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

Advertisements

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.

2017_WebLogo

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

Rule by Jay Crownover

Over the years, I’ve had Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series pop up as a recommended series based on my read list on GoodReads. Whatever algorithm Goodreads uses to recommend things works, because it was absolutely right. Rule, the first novel in the New Adult series, was wildly entertaining.

17200687Opposites in every way . . . except the one that matters

Shaw Landon loved Rule Archer from the moment she laid eyes on him. Rule is everything a straight-A pre-med student like Shaw shouldn’t want—and the only person she’s never tried to please. She isn’t afraid of his scary piercings and tattoos or his wild attitude. Though she knows that Rule is wrong for her, her heart just won’t listen.

To a rebel like Rule Archer, Shaw Landon is a stuck-up, perfect princess-and his dead twin brother’s girl. She lives by other people’s rules; he makes his own. He doesn’t have time for a good girl like Shaw-even if she’s the only one who can see the person he truly is.

But a short skirt, too many birthday cocktails, and spilled secrets lead to a night neither can forget. Now, Shaw and Rule have to figure out how a girl like her and a guy like him are supposed to be together without destroying their love . . . or each other.

I’m always down for a good girl falling for the bad boy. No matter how unrealistic it seems at times. Granted, I know from experience that every good girl has a wild side waiting to come out. For a New Adult novel, this book had some heavy subject matter – dealing with the death of a friend/brother, the fracturing of a family, disowning parents, and unfulfilled longing for love and acceptance. It added some tangible substance between the tension-filled bickering and scorching moments of surrender.

I particularly enjoyed Rule as a damaged bad boy with tattoos and piercings – LOTS of piercings. There were a few eyebrow raising moments, but that’s what made this story so fun to read. I loved that Shaw was the complete opposite of Rule, clean-cut, rich and well-mannered. It made their relationship like the joining of fire and ice; it could get explosive.

My one complaint is I think Rule is a dumb name. Who would name their kid Rule? However, I loved the variety of secondary characters. I’m excited to read the rest of the series knowing I’ll get to hear the stories of some of my favorites like Rome and Jet.

STARS: 4 out of 5

The Mighty Storm by Samantha Towle

The Mighty Storm by Samantha Towle has been on my radar for years. It was the New Adult book that everyone was talking about and I wanted in. Sadly, this book fell flat for me.

15724654It’s been twelve years since Tru Bennett last saw Jake Wethers, her former best friend and boy she once loved.

Jake Wethers, sexy, tattooed and deliciously bad lead singer, and brains behind The Mighty Storm, one of the biggest bands in the world, left Tru with a broken heart when he moved from England to America with his family when they were both fourteen.

Sent to interview Jake for her music column by the magazine she works for, they are both unprepared for the sparks that fly the instant they reconnect. Only, there’s a complication to their instant feelings for one another—Will, Tru’s boyfriend of two years.

Then Jake makes Tru a job offer she can’t refuse—travelling the world with him and his band. But taking the job means leaving Will behind, and being on the road with the band means spending an inordinate amount of time with Jake.

Is Tru strong enough to resist the delectable bad boy who once held her heart so completely, or will she willingly risk it all for one night with the world’s most notorious womanizer?

The Mighty Storm is the epitome of a new adult romance. It has the self-conscious heroine that doesn’t realize she’s beautiful and the arrogant, rich bad boy (in this case rock star) that demands her heart. Most of the time I’m okay with the stereotype, and even if there are moments that I cringe at the over-the-top, need-you-now, I’m-a-caveman dialogue, I can still fall into the story. However, I couldn’t get there with this book.

The first half of this novel was wildly entertaining. I enjoyed all the “Briticisms,” like saying boot instead of trunk or vest instead of a tank top. The story and characters were stereotypical, sure, but I enjoyed the first meeting, anticipated the first kiss and even endured the heart-wrenching love triangle. The first half felt like it was its own little story with a beginning, middle and end. About the half-way point is where I got lost. The story changes…it morphs into this obstacle-rich battle ground with dealbreakers coming in out of nowhere. Between one page and the next, the whole tone of the story flips from an authentic connection to a pessimistic interrogation.

Where The Mighty Storm fell flat the most was the character’s contradictory decision-making, specifically Tru. It’s impossible to describe without spoilers but she basically considers an act, that she had done herself, as unforgivable. It was such a hypocritical moment that I couldn’t side with either character. I was just done with the BS and didn’t want to read anymore. I skimmed through to the end to see how it all ended up, but it didn’t redeem this book for me.

The Mighty Storm was a letdown. It left me feeling like I wasted time.

STARS: 2 out of 5

The Hard Count by Ginger Scott

The Hard Count by Ginger Scott is the first book I’ve read from this author, and right off the bat, I was struck by how detailed and intimate the writing was. It was like I was right. There. This let me connect with the main characters on an emotional level fairly quickly.

30304059Nico Medina’s world is eleven miles away from mine. During the day, it’s a place where doors are open—where homes are lived in, and neighbors love. But when the sun sets, it becomes a place where young boys are afraid, where eyes watch from idling cars that hide in the shadows and wicked smoke flows from pipes.

West End is the kind of place that people survive. It buries them—one at a time, one way or another. And when Nico was a little boy, his mom always told him to run.

I’m Reagan Prescott—coach’s daughter, sister to the prodigal son, daughter in the perfect family.
Life on top.
Lies.
My world is the ugly one. Private school politics and one of the best high school football programs in the country can break even the toughest souls. Our darkness plays out in whispers and rumors, and money and status trump all. I would know—I’ve watched it kill my family slowly, strangling us for years.

In our twisted world, a boy from West End is the only shining light.
Quarterback.
Hero.
Heart.
Good.
I hated him before I needed him.
I fell for him fast.
I loved him when it was almost too late.

When two ugly worlds collide, even the strongest fall. But my world…it hasn’t met the boy from West End.

Another aspect of the writing that struck me right away was the meticulously detailed sports scenes. Football is a huge piece of this story as Reagan captures it on film and Nico attempts to pursue his dream as a starting quarterback. As a football fan in real life, I was impressed at how specific the football scenes were, down to the details of each individual play of the game. I’ve never read a sports romance with so much attention on the game itself. I found it upped the ante and made the story more exciting.

This story was very emotional. It was built on the give and take of people’s emotions whether it’s how the daughter feels about her father or brother or potential love interest. There’s a particularly moving and heart-breaking scene toward the end that had me in tears. It’s been awhile since a novel made me cry. Seeing, or reading rather, a guy completely lose it will do that to a girl.

The underlying theme of racism and “class-ism” was an intriguing element of the story. There were times that I thought it was a bit much or too cliché with the diverse boy dating a white girl in a prejudice private school setting. However, it’s a cliché for a reason and I enjoyed the way the author used this stereotype to complete her story. It reminded me a lot of Simone Elkeles Perfect Chemistry series.

STARS: 4 out of 5