiss was pure magic, and before you laugh and say those kinds of kisses don’t exist…
Then you’ve never touched lips with Max Kent, the hottest quarterback in college history.

Get ready for breathtaking kisses, dreamy football players, a heroine who yearns for the guy she can’t have, and a hero who will do anything for the girl he loves…

Even though it’s highly unrealistic, I’m a sucker for the fake relationship trope. I enjoy the dynamic tension between two people who try to unravel their emotions and identify what’s real and what’s fake. This was a slow-moving romance, which I appreciated given they are basically strangers when they meet, and the jealous ex situation for each of them was a nice touch. The rivalry between  Max and the second string quarterback was a little overdone, and I wish it didn’t take up as much of the story.

I loved Sunny’s Mimi! She was a hoot! And I particularly enjoyed being in Max’s head. He was by far my favorite character.

Although I enjoyed this story immensely, there were a lot of extraneous details that never really got resolved. For example, in one particular scene, the star quarterback hurts his ankle. In the moment, it seemed like a career-ending event but it was brushed off later in the chapter as no big deal. One or two of those is fine but there were many details added for dramatic effect (i.e. both their fathers, the coach, the new guy…) but were never followed through. It was like the author was trying to “fake out” the reader and toward the end, I didn’t appreciate it as much.

Overall, such a fun, fast read that will hit the New Adult spot.

STARS: 4 out of 5