Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mini Blog-Ahead & Take Control of Your TBR Challenge Sign Up Posts

In an effort to get ahead, and thus reduce my blogging stress AS WELL AS continue my efforts towards reading *all* those books I own, I'm participating in the Mini Blog-Ahead Challenge AND the Take Control of Your TBR Challenge during the month of March.

***

I've decided to participate in the Mini Blog-Ahead Challenge hosted by Herding Cats & Burning Soup. It's only 15 days in length (March 1-15) but I really need to get as many posts completed and scheduled as I can simply for the stress relief! It is a joy to have posts scheduled, to know my blog is all set for those times I'm traveling (which will be quite a bit this summer) and when life throws things at me I'm not always prepared for. 

Here are the basic rules:

  1. Challenge begins March 1 and ends March 15
  2. Schedule an additional 15 posts during the challenge period
  3. Any type of post counts.
  4. The posts must be scheduled to go *live* after the end of the challenge period.

If y'all are interested in joining this challenge to get yourself ahead around your own blog, click the button for all the details!



I'm also joining in the fun that is the Take Control of your TBR Challenge hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. Since the basic rule is to read books  put on your TBR shelf prior to March 1, 2017, it's a great way to get several books *off* my TBR shelf!

Here are the basic rules:

  1. Link up! You don't have to have a blog to participate. Use your Goodreads account.
  2. Create Goals/Updates/Results post (can be combined).
  3. Challenge begins at midnight March 1 and ends at 11:59 p.m. March 31.
  4. Read/listen to books from your TBR.
  5. All books must have been released prior to March 1, 2017.
  6. Post reviews to Goodreads or your blog, then link up.
  7. You can combine events/challenges.
  8. No novellas - page count must be over 100.
  9. Use hashtag #TakeControlTBR.

If you'd like to join me in this challenge, click on the button for complete details.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

My TBR List Review ~ February ~ Charade ~ Nyrae Dawn

MyTBRList

My To-Be Read List is a meme hosted by Michelle @Because Reading. I think it's a fabulous idea because it gets y'all in the game and it helps me knock off some of the many, many books on my TBR list. You're more than welcome to join in the fun! I've included the basic rules below but you can click on the graphic above to hop over to Michelle's site where you can find all the details. 


Charade (Games, #1)
Charade by Nyrae Dawn
Games #1
Release Date: October 22, 2012
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased on Nook
Rating: 4 Bookworms
Challenges: #COYER, #Goodreads #ShelfLove, #TravelingtotheTerminus
Goodreads


Synopsis
Nineteen-year-old Cheyenne tries to portray the perfect life to mask the memories of her past. Walking in on her boyfriend with another woman her freshman year in college threatens that picture of perfection.

Twenty-one-year-old Colt never wanted college and never expected to amount to anything, but when his mom's dying wish is for him to get his degree, he has no choice but to pretend it's what he wants too.

Cheyenne needs a fake boyfriend to get back at her ex and Colt needs cash to take care of his mom, so they strike a deal that helps them both. But what if Cheyenne's past isn't what she thought? Soon they're trading one charade for another--losing themselves in each other to forget about their pain. The more they play their game, the more it becomes the only thing they have that feels real.

Both Cheyenne and Colt know life is never easy, but neither of them expect the tragedy that threatens to end their charade and rip them apart forever.



I love the fake dating trope. I do. And Charade was a great execution of it. I'm thrilled I went back to the beginning for Cheyenne and Colt's story. I met them in Facade but their story was important.

Despite the title and the games these two engage in - both for their own reasons - there wasn't a lot of fun in this story. The banter between them was often fun though - both so snarky. But they were each dealing with demons from the past and present.

Both Cheyenne and Colt are standoffish - not letting anyone get close or really get to know them. But they each seemed to see straight to the heart of the other and while this left them feeling vulnerable - something neither liked - it also began to chip at the walls they'd each built. The falling wasn't something either intended and it was beautiful to see.

One thing I admired about this story was that both Cheyenne and Colt made decisions and began taking steps to resolve their issues themselves. They weren't "fixing" one another but they were inspired to "fix" themselves because of the feelings they'd developed. I was also, once again, quite impressed with the depth of the story and the emotions evoked, in so few pages. Dawn delivers a well-crafted story with complex, realistic characters. I'm eager to finish this trilogy.



Friday, February 24, 2017

New Release Review & Author Interview ~ Dead Hope ~ Nicky Wells (@WellsNicky) #2017NewRelease

Dead HopeDead Hope by Nicky Wells
Release Date: February 2, 2017
Genre: Adult, Suspense, Romantic Suspense
Source: I received an ARC from the author. I voluntarily provided a review.
Rating: 4 Bookworms
Challenges: #2017NewRelease, #Goodreads
Goodreads ~ Amazon

Synopsis
DEAD HOPE is the new thriller by Nicky Wells, bringing you a delicious cocktail of crime, suspense, and romance.

Cat Hope doesn't want to go to prison. She needs a job, and she needs it fast; judge's orders.

Kay Mahon, office worker by day and hacker by night, is on the run from a past life that he'd rather not remember.

When their paths cross, they begin to investigate the truth behind the deaths of Cat's parents, the successful rock star couple Jackie and Adam Hope. Little do they know that their quest is putting Cat in grave danger.



I had the privilege of reading Dead Hope early and while I've read Wells before, this was something different. Wells took a new path with Dead Hope - that being the path of a thriller - and she delivered the goods. Dead Hope is compelling with great character development and although you know whodunit throughout, she keeps you turning the pages needing to see how it all shakes out.

Cat Hope is the daughter of a famed rock duo, one who has it all with, the exception of her parents who died tragically, and she's found herself in a bit of trouble. Her punishment, as strange as it is, is to be relegated to a new life - as a "normal" person. That being having no access to her trust fun - working for a living.

Cat starts out as a self-centered, spoiled woman - Wells seems to have a talent for creating heroines that have to win us over - but over the course of the story, she grows emotionally and it was a delight to witness even if learning things about her childhood - the things that caused her to be how she was - were troubling.

Cat meets Kay in her new job and as their friendship blossoms, they come to find they have some things in common in their childhood. This brings about Cat and Kay investigating Cat's parents deaths, opening a whole new can of worms.

The character growth wasn't limited to Cat although she grew the most. Kay, a very smart and talented man, having skills useful to investigating on the sly, was also rather prickly - not allowing anyone in...that is no one until Cat.

Wells did a fine job in creating suspense throughout - what would happen? Would Cat and Kay get caught? Everything flowed together naturally, keeping the pace even, despite knowing who the villain was. There were a few instances where my suspension of disbelief was strained but all-in-all everything worked. There was, of course, a romantic element - Wells didn't completely ditch her roots. And the romance between Cat and Kay was sweet, building naturally from their friendship.

I was rather impressed with Wells' foray into suspense writing. The nods to Bourne and other was a nice touch. Wells laid a nice foundation, used her skills in crafting a good story with characters I became invested in, and succeeded in delivering a thriller worth reading.






Question: You’ve been a bit quiet this past year or so. What’s been happening? Where have you been?

Nicky: After the release of my last novel, the romantic comedy “Seven Years Bad Sex,” I decided to take a little breather and to allow myself some time to think about where I was going to go next, writing-wise. I took a whole six months off, and I spent that time with family and decorating a part of our house. Wouldn’t you know it, six months flew by, and I found myself brimming with ideas for not one but several books, and I got busy writing and planning and writing again.

Question: Tell us about DEAD HOPE. How did you come up with the idea?

Nicky: DEAD HOPE was born with the working title of “Deep Cover”. When the idea came to me, I was still planning to write a romance featuring rock stars, and the key nugget is: what would happen if you transplanted a world-famous rock star into an office job like you and me might hold down? Moreover, what would happen if you removed that rock star from their natural habitat, the glittering metropolis, and placed them into a sleepy rural town? Romantic and comedy ideas flowed galore.

Question: So, DEAD HOPE was going to be a romantic comedy?

Nicky: A romantic comedy-slash- suspense, yes. That was the plan.

Question: How did you get from romantic comedy-slash- suspense to thriller? That’s quite a leap.

Nicky: It might look that way, but it was actually a gradual progression. I’m an OCD planner. I can’t write if I haven’t got the book planned out in minute detail, so I sat down and started weaving all my wonderful ideas together. But there was one central question I couldn’t answer: Why. Why would this whole thing happen? What would bring the rock star to the office job in the middle of nowhere?

Question: And?

Nicky: I did a spider map of all the possible scenarios that could have got the rock star into his unusual circumstances, and I got a bit carried away. I allowed myself to really think out of the box, and suddenly one scenario jumped out at me that turned the plot entirely on its head. Funny how a small idea can prompt a cataclysmic change! My hero turned into a heroine, and while she’s the daughter of a famous rock star couple, she isn’t a celebrity in her own right. But at that point, the romance theme was still dominant.

Question: What happened next?

Nicky: I finished planning and started writing. And as soon as I started writing, the thriller and crime ideas just took off. This baby wanted to be something completely different from what I had envisaged, so I had to abandon writing and re-plan. I went deep on the logistics of my core crime, my mystery, and I learned quite a bit about court and police procedures and forensics, more so than is evident in the story but lots of stuff that’ll come in handy in my next stories. In this way, DEAD HOPE turned from a romantic suspense into a crime thriller with a strong romance subplot.

Question: But there is still some romance?

Nicky: There is still some romance.

Question: What about blood and gore?

Nicky: That, not so much. I don’t like blood and gore and while there is some—it is a crime story, after all—the novel is all about solving the mystery. I guess I’m trying to follow in the tradition of Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton, not that I could ever hope to aspire to match their genius.

Question: Go on then, sell it to me. What’s DEAD HOPE all about?

Nicky: All right… here goes the elevator pitch!

A unique and delicious cocktail of crime, suspense and romance, “DEAD HOPE” is a compulsive page turner.

Cat Hope doesn’t want to go to prison. Kay Mahon is on the run from a past life that he’d rather not remember. When their paths cross, they begin to investigate the truth behind the deaths of Cat’s parents, the successful rock star couple Jackie and Adam Hope. Little do they know that their quest is putting Cat in grave danger...





About Nicky Wells: Love & Thrills

Nicky Wells writes captivating romance and breathtaking thrillers featuring famous (or infamous!) feisty heroes and extraordinary villains. DEAD HOPE is her eighth book and the first published novel in her “Wake Up Dead” themed thriller series, with the next two books scheduled for release through the course of 2017 and 2018. Nicky has previously published seven works of romantic fiction both with US publishing house, Sapphire Star Publishing, and
independently.

Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys. She loves listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, she’s hopelessly addicted to reading crime novels by the truck load. 

Nicky’s books: Sophie’s Turn | Sophie’s Run | Sophie’s Encore | Spirits of Christmas | Fallen for Rock | Fairy Tale in New York | Seven Years Bad Sex


Join Nicky: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads | Pinterest | Google+

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts #60 ~ Rescued by the Wolf ~ Kristal Hollis

Rafe, the knight with gooey chocolate to the rescue! ;)


Damn it, Rafe! Answer the text.
Five minutes without a response and the wait was gnawing at Grace's insides.
Ordinarily, she wouldn't have messaged him at midnight, but it really was an emergency. Although the hotel had a wonderful dessert menu, not on item contained chocolate. And she really needed chocolate.
...
A pound at the door caused her to jump.
Heart racing, she peeked through the peephole.
A dangerously decadent hot fudge sundae stared back at her.
There was a god of chocolate, after all.
Grace squealed and did a little happy dance as she opened the door. Rafe handed her the ice-cream treat.
"Thank you, thank you." She locked the door behind him. "I was jonesing for this. How did you know?"
"Your message said 'Midnight snack emergency,' The night of the accident, you said an ice-cream sundae was your favorite midnight snack."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Release Day Review ~ Riptide ~ Michelle Mankin (@MichelleMankin)

Riptide (Rock Stars, Surf and Second Chances, #2)Riptide by Michelle Mankin
Rock Stars, Surf, and Second Chances #2
Release Date: February 21, 2017
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: I received an ARC from the author. I voluntarily provided a review. I also purchased my own copy.
Rating: 4.5 Bookworms
Challenges: #2017NewRelease
Goodreads ~ Amazon

Synopsis
Rock star Ramon Martinez can have any woman he wants, and he frequently does because he can't have her.

Karen Grayson
Surfer girl.
My band mate's wife
The one woman I can't have.
The one woman who could have my heart though I can never let her know.

Ramon Martinez
Romeo
Completely forbidden.
I wanted him back at the beginning, but he didn't want me.
So I made the safe choice.

The wrong one.

We were once friends.
Now we're not even that.
But we're both back in Ocean Beach and that dangerous attraction remains.



**PSA: Outside, the first book in this series, is currently FREE. And Riptide is ONLY $0.99**

I'm a sucker for a second chance and in Riptide, the second chance allowed for Karen and Ramon was equally heartwarming and bittersweet because of all the reasons it came about.

These two - their lives together and apart filled with so many "what if's". If only Karen had waited, or chosen more wisely. If only Ramon had behaved differently or fought for what he wanted from the beginning. But maybe things happened the way they did for a reason. Both Karen and Ramon had things to learn - about themselves, about each other, and about the nature of love. I wish their path hadn't been so rocky or painful and full of loss, but it seems that was the path they were meant to take.

See, Karen married Ramon's best friend and band mate, Dominic. But things went awry when he joined the military after 9/11. Ramon was there to support her during Dominic's long absences - and yes, a case could be made that she cheated - if only emotionally - but I'd argue that Dominic cheated too - again, emotionally - with his brothers in the Marines. However, there'd always been a flame between Karen and Ramon - they just wouldn't admit it or act on it. And apparently, it was a flame that wouldn't die.

There were lots of events and years in the making of this romance. Many misunderstandings and hurt feelings. And like I said, a lot of maturing. I felt Ramon's growth more acutely than Karen's, however. The changes he made were visible even if Karen couldn't see them. Karen...in the end, she got there but her insecurities about Ramon's feelings and her desire to become what he wanted - what Dominic wanted as well - made me sad. She couldn't see her own worth and want to be loved or accept love based on that. When she arrived though, that was a thing of beauty.

There was also a lot of back and forth because neither would admit their feelings or misunderstood when feelings were mentioned. This frustrated me a little because they were friends first and foremost so I felt they should've been able to be honest with one another. But then the history they shared explained the reluctance, especially Karen's - so... They'd been though so much together, shared everything with each other, except for their true feelings.

I enjoyed the camaraderie between Simone and Karen, and Ash and Ramon. I hope that continues in the series. And I also appreciated the tough topics Mankin tackled - being a soldier's wife as well as Alzheimer's. I've not experienced military life myself but what Karen went through both with Dominic's continual re-enlistments and his long absences without his discussing his decisions or life overseas, felt very realistic. I felt her fear and hurt and understood her feelings. Dealing with a parent having Alzheimer's - the good days and the bad days - felt realistic as well.

There was a character introduced that had no resolution but I'm guessing she'll reappear in a future story. In fact, I'm counting on it and am very curious about her story as well as how it'll affect a certain former bad-boy rock star. 

Overall, I was enthralled with Karen and Ramon's story. The format, both the dual POV as well as the insertion of the past between present, worked very well. Getting to see where Karen and Ramon were currently and then seeing the progression of the friendship as well as when, how and why the feelings between them developed over the years they've known each other, added the depth and complexity that made this romance rock solid. And Mankin's prose, her description of both the physical and emotional, beautifully conveyed a story where we learn it's never too late to reach for your dream.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Audio Review ~ Until Harry ~ L.A. Casey

Until HarryUntil Harry by L.A. Casey
Narrated byHeather Wilds
Release Date: July 19, 2016 (audio)
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased on Audible
Rating: 4.5 Bookworms
Challenges: Audio Challenge, #ShelfLove
Goodreads

Synopsis
Coming home is hard for Lane. Hard because her beloved uncle Harry has died suddenly, but also because of him. Kale.

Kale Hunt has been her best friend since childhood. But it was never that simple. He was Lane's reason for leaving home and moving to New York. Seeing him with someone else, in love with someone else, shouldn't have hurt. But it did. It really, really did. So she upped sticks and left, started a new life and cut herself off from her past.

But now she's back and all the feelings are right there. As if she had never left.

Emotions are running high, and tragedy has a funny way of bringing people together. But is Lane reading the signs right? Are they still just friends, or is there something more?




*Tissue Warning* I'm giving y'all fair warning. This story requires copious amounts of tissues...almost from the very beginning. It's an emotional roller coaster but it's an incredible one - well worth the tears and tissues.

Lane Edwards is home for the funeral of her beloved uncle, Harry. She's been away from home, in York, living in New York, for six years. She left after her best friend died and her other best friend became entangled in a serious relationship. Her decision to leave was met with dissention from her family causing a rift. Her uncle Harry, being the sneaky and cheeky man he was, brought Lane home and made her face her past - all posthumously.

This story is told both in the present and the past - and the format worked brilliantly. We were able to get to see Lane and Kale grow up together, see where and how they feelings between them developed, see where it all fell apart. We get to see the tight family dynamics between Lane, her parents and brothers, Nanny, and of course, uncle Harry. And in the present, we see Lane have a chance at mending fences with her family as well as with Kale. There's also the chance at more.

Lane and Kale both suffered a lot while Lane was away so there's more than their shared past to overcome. They both broke my heart, experiencing all their heartaches along with the. But I also got to be along as they put everything back together. And it was heartwarming.

I think I've made this story sound all sad. It's not all sad. It's poignant and very well rendered. And just so compelling. Heather Wilds narrates and she did a spectacular job! From the pacing to her accents, she made the story that much more compelling.

This was my first read from L.A. Casey. Needless to say, she made an impression. I'm eager for more. 





Thursday, February 16, 2017

That's What HE Said #74 ~ Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts #59 ~ Bounty by Kristen Ashley



That's What He Said is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely ladies @Chapter Break. Here's the deal: every Thursday, post a line from your book boyfriend to his heroine. Keep in mind, these are direct quotes from dialog in the books. The quote doesn't have to be romantic - just something our hunky hero said to his lucky lady. Be sure to link up over at Chapter Break as well.


My pick this week for That's What He Said is from:

Bounty by Kristen Ashley

***

"I got a lotta friends I watched go down for the count and stay down because they like the feel of bein' stuck. And what I mean when I say that is they went down to the women they decided to spend their lives with. Watched that, dug that for them, straight up wanted it for myself. But I know the man I am and knew what that would take for it to happen to me. And never, not once, Justice, did I ever find one I even considered havin' this conversation with so the shit I'm tellin' you, baby, you gotta know up front not to take it lightly. And I'll share what I mean by sayin' that I don't want a future with you. Where I'm at right now, after seein' those cruisers at your house, is that I can't imagine a future without you."


*~*~*~*~*~*

This particular quote resonated big with me because my Hubs used to make fried bologna sandwiches for me when we were in college. :D

It was dinnertime and I was sitting cross-legged on his couch, watching him in his tiny kitchen frying bologna and making toast.
Frying bologna and making toast.
The girls had brought huge amounts of food. So much of it, some of it was taking up what little counter space Deke had. They hadn't prepared us for a few nights hanging at Deke's trailer. They'd prepared us for a three-month-long seige.
And he was making me fried bologna on toast, the American cheese slices out and at the ready.
Just like I'd told him I liked it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review ~ Beauty from Pain ~ Georgia Cates #COYER #ShelfLove

Beauty From Pain (Beauty, #1)Beauty from Pain by Georgia Cates
Beauty Series #1
Release Date: January 4, 2014
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased on kindle
Rating: 4.5 Bookworms
Challenges: #COYER, #ShelfLove
Goodreads ~ Amazon

Synopsis
They agreed on three months...but their love knew no boundaries.

Jack McLachlan is a winemaking magnate and easily one of Australia's most eligible bachelors. His success and wealth make him no stranger to the complications of romantic relationships and that's why he goes to extreme measures to avoid the hassle. He prefers simplicity in the form of a beautiful female companion with no strings attached. He arranges relationships like business deals and they're always the same. No long term relationships. No real names.

It's his game and his rules. He's content to play as usual, but when Laurelyn Prescott enters his life, his strategy must change because this player is like none he's ever encountered. His world is turned on its head after he begins a three month affair with the beautiful American musician. Nothing goes according to plan and as he breaks more and more of his own rules for her, she's exceptionally close to becoming something he never thought possible. His ultimate game changer.



Omigosh! I cannot believe I've had this for so long and hadn't read it! Cates sucked me into this story immediately and I flew through it. So good!

Laurelyn has escaped to Australia with her best friend for a 3-month long getaway. She's running from a situation and taking time to make some big decisions regarding her future. Jack/Lachlan is a man who doesn't do relationships and his reasons are logical. He enters into agreements with his companions - no names (real anyway), no strings, just 3-4 weeks of fun and then they walk away. However, he's in Wagga Wagga for an extended time and he's decided to have a longer arrangement. Laurelyn, luckily, ticks all his boxes and will only be in the country for 3 months.

Obviously these two had chemistry - and it was palpable. They were fun together - Laurelyn challenged and teased Jack and he didn't know what to do with that. Laurelyn also felt the freedom to really be herself - even offering admissions she'd never shared with anyone - because there was an expiration date on their relationship. Neither of them expected to fall.

Watching as these two got acquainted and as the feelings developed was a pleasure. Laurelyn is feisty and even though there were boundaries set for their time together, she wasn't afraid to push Jack when it was important to her. Jack, although he wouldn't admit it, was smitten and almost immediately started breaking his own rules for her. He liked that she wanted time with him over anything he could buy for her.

There are some things in their pasts that are causing problems. I like the element of suspense these are providing. And there's the issue caused when Laurelyn goes home.

The next book in this series will be the first book I buy this year. But I *have* to know! Fortunately I have a few gift cards. :) This was my first read by Cates and her writing is fluid, the story well-crafted, and her characters well-defined. I can't wait to read more!