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This has potential but fails to realize it.

Allure  - Nina Lane

This was just okay for me. I have issues with the flow, as with the first book. There are moments when an event in history is mentioned, cuing a flashback only to not flash back. Other times there are flashbacks thrown in at seemingly random times. 

The sex scenes were almost relentless and repetitive. The abundance of long sex scenes reminds me of a discussion between Liv and Dean towards the end regarding how they may be "using an intense sexual relationship as a substitute for connecting on emotional and intellectual levels." The exact same thing could be said about this story. 

I'll finish the series but I wish I was already done.

Arouse: A Spiral of Bliss Novel (Book One) - Nina Lane

I was a little disappointed with this one. I feel like this is an attempt at being a Megan Hart novel with its "depressing love story with sex thrown in." It's something that can be done well but this time just feels forced. 

There is a lot of telling and little showing which can get frustrating. I also felt that the story didn't flow well. The back-and-forth between the past and present feels random at times and out of order others. It occasionally fits well, but not often enough. It also took far too long to get any back story on Dean and Liv; I almost resigned myself to not caring about them. 

The big (non-) surprise at the end came without any lead-up whatsoever, which I found obnoxious. It is also presented as a mere break in a chapter, as opposed to a more definitive separation of scenes, despite clearly being a drastically different scene, time, and setting. It feels more like a moment of, "Crap! I forgot to have a cliffhanger so I'm just going to throw this on at the end of the last chapter so everyone will read the next book." 

Overall, Arouse is not great but not bad, either. It passed the time and didn't feel like a total waste. I wouldn't have purchased the series if I knew it was on the weak side, however.

Great until the twist was given the Cliff Notes treatment

Perfect Lie - Teresa Mummert

There are a lot of things I enjoyed about this book and one big thing I found lacking. I'm having a hard time rating this one because I was ready to mark it high until I got to the very end.

 

Let's start with a few of the good things. I thought the flashbacks were done well. They popped up at appropriate times and showed us just enough at a time. The storyline with Brock was captivating. The reader knows that something happened but we can only speculate the exact outcome until the very end. It had me twisted up a bit inside. Lie's battle with herself and her past hooked me as well. Her back-and-forth between who she is and who she thinks she should be seemed realistic to me and made me want so much for her. Her struggles weren't dragged out for ridiculous periods of time but were more like mini-battles that she waged.

 

Overall, I liked Abel. Now that I understand a few things better (after reading the end), I can see why he did certain things. But that brings me to the ending. Perhaps I had a problem with it because I read it at 1 a.m. but I think my issues are bigger than exhaustion. I like the twist and I like what it does to the story. I think it takes this story and makes it unique. However, my problem is with how it was executed. We have this huge build up to something and then POOF! "Let's tie this up real quick and end it." I just felt like the reader was given the Cliff Notes version of what was going on with the twist. It would have taken maybe one more chapter to let the reader grasp what was just thrown at us and make it easier to take. I liked the twist but I needed to know more of the Hows and Whys in order to buy into it. As far as the reader knows, Lie just accepts her reality without much question, and that just didn't feel true to character to me.

 

I'll give this 3.5 stars because I enjoyed it a lot until I was left wanting at the end. I really wanted to rate it higher but I just don't think I can without some more clarity.

A male POV that actually reads like a man plus great humor and characters.

Tangled - Emma Chase

There are so many aspects of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Let's start with Drew's POV. So many times I have read a male POV and instantly (and sometimes painfully) knew it was written by a woman. Many (most?) men don't think like women, don't talk like women, don't even understand women. Remember that whole Venus/Mars thing? A lot of female writers I've encountered either forget this fact or simply can't cross over to the other side. Emma Chase is not one of those authors. Drew talks like a man, acts like a man, and thinks like a man. There aren't any moments of "no dude thinks like that" or "a guy like him would never say that." She managed to make me forget a woman wrote this story and that is a huge accomplishment. It was great.

 

I also enjoyed how Drew speaks to the reader. It reminded me of something I would expect to see and hear in a Joseph Gordon-Levitt film.

 

"What the hell does that even mean? Think about it. It will come to you."

 

The story is filled with moments where the reader is brought into the picture creating a sense of involvement. Those moments were often the ones that had me laughing the most. I found myself highlighting so many lines and passages not because they were great one-liners, but because Drew has a knack for explaining things in such an obtainable way, of providing insight to his perspective.

 

"You brush your teeth, right? Well, suppose your favorite toothpaste is Aquafresh. But the store is out. All they have is Colgate. What are you going to do? You're going to use the Colgate, right?

 

You may want to brush with Aquafresh, but when all is said and done, you use what you have to keep those pearly whites clean. See my way of thinking? Good."

 

Kate is another plus in this story. She is strong, confident, brilliant, and kindhearted. We actually get to see these traits; the same traits that Drew falls for. Finally, a newly-reformed cad with an actual reason to be reformed! I'm tired of reading about the "bad boy" suddenly changing his ways and failing to see why the girl is worth it. Kate has substance. She has class. She also is vulnerable but not a bunny-in-a-cage vulnerable. There is strength through her vulnerability. She refuses to settle for less than she deserves even if it scares her.

 

The budding romance between Drew and Kate unfolds at a nice pace. It wasn't ridiculously quick or obnoxiously slow. Their early phase reminded me a lot of David Addison and Maddie Hayes from Moonlighting or (as mentioned in the book) the Roses from The War of the Roses. They are feisty, competitive, relentless, and passionate. It was really fun to read and, thanks to Drew speaking to the reader, fun to experience along with them.

 

Overall, this was a fun, well-written story from a unique perspective that was pulled off successfully. I'm looking forward to reading more from Emma Chase.

Different feel but still good

The Redhead Plays Her Hand - Alice Clayton

I had to think about this one a little bit but I've settled on 3.5 stars, rounded up because I enjoyed the series a lot. 

This installment in the series deals with two major issues: Grace's battle with Hollywood over her weight and Jack's sudden case of douchery. 

The story has such a different feel to it than the other two. I would usually be put off by that type of change-up but the combination of my enjoyment for the series and the appropriateness of it made it easy to take. I do feel like some things were stretched out for too long and I was tempted to roll my eyes a few times, but I managed to hang in there and I'm pleased. I liked reading the media blurbs and seeing things from a different perspective. I must say I felt a bit bad about my occasional celeb-watching interests. 

It is refreshing see the issue of "skinny women being labeled as plus-sized" addressed and called-out for what it is. The issue was handled well and not too overboard. I did spend a lot of time being royally upset with Jack, however. I think his behavior is one of those areas I felt stretched out a bit too long but his shift later on was expedited at a good pace. 

Was this my favorite book in the series? No, but I still enjoyed it and I'm still a George and Gracie fan.

"Don't trust your heart. Your heart is a moron."

Raw - Belle Aurora

Raw is a unique and riveting and done the right way (mostly, but no one is perfect, right?). It's one thing to have an aggressive, dominate male lead and a female lead who is in love with him despite them being complete opposites; we've seen this struggle before. It's another thing to have her question why she feels that way and to maintain her strength and intelligence. Lexi may enter this relationship naive to the lifestyle Twitch lives, but she doesn't check her brain and wits at the door. She has moments of "I can't believe I'm doing this" but only because it was new and not because it was wrong or stupid.

 

I was instantly hooked with this story. It was suspenseful and flowed well. There are some editing errors, but the story is so captivating that those little things are easy to forgive. I felt the character development was well-paced as well as the storyline. A big part of me is crossing fingers and toes in hope of another installment but I know I'm content with the way things are left. There isn't a cliffhanger just a glimpse of what will inevitably come. Overall, very enjoyable book!

Another enjoyable, quick read in this fun series

The Redhead Revealed  - Alice Clayton

I can't help but crank through this series. The challenges Grace faced in this installment were believable and realistic. The banter was fun and witty without being ridiculously forced and the character dynamics were interesting. Once again, I felt some parallels to other stories and real life but I still don't mind. I enjoyed Grace's success and understood her self-sabotage. I'm ready to jump into the next book to see where everything goes. Here's to George and Gracie!

Fun, engaging, and addictive series

The Unidentified Redhead  - Alice Clayton

I am surprised by how much I enjoyed this book and how much I related to Grace. She is funny and corny and crazy without being uncomfortably so. Her quirks feel natural and real instead of forced and over-the-top. She's strong but real (read: she has baggage like everyone else) and she's very likable.

I do feel like the story reminds me of a couple of other stories I've watched or read before, even watched unfold in the tabloids (not that I follow that stuff...) but I'm okay with that. Clayton managed to keep me engaged and invested throughout. Her characters are fun and enjoyable without being too serious. The ending had me immediately jumping into the second installment.

Sex Love Repeat - Alessandra Torre

I thought the more taboo nature of the relationship was handled very well. All three parties involved were considered by each other (to some extent) and there was respect. What I didn't get enough of is "Why are these guys so in love with Madison?" It was hinted at but only briefly and vaguely. There is definitely something about her. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I liked her without having any clear, definitive reason why. But I don't have to have a reason because I'm not claiming to love her deeply. I just felt like it would have been nice to know why these men were so connected to Madison, why they (well, one of them) was willing to do anything and everything for her. I wanted to know why, besides her insatiable sex drive, were they so stuck on her. 

I also could not stand the consistent use of "'til" instead of "until." It is such a little detail but drove me up a wall at times. It was clearly an author preference and not a character quirk. Picky, I know...

I really liked the twist thrown in. It reminded me of Gone Girl in the sense that I wanted to go back and re-read certain parts to see if I could have/should have seen it coming. It wasn't anything earthshaking or incredibly mind-blowing, but I really liked the shift. 

I kept asking myself "What sort of crazy person knows they are being crazy and admits to it?" Dana kept acknowledging that she knew she was being creepy and stalkerish and that just didn't flow with the typical crazy-stalker-chick. It all makes sense now!

(show spoiler)


The epilogue...I could have done without it. It changed the way I viewed Madison, and I don't like that. Again, it was not anything catastrophic, but I don't feel like it fit the Madison we grew to know. 

The fact that she knew for so long changes the whole dynamic, in my mind. She was keeping a secret, a big one, and was intentionally deceptive. It doesn't sit well with the kind, caring, loving Madison we know. Every interaction, every surprise, every question of who to choose is a bit tainted.

(show spoiler)

 I also don't feel it was necessary. At all. I'm just going to have to pretend I didn't read it and move on. 

Still going strong...

Ashes to Ashes - Karina Halle

Karina Halle never disappoints. Ashes to Ashes is everything I have come to expect from the EIT series. It has awesome loving between Dex and Perry, get-under-your-skin suspense, and just great writing. I had to remind myself several times that I actually like to read scary stories despite the feelings I was experiencing that begged to differ. Especially after I made the mistake of googling "asylum death chute" so I had a better image (why do I have to be such a visual person?!).

I liked the personal twists and the EIT twists. The asylum story line was creepy and disturbing. The writing and character development are fantastic as always. Another great installment to this consistent and captivating. I will truly miss this series when it is over.

A creepiness that settles into your bones...

Ashes to Ashes (Experiment in Terror #8) - Karina Halle

Review to come

Better than the last few...but not by much.

Takedown Twenty - Janet Evanovich

Takedown Twenty is definitely better than the previous few books in the Stephanie Plum series. Is it great or memorable? No, but I don't feel like I wasted a lot of time with this one. 

I think it would be hard to be original by the time a series reached twenty books and this book proves that point. This installment finds Stephanie and Lula up to their old habits. The only new aspect of the story is the addition of a mystery giraffe. 

Stephanie is also in exactly the same place with both Morelli and Ranger. Big surprise. I find it hard to understand what Morelli sees in Stephanie but I can accept it because it isn't too far fetched. Ranger is even harder to understand. They seemingly know very little about each other and really only have sexual chemistry and their chosen profession in common. That's fine for casual "relationships" but not for two people who have occasionally discussed the possibility of marriage (or the lack thereof). In Takedown Twenty, Ranger even (essentially) says he is interested in having Stephanie living with him but isn't "willing to pay the price right now....probably never." That's still more consideration to the issue than seems fitting. 

I think I'm just tired of the repetitive plots. This one was slightly more enjoyable, slightly more mysterious, and slightly less boring than the past few. If I didn't have such a jaded view of the current state of the series going into this one, I think I would feel more confident with my 3-star rating.

Temporary Bliss - B.J. Harvey

This wasn't anything new and the eBook could use some editing but it was still a good read. This is one of those stories you read when you just want to be on autopilot. There are cliches and cheesy moments but it wasn't so extensive that I was annoyed or turned off to the story. The characters were good people with real issues. Mac's parents were a little over-the-top but their role was minimal and they are around for a good reason. I will read the next book and heard it's even better. 

The Death and Life of Bobby Z - Don Winslow

This isn't Savages but is very enjoyable in its own right. I really like Winslow's writing style and character development.

An intelligent female lead who actually acts smart

One & Only (Canton) (Volume 1) - Viv Daniels

This was a refreshing addition to the NA genre. The characters are smart, respectable, and not blind to the obvious. I never felt like hitting Tess or Dylan over the head and shouting, "Wake up, idiot!" What a relief that was! I feel like a common thread I've encountered lately is "smart girl being ridiculously stupid and blind." What does that type of character have to offer? Not much. It often leaves me wondering what the male MC sees in this girl. Thankfully, Tess is intelligent and never forgets that. Her intelligence doesn't end with academics but also carries over into her personal life. She has real conflicts and internal pushing and pulling but handles it like an intellectual person and not some dunce.

 

I found Dylan to be refreshing as well because he was a good guy that was still desirable and respectable without ever treating people poorly. I'm all about the "bad boy" characters, but there comes a point where bad boy becomes douche bag jerk and the reader is left searching for a redeeming quality. Dylan maintains his masculine qualities and attractiveness through the whole story without being a pushover or pansy. The good guy can be more than the overlooked best friend; he can be desirable, strong, and drool-worthy.

 

One & Only is catching, enjoyable, and a breath of fresh air in the NA genre. The characters are easy to care about and respect. I really enjoyed reading this story and I am looking forward to Hannah's story.

Fantastic debut from a talent author

Unteachable - Leah Raeder

This story is so lyrical and poetic without throwing it in your face or being obnoxious. It just felt right. Leah Raeder is a great writer with the ability to describe places and people in beautiful detail reminiscent of great poetry. The key to her writing is that she doesn't take this skill too far. The descriptions are not over-the-top or too cheesy. She saves it for the time, using it only when necessary and not taking it for granted. It is descriptive without going overboard, familiar without being boring or redundant, and realistic.

 

The characters are well-developed and believable. I wasn't left wondering what Evan saw in Maise (or the other way around). I feel like they both represented their "issues" appropriately and realistically. The drama wasn't extreme, the level of angst just right. This novel is like the perfect recipe for a NA/Romance/YA/however-you-want-to-label-it. The premises is a familiar one (student-teacher love affair) but it is done the right way.

 

There were several paths that Maise and Evan could have taken. They were fairly predictable but not to the point of locking in the ending with any great certainty. It was captivating, addictive, and very enjoyable. I was able to become invested in the characters and story with ease and I wanted great things for them as individuals. I was very impressed with this debut.