BOOK REVIEW ~ DECEPTION BY K.A. ROBINSON

I’m strong—or at least, I want to be. I try to be. Oh, how I’ve tried.
But life screwed me over. When I was at my weakest and lowest, desperate and alone, he found me.
Robert changed everything. He gave me everything.
He was every woman’s dream—rich, powerful, and charming. He made me forget the fact that he’s twenty-four years my senior.
He made me feel alive, and for the first time in my life, I was content.
Until I met Cooper—his son.
And Robert? He began to change.
I’m despicable. I know I am. I’m ashamed of what I want.

Things are never what they seem.

Greed. Lust. Lies. Murder.

Deception.

1.5 stars!
Why do I do this to myself? Every time I see a book with an enticing and catchy blurb I hurry and buy it (regardless if there are any reviews) and almost always end up extremely disappointed. For me, the best part of the book was the synopsis, and whenever I was bored or frustrated or shocked (in a bad way) I reminded myself of the awesome blurb and what it promised and hoped the book would turn around. Nope. So while the premise was an intriguing one to start with, it was poorly executed and add a ditzy heroine in the mix along with events that you’d have to completely suspend reality in order to believe, this book totally missed the mark for me.
The story started out well: it’s obvious that even though the heroine Claire is extremely naïve, she is kindhearted and after getting kicked out of her foster home on her birthday, she’s practically homeless. Temporarily staying at her boss’s gym, she bumps into the much older and charismatic Robert and apparently both are attracted to one another (which I didn’t see – they were always so formal and stale around each other) so they pursue a relationship even though early on there were signs that Robert was unstable, controlling, and borderline psychotic.
This is where my problems with the book really began. I can understand the author portraying Robert as a sugar daddy to display his financial edge over the heroine but I absolutely HATE it when his wealthy status is used to justify why he was able to pull off some of his actions when in reality, none of it could be possible. Unless I decided to read paranormal or fantasy, I really do expect some semblance of realism present in my books or I’ll start nitpicking.
So with no job (because Robert got her boss to hire someone else) and no actual home, Claire is completely dependent on Robert. For the first time in their relationship, she starts to see Robert for who he might be and recognizes that she’s trapped.
Enter this book’s one saving grace – Cooper. A twenty-year old bad boy who clearly harbors resentment against his father, Cooper at first takes in Claire as a gold-digging bimbo but as time passes, he sees that she’s a genuine person. Though he acts like an asshole and lashes out, he has Claire’s best interests at heart and tries to warn her that Robert is not what he says he is, all of which she ignores even though internally she acknowledges there is some truth to what Cooper is saying.
From the blurb it’s implied that cheating may occur and even though there are the occasional forbidden kisses and touches, Claire does not jump back and forth between sleeping with Robert and Cooper (thank god!). But here is the part that really pisses me off: it is SO SO SO obvious she has a deeper connection with Cooper than she has with Robert. Their chemistry is so palpable and though both won’t admit it out loud, they care for each other. With Claire vocally saying she’s not with Robert just for the money, I honestly didn’t see a reason why she was with him then. Never in the book did she say she loved him and though both men have their faults, at least Cooper wants her safe and well and happy. Robert is only with her for appearances’ sake.
In hindsight, I should’ve known that this book would end dramatically and in a cliffhanger that practically begs the reader to pick up the second book. But you know what? If done well, I honestly don’t mind the cliffy if it feels like a vital part of the book. Instead, the message I got from this ending is that no matter how much you’ve come to care for a person who truly cares for you back, you STILL go with the guy who’s proven to be psychotic and worse just so you can drape yourself in wealth. The ending completely negates any of Claire’s statements that she’s not with Robert just for his money. It’s like feminism never happened. If you can tolerate an EXTREMELY dumb and vain character like Claire and want to enjoy 15% of the book and have the other 85% be extremely frustrating/boring/infuriating, this is the book for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend staying far away from this one.

BOOK REVIEW & GIVEAWAY ~ BURYING WATER BY K.A. TUCKER

Left for dead in the fields of rural Oregon, a young woman defies all odds and survives—but she awakens with no idea who she is, or what happened to her. Refusing to answer to “Jane Doe” for another day, the woman renames herself “Water” for the tiny, hidden marking on her body—the only clue to her past. Taken in by old Ginny Fitzgerald, a crotchety but kind lady living on a nearby horse farm, Water slowly begins building a new life. But as she attempts to piece together the fleeting slivers of her memory, more questions emerge: Who is the next-door neighbor, quietly toiling under the hood of his Barracuda? Why won’t Ginny let him step foot on her property? And why does Water feel she recognizes him?

Twenty-four-year-old Jesse Welles doesn’t know how long it will be before Water gets her memory back. For her sake, Jesse hopes the answer is never. He knows that she’ll stay so much safer—and happier—that way. And that’s why, as hard as it is, he needs to keep his distance. Because getting too close could flood her with realities better left buried.

The trouble is, water always seems to find its way to the surface.

3.5 stars!
It’s a little odd for me to read a book and not post the review until weeks later. In this case, part of me just wanted to delay posting the inevitable truth: I didn’t really love this book. K.A. Tucker is one of my all-time favorite authors and a really cool lady – what she writes, I read. Though well written, Burying Water was a bit boring and I wasn’t invested in the story or characters. I’m rating this book 3.5 stars because there wasn’t anything substantially wrong with it, but then again, there wasn’t anything substantially amazing about it either.
***********************
This book certainly started off with a bang. The heroine wakes up in a hospital severely injured and on top of that, has no recollection of what happened to her or who she is. Renaming herself ‘Water’ for the little tattoo on her body, she’s offered a room at a large horse farm and starts to rebuild her life, but always aware that her present is temporary, completely contingent on whether or not she remembers her past.
Jesse Welles is her next door neighbor who’s super handy with cars. He’s also the one person who knows who she is and her past before being ‘Water.’ Though Water doesn’t recognize him from before, she feels at ease with him and instinctively knows that this man was important to her. As the days pass, Water remembers tidbits and gets flashbacks of events leading up to the day of her brutal ordeal, until finally, the entire truth surfaces.
***********************
I think I would’ve enjoyed this book more if it weren’t for the way it was set up. It’s written in alternating past/present scenes, with Water in the present and Jesse in the past. The mystery around Water’s past unfolds fairly quickly for the reader so that buries a lot of the suspense for me. I like it when the clues are subtly presented, not blatantly written out, and especially not as early as the 16% mark. And then the mystery itself I just didn’t like (view spoiler)
Don’t get me wrong, this book was really well-written and that aspect alone kept my interest. I did like how everything was resolved in the end and how the book focused on deeper meanings like the bonds of friendship, forgiveness, and second chances.
This book is indeed a very ambitious story that incorporates past/present shifts, dual POVs, and characters falling in love twice – perhaps it was just too much to tackle all in one book because in the end, nothing really stood out for me.
ARC provided by Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BOOK REVIEW & GIVEAWAY ~ REAPER’S STAND BY JOANNA WYLDE

As Reapers Motorcycle Club president, Reese “Picnic” Hayes has given his entire life to the club. After losing his wife, he knew he’d never love another woman. And with two daughters to raise and a club to manage, that was just fine with him. These days, Reese keeps his relationships free and easy—he definitely doesn’t want to waste his time on a glorified cleaning lady like London Armstrong.

Too bad he’s completely obsessed with her.

Besides running her own business, London’s got her junkie cousin’s daughter to look after—a more reckless than average eighteen-year-old. Sure she’s attracted to the Reapers’ president, but she’s not stupid. Reese Hayes is a criminal and a thug. But when her young cousin gets caught up with a ruthless drug cartel, Reese might be the only man who can help her. Now London has to make the hardest decision of her life—how far will she go to save her family?

4 stars!!
Just to clear the air, biker romances are not my choice of sub-genre nor do I ever feel the need to seek them out to read. Not unless the author is Joanna Wylde. Not unless it’s the Reapers MC series. My reading tastes are very narrow and I’m a picky bitch but this author and her addictive biker books work for me. I don’t think I’ll ever understand their freestyle way of life – most of their ideals go against my own – but I sure have a blast reading about them and the all-consuming passion and romance of each of these sinfully sexy bikers. Having loved the previous book in the series, I went into this one with the highest of expectations. As usual, this author does not disappoint. Did the book have my complete attention? Was the story plot engaging? Were the characters likable and did the romance feel genuine? Yes, yes, and yes. Though I had some issues with the book, overall this book was great and everything I imagined for Picnic’s story.
***************************
Reese ‘Picnic’ Hayes is the President of the Reapers MC. Not one to mess with, Picnic has dedicated his entire life to the club and raising his daughters after his old lady’s death. Over the years, he has plenty of one night stands and meaningless sex, never wanting or thinking anyone could replace Heather. But Picnic’s got a problem: London Armstrong. He is wildly attracted to her but knows he shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, and most importantly, knows she’s clueless about club life and wouldn’t fit in well. Not as an old lady or even a casual fling.
Supportive and independent, London Armstrong owns a successful cleaning business and has a contract with the Reapers MC. While managing her work, she also takes care of her cousin’s daughter Jessica – a reckless wild child – and Jessica’s friend Melanie who has a bad home life. She’s attracted to Picnic but knows she shouldn’t act on it, not with the dozens of responsibilities she has.
***************************
This book was different from the others in the series in several ways, all of which are positive. First, it’s a second chance romance between two older, more mature characters whereas the couples in the other books were much younger, more NA based. This aspect gives the story a lot more depth, allowing room for Picnic and London’s many life experiences. There’s also a lot more action and grit, something I thought the first three books lacked a little in. Additionally, I think there is a much greater focus on family than there was in the other books in the series. Picnic and London may be forces to reckon with in their respective businesses and work, but they are people who value family first. It was very interesting to see this dichotomy present between their personal and work lives.
Both Picnic and London are fantastic characters: so strong and so fiercely determined to protect their loved ones and what they believe in. In the first three books, there was only this rough and tough side of Picnic’s so I really enjoyed seeing his softer, protective side. His words and actions are unconventional and not what us society folks consider entirely romantic but the heartfelt feelings are there.
As positively outstanding this book is, the picky reader in me also had a few issues. For one, I really did not like Jessica. Even with (view spoiler) that seriously doesn’t excuse all the shitty things she said/did that almost got London killed so most of the scenes with her present, I basically had a sour look on my face. Another thing was I didn’t have a full grasp on this intense connection London and Picnic had. It seemed to me that Picnic got tired of having airheaded bimbos around him and the first time he finds a woman with substance, he’s head over heels. Don’t get me wrong, I adore these characters individually but it took a good while for me to warm up to them as a couple, especially with all the action going around there was barely any room for relationship development.
Despite the numerous problems I had with the book, it was pretty engaging, fun to read, and total escapism, which is the entire reason why I read books. If I wasn’t busy traveling the past few days, I would’ve finished this book in one sitting. And most importantly, I am DYING to get to the next book! Gawd, this woman is a friggin huge tease.
ARC provided by Penguin Intermix via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

RELEASE DAY REVIEW ~ SHAME BY RACHEL VAN DYKEN

Everything done in darkness, will eventually be brought into the light.

I ran, but all it did was keep me one step ahead of my past. I tried to start over; new name, new identity. But you can’t change your soul.

A fresh start at college was just what I needed. For a while, it worked. I was the party girl, the one that seemed confident, but it was a lie.

When guys kissed me–I felt only pain.

When they touched me–Nothing but fear.

Deep inside, every girl wants to be the beauty in the story, to find someone that will see you as their world.

But the truth? I was the beast. And as much as I wanted redemption, I wasn’t fool enough to think I’d ever get it.

Until he walked into my life.

I wasn’t prepared to fall for someone. My scars were too deep, the wounds too raw. But he offered me peace, he offered me security. I should have known it was just another lie–I should have known that falling in love with my professor was a bad idea.

But I was powerless to stop myself from falling.
And he was powerless to catch me.
Because the darkness finally caught up to me, and as fate would have it, a cruel twist almost bled me dry. But I’m stronger than I knew. I’m stronger than you think.
You think you know my story, but you don’t….after all everyone has Shame in their lives– and I’m no longer afraid to show you mine.
2 stars!
I am a huge fan of this author and the other books in this series all have been epic winners for me. Unfortunately I can’t really say the same about this final book in the series. Lisa is a character that intrigued me from the moment she was first introduced so it really saddens me that her story did not captivate me as much as the other characters’ stories did. Detailed reasons for my rating will be given later in my review but the main gist of it is that I didn’t like either of the main characters, didn’t believe in their romance, and couldn’t suspend disbelief enough to enjoy this book.
If you’ve read any other books in this series, it’s evident that Lisa had a torturous past and her current identity is not her real one. Through past journal entries, we’re slowly given glimpses to the psychotic events in Lisa’s past, and a look into her even crazier ex-boyfriend’s mind. Here is where my disconnect with Lisa’s character is: the Lisa portrayed in the other books and the Lisa in this book is completely different. It’s easy to say I’m not going to judge a person – in this case Lisa – based on their past if they’ve learned from their mistakes but it was pretty much impossible for me to think of her in a positive light here. I will never, ever, EVER understand nor accept that her love for her demonic ex is what blinded her to reason because the things she did in her past are unforgivable, at least in my eyes. If it really is love that blinded her, then she is a person with no common sense and doesn’t know how to distinguish between right and wrong. In this case, love is not enough of a justification for me.
A new character in the series, Tristan is one of Lisa’s professors and has a secret agenda of his own. I don’t want to spoil anything for you so all I can say is that he has his own reasons for becoming a professor and for getting close to Lisa. I’d like to say that I at least liked his character but I can’t. This guy’s hot-and-cold behavior around Lisa was a major turn-off and when his real profile was exposed I pretty much gave up on trying to like his character. It’s one thing to pull off a rich/famous background in the first two books but do it again in this third one? While in a NA college setting? What are the freaking chances? At least Wes and Gabe were likable characters; Tristan had the whole pretentious, arrogant attitude for most of the book.
So with me not being able to like these characters as individuals, it’s a no-brainer I couldn’t see them as a couple nor did I feel the romance develop between them. Their ‘connection’ was spontaneous and came out of the blue but for some inexplicable reason them together just clicked.
With simple, heartfelt moments like the one above, it was enough to tide me over with the romance part but by then, I was too caught up in the logistics part of the plot. Doing my best to keep spoilers out so I can’t name specifics, but there were many parts where if you stop for just 5 seconds and think about it, you’d wonder how can this even happen?! And part of the reason why I didn’t like it when Tristan’s influential background was revealed is because the author uses it as an excuse/cover up to explain the logistics of certain events (like how he was able to score a teaching position for example).
There is one aspect I feel compelled to clarify: please do not decide to read this book just for the forbidden aspect alone. Though the story is technically about a teacher and his student, the fact that one of them seeks the other out for other reasons aside from the romance negates the whole forbidden aspect. It lacks the complete thrill of the chase, the sneaking around, etc… and instead you’ll end up being caught in a web full of deceit, frustration and annoyance with the characters’ pasts.
Shame is the third and final book in the Ruin series and can be read as a standalone, but because the characters from the previous books make major appearances in this story, I highly recommend reading them first. I would wholeheartedly recommend all of the books in this series aside from this last one.
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR ~ THE RULES REGARDING GRAY BY ELIZABETH FINN

Gracelynn is drowning in an existence that fails to fulfill her. A ballerina by trade, she’s devoted her life to the stage, sacrificing adventure for discipline. When her boyfriend gives her permission to want what she’s not supposed to want, can she walk away? Or will she leap?

Jasper isn’t a man with many boundaries, and “sharing” a woman with his best friend is hardly a new endeavor. But the moment he meets Gracelynn he realizes she’s different. She leaves him feeling alive in a way he’s not used to, and for the first time in his life, he understands what it means to be wanted… Cherished… And he needs more…

But there are rules—rules that forbid Jasper from truly having her. As forbidden desire spirals out of control, Jasper has to decide if he’s willing to fight for something that doesn’t truly belong to him. His best friend doesn’t deserve her, but is Jasper strong enough to believe he does?

3 stars!
For me, reading this book took some balls. Angst, love triangle, cheating…did I scare you yet?  As a reader who loathes all three, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I did enjoy the book. It has a very interesting book premise and for the most part the story was sensual, erotic, and at times, deeply emotional. But at the same time, this book also didn’t work for me. I think the combination of high angst, extremely damaged and flawed characters, and a meddlesome, needs-to-die-already ‘best friend’ all together messed with my emotions in a bad way. For every positive I can come up with, there’s a negative to counter so that leaves me with the middle-number rating.
***************************
Gracelynn Ellis ‘Gray’ is a ballerina and has been dating the seemingly perfect guy – Ian – for the past 4 months. Her past experiences have left her with an extremely insecure and timid side, and so Gray accepts much of Ian’s verbal abuse without defense. On one of her rehearsal days, Ian brings his best friend and bar owner Jasper Drees over to meet Gray in hopes of spicing up their sex life by sharing her, something these two rakes have done many times in the past. What started out as an outright refusal turns into a tentative agreement as Gray is interested in exploring her sexuality and breaking out of her shell.
Though Ian has set up rules that serve as boundaries to how intimate Gray and Jasper can be, the heart knows no boundaries and Gray and Jasper connect on a deep and emotional level neither of them have ever had before with anyone else. The story then portrays them fighting and giving into their attraction along with their inner turmoil, guilt, lust and about a dozen other emotions.
***************************
It’s pretty obvious that the book is a romance between Jasper and Gray so the whole ‘love triangle’ aspect isn’t too bad. I think the author did a good job with showing how crucial it was that these two characters had to be together, whether it be through the explosive sex scenes or emotional moments. Without that kind of desperation and deep feelings, it would’ve been hard to convince me of the strength of their bond. I still thought the author threw their attraction in the reader’s faces too soon, almost bordering on insta-love but at the same time I understood. With a shitty boyfriend like Ian, Jasper’s sensitivity and attentiveness is definitely more appealing. I have to admit, I wasn’t too keen about their relationship in the beginning but once I saw how much they were willing to go through for each other, they won me over. I rooted for them, even when I wanted to slap them senseless. As unstable, dysfunctional, and lost these characters were, they belonged together. They were better people by being together, and helped each other fill the void in their hearts. That much is undeniable.
This book could’ve gotten at least 4 stars from me if it weren’t for the fact I had to suspend disbelief in order to somewhat enjoy the story. The crux of the issue is why didn’t Gray just break up with Ian already so she and Jasper could be together?? Honest to God, there is not a single reason provided why she couldn’t just break up with him. Ian’s no saint – calling him rude, abrasive, and a douchenugget is being nice. But hey, if she did break up him early on in the book, then there wouldn’t be this ‘forbidden’ aspect, which means no push-pull dynamic and high angst. Moral of this little paragraph is to not question the logistics of their relationship because it would be futile. Oh and while I’m on the topic of their relationship, I thought it was a bad move on the author’s part to add in a little revenge scene near the end of the book. While I did like the sentiment behind the idea, the actual execution was very childish and completely trivialized Gray and Jasper’s entire emotional journey, making it like a game of ‘who got the girl in the end.’ Not cool.
In the end, maybe I’m just not cut out for these kinds of stories. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this book at all because I did. I lived and craved for some of the one-on-one emotional scenes Jasper and Gray had where they actually worked out their problems and not let indecisiveness and insecurity take over. If you’re a fan of high and somewhat unnecessary angst, sizzling hot sex scenes with ménage, and a hard-earned, hard-fought, rewarding ending, this is the book for you.
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Elizabeth Finn is a multi-published contemporary romance author. Her passion is creating stories packed full of believable conflicts, characters who leave you rooting for them, and romance that might just short-circuit your e-reader. She likes her characters flawed, but they always find the best part of themselves on their journey. And her readers find themselves devoted to her honest and heartfelt voice.

BLOG TOUR ~ SIDESWIPED BY LIA RILEY

Talia Stolfi has seen more than her share of loss in her twenty-one years. But then fate brought her Bran Lockhart, and her dark world was suddenly and spectacularly illuminated. So if being with Bran means leaving her colorless NorCal life for rugged and wild Australia, then that’s what she’ll do. But as much as Talia longs to give herself over completely to a new beginning, the fears of her past are still lurking in the shadows.

Bran Lockhart knows that living without the beautiful girl who stole his heart will be torment, so he’ll take whatever time with her he can. But even though she has packed up her life in California and is back in his arms for the time being, she can’t stay forever. And the remaining time they have together is ticking by way too fast. Though fate seems determined to tear them apart, they won’t give up without a fight—because while time may have limits, their love is infinite…..

Talia passes out hard from the travel and epic reunion sex. I’m too amped for sleep, so I lie in the dark and trace her spine. Can you love someone too much? No point being afraid, might as well jump in it with both feet. I press my mouth to her neck and she undulates, responsive even from her dreams. If miracles were real, I’d swear we were designed to fit together.
I loop my arm around her waist and hold fast, until our breathing syncs. I’m drifting off when she jerks—hard—once, twice. Her body recoils as she unleashes a lung-tearing scream.
“Talia, wake up. Come on, sweetheart, talk to me.” I clamber over her, hunching protectively. “Open your eyes. It’s Bran. I’ve got you. I’m not letting go.” I keep talking while she flays my chest like she’s drowning under ice, desperate to find a break in the surface.
“Can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I…where am…oh God. Bran.”
“I’m right here.” I cradle her while she draws another unsteady gasp. Her hair plasters her forehead in sweaty wisps.
“Give me a minute. I’ll be fine.” She pushes herself to a half-sit and sways with disorientation. “This…this happens sometimes…panic attacks or night terrors…whatever. They seem to come when I drop my guard. Or, I don’t know, maybe it’s the meds. Those pills make me feel like a toxic waste dump.”
“Have you been bad this summer?” The muscles in my neck cord. It shreds my guts to see her hurting. I’d do anything, any fucking thing, to carry her pain. I don’t fully understand the inner workings of OCD but she’s explained that for her, the condition comes in waves. Everything will be rolling along fine, more or less, and then bang—a giant squid grips her brain. She fights hard for recovery, a warrior even when she believes she’s nothing but a coward.
“No, not really.” She grinds her eyes with the backs of her hands. “I kinda danced around the edge of the rabbit hole a few times but never fell inside.”
My muscles release some tension. “Try to go back to sleep. You need the rest.
Don’t worry, I’ll keep watch, okay?”
“I’m sorry to be such a psych job. It’s totally shaming.”
“Shhhhhh.”
Her chin tips down. “Can you talk to me for a little while? Get me out of my fuckball head?”
“Hey now, I got mad love for that head, Captain.” I kiss her brow, acting chill even though I’m scared. How can I get her to settle? Then it hits me. “I want to take you surfing again.”
“Mmmm, that’d be nice.”
“Picture yourself out there, in the water, on a board, under the shooting stars.”
“With sharks eyeballing me from the depths?”
“Nah, they’re all busy hunting sea lions or some bloody mischief. This is you, the sea, and the sky. A set rolls in. You can’t make out the wave. The board lifts and you feel the momentum building. There’s fear deep in your belly, sensible, because you can’t see what’s coming or where you’re going. You fight the self-protective instincts, give yourself over, and the next thing you know—you’re having the ride of your life.”
“Thank you.” She flips in my arms so we’re belly to belly. “I mean it. That was beautiful, really, really beautiful. I’m so excited to be here, for right now—to live in the moment. But it’s like I have this…this weird mental stutter. My thoughts keep skipping over the same annoying question like a scratch on vinyl: What will we do?” Tears spill from the corners of her eyes, course silently toward her chin. “My visa.”
Talia’s been granted a three-month student visa to complete her senior thesis in history. In all its benevolent generosity, the Australian government expanded her time in the country by an extra month.
Four months—the sum of our allotted time.
“They’ll make me leave.”
“Don’t believe everything you think.” I wipe her damp cheeks.
“Can you tattoo that on my forehead?”
Maybe it’s my imagination, but the brass alarm clock on the dresser clicks louder.
Another second gone.
Another second gone.
“I’m not losing you to some shithouse immigration policy, Captain. We will be all right in the end.” I’ve no idea how the hell I’m going to solve this drama but I will figure it out. “We have to hope, otherwise we’re sunk.”
She jerks with surprised laughter.
“What?”
She hiccups and covers her mouth with her hand, shoulders shaking. It takes me a second to realize she’s giggling.
“I’m funny to you right now?” This girl drives me every sort of crazy.
“I’m not laughing at you.” She works her lips together and unsuccessfully
smothers the smile. “It’s—”
“Forget it.” I instinctively stiffen.
“Bran the Optimist.” She grabs my wrists, lifts my palms to her face, and plants a kiss in the center of each one. “I like this side of you.”
“Never mind. I was being dumb.”
“You were awesome.” She pecks the tip of my nose. “And for the record, I love your stupid face.”
I give her a begrudging kiss back. “I love yours too.”
Love isn’t enough of a word.
I wasted almost an entire year of my life implementing a scorched earth policy, not caring who I left burned and broken in my path.
Talia was my oasis. My salvation.
“Don’t give the visa a second thought.” I nestle her against me, rubbing her lower back in easy circles. “I’ll sort this out, I swear to you.”
Even if I don’t have the first fucking clue.
3.5-4 stars!
Earlier this year I was ecstatic that I found this NA author and book 1 in her Off the Map series was a smashing success for me. Everything I loved about the first book was present in this second one: witty dialogue, dry & sarcastic humor, and the return of the likable main characters. As much as I enjoyed most of this book, the ending left me unsatisfied and made me see these lovable characters in a whole different perspective (in a bad way). Nevertheless, I already feel guilty for giving this book lower than a 4 star rating because that’s how much I adore this author’s writing and her sense of humor. I honestly do encourage readers to check out this series despite the minor bumps I had because her characters and writing style is truly a breath of fresh air.
Sideswiped is book 2 in the Off the Map series and continues Bran and Talia’s story after the events of book 1. In the first book, the story was mainly about these two characters falling in love and establishing the groundwork for their relationship. This second book is about them after becoming a couple and the challenges they face from both of their families, school, work, and their own demons. With Talia suffering from extreme OCD and Bran’s past constantly haunting him, I was both super impressed and happy that they took on their obstacles together. There were brief moments of insecurity and jealousy, sure, but they were a team. You couldn’t find a couple more in sync than this one, who matched each other in heart and mind, body and soul.
I can’t delve into the plot much because it’ll spoil book 1 for those that haven’t read it yet but I can say that I laughed a lot while reading. There is an underlying sadness within the story but when pitted against these irresistible, charming, and hilarious characters it’s a perfect match. Unlike most NA characters, Talia and Bran have a radical way of thinking and I can’t begin to tell you how refreshing it is to read a book that’s a smart romance but at the same time is so hot and so emotional.
Up until the last 10% this book was at least a 4 star read for me. I was never bored while reading and the story held my attention but it wasn’t to the point where it was unputdownable. Still, a wonderful read. However, I wasn’t impressed with the last 10% as the author does what she did with book 1’s ending here too: Bran has a momentary lapse in judgment and makes a mistake, something that’s completely out of his character and even more out of the blue in the context of the book (no it’s not cheating). I’m starting to see that while the buildup and main part of the book are the author’s high points, the wrap up and conclusions are not. Only Talia’s fierce determination and unwavering belief that her relationship with Bran could take on anything and they could walk away intact kept me from tearing my hair out.
Going into this series you have to understand that both of these characters are extremely damaged – both with their own quirks – and have been burned repeatedly by their loved ones so while I thought it was ok for Bran to waver a bit and make mistakes, his actions in the last 10% still pissed me off.
This book ends on a high note – not exactly a cliffhanger but it leaves you anticipating the third and final book even more. The author’s writing and the humor present in this book is GOLD and that makes me want to round to 4 stars period, but the minor drama along with the anticlimactic ending makes me want to give it 3.5 stars…so 3.5-4 stars it is.
ARC provided by Forever (Grand Central Publishing) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lia Riley writes offbeat New Adult Romance. After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, she scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. She counts shooting vodka with a Ukranian mechanic in Antarctica, sipping yerba mate with gauchos in Chile and swilling fourex with stationhands in Outback Australia among her accomplishments. A British literature fanatic at heart, Lia considers Mr. Darcy and Edward Rochester as her fictional boyfriends. Her very patient husband doesn’t mind. Much. When not torturing heroes (because c’mon, who doesn’t love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about as-of-yet unwritten books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip. She and her family live mostly in Northern California.

BOOK REVIEW ~ TABOO UNCHAINED BY C.M. STUNICH

The dirty. The filthy. The nasty.

The man your mother f*cking warned you about – is me.

Hold onto your panties, ladies.

Lucas Carter is here to show you the dark side of the sheets.

***A stand-alone novel of approximately 95,000 words.

***WARNING: This is a dark romance erotica – meaning lots of violence, sex, and emotionally disturbing inner dialogue. However, there is *NO* kidnapping, rape, or other forms of misogyny. Lucas Carter is an anti-hero, but he doesn’t disrespect women. The entire book is told in his point of view.

4.5 stars!!
Before I start my review I just want to double emphasize the warning in the synopsis – this book is all kinds of dark and not for anyone sensitive to topics such as violence, kinky sex, profanity, and disturbing dialogue. Now with that being said, this book was a HUGE winner for me (gosh, what does that say about my book tastes hehe)! There is nothing more alluring to me than a dark read with an anti-hero I’d hate to love and love to hate, wonderfully kickass side characters, and a plot so convoluted everything and nothing makes sense. Though it was a rough start at the beginning, the story soon took off and went into a direction I never anticipated…loved that!
Meet Lucas Carter, the narrator of the story and your seemingly average gigolo next door. Not. What makes him different is that he only has clients with specific tastes: women that have their own sexual fetishes that aren’t considered normal. For a good part of the book I didn’t know how I felt about Lucas. He was this cocky, arrogant, and perverted bastard who I didn’t know why he was the way he was or why he got started in this business to begin with until later in the book. His attitude towards everything – especially women – both intrigued me and infuriated me. On one hand, I felt terrible that he lost so much faith in humanity that he became cynical and deals with everything in a harsh manner. On the flip side it was degrading to see his sexual methods on his clients. For a time it seemed like nobody could penetrate his walls. At least not until two vastly different women are introduced into his life and completely shake up his world.
I know what you’re thinking…love triangle?! No, it’s not, and I honestly have no idea how to explain his connection to both Audra, the fiery redhead who matches him move for move, and Robbie, his sweet-tempered and innocent neighbor next door. He’s involved with both women at the same time, but in this three-way, there is no actual ‘love’ reciprocated until the very end. It’s a really unique situation that can’t quite be explained unless you’ve read it yourself. I personally loved only one of these two female characters but I think what mattered most is that both were good for Lucas – one of whom is the woman of his nightmares and the other of his dreams. Both made him feel.
I think the message this book tries to send out is unclear until you’ve read it in its entirety. Most books I’ve read all try to focus on the bright side, the positive, the normal, and spin an inspirational tale from that, even though there may be tiny spots of darkness within. This book? It takes those tiny dark spots and magnifies them and spins an equally inspirational tale from that. Subjects that most people aren’t comfortable with and shy away from – the ‘taboo’ – become the topic of the hour and makes up the plot. People with unusual sexual fetishes and habits who may be ostracized from what society considers normal are the main characters. And an atypical, twisted love that sprouts from all this becomes the romance. This is still indeed a love story, but it is one that you have to be willing to shed away ‘vanilla’ boundaries in order to read. My only complaint is that I wanted an epilogue for these characters but aside from that, if this book sounds like something you can handle, then come take a walk on the dark side and read a story where the taboo becomes unchained.
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

BOOK REVIEW ~ RAINE BY J.C. VALENTINE

Intelligent.
Naive.
Statistic.

Raine Forester was an average girl leading an average life. She slipped beneath everyone’s radar, until Camron Moss, the most popular guy in school, took interest in her and changed everything.

Some acts are unforgivable.

Raine thought she’d been accepted. She thought she was one of them. She thought she was in love… until one moment made her realize she’d trusted the wrong person. Lies are told, hearts get broken, secrets are revealed, and sometimes, true love is found in the least likely places.

2.5 stars!
I picked this book up because of the catchy premise: the shy, studious girl gets the most popular guy in school but later ends up with his older brother?! Well, color me intrigued. Unfortunately, this book was SO far from what I anticipated it to be I was relieved that I finally finished. Don’t get me wrong, the groundwork of the story is a good one, but this book completely lacks depth: the writing was choppy, certain scenes got cut off at the most pivotal moments, and plot was severely underdeveloped. The story was more sweet and clichéd than I expected from reading the blurb and had I not been in the mood for something lighthearted, I’m pretty sure my rating would be even lower.
Before I launch into a tirade of complaints, I do want to point out a couple of positives this book had in case you’re thinking of reading it. For one, both main characters were likable and they made a really strong couple so the heartfelt scenes with them together? Thumbs up. Raine is such a resilient heroine and Jarret (the older brother) is a softhearted bad boy who stood up for her when she didn’t have anyone. There were a couple of scenes that really tugged on my heartstrings and some that made me smile.
At this point, this book was a solid 3-3.5 star read, nothing extraordinary but nothing bad either. The last 50% of the book is what really made me lower my rating. I loved that both of these characters were kindhearted people but that quality became their downfall here, letting everyone roll over them including each other and both made some unnecessary out-of-character decisions. When I finished the book, I was extremely unsatisfied. The best way to explain it is I felt like I was reading a very rough draft of the book. Important moments/conversations that you’d expect to read about are left off and the story immediately jumps into a new chapter.
Maybe the book was too YA for me. Maybe it really is a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me. But what I’m chalking it up to is my high book standards – this book offered nothing great to me in terms of plot, emotion, or reading satisfaction and the fact that the writing didn’t stand out to me either makes this book a very unmemorable read overall. Since I am literally the only person who didn’t like the book, I say still give it a try if you want. But to like-minded readers if you read this one, I’m afraid you’ll end up feeling the same way as me.

BOOK REVIEW ~ TORTURE TO HER SOUL BY J.M. DARHOWER

Don’t say it unless you mean it…

It’s a simple concept, one I’ve said time and again, but something people don’t seem to comprehend. You should choose every syllable carefully, because you never know when somebody will hold you to your word.

Somebody like me.

I’m not a good man. I’m not. I know. I have enough darkness inside of me to rid the world of every stitch of light. But there’s one I could never harm, one light I couldn’t bring myself to snuff out.

Karissa.

She thinks I’m a monster, and maybe I am. I taunt her with my touch, get a thrill out of torturing her soul. But I’m not the only one. The world is full of monsters, and I’m not the most dangerous one out there.

4 stars!!
I was really relieved that this second book would be in Naz’s POV. Monster in His Eyes was a mediocre read for me and it was mainly because of the idiotic heroine Karissa. With this book, however, I greatly appreciated being in Naz’s head and felt that it helped me understand him better. I also recognized that for the story to be entirely in his POV, the mystery and enigmatic part that made him so appealing in the first book would have to be sacrificed. And that was okay with me. What I got in return was so much better: a multifaceted Naz. Not just the killer side of him, but the human side as well. No matter how badass or cold the man could be, this book showed that there is a layer of vulnerability to his character.
Aside from the 5 star prologue, the first 40% of the book seriously tested my patience. It seemed like both Karissa & Naz were playing the waiting game…just waiting for something or someone to interfere that would kickstart yet another argument and I was especially sick of Karissa brushing off Naz’s efforts. It took great patience and effort on my part to not DNF. I’m really glad I kept reading because after the 40% mark, things picked up and I was totally with these characters. Reading the story from Naz’s POV accomplished what I thought would be impossible: I actually sympathized for Karissa. Through Naz’s eyes, I feel like she did mature a bit and learned from her experiences in book 1. The sex scenes were scorching and wickedly hot, but this time around there was heartfelt emotion as well, something that was lacking in the first book.
For me, reading books has always been how the book made me feel, think, etc…But this book really placed me in the characters’ shoes. I personally didn’t like Karissa, yet through Naz’s eyes I understood why he found her youth and naïveté appealing. I personally didn’t like some of Naz’s actions, but through his eyes, I could at least understand his motivations. A book that could make me consider the characters’ feelings and thoughts besides my own is a well-written book IMO. That’s not to say that Naz has completely justified himself or is a good man in disguise…because I’m not so sure he is nor would I want him to be in this case
Torture to Her Soul is the second book in this 2-part series and isn’t a standalone. You must read Monster in His Eyes first.
P.S. I freaking love the epilogue and bonus scene! Made me tear up <3

SEPTEMBER FOLLOWER APPRECIATION GIVEAWAY

It’s that time of month again!! For those that are new to my blog and Facebook page, I host a follower appreciation giveaway at the end of each month as an extra thank you for being a part of my blogging journey! One winner will receive a paperback of choice from the list provided. How do I decide what goes on the list? Well, it is a compilation of all the books I’ve read and reviewed each month – it doesn’t matter if I loved the book, disliked the book, whatever. Every book (excluding DNFs) I’ve read and reviewed that month will be on the list. Okay wait….I may be bending the truth a little. I’ve actually read more than the list shown but the only reason I haven’t posted those titles is because I haven’t posted my review on the blog yet. You’ll see those books in October’s list

**Note: Some book titles do not have paperback options available. In the event you choose that book, I will gift you an ebook copy instead. If a book hasn’t been released yet, paperback or ebook copy will be delivered on release date.**

BOOK REVIEW ~ SEEDS OF INIQUITY BY J.A. REDMERSKI

Victor Faust’s new Order is growing. Business is good as there is no rest for the wicked in an underground world of hardcore criminals and contract killing. Relationships among the operatives have changed little over the past year—but things are about to change now, and all six high-ranking members of the new Order will be blindsided by an unlikely enemy.

Loved ones whose only ties to Victor’s organization are their relationships with its members, are abducted. The price to get them back safely—the six must confess their deepest, darkest secret to this mysterious young woman named Nora, who is as deadly as she is beautiful, and who seems to know more about each of them than they know about each other. And although no one has any clue about who Nora really is, it becomes clear that she also isn’t who she appears to be.

So much more is at stake than secrets and the lives of innocent loved ones; with each member that Nora forces to confess, the truth about their dark pasts and their present objectives will cast suspicion, pit some against each other, and may tear others apart.

Before the game is over everyone will know who this woman is and why she is here, but the damage she will leave in her wake could be the beginning of the new Order’s destruction.

Whose dark secret will be the darkest of all? And can Victor’s Order survive any of them?

6 stars!!
Normally I don’t pull this line BUT if you haven’t read at least one book in this series, dear lord you are missing out on some of the best romantic suspense (with dark elements) books out there! Seeds of Iniquity marks the second book in the series that has gotten a 6 star rating from me. With a blend of flawless & brilliant writing, complex & intense characters, and exhilarating & amazeballs twists, this story was one unputdownable, giant thrill ride that didn’t end until I got to the last page. So many themes from previous books will be explored, loyalties will be tested, rules will be broken, and love will be questioned.
One of my biggest worries when I picked this book up was whether or not I needed to re-read the previous books to refresh my memory. But as soon as I picked it up and started reading, I immediately reconnected with these characters. Izabel’s impulsiveness, Victor’s cool & calm demeanor, Fredrik’s um…ordeal from the previous book all came rushing back to me. The beauty of this book is that the book layout and the way events unfold will refresh your memory of the past books and at the same time, introduce a new story. The only thing you need to know about the plot is that a mysterious and deadly woman Nora is forcing Victor, Izabel, and the rest of the Order to give up their deepest buried secrets after some of their family/friends are kidnapped. As detached as some of these characters are, all of them are connected to each other and indirectly, to their loved ones who they just can’t ignore, so they acquiesce to Nora’s requirements while secretly planning retaliation.
This entire series and this book in particular is equally character-driven and plot-driven, something that’s extremely rare to find in most books. As much as this book is about Izabel and Victor, it’s also about the side characters like Fredrik and Niklas and their stories, all woven together into one. At times the story does take a turn for the dark, and will be disturbing, haunting, and heartbreaking, but the heartfelt romance sprinkled throughout the pages balances it out.
Cutting-edge suspense and complex characters make for a lethal combination and with me being heavily invested in these characters since book 1, this series is one of my favorite to date even though not all of the books were complete winners for me. I’m pretty sure that there will be more books in this series (what I’m hoping for) but even if it ends here with this 4th book, I’m one happy reader. This author has a penchant for ending each of the books in this series in a way where it both entices me for more stories yet satisfies me if it’s the end.
Seeds of Iniquity is book 4 in this series and not a standalone! You must read books 1-3 first as they set up the groundwork for the events in this book.

BOOK REVIEW ~ RUNNING BAREFOOT BY AMY HARMON

When Josie Jensen, an awkward 13-year-old musical prodigy crashes headlong into new-comer Samuel Yazzie, an 18-year-old Navajo boy full of anger and confusion, an unlikely friendship blooms. Josie teaches Samuel about words, music and friendship, and along the way finds a kindred spirit. Upon graduation, Samuel abandons the sleepy, small town in search of a future and a life, leaving his young friend behind. Many years go by and Samuel returns, finding Josie in need of the very things she offered him years before. Their roles reversed, Samuel teaches Josie about life, love, and letting go. Deeply romantic and poignant, Running Barefoot is the story of a small town girl and a Native American boy, the ties that bind them to their homes and families, and the love that gives them wings.

When I heard that this book was loosely connected to the upcoming The Law of Moses and featured an unusual couple pairing, I was immediately on board with reading it as I love interconnected stories with a dose of cultural references and quirky, unique characters. But as I have learned the hard way many times, no matter how wonderful a book idea may be, if I cannot get used to the author’s writing style than that glorious premise might as well be nothing to me. And sadly, this is the case with every Amy Harmon book I have read. It is very clear that she has a way with words and that her books appeal to a certain audience, but her overly rich writing style is just not one that I can identify with. And with this being the 3rd book of hers I have read (or tried to read and then later put down) and didn’t particularly enjoy, I think it may be time for me to just part ways with this author and move on indefinitely, even though a part of me still really wants to try out The Law of Moses because I genuinely like the premise.

This book tells the love and life story of two kindred souls Josie Jensen and Samuel Yazzie. At the tender age of thirteen, Josie is far more mature and possesses an intellect that surpasses most of her peers. Harboring a deep love for books and music, the kindhearted Josie strikes up a tentative acquaintanceship with the edgy but misunderstood Samuel, a half-white, half-Navajo eighteen year old whose ethnicity is judged upon by others and isn’t fully accepted in either world. Through her eyes and ears, Samuel comes to appreciate literary arts more and they form a bond over their mutual love for Shakespeare and Beethoven.
After months roll by, Samuel leaves for the Marines while Josie remains in the small town of Levan and so they part ways. The story then starts alternating between some time gaps for a few chapters until finally, seven whole years have gone by. Josie and Samuel haven’t seen or spoken to each other during this time and the years haven’t been kind to Josie. Tragedy after tragedy occurs and so she’s stuck in the same town caring for her family when Samuel returns to Levan and their paths cross again.
I want to preface that I am a huge second chance romance fan. The idea that two people have such intertwined fates that they’re given a second chance for a relationship feeds my inner romantic. But I also have to be upfront by saying that the second chance romance here was poorly executed. Not going in specifics as it’ll spoil part of the plot, but basically Josie goes through tragedy after tragedy and when Samuel conveniently is on leave, they see each other again and their romance is instantly rekindled. This was so hard for me to believe…because here’s the truth: while they were young, there wasn’t a romance. Their relationship was more of a friendship and both knew if Samuel had stayed instead of going off to the Marines, it would soon turn into something more. And when he was gone, they only interacted once before leading their own lives for the next 7 years. So my bewilderment comes from not understanding the romantic connection in the first place. I think the author should’ve spaced more time in between, especially with a certain tragedy that happened which made it even harder for me to believe in their romance.
But the main reason that left me feeling underwhelmed? It’s the author’s writing. And I don’t say this to be extra mean. I say it like someone who doesn’t like a vegetable or prefers the color green. It’s really my personal preference and I know tons of readers who love her writing style so I’m in the minority. The overly rich and descriptive writing combined with too many life anecdotes and Navajo history honestly smothered me. It got to the point where something would happen plot-wise, and then Samuel would say “another Navajo legend…” and I wanted to hurl myself off a cliff. It’s overkill.
That’s not to say that there weren’t good quotes or that there weren’t any scenes I liked because there was. The first 40% of the book I loved and thought that this’d be 4.5 stars at the very least but after that the difficult writing style that I couldn’t adjust to along with the weak and unconvincing second chance romance crippled the story.
Perhaps staunch fans of the author and those familiar with her writing style will enjoy this one, but for me it further solidifies that me and her books are like oil and water. We simply don’t mix.
Running Barefoot is a second chance romance with heavy emphasis on Native American history and religion. It is loosely connected to The Law of Moses in terms of the setting and a brief cameo but both can be read as complete standalones.
Rating: 2.5 stars!

BOOK REVIEW ~ EASY VIRTUE BY MIA ASHER

Love is selfish…My name is Blaire. I’m the bad girl. The other woman. The one who never gets the guy in the end. I’m the gold digger. The bitch. The one no one roots for. The one you love to hate. I hate myself too… Everyone has a story. Are you ready for mine?

3-3.5 stars!
I think it’s a true testament to this author’s writing when her stories feature highly unlikeable characters and boundary-pushing plotlines, yet I still crave more of her words and dive right in to her books. Either that or I’m a masochist. Probably both LOL! Anyways, after almost having a heart attack from reading the angsty Arsen, I was both nervous and excited to start this one as I knew Mia would bring her A-game. And boy, did she ever! Her books are not stories you just read. Nope. Doesn’t matter if you’re hating or loving the book, you feel, you experience, you rage or cry, and that my friends is not something any author can do. So in terms of engaging her readers, I say Mia Asher is an expert in this field. And while reading this particular book made me fall in love with her writing all over again, I still did have a couple of issues with the story that hindered me from completely loving it.
All her life, Blaire White has lacked for nothing except love. Her parents are distant and only care about their individual problems and with Blaire being chubby at a young age and bullied by others, having a beautiful, flawless body and savoring the attention that comes with it become her number one priority. As such, she locks away her emotions, hardens her heart, and in just a few years time lives a grand lifestyle while being a gold-digging bimbo catering to wealthy men’s sexual needs. But when she meets the kindhearted photographer Ronan she’s smitten and he with her, and for the first time in her life, Blaire feels loved and treasured, desired for her, not just for her body.
But at the same time, she can’t let go of her old routine that makes her feel secure and so she struggles between her feelings for Ronan and returning to her gold-digging ways.
I have to say that Blaire is one of the most unlikable characters I’ve ever read. Kudos to the author for tackling a story that centers around her but part of the reason why I can’t give this book a higher rating is because there’s a huge disconnect between me as the reader and her character. I honestly didn’t care what happened to her because she made several bad choices – fully knowing that the end result would be destructive – plus her character was inconsistent throughout the story. I was led to believe that this is a girl who’s the bitch (which she is by the way), the one no one roots for but enjoying every moment of it. However, that’s not really the case. She secretly desires to be loved and treasured not just for her looks but for her true self and when that does happens, she runs away from the guy. But then when she’s with a guy who just wants her for sex, these are her thoughts:
“They all want me; my body, my face, my mouth, but none of them want me.
 
“But what about love? … Don’t you want my love too?”
Get yourself together woman. But do you see? This kind of inconsistency scattered throughout the book really gave me whiplash. I did, however, love Ronan’s character and he definitely had a positive impact in Blaire’s life.
The overall story was compelling though, and the book itself is a fast-paced, quick read that’s a guaranteed page turner. I was a bit disappointed with the short book length so I wasn’t too surprised that the story ended on a cliffhanger. Just another reason why I couldn’t give a higher rating because I truly felt like this book wasn’t a complete story. With some books I can tell that a cliffhanger/abrupt ending is necessary as it’s part of the natural book flow but sadly in this story, it felt more like it was strategically inserted.
Easy Virtue is the first book in a 2-book series and isn’t a standalone. The story will be continued and concluded in the second book. Compared to Arsen the angst level is much lower but the steam level much higher and while there is no love triangle for most of the story, there is a hint at a possible one towards the end and perhaps in the second book.
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
 
Rating: 3-3.5 stars!

8 BOOKS I READ BECAUSE THE MOVIE INSPIRED ME…

I get my book recommendations from a variety of places: friend, follower, & author recs, Amazon’s lists, Goodreads lists (especially this one), and a dozen other venues. But one thing I’m starting to notice more and more is that as movie adaptations of books become more popular, I tend to watch the movie first, then tackle the book because the movie struck a chord with me and made me want to know more. I know there’s a saying of don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but the one that I say more often now is ‘don’t judge a movie by its book.’ And I mean when it really comes down to movie adaptations, I get it. I understand it’s sad and frustrating to not see your favorite scene in the book or a scene that’s completely butchered. For me, that’s ok though. I’ve come to view movies and books as separate entities, and even though the source is the book, I also love that the movie takes that source and spins their own unique take that’ll take me by complete surprise. I love that thrill, I love that surprise, and I love the excitement it stirs in me. So it really got me thinking…what are some books where it’s the movie that motivated me to read it? I came up with these 8.

Listed in no particular order of favoritism. Some are romance, some aren’t. Bottom line is I loved them all, both the book and the movie.
1. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. Ahhhh the feels. If it weren’t for this movie, I never would’ve been interested in reading the book, then the whole series, then the Infernal Devices trilogy. I would’ve completely missed out on the breathtaking Shadowhunter world and when I think that, I want to break down and sob. Not knowing these one-in-a-million characters? Miss out on one of the most epic love stories I’ve ever read? To entertain that possibility literally scares me. I’m so attached to this book, this series, their world I wish I could crawl in there and never have to come back out.
2. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. This is probably one of the most underrated movies of this decade to be honest. I know most fans of the book didn’t like it and after I read the book, I can certainly see why since there’s a lot of deviations but when taken in on its own, this movie was outstanding. There’s this one scene (you will know which one if you watch it) that left me breathless. I was full-on swooning and tears were threatening to leak out of my eyes…just jeezus! The feels!! Both the book and the movie are worth checking out.

“Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures.”

3. Divergent by Veronica Roth. I think it’s a truth universally acknowledged that both this movie and the book are a smashing success. I mean, Theo James as the dark & deadly Four?? *THUD* <– that was me passing out from excessive swooning by the way. His performance (along with all the other talented actors) was so well-done and compelling I had to give the book a shot. And I’m so glad I did

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.” 

4. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. Okay, kinda corny choice if I say so myself but the 4 times I’ve watched this movie, I cried every time. And a movie that could evoke so much emotion I had to check out the actual book. It was one of the very first romance books I read from a male author and while I admit it’s much more sappy than the movie, there is just something magical when you read a book that details all the highs and lows, the very beginning to the very end of a couple who has been through so much to be together…plus the quote at the bottom? Gets me every. single. time.

“I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough…”

5. Beastly by Alex Flinn. One of my favorite classics is Beauty and the Beast so I was excited to watch a movie and read a book that’s a modern retelling. The target audience is for a younger crowd and the writing is more simplistic but there’s a certain beauty to simplicity. Alex Pettyfer plays the ‘Beast’ and learns that attractive appearances are not the only thing that’s to be valued, and finds love with a girl who sees past his face.

“Maybe we judge people too much by their looks because it’s easier than seeing what’s really important.”

6. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. This movie (and book) is one of my all-time favorite YA sci-fi/fantasy stories and the other 2 books in this series are just as fabulous. Follow the epic adventure of the female protagonist Lyra Belacqua as she discovers her true self and uncovers a heinous plot so devious it threatens the stability of the human/daemon world. The movie effects were pretty spot-on and congruent with the book’s descriptions. It’s a story that’s suitable for all ages.

“We are all subject to the fates. But we must all act as if we are not, or die of despair…death will sweep through all the worlds; it will be the triumph of despair, forever. The universes will all become nothing more than interlocking machines, blind and empty of thought, feeling, life…” 

7. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. Both the movie and the book made me ugly cry. It’s a very bittersweet experience and follows the story of the Tuck family that drank from a magical spring and are granted eternal life, never growing old. So what happens when one of them falls in love with an ordinary girl? It’s a story that explores deep meanings of living, true sacrifice, and stays with you long after you’re through…

“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.” 

8. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. I am a huge fan of historical drama and for a period of time was extremely fascinated and obsessed with the time where Henry VIII ruled in England. I mean, this is a king who broke law after law for his multiple wives and the most notorious is his second wife and queen for a short time, Anne Boleyn. The movie adaptation was just as riveting and haunting as the actual book, which shines a light on the ‘other Boleyn girl’ most don’t know about: Anne’s younger sister Mary, and her role in this dangerous world full of political intrigue and greed. I want to stress that the book is more of a romance than the movie was and provides a detailed, partially fictional account of Mary’s story during the time period when Anne was queen.

“I shall be dark and French and fashionable and difficult. And you shall be sweet and open and English and fair. What a pair we shall be! What man can resist us?”

BOOK BLITZ ~ LOVE, LAUGHTER, & MERRILY EVER AFTERS BOXED SET

TEN fun, romantic holiday novellas by ten New York Times & USA Today bestselling authors 
An all-star gathering of some of today’s most popular NYT and USA Today bestselling romance authors together in a fun-filled collection…holiday style! With the overwhelming response to the bestselling, chart-topping summer boxed set, we’ve brought together even MORE of your favorite authors for a winter compilation, and this time, we’ve giftwrapped TEN stories for your e-reading pleasure. From the funny & sweet, to the steamy & heartfelt, each novella is packed with a whole lot of romance, and hand-picked to infuse perfectly-portioned holiday cheer into your busy days this season…along with hot bursts of holiday steam for those winter nights.
If I Return — by USA Today bestselling author Sawyer Bennett
Wild Irish Christmas — by New York Times bestselling author Mari Carr
Seducing Santa — by New York Times bestselling author Janelle Denison (aka Erika Wilde)
Decking Drew — by New York Times bestselling author Violet Duke
Fairies & Wishes — by USA Today bestselling author Karen Erickson (aka Monica Murphy)
Twelve Dates of Christmas — by New York Times bestselling author Jessie Evans
Holiday Spirit — by New York Times bestselling author Cathryn Fox
Unwrapped — by New York Times bestselling author Melody Grace
A Christmas Heat Wave — by New York Times bestselling author Alannah Lynne
His Christmas Wish — by New York Times bestselling author Marquita Valentine

SAWYER BENNETT
I’m about to step outside of the proverbial box.
Pushing away from the elevator wall I had been leaning against, I walk up to Jack, bringing my body close into his. Looking into his face, I see his nostrils flare and unbidden desire leap into his eyes. It’s all the encouragement I need before I smooth my hands up over his chest, winding them behind his neck. My fingers graze over the stubble of his short haircut. I’m pleased when his arms wrap around my waist to draw me in closer. I waste no further time before pulling his head down to me, until our lips meet softly.
Despite the fact my inhibitions are lowered, despite the fact I boldly put myself in Jack’s arms, and despite the fact that his eyes were heated as our lips moved toward one another, the kiss is surprisingly sweet. It’s nothing more than a gentle meeting of our lips. Our mouths are slightly parted as we move against one another, tilting our heads first to one side, and then another as we explore.
Even though the kiss is soft and sweet, I still feel a warmth spreading through my body. It causes me to want more… to experience Jack on the next level. Tentatively, my tongue pushes forward into his mouth and at first he stills. I can feel his fingers flex into my lower back, and I push my tongue in just a little farther, taking a swipe at his.
He answers me with a groan and then he’s gripping my head, holding me in place so his tongue can take charge.
And I let him.
Letting go, for once in my life, I let Jack have his way with my mouth. He deepens the kiss and I can’t help the sigh that escapes me. He eats it up, pleading for more by the insistent way his lips move against mine.
Even though we seem to both be drowning in the kiss, I find myself wanting to submerge further into him. Desire floods my senses and my body moves without thinking. I push myself closer to him, our bodies connecting. My breasts mash into chest and I can feel his hardness against my stomach. I push closer yet, wanting—no, needing—the contact.
This kiss… this amazing kiss. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It’s full of passion and fire. I realize that my prior kisses have been lukewarm at best. Energy courses through me at the thought of what else I’ve been missing. The shy introvert is gone and I can feel my inner sex kitten awakening.
And I’m ready… ready to let her prowl because the passion that flows between us has firmly shut boring Hope Camden away.
MELODY GRACE
“What do you say? Ready to get to know each other a little better?” I reach over and take a sip of his drink, slowly licking the moisture off my lips.
“Why not?” he gives me a grin that turns my insides to molten honey. “This should be good.”
I have to catch my breath. All night, I’ve been at war with myself: trying not to flirt with him or make a fool of myself. But now, I’m suddenly reckless. Unleashed. Now I’ve spied a crack in his cool, collected attitude, I’m not going to let this chance slide by, not without a fight.
Daniel blinks once, then lowers himself slowly back on the barstool beside me. I have to catch my breath. All night, I’ve been at war with myself: I just want him, more than I can stand.
“You first,” I announce, slowly crossing my legs.
Daniel looks down at the fabric riding up over my thighs, then back up at me.
Of course. A guy like him is an open book: nothing to hide. “Hmm,” I muse, “That’s easy, truth.”
If I’m going to push him, it needs to be something good. “Where’s thecraziest place you’ve ever had sex?”
“Nowhere. I’ve always just done it the regular way, on a bed.”
I stare in disbelief. “Seriously? Not even in the backseat of a car? The gym locker rooms? The rooftop of the student lounge?” I prompt.
Daniel looks bashful. “I guess I’m just boring like that. Why, where’s yours?”
I think for a moment. “Backstage at a rock show, up against the amps. He lasted like, two seconds flat and I nearly went deaf… and electrocuted,” I shake my head, giving a wry smile at the memory.
“Sounds painful.” Daniel laughs, and I lose myself in his eyes. The tequila is warm in my bloodstream, mingling with desire and recklessness in one heady cocktail that’s impossible to ignore as I sit here, inches away from Daniel, his tanned forearm resting casually on the bar between us, close enough to touch…
I snap back to reality. “What?”
Daniel gives me a patient smile. “I said, why bother nearly killing yourself like that? It doesn’t sound like it was even worth your while.”
I shrug. “It was an experience.”
“Jumping off a cliff is an experience,” Daniel points out. “You going to try that too?”
“No, it’s like…” I try to gather my thoughts, “This is it, my wild adventurous youth. One day, I’m going to be settled down with a kid and a mini­van, and, and, a Costco clubcard. I want to be able to look back and say, I lived. I had adventures. You know?”
“Nope,” Daniel makes a face. “I’ve been on the same path since school, I never did anything crazy.”
My heart catches. I force myself to meet his eyes. “It’s never too late to try.”
EXTRAS: FAVORITE RECIPES
Sawyer’s Favorite Holiday Recipe
This one’s my absolute favorite holiday recipe!
Pumpkin Roll
Ingredients: 3 large eggs, 1 cup granulated sugar, 2/3 cup canned pumpkin, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 3/4 cup all­ purpose flour, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 cup pecans, finely chopped, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling. Two 3­ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature1 stick butter (1/2 cup), room temperature1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Instructions
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 17 1/2­ by 12 1/2­inch jellyroll pan.With an electric mixer, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, pumpkin and lemon juice until smooth. Sift together the flour, ginger, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add the sifted ingredients to the egg mixture and blend until fully combined. Spread the batter in the jellyroll pan. Sprinkle the dough with the chopped pecans. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 14 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes.Invert the cake onto a wire rack. Sprinkle some of the confectioner’ sugar on a large tea towel and carefully transfer the warm cake to the towel, folding the sides of the towel over the cake. Roll the cake up in the towel and cool in the refrigerator thoroughly for about 45 minutes.With an electric mixer, combine the confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla and beat until smooth. Carefully unroll the cooled cake and spread the mixture on top of the cake. Gently re­roll the cake up and refrigerate it until you’re ready to slice and serve. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
Melody’s Favorite Holiday Recipe
 
One of my favorite fall/festive recipes is ‘Mom’s Apple Cake’ from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. It’s a delicious, buttery cake that’s perfect for get­togethers: just add whipped cream or ice­cream, or even eat some for breakfast like I do. (recipe courtesy of the Smitten Kitchen)
Mom’s Apple Cake
Ingredients: 6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 5 tablespoons sugar, 2 3/4 cups flour, sifted 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup vegetable oil, 2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup orange juice, 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, 4 eggs, 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before running knife between cake and pan, and unmolding onto a platter.