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5 Kryptonite Stars

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Backfire
Vigilantes #2
by
Keri Lake





If you are looking for pretty butterflies, rainbows and heart shaped clouds move on. You won't find them here. This is a gritty tale about violence, sacrifices and revenge but also all consuming love and tenderness in the face of danger and loss. The lines between the polar opposites of good and evil are blurred and things aren't always what they seem. 

Our story takes place in Detroit. In my mind the settings looked like the Detroit of the comic and movie The Crow - it's dark, debauched and corrupt. At the same time it's eerily beautiful in its decay. I don't think I should give away too much of the plot - you will get most out of the story if you know as little as possible about it. There are twists and surprises along the way that will have your heart racing. I'll reveal a little bit though:

Lucy is an urban exploration photographer. When her friend gives her a gig to shoot in Detroit's Packard Plant, she witnesses something she shouldn't. She does, however, and since she has her camera at hand she films the whole thing, unaware that these will be the last quiet minutes she will have for the forseeable future.

Jase is a hardened man. He was born on the wrong side of the tracks and hasn't had a lot of love and luck in his young life. Losing his brother and grandmother was only the tip of the iceberg of events that shaped him into the man he is today.

I've been to prison, licked the bottom of the barrel, and tasted nothing but bitter desolation my whole damn life, Lucy.

We get glimpses of his past by way of haunting flashbacks. Jase is a hero of the asshole variety when we start out on this adventure. He makes no excuses about his personality. He's raw, sexual and focused. Until...Lucy.

He was dark, threatening, and sexually magnetic, all rolled into one three-dimensional package of fuck me. 

Lucy is a firecracker with a stiff backbone who doesn't back down. I loved how she wasn't cowed by Jase's bullying. She has Jase on his toes, stands up up to him and doesn't relent, damn the consequences. Smart as a whip, fearless and crafty, she shows strength and endurance.

As with Ricochet the relationship development between Jase and Lucy isn't straight forward. And how could it be? These are deeply flawed characters who are unapologetic about their decisions. They take a lot of turns, 180s and crossroads before they find a common path. The way their dynamics changed along the way had me glued to the pages. They were like magnets you can't separate.

I wanted her to go, but I needed her to stay. Or was it the other way around? Goddamn, she had my head all messed up. 

Interestingly, the first real sex scene was hot but I found the thoughts running through Jase's head so captivating that I forgot the tingle in the nether regions of my anatomy.  Every subsequent encounter was explosive and had my ovaries in a meltdown. Their sexual taste is as edgy as their personalities and has a hint of depravation. And boy, Keri Lake can write some hot sex scenes.

The story is action packed and addictive, the scenes were vivid in my mind and well choreographed. The landscape came to life with Keri Lake's descriptions. This book can be read as a stand-alone but if you haven't read Ricochet yet, I urge you to do it. Nick's and Aubree's story is just as haunting and beautiful.

One more thing. I need to go all fan-girly because, seriously, this story rocked my world. I LOVED Jase and Lucy together, they were perfect for each other.

Buried deep inside of her, feeling her from the inside, it still wasn't enough. I wanted more of her. To know she belonged to me, and I belonged to her

I'd bleed for her. Kill for her. Die for her.
 

Last, I wanted to mention the cover. The model is perfect for Jase, the smirk that borders on a sneer is pretty much this hero's trademark. Kudos to Keri for finding somebody who could incorporate Jase's personality and giving him a face.


ARC received by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

3 Stars

| On
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Spinning Out
The Blackhawk Boys #1
by
Lexi Ryan





For me to love a story depends 75% on the female lead. I know. It's not fair but there you have it. Since I'm supposed to be studying hard, I'll forgo the summary and jump right into my thoughts.

Arrow was a wonderfully broken character. He was loyal to the bone and tried to adhere to the bro code when it came to his friend Brogan. He went through hell and back and took the penance for what he'd done and hadn't with grace.

Brogan was an idiot and why his friends stood by him the way they did I can't fathom. The author failed to convince me why he was the good guy he was supposed to be, there was all this talk about him being such a great guy but I didn't *see* it. He was one-dimensional (spoiler, please highlight to see) and it didn't help that he screwed around on the heroine

Mia fell flat for me. Throughout 400+ pages I couldn't get a read on her. I have no idea why these young men went all gaga over her. She wasn't not likable. She just...was. I wanted to care about her but I couldn't. I wouldn't be able to tell you much about her if you asked me, except maybe that she was a hard worker.

I'm still rating this with 3 stars because the story itself and the mystery were good and I did like the author's writing style.
It is written in dual-POV and additionally switches between before and after the accident. It has a somber tone throughout the story, there is nothing light-hearted to lift the darker mood. There are secondary characters who were really likable and I think we will get at least two more stories about them. I will definitely read more of this author, I think these boys have potential!




4 stars

| On
Monday, May 23, 2016
From This Day Forward
The Wedding Belles #0.5 
by
Lauren Layne





What we have here is a sweet, sexy novella by one of my favorites when I crave low angst. It's a second chance story with adorable main characters. It starts off LL's new Wedding Belles series.

Wedding photographers Jason and Leah were lovers until one day, when Jason's door opened and Leah faced a woman only in a t-shirt. Deeply hurt, she ran, never giving Jason the chance to explain. 
When Leah walked away from Jason he knew that he wouldn't be able to forget this little firecracker so quickly.  

"Moth, meet flame."


So when friend Alexis Morgan, owner of the wedding planers "Wedding Belles", approaches him to share photographing duties with Leah at a high profile wedding he jumps at the chance.

This was a sweet quick read and I really adored Jason. The theme here is the lack of communication when you are hurt and how you could miss out on something that could actually be really good. The resolution of the issues was a tad too quick for my taste but I can see how this is tough to do if you only have a certain number of words available. Still a lovely enjoyable story.

ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review - thank you!

4.5 Belly Laugh Stars

| On
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Hustler
by
Meghan Quinn & Jessica Prince




Take a bad boy, a sassy girl with a heart of gold, well-meaning friends and lots of deep belly laughs, shake the ingredients and you have "Hustler".

Penelope's first day on the job, waiting the high roller room of Hotel Paragon, doesn't go as planned. One of the guests thinks it's ok to touch the goods so what else can she do other than put him in his place. Too bad Mr. Saint calls her upstairs into the control room and she is at risk to lose her job. It is not what she imagined to do when she was a young girl but she needs this job.  The tips are great and give her the time and possibility to pursue her career as a gymnast.

Gavis Saint knows the poker tables of the world. He is the best. He works the control room of the Hotel Paragon's high roller room when he doesn't play. One day he sees a beautiful new waitress there. When this girl knees one of the guests in their nuts he has to meet her. So let's just get her upstairs, shall we?

Gavin is a manwhore. He supposedly looks like Nick Bateman. Gavin did check online and indeed, he says, he does look a lot like him. Now let's take a look at the eye candy.




*clears throat*

Where was I?
Oh yeah.

Personally I think he looks like an arrogant cocky bastard, albeit a mighty hot one.




But that's exactly what Gavin is. So the choice is perfect. Gavin doesn't do relationships - since his father's love for a woman who wasn't worth it killed him Gavin Saint decided never to be like his old man and let the fairer sex lead him around by his dick. He doesn't let people read him because that would give them a deeper look into his soul.

Penelope/Nell was such a joy to read about. This girl has the sass, the guts and the soul to bring Gavin to his knees. She gives as good as she gets. The dick flick scene will be one of my most favorite scenes in a rom-com. Nell is also extremely protective and loyal and I loved how she stood up for them to Gavin when he was being an ass.

Gavin was an unexpected hero. He does have his charms but that's superficial and the beginning the arrogance and him being a bastard outweigh that. So I was curious how these two authors would bring me around to love him. And they did! In the end I loved the hell out of these two. Gavin is also one of the best dirty talkers I've read so far. Panty-soaking.

The story itself has a great flow, you can't put it down because want to read more about the shenanigans of these people. The side characters are amazing and the story hints already at two more books in the future. The characterization of the main cast is well-fleshed out, they never act out of character. The dialogues are hilarious and I mean "ROFL"-hilarious. My downstairs neighbor told me she heard me laugh, so that's something ;). The steam factor is high and the time spent between the sheets with Gavin and Penelope is off the charts hot. No, really, OFF THE CHARTS.

This was a satisfying read with a lot of sass, humor and great characters. If you love low angst, panty-melting smexy times and snarky dialogues this book will make you happy.

ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review - thank you!

4.5 Beauty Stars

| On
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Arouse
Spiral of Bliss #1
by 
Nina Lane



My thoughts are all over the place. This story is a depiction of the problems and challenges you let into a marriage when you don't communicate and get past hurt.

Liv and medieval history professor Dean West have been married for three years and together for five. They are deeply in love and devoted to each other. Liv's difficult childhood is her reason for not wanting children. How can somebody with a bad role model as an example be a good mother after all? Dean agrees with her decision. A simple thing like a pregnancy scare, which is really only a scare, shifts their whole world off its axis. It sparks the thought in Liv that maybe she does want kids after all? From here on it's like an accident about to happen: You watch, you can't look away but you can't stop it either. When Liv feels that Dean is keeping a secret she realizes that the fear of her marriage falling apart is real.

“Our marriage has always been an island, a safe place where sea-dragons and monstrous creatures can’t reach us. Now we’re letting them in, gnashing teeth and all, and we are failing to protect each other.” 

Liv and Dean met when she was at college and he a temporary professor. The time of their courtship is told in flashbacks and gives us a deeper look into the reasons why they love each other so much, why their relationship is honestly good, and their feelings for each other the way they are.

“She’s pure. Despite experiences that could have irrevocably fucked her up, turned her into someone hard and jaded, she’s still wholesome.”


Dean is a protective and kind man who oozes sex appeal and authority. I was struggling with him acting out of character, I kept wondering why this kind man sometimes acted cruel, at least by his standards. Realization hit me when I got to peek inside his head. He is a wounded animal, up to the point where his marriage starts to fall apart we have only seen him being a good man, almost flawless. There was no reason for him to be anything but. He is human too though and so are his reactions to betrayal and hurt. He is deeply flawed yet extremely lovable.

“Christ Liv, sometimes the way you look at me makes me feel like I can hang the fucking moon.”
“Because I’ve always believed you can.”

I loved the hell out of Liv. In the beginning of the book you get to experience this beautiful, vibrant young woman who is confident in her marriage. When the problems start you realize that she actually considers herself unfinished, lacking...but with her relationship at stake she experiences major growth.

“I gave you everything I am. Why couldn’t you do the same for me?”

I read this book almost in one sitting, I just couldn't put it down. I couldn't help but root for them, cheer them on and be totally devastated when they yet again failed to talk. Their hurt was physical to me, I was a sobbing mess. The shift in their relationship dynamics was on one hand heartbreaking but cleansing at the same time. If I didn't have so many ARCs lined up I would read the next one right away, that's how much I loved these two. 

“Fall seven times. Get up eight.”

4.5. Cajun Stars

| On
Monday, May 16, 2016

Archangel's Shadows - Guildhunter #7
by
Nalini Singh








Nalini gives us the story of Ashwini and Janvier in this installment. It has the trademark formula of a mystery and love set in her Guildhunter world.

Ashwini is Janvier's one and only. Ever since the hunter chased him across the bayous of his homelands he has fallen for her. Nothing like a crossbow at your throat to make you go gaga over a girl, right? Janvier is the cheeky, charming and hot Cajun vampire who Ash can barely resist. If it wasn't for her secret this tough-as-nails lady would be all over his sexy southern ass.

This time the plot had even more mystery elements than Ms. Singh's prior books, I found. When emaciated, sucked dry corpses start popping up and a dangerous vampire drug makes its appearance Ash and Janvier are asked to combine their forces and find the people behind this. Having partnered before they are in sync with everything they do.

Ash has everything I look for in a heroine. Kindness, toughness, passion, humor. I don't get why she held on to her secret for that long, I didn't think it was something that she couldn't divulge so that felt a little bit dragged out.

Janvier, oh Janvier. What a hero. So freaking adorable, hot and cheeky. The little things he does for his hunter are swoonworthy. He is fiercely loyal and wears his heart on his tongue. Out of all the heroes in the Guildhunter world he is the most accessible. The most lovable.

Nalini Singh paints a vidid picture of the world and with her detailed description you can see the places she takes us. Her words are lyrical and the interactions of her characters, side or main, are soulful, their connections tangible. She ties up all necessary ends and leaves the important story arc open so that we can look forward to the next book. As always we get to see a bit of Bluebell and Aodhan, lots of Raphael and Ellie, some Honor and Dmitri.

Nasiir has a lot of screen time which has me absolutely thrilled about the next book. His journey to bliss will be interesting as he is still a mystery to me. Keir got some attention, too and I wonder if we get an MM story for him. Oh I don't even know if we get his story, dammit, but I just assume we will ;)

Alltogether I was again sucked into the Guildhunter world and loved every minute - totally satisfying read.

3.75 Stars

| On
Thursday, May 05, 2016
Bind
The Donovan Dynasty #1
by Sierra Cartwright




I'm quite picky with BDSM books as some authors of the genre usually push my boundaries too much when there isn't a healthy balance between enough story, humor and romance. And this is what we have here.

Lara Bertrand is a business woman, heiress to her father's empire. Unfortunately said empire is in dire straights: her father's way of leading a company is archaic, he struggles adapting to modern times. Lara's solution? A proposal of marriage to her best friend's brother, who has a vested interest in parts of her company.

Connor is fascinated by Lara, this sensual beautiful woman. He wants to dominate her, claim her. His condition is her absolute submission. Lara likes kink but real BDSM? Her attraction to this powerful, controlled and complicated man is fierce. He is a cunning negotiator so she gives in...but can she separate her mind from her heart and go through with this business agreement?

This was a hot little story with low angst and a lot of smexy times. Connor is a dirty talker and most of the times it is really girly parts tingle-inducing. Except...labia? This man doesn't shy away from words like cunt, pussy but he can't say pussy lips? That struck me a bit as out of character. He is controlled, loves to be in charge and has the charm and politeness of the south. Connor's respect for Lara is apparent in everything he does but he thinks love is messy and the wall he has built around his heart is tangible up until the 80% mark. Only then his personality starts to shine and sparkle.

Lara is a courageous heroine with a backbone. While reading this story I thought that I would be a bad sub. The things she gives in to without me thinking she is a doormat. Connor doesn't want to subdue her spirit and personality, which I'm thankful for because it enables me to keep my respect for both the heroine and hero.

The story had a nice flow and kept me interested and entertained throughout Lara's and Connor's journey. I'll definitely read more by this author.

ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review


3.5 Hot Jock Stars

| On
Monday, May 02, 2016

Shut Out
by Kelly Jamieson
Bayard #1





Let's hold in there a moment and appreciate this beautiful cover.

OK. Gotta love sports romances with yummay jocks. This is a New Adult novel and Kelly Jamieson is a new-to-me author.

A little trigger warning here too (highlight to see): rape

This was extremely hard for me to rate and it is equally hard to review since I don't want to spoil anything. I will say this though: the writer of this story lets us know that there are secrets right at the beginning but she keeps us in the dark about the extent of them up until the 70% mark, which sometimes works. However, in this case I thought it was unnecessary and it actually irked me a little bit.

Jacob is a hot jock. He got kicked out of his hockey team at school which crashes all his hopes to be drafted as a player for the NHL. The author only hints at the reason so the reader can only assume what happened. His old coach shows him a silver lining when he suggests to transfer to Bayard College. All new students and transfers have to go through a rape awareness program - Jacob isn't happy about it but he goes with the flow.

Skylar is a student there and a facilitator of the program. When they meet at a house party the chemistry between them is instant and sizzling. But Jacob can't afford distraction so he is hot one moment and cools off the next. Skylar doesn't understand it and they are off on a rocky start. As  Jacob's respect for Skylar grows they find common footing. One day he has a wonderful idea. Why not ask Skylar to play the fake girlfriend, you know, to keep the puck bunnies at bay. Skylar agrees on her own conditions.

What I really liked about this story was how the author approached a heavy subject with sensitivity. She didn't beat around the bush but whenever it was brought up it was in a manner to be educating.

Jacob is a lovely hero - he is loyal, quite grown up for his young age and responsible. He is straight forward and has a bit of a temper. It is sweet to watch him grow to care for Skylar. Except for a small TSTL he was delicious and sweet.

Skylar is a nice girl but she fell a little flat for me. I liked her well enough but she didn't wow me. And her TSTL moment was huge - it's seldom that I get really angry with a character but she made me furious when Jacob's secret is revealed to her and she refuses to hear his side of the story - there is no excuse for that since she knew Jacob, she knew by the way of how he treated her that he would NEVER ever do what he was accused of.

The dialogues sound clumsy at times and especially during the smexy times they feel more like people with years of experience. They didn't seem authentic to me. The story itself was really good - the execution a little bit lackluster. Will I read the next book in the series? Definitely, this story has me intrigued enough to want to know more about the Bayard College boys!