Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: Mr. 365 by Ruth Clampett

Mr. 365
Mr. 365 by Ruth Clampett
November 19, 2013
267 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Contains: sex and language
Source: Personal purchase

When reality show producer Sophia is assigned to convince Christmas fanatic Will to be on their holiday special, she imagines him to be an oddball momma’s boy wearing a reindeer Christmas sweater. What she doesn’t expect is the handsome, mysterious man who captures her attention, and seems determined to win her heart.

Their attraction is undeniable, and as charming Sophia convinces Will to work with her, she slowly unwraps the secrets in his past that make this determined and soulful man still yearn for the childhood he never had.

When the chaos of production starts, will Sophia be able to keep her promises to protect Will from being exploited, or will the bitter truth of reality television be a runaway train of disaster for both of them?

Join Sophia, Will and his dog Romeo to enter the world of his enchanting holiday house where stars shine indoors and snow is always falling…365 days of the year.

I was expecting a light, fluffy holiday read with Mr. 365. Instead I got a surprisingly deep and touching story that exceeded my expectations. Will is a year-round Christmas fanatic and Sophia is assigned by a reality show to produce a spot on his lifestyle. But unbenownst to both of them, the nice holiday special they are anticipating is slated with more sinister plans by Sophia's co-workers. This also puts a wedge into the budding relationship between Will and Sophia, who cannot resist their mutual attraction. Reality TV never ends well... or does it?

I found the development between Will and Sophia really sweet. Was it a bit insta-love? Well, sure. But it was super sweet nonetheless. I liked that they got to know each other on a deeper level than just the surface Christmas and reality show exteriors the world around them sees. Their chemistry and natural attraction, beyond the physical, was endearing. Getting to know Will and the reasons behind what he does was enchanting. We know right from the get-go that things are going to be bad before we can hope for a happily-ever-after, but the journey had some beautiful moments and I loved how close to them I felt throughout the story. By the end, I was completely enchanted by this thoughtful, considerate story of two people who really were meant for each other.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park

Flat-Out Celeste (Flat-Out Love, #2)
Flat-Out Celeste
(Flat-Out Love #2)
May 22, 2014
336 pages
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Contains: Some language and sexual references
Source: Personal purchase

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation.

But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe.

Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him.

Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love.

Whether you were charmed by Celeste in Flat-Out Love or are meeting her for the first time, this book is a joyous celebration of differences, about battling private wars that rage in our heads and in our hearts, and—very much so— this is a story about first love.

I loved Flat-Out Love and Flat-Out Matt, so I had high hopes for Flat-Out Celeste, which is probably why it took me so long to read it. I was nervous my expectations were too high. Fortunately, I was not disappointed. Flat-Out Celeste was all the magic, emotion, tenderness, and quirkiness I had hoped for and more, making it one of my favorite reads this year.

Taking place during Celeste's senior year in high school, it has been years since the events of Flat-Out Love, and yet everything from that time period remains completely relevant. However, Celeste isn't exactly the same girl she used to be, yet also isn't who she thinks people want her to be. And now, dealing with college applications and the prospect of new social settings, Celeste must face the demons that have plagued her and figure out who she wants to be.

I completely love Celeste. The way her character is handled by the author is so beautifully well done. All the things Celeste faces about herself, from her idiosyncrasies and quirks, to her traumatic past, to her family, to her pending future and fears, to her foray into romance... they were all beautifully developed, brought to life, and done admirably. Celeste herself was a pleasure to read about and follow along in this touching journey of personal growth and hope for the future.

Then add in the completely adorable awesomeness that is Justin, and you've got the makings of a genius novel. These two were the perfect complements to each other. I loved them so much I wanted them to be real! Their emails and conversations were gold. Justin was a true treasure. Oh, and there's the added awesomeness of some Matt and Julie in there as well (making me extra nervous but it was perfectly executed), which gave my heart flutters as well.

Basically, I love this book. I love this series. Celeste and Justin are quirky, adorable, love-story perfection. I recommend reading Flat-Out Love before Flat-Out Celeste, and highly recommend them both. (Oh, and I also loved the Flat-Out Matt novella.) Just writing this review makes me want to read this book and this series all over again.

Have you started the series yet?
Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love, #1)

Flat-Out Matt (Flat-Out Love, #1.5)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Review: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea (The Fifth Wave #2)
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
(The Fifth Wave #2)
September 16, 2014
300 pages
Genre: Mature YA Sci-Fi
Contains: language, sexual references, violence
Source: Personal purchase

How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.

Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

I read The Infinite Sea a while ago, after re-reading The 5th Wave, which I completely loved. But with my mixed feelings, it has taken me a while to get this review together. Unfortunately, the sequel was not the follow-up hit I was anticipating. Truthfully, it was one of those books I felt like went around in circles until the very end. The internal dialogue that I loved in The 5th Wave grew tiresome and repetitive. The multiple POVs increased and the girls' voices started to blend together, not differentiated enough. The whole story took place over a short period of time and often in one or two places, stagnating it at times. I felt like I was waiting for something to happen. And then finally when the really good stuff hit, it was like a crazy what-fest. What is happening here? What was the point of all that? What the heck is going to happen next?

While I had some complaints or huh-moments, there were also some great moments and some intriguing twists and turns, making this an entertaining and compelling read, just not as good as I'd hoped for. And the ending, yeah, about that, I'm not really sure what's going to happen in the next book or how everything has gotten to this point, but kudos to Yancey. It's definitely a game changer and highly intriguing. While this was difficult to rate, and I settled with a 3 star rating, I will certainly be picking up book three to see what Yancey comes up with next.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (27)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

What I Read Last Week:
Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1) Frosted
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Frosted by Katy Regnery

My Reviews Last Week:
Christmas on 4th Street (Fool's Gold, #12.5) Yours for Christmas (Fool's Gold, #15.5)
Stormfront (Undertow #2) Stay with Me (Wait for You, #3)
Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery (4 star review)
Yours For Christmas by Susan Mallery (4 star review)

Stormfront by K.R. Conway (4.5 star review)
Stay With Me  by J. Lynn (5 star review)

What I'm Reading This Week:
Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School, #2)
Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (89)

STSmall_thumb[2][2]Stacking The Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews, is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

 eARC for Review:
Snowy Days, Steamy Nights: Come in from the Cold Frosted
Snowy Days, Steamy Nights Anthology
(Including Frosted by Katy Regnery)

For My Kindle:
Stubborn Love (Stubborn Love, #1) Until Midnight (Alienated, #1.5)
This Sky Uncharted (On the Island, #1.5)
Stubborn Love by Wendy Owens
Until Midnight by Melissa Landers
This Sky by Autumn Doughton
Unchartered by Tracey Garvis-Graves (gifted)
Used Book Finds:
Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms, #1) The Rift Walker (Vampire Empire, #2)
Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Vampire Empire: The Rift Walker by Clay & Susan Griffith 
(I loved this series and needed this to complete my collection.)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Review: Stay With Me by J. Lynn

Stay with Me (Wait for You, #3)
Stay With Me by J. Lynn
(Wait For You #3)
September 23, 2014
Genre: New Adult Romance
Contains: sex and language
Source: ARC for Honest review

At 21, Calla hasn’t done a lot of things. She’s never been kissed, never seen the ocean, never gone to an amusement park. But growing up, she witnessed some things no child ever should. She still carries the physical and emotional scars of living with a strung-out mother, Mona—secrets she keeps from everyone, including her close circle of college friends.

But the safe cocoon Calla has carefully built is shattered when she discovers her mom has stolen her college money and run up a huge credit card debt in her name. Now, Calla has to go back to the small town she thought she'd left behind and clean up her mom’s mess again. Of course, when she arrives at her mother’s bar, Mona is nowhere to be found. Instead, six feet of hotness named Jackson James is pouring drinks and keeping the place humming.

Sexy and intense, Jax is in Calla’s business from the moment they meet, giving her a job and helping her search for Mona. And the way he looks at her makes it clear he wants to get horizontal . . . and maybe something more. Before Calla can let him get close, though, she’s got to deal with the pain of the past—and some very bad guys out to mess her up if she doesn’t give them her mom.

I wasn't expecting to love this book as much as I did. I enjoyed Wait For You, the first book in this series, but didn't love it, and for some reason decided to skip Be With Me, the second book in this series. But something about the Stay With Me synopsis appealed to me and I wanted to give it a chance. And I'm so glad I did. I loved it. So Stay With Me can definitely be read as a standalone. While the other two couples make some appearances, having read their stories prior is not a necessity, though you may want to check out their stories later. But if you have read them before, you'll love their appearances.

As for Stay With Me, we are introduced into Calla's world, the life and the upbringing she hasn't shared even with her closest friends. But circumstances beyond her control (aka, her mom stealing from her) force her home to deal with not only her mom's situation, but also the life she left behind years ago. And once she's home she meets the sexy bartender at her mom's bar, Jax. When the severity of her situation comes to light, Jax thrusts himself into Calla's life, whether she likes it or not. And the suspense and craziness of Calla's new situation weaves an exciting path that had me glued until the end.

I found the combination and blending between Calla's situation with her mom and the budding relationship between Jax and Calla really well done. Honestly, when I saw the page count of this book, I was concerned that it would drag and be filled with unneeded moments, but it wasn't. And trust me, I looked. But it was all great and all necessary and I have no complaints. Taking this ride with Calla and Jax felt non-stop. I was never bored and felt the action and suspense was completely engaging all the way until the very end.

Then there's the relationship between Calla and Jax. I liked the way their story progressed. I didn't love something Jax told Calla initially, but that was my only complaint. Because Jax is a great guy. Like really, really great! The thoughtfulness, the gentleness, the protectiveness, and the tenderness he shows Calla are beautiful and endearing. Even when he screws up, I love how he learns from that situation and becomes a better man. And I loved Calla. While I may not be able to relate to her very difficult background, I could still relate with her insecurities and lack of experience at her age. But I loved her personality and her drive and the way she also learned from her mistakes. Then put Calla and Jax together, and they make not only a great problem-solving team, but also a beautiful, tender, sweet and sexy couple. The way their story comes together is fantastic and I loved it to the very end.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Double Review: Christmas on 4th Street & Yours For Christmas by Susan Mallery

Christmas on 4th Street (Fool's Gold, #12.5)
Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery
(Fool's Gold #12.5)
September 24, 2013
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Contains: fade-to-black sex
Source: eARC for Honest review

There's nowhere better to spend the holidays than with New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery in the town of Fool's Gold, where love is always waiting to be unwrapped... Noelle Perkins just got a second chance at life, and she intends to make the most of every minute. That's why she ditched a frustrating legal career to open her own store in Fool's Gold, California. The Christmas Attic celebrates everything that's magical about her favorite season. Business is booming, and as a bonus, gorgeous army doctor Gabriel Boylan has offered to help out during the holiday rush.

Gabriel's memories of Christmas past contain more sour grapes than sugar plums, thanks to a drill sergeant father who ran his home like a boot camp. Spending the holidays with his family while he recuperates from injury sounds as appetizing as last year's eggnog. Still, there are some enjoyable distractions in town, including sunny, sexy Noelle...and the red-hot mistletoe kisses they can't stop sharing.

Gabriel didn't think he was made for happily-ever-afters. But when fate hands you a love as sweet and surprising as this, only a fool could refuse....

This was my first experience with Susan Mallery's writing, and I can honestly say I was impressed. I love Christmas novellas - not only for the obvious enjoyment of a story set in the Christmas setting, but it also gives me the opportunity to get to know other authors I may not have read before. If I'm lucky, I will find a new author whose other books I will want to explore in the future. In this case, though Susan Mallery's story was more than novella length, it was still a double win. Not only did I enjoy this story, but I also look forward to reading more stories in the Fool's Gold series.

As for Christmas on 4th Street, the story is very sweet and tender. The two main characters have each had difficult pasts, yet the way they chose to live after their previous hurts and heartbreak are quite different. I loved how their choices were explored in this story, and how along the way they had to learn from each other, or give up on any potential future happiness with each other.

I particularly liked Noelle's character. She is a stand-out amongst female main characters, the way she has handled not only her past, but especially her present and her future. Her optimism, her drive, her generosity, her compassion, her heart - all of these things and more were quite admirable. Even the way she handled Gabriel and his demons. I also like that we get a new side to the military as Gabriel is a doctor/trauma specialist, and Mallery's gentle exploration within that area.

Overall, this was a very sweet read with just the right amount of angst, cuteness, sexiness, and love. Admittedly, there was a bit of cheesiness in the end, but I really enjoyed Noelle and Gabriel's story nonetheless. Just the right story for the holidays. I will warn that while the page count seems high, the story itself felt more like a long novella, so I'm not sure if there is a discrepancy there or not.

Yours for Christmas (Fool's Gold, #15.5)
Yours For Christmas by Susan Mallery
(Fool's Gold #15.5)
October 28, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Content: clean
Source: eARC for Honest review
Famous former NFL stars don't date single working moms like Bailey Voss. She'll allow herself to daydream about Kenny Scott's muscles and killer smile, but wanting more would lead to post-holiday regret. Then Kenny volunteers to run a toy drive with Bailey, and she learns that he's not just hot…he's also generous, funny, nice. The whole package—tantalizingly out of reach.

The ache of past loss reminds Kenny why he needs to avoid getting too close to anyone. Especially to a gorgeous redhead and her adorable little girl. Mess it up, and he'd lose them both. Yet Kenny can only resist Bailey for so long. And as festive spirit spreads throughout the town, he's all wrapped up in Bailey's sweet, sexy kisses and determined to make this the first of many Christmases together…
This was another sweet Christmas novella by Susan Mallery. It's packed in with just the right amounts of past hurts, present dilemmas, and future hopes. Bailey's a single mom to a very adorable daughter, and has a bit of a crush on a certain hunky former NFL star, Kenny. When circumstances put them together, they must face their mutual attractions. But it's more than circumstances that keep the friendship growing more and more. But fear can be a difficult thing to overcome.

I really liked the characters of Bailey and Kenny. Bailey, as a widow and single mom, was grateful for everything and was still optimistic in the future, even though she was also practical. Kenny was such a sweetheart. I imagined him as a gentle giant as he didn't always say a lot, but his actions were always big and considerate. The progression of their relationship was very sweet and gentle and refreshing. Then throw an adorable 7-year-old, and this sweet story is hard to resist.

Christmas on 4th Street
Yours For Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Stormfront by K.R. Conway

Stormfront (Undertow #2)
Stormfront by K.R. Conway
(Undertow #2)
August 3, 2014
Genre: YA Paranormal
Contains: minor language, sexual references
Source: eARC for Honest review

Not long ago Eila Walker’s choices were limited: death by a bullet to the head, or at the hands of her beloved bodyguard, Raef. Now, five weeks after Raef triggered her power and she nearly leveled a historic mansion, Eila is dealing with the fall-out of her decisions. While she doesn’t remember dying in the arms of the soul thief who loves her, she knows that Raef remembers everything about the night he nearly killed her.

Now on the mend and attempting to keep one step ahead of the FBI, Eila and her team of misfits are desperate for a bit of normal. Eila is trying to navigate high school, while her BFF Ana is cautiously hanging with past-boyfriend and soul thief, Kian. Shape-shifter, MJ, is trying not to piss off his mother, while Raef is coping with his fears that Eila will never be safe.

But just as “normal” seems within their grasp, a powerfully built newcomer arrives. Raef knows the scarred man as a Blacklist Dealer – a soul thief, who peddles the names of humans who deserve to die. Eila, however, knows him as the protective hunter from the woods, who she nicknames Thor. Before long, Raef and Eila realize they’ve met the same killer, and he has one hell of a story to tell the five friends . . . if Raef doesn’t murder him first.

I was completely drawn in by the first book in this series, Undertow, and Stormfront has kept the excitement and the intrigue going strong. Stormfront picks up not long after where Undertow left off. I love that this is a young adult series, yet as someone not in that demographic, I am completely invested in these characters, their storyline, and their world.

One new development in Stormfront is that we get the dual POV of both Eila and Raef. For this series, this change-up worked really well. I loved getting the extra insight into Raef's mind and feelings. His love and protection over Eila was super sweet. Watching the two of them together overcome obstacle after obstacle, seeing their love bloom and mature, was very tender and sweet. But what I also liked about them was how they challenged each other, how they grew individually, and honestly, I just liked them. They are a great couple to carry the storyline, yet their romance doesn't detract from the other exciting plot developments.

Another new development is the level up in the plot. Undertow was exciting and had great twists and turns. Stormfront kept up the momentum, introducing new layers and depths. Plus, there's a new character, Rillin (aka, Thor), that I really liked. He has a fascinating past and brought another level of mystery and insight to everything that was going on. And there was a whole lot going on. All of these things kept the story exciting and a page-turner. Oh, and let's not forget MJ, Anna, Kian and Christian. Yep, some great stuff happens with them, too.

I will say that there were a few slow spots, mostly the recap portions, which perhaps I was more sensitive to as I read both books back-to-back. But it wasn't a huge deal. Also, for those more sensitive to Raef and Eila's physically developing relationship, their closeness amps up, but it's tactful and fade-to-black.

Overall, I love this series - the characters, the storyline, the world, the mystery... all of it. Stormfront is a great continuation of what Undertow started, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Have you started UNDERTOW yet?
Undertow (Undertow, #1)