Black Diamond Fall by Joseph Olshan


4 Stars

Publisher: Polis Books

Date of publication: September 18th, 2018

Genre: General Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Where you can find Black Diamond Fall: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of CLARA’S HEART and CLOUDLAND comes a rich, literary mystery based and united by two real events that occurred at Middlebury College; the disappearance of a student during winter break; and the vandalism of the Robert Frost Homestead on one of the outer campuses.

Luc Flanders has just finished playing a game of pond hockey with his college roommates when he realizes he has lost something precious and goes back to the ice to find it. He never returns, and the police department in Middlebury, Vermont are divided in their assessment of what may have happened to him. Some feel that Flanders left on his own accord and is deliberately out of touch. Others, including detectives Nick Jenkins and Helen Kennedy, suspect that harm may have come to him. As the search for Luc Flanders widens and intensifies, suspicions about several different people, including his Middlebury College roommates and ex-girlfriend arise. Unfortunately, Sam Solomon an older man with whom Luc has had a secret relationship, cannot prove his whereabouts during the hours when the younger man may have disappeared and Solomon, too, comes under suspicion.

BLACK DIAMOND FALL is at once a lush, evocative literary novel, a portrait of love between a younger and older man, and a riveting mystery that could only come from the mind of acclaimed writer Joseph Olshan.

My review:

Luc is a college student who had finished playing a pickup game of hockey with his friends. Realizing that he lost the class ring of his boyfriend, Luc goes back to find it. He disappears. Sam, Luc’s older boyfriend, comes under suspicion when he cannot provide an alibi for the night he disappears. Hurt in a skiing accident, Sam goes back to Vermont to recuperate and cooperate with the police in Luc’s investigation. What happened after the hockey game? What happened to Luc? Did Sam have something to do with it? Will Luc be found alive?

When I started reading Black Diamond Fall, I thought it was going to be a wham-bam-thank you ma’am mystery. You know the ones that it is obvious who the killer is from the beginning. That isn’t the case here. The author did a fantastic job of keeping exactly what happened to Luc that night under wraps until the end of the book. I was surprised at who it ended up being. Because that person wasn’t on my radar at all. I thought it was the other person that the police kept questioning. To add that twist added to my enjoyment of the book.

I liked how the author interwove Luc wandering around the woods with the police investigation. I was mentally going “Check the darn woods” everytime they brought Sam or Luc’s friends in for questioning. Saying that it was frustrating is an understatement. I also wanted to reach through the book and give Luc some food and a blanket. That was frustrating to read too.

I wish more insight was given into Luc and Sam’s relationship. What they had seemed to be true love, even though they broke up right before Sam went away on his trip. Their relationship was one of the more realistic ones that I have read lately.

I liked how the police investigation didn’t focus on one person. Instead, they had a sizable pool of suspects to question. What I enjoyed about that storyline was how the officers went about narrowing down the field of suspects. I mean, who would have thought that Robert Frost’s Homestead being vandalized would lead to a clue about what happened to Luc. I also like how they caught the person.

The end of the book was bittersweet. I am not going to say much beyond that. The author did a great job of wrapping up all the plotlines. He left nothing hanging. I am hoping that more books will be written with Sam as the main character. I did like him.

I gave Black Diamond Fall a 4-star rating. This was a great read with characters that I could connect with. The plotlines were wonderfully written. The mystery angle kept me on the edge of my seat.

I would give Black Diamond Fall an Adult rating. There is no sex. There is language (some homophobic slurs). There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Black Diamond Fall. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.

I would like to thank Polis Books and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review Black Diamond Fall.

All opinions expressed on this review of Black Diamond Fall are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

Have you read Black Diamond Fall?

Love it? 

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The Storyteller’s Throne by Jocelyn Bates


2 Stars

Publisher: Independent Book Publisher’s Association, Member’s Titles

Date of publication: April 24th, 2018

Genre: New Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Where you can find The Storyteller’s Throne: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads synopsis:

Grace was born a storyteller with a beautifully brilliant mind. Trauma twisted her reality into a tale of darkness. Now, at eighteen, Grace has found herself on the shores of a shadow world created to heal a generation. A world whose purpose is to release our emotions from the bonds of youth.

But she is not alone. It’s a world inhabited by others, those working on their own hearts and one other like herself. An amazing and yet afflicted empath and musician by the name of Kai that Grace feels inexplicably drawn to.

Will she be able to handle the suppressed memories of her youth? Accept the vulnerability necessary to explore her own heart and that of another? Fulfill the true purpose it seems she is destined to serve?

Come along with Grace as she learns to uncover her past, harness her gift, open her heart to love and embrace her future.

My review:

I was intrigued when I read the blurb for The Storyteller’s Throne. A woman, scarred by traumatic events that happened in her life, finds herself in a world that can help her heal. It caught my interest. I wanted to know how this world would help her heal. I also wanted to know who Kai was and why Grace had such a connection to him. So I decided to read the book. For the most part, I liked the book. But it was the direction the book took towards the end that made me go “WTH” and give it the rating I did.

Grace’s story disturbed me. She was raped by someone when she was 6 years old. I didn’t like having to read about a 6-year-old being raped. I understood why the author chose to have Grace react the way she did to the rape. Her unresolved feelings led her down a road of self-harm. But once she got into the Shadow Lands, she was forced to face and accept what she went through. But, then her story took a turn that I didn’t expect. Her romance with Kai wasn’t expected as was her traveling into the future. I will get into that later in the review. I couldn’t connect with her.

I felt bad for Kai. His story was different from Grace’s but it was also similar. Kai didn’t speak. He could speak but chose not too. He chose to speak through his music. His entire life, he had been compared to his older brothers and fell short. Falling into addiction, Kai ends up in The Shadow Lands the same time as Grace. I would have loved it if the author kept his character on that path. Instead, he went down a path where he fell in love with Grace. It almost seemed like an obsessive love, to be honest. He was more relatable to than Grace but I still didn’t have a connection.

I would have been fine with the book if it hadn’t gone into an anti-medication rant. Then Grace went into the future. There the adults were medicating themselves and the kids to keep them easy to manage. But the minute that mental health medication was blamed for the kids being zombies, I went “Oh no. This book didn’t go there.” That affected my rating.

Also, I didn’t like that there was Instalove. Instalove is fine in some books but in this one, no. I couldn’t with this book. I also couldn’t deal with Grace and Kai having sex. While I understand that it was healing, it didn’t do it for me.

The end of The Storyteller’s Throne confused me. I am not going to get into it but there were several situations that made me go “What!!” and “How on earth did she not know that?” and “Well, chaos didn’t happen, so now what“. None of the storylines were wrapped up. Which either was an oversight or the author is planning a book 2. I was left unsatisfied with the ending.

I gave The Storyteller’s Throne a 2-star rating. I could not connect with any of the characters. I would have been OK with the book if it hadn’t turned into an anti-medication rant. And there was Instalove.

I would give The Storyteller’s Throne an Older Teen rating. There is sex. There is violence. There is mild language. There are triggers. There are child rape, self-harm, and drug use. Also, there is a strong anti-medication for mental illness in the last half of the book. I would recommend that no one under the age of 16 read this book.

I would not reread The Storyteller’s Throne. I also would not recommend this book to family and friends.

I would like to thank Independent Book Publisher’s Association, Member’s Titles, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review The Storyteller’s Throne.

All opinions stated in this review of The Storyteller’s Throne are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

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The Corner of Holly and Ivy by Debbie Mason


4 Stars

Publisher: Forever, Grand Central Publishing

Date of publication: October 30th, 2018

Genre: Romance

Where you can find The Corner of Holly and Ivy: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads synopsis:

Sometimes love is just around the corner . . .

With her dreams of being a wedding dress designer suddenly over, Arianna Bell isn’t expecting a holly jolly Christmas. Instead, her heart feels about three sizes too small. That is until her high school sweetheart Connor Gallagher returns to town and she finds his mere presence still makes her pulse race. But just when she starts dreaming of kissing under the mistletoe, he announces that he will be her opponent in the upcoming mayoral race…

Hot-shot attorney Connor Gallagher has something to prove. He’s tired of playing runner-up to his high-achieving brothers. So when the opportunity to enter the campaign comes up, he takes it. Even if it means running against the only woman he’s ever loved. But with a little help from Harmony Harbor’s local matchmakers and a lot of holiday cheer, Connor and Arianna may just get the happy ever after they both deserve.

My review:

I have read a lot of Christmas themed romances lately. I love reading these types of books. They get me in the mood for Christmas. Plus, they’re romances. And everyone knows how much I love romances. So when the publisher approached me to review The Corner of Holly and Ivy, I jumped at it. I was also excited to read a book by Debbie Mason. I have seen her books around the blogosphere but I never have had the chance to review one.

The Corner of Holly and Ivy is Arianna and Connor’s romance. Arianna was injured in a fire that destroyed half the businesses on Main Street, including her business. Harboring guilt over surviving the fire, she has sequestered herself in her house with her grandmother. Connor is an attorney who is back in Harmony Harbor after being blackballed by his ex-employer. Sparks fly when Arianna and Connor, who dated as teenagers, are forced to run opposite of each other in a mayoral race. Old feelings come back as they run against each other. But, Arianna has a secret. A secret that can threaten her and Connor’s love. Can they survive it?

I liked and pitied Arianna. She had been through so much before the book even started. The fire did a number not only on her body but on her self-confidence. She wasn’t able to do what she loved, designing wedding dresses. She was living in a state of depression until her grandmother forced her out of it by deciding to run for mayor. I loved her relationship with her grandmother. It was sweet and pure (as weird as that sounds). She would do anything for her Glamma. That includes stepping in for her when Glamma asked her. I also liked how she dealt with Connor and his being around more often. She didn’t want to fall back in love with him. She fought it. Her secret was heartbreaking too!!

I liked Connor. He was upfront with his feelings for Arianna right from the beginning. His distress at seeing her die and being brought back to life came off the pages. I also liked how loyal he was to his family. When Daniel had a “heart attack“, Connor was there to take over his mayoral campaign. I did think it was great that he was able to keep a sense of humor while running against Arianna. And he was in tune with his feelings for her.

I have to mention Glamma. I loved her. She was outspoken and she supported her granddaughter no matter what she did. I felt awful with what she was going through but I liked that she got a diagnosis. She was one of my favorite characters in the book. Her and Colleen. Colleen’s anger at Daniel and what she did to get back at him was hilarious. It was even funnier because she was a ghost and he had no flipping clue what was going on. Only Jasper and the cat.

I do have to mention Daniel. I didn’t like him. I thought he was a manipulator. What he did to his brother and his wife was unforgivable. But, he did get what was coming to him. I laughed that entire scene in the book. I might or might not have said: “You go Colleen“.

The secondary character in the book fleshed it out. They all had individual personality and quirks. I loved that these characters were so relatable (both secondary and main).

There were 3 major plotlines in The Corner of Holly and Ivy. What I enjoyed about the plotlines is that they went seamlessly from one to another. There is usually some choppiness when transitioning from plotline to plotline. Not here.

The first plotline was Arianna and Connor’s relationship, both past and present. I liked that while acknowledged, Arianna and Connor’s past relationship was kept in the past. I liked that the author had Connor work to be with Arianna. He had to show her that he wasn’t the jerk she remembered from her divorce. Just reading his escapades trying to win her over. I’ve gotta say that the puppy was perfect!!

The second plotline was Arianna’s relationship with her Glamma. I liked that Glamma was there for Arianna. She loved her unconditionally. She stepped up when Arianna’s mother didn’t. I sympathized with Arianna with Glamma’s issues with memory. I did laugh when Glamma asked Arianna to take over her campaign and her “help“. I loved it.

The third plotline was Arianna and Connor’s run for mayor. I wasn’t too sure how it was going to work out with them running against each other. I also wasn’t sure how much Daniel was going to be involved in Connor’s campaign. I thought the result of the election was hilarious and loved what the old mayor came up with. Then it was watching Arianna and Connor trying to one-up each other. I was a little surprised by the result.

The secondary storylines brought extra depth to the book. I loved the secret admirer one. I figured out who it was before it was revealed in the book. Arianna’s secret was another memorable one. I do wish that it had been introduced earlier in the book. I also didn’t like how her secret came out. It was heartbreaking and I don’t blame Connor for reacting the way he did. But still. She should have told him on her own terms.

There is no Instalove in The Corner of Holly and Ivy. While the main part of the story took place over a couple of months, Arianna and Connor’s relationship began when they were teenagers. I had no issue believing that they could fall back in love within a couple of months.

The romance in The Corner of Holly and Ivy was great. I liked seeing Connor work to win Arianna over. I liked seeing him admit that he screwed up. It made the romance so much sweeter.

There was chemistry between Connor and Arianna was there. I liked that it didn’t overwhelm the book. I understood that they wanted each other. Instead of being in your face, it was subtle. Sometimes you need subtle. Which brings me to the sex scenes. They were not graphic. Actually, I didn’t quite grasp that Arianna and Connor had sex until the end of the book. Then I was like “WHEN. When did you have sex?

The end of The Corner of Holly and Ivy seemed rushed. I was confused at how certain events went down and certain characters reactions. But, I did like it. The author did a great job of wrapping everything up. She did leave a couple of storylines unended. I am hoping that will be a sequel to this book.

I gave The Corner of Holly and Ivy a 4-star rating. This was a cute read that got me into the Christmas spirit. I was a little confused at the ending. I felt that it was rushed. But overall, it was a great book that I enjoyed reading.

I would give The Corner of Holly and Ivy an Adult rating. There is sex but it is not graphic. There is mild violence. There is language. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread The Corner of Holly and Ivy. I would also recommend to family and friends.

I would like to thank Forever, Grand Central Publishing, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review The Corner of Holly and Ivy.

All opinions stated in this review of The Corner of Holly and Ivy are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

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The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay


3 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: October 30th, 2018

Genre: General Fiction

Where you can find The Rain Watcher: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads synopsis:

The first new novel in four years from the beloved superstar author of Sarah’s Key, a heartbreaking and uplifting story of family secrets and devastating disaster, in the tradition of THE NEST.

The Rain Watcher is a powerful family drama set in Paris as the Malegarde family gathers to celebrate the father’s 70th birthday. Their hidden fears and secrets are slowly unraveled as the City of Light undergoes a stunning natural disaster. Seen through the eyes of charismatic photographer Linden Malegarde, the youngest son, all members of the family will have to fight to keep their unity against tragic circumstances.

In this profound and intense novel of love and redemption, De Rosnay demonstrates all of her writer’s skills both as an incredible storyteller but also as a soul seeker.

My review:

The Rain Watcher was one of those books that showed up on a Read Now email from NetGalley and I added it. Why I added it? Well, I liked the cover. I loved seeing the Eiffel Tower behind glass with rain on it. When I read the blurb, I figured “”Why not. The worst case scenario is that I don’t like it. The best is that I love it“. Well, my feeling for this book falls somewhere between love and hate.

I was not familiar with anything written by Tatiana De Rosnay. Since I like reading books by authors that are unknown to me, I was excited to start reading this book. My excitement was strong when I started reading The Rain Watcher. But as the book went on, my excitement started to go away. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the plotline, I did. It was the writing style. It was hard for me to get used to. That was a big consideration when it came to giving my star rating to this book.

As much as I hate saying this, I couldn’t connect with Linden, Tilla, or Lauren. It’s not that I didn’t like them, I couldn’t connect to them as a people. I did feel bad for Linden, though. He couldn’t come out to his father. Did he want to? Yes, but he was scarred by Lauren’s reaction when he told her. Tilla came across as unhappy in her life. That was the vibe I got from her. Unhappy with how her life has turned out. And Lauren, well, she wasn’t present for 90% of the book. How can I connect to a character who wasn’t there?

I did like that it was set in Paris. I didn’t understand what the author was talking about when she kept referring to the street names, neighborhoods. I had to google everything. I don’t mind googling one or two things. But when I have to google every French word/term that comes up (or use my Kindle’s translator), then it becomes tedious. Plus, I couldn’t get into the storyline as much as I wanted to.

I did like the storylines. I thought that the natural disaster that Paris went through during the book was fascinating. I also thought that the storyline with the unknown boy and his babysitter, Suzanne, was compelling. I did figure that out about halfway through who the unknown boy was. I loved how the author didn’t make the evacuation of Paris perfect and she didn’t bother to gloss over the flood.  I also did like Paul’s stroke and the fall out from that. It did force Linden to think about some things that he would have rather not have. Like his Aunt Candy and Hadrian.

But there were dropped storylines as well. Like Lauren and her ex-fiance. After Linden confronted her, it went away. I wanted to know what was going on. Also, the whole Oriel and touring the city with her. That went away towards the end of the book. I was wondering what happened to her. Same with Linden’s agent, who kept texting him about his important photo shoot. Did she reschedule it or what?

The end of the book was bittersweet. I was left feeling unfulfilled and a little disappointed. What I liked was that the author didn’t make this a normal happy ending. While there were some happy elements to it, it was mostly sad. The author did a great job at wrapping up the main storylines but didn’t wrap up the secondary ones. Even though I wasn’t fond of this book, I am curious to read other books by the author.

What I liked about The Rain Watcher:

  1. The main storylines
  2. The book was set in Paris
  3. Great job at wrapping up the main storylines

What I disliked about The Rain Watcher:

  1. The writing style made the book hard to read
  2. I couldn’t connect with any of the main characters
  3. Dropped storylines

I gave The Rain Watcher a 3-star rating. While I liked the storyline and the location the book was set, I felt that the writing style overwhelmed them. I couldn’t connect with any of the main characters. Which is big, because I need to be able to connect with at least one character to make the book enjoyable to read. I also didn’t like that there were dropped storylines.

I would give The Rain Watcher an Adult rating. There is no sex. There is language. There is mild violence. There is a rape scene, while not graphic, is still disturbing. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I am on the fence if I would reread The Rain Watcher. I am also on the fence if I would recommend this book to family and friends. I am open to reading anything else by the author.

I would like to thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review The Rain Watcher.

All opinions stated in this review of The Rain Watcher are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

A Nanny for Harry by Sylvia Mulholland


2.5 Stars

Publisher: Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Member’s Titles

Date of publication: April 1st, 2018

Genre: Parenting, Families, Women’s Fiction, General Fiction

Where you can find A Nanny for Harry: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads synopsis:

Kali Miller hasn’t even given birth to baby Harry when doctor-husband Matt ‘helpfully’ hires a live-in nanny. Britta is svelte, blonde and beguiling, and Swedish enough to make any new mother insecure, especially one who looks and feels as ginormous post-delivery as she did the day before. But a nanny means Kali can go back to work at her law firm where she is desperate to make partner. The Millers’ seaside house will be nice and clean; their meals healthy and fresh, and Harry well looked after. It’s the only option, really, for career women like Kali.

But Britta’s idea of cooking is fiskpinnar (fish sticks) in the microwave. She leaves blonde hairballs between the sofa cushions and has cute, broken-English convos with Matt, leaving the dirty diapers and other chores for Kali. The only thing Britta has in common with those super-nannies that all Kali’s friends seem to have is that she’ll probably never quit. And of course, Harry adores her!

As Kali’s life becomes increasingly frenetic —not helped by a disgruntled client out to get her for a deal gone bad—she starts losing her grip on reality. The top brass at her firm now views her more as a potential liability, than partnership material. And Matt seems to have some mysterious ‘history’ with Harry’s nanny. Just who is this Britta Edvardsson? And what does she want with Matt… and little Harry?

My review:

Kali is a lawyer who is about to have her first baby. Her husband is a doctor who works crazy hours. After giving birth to Harry, Kali starts doing walk-throughs at the local daycares. What she sees doesn’t work for her and she mentions to Matt that it would be nice to have a live-in nanny. A few days later, he surprises her with Britta. Britta is slim, blonde and beautiful. That alone makes Kali insecure. But, she needs the help and allows her to stay. Kali thinks that with Britta there, the house would be clean, chores would be done and meals would be cooked along with the baby being looked after. Well, that was a dream. The only thing that Britta does is look after Harry. Everything else is left for Kali when she gets off work. Things come to a head when Kali suspects that there is more to Matt and Britta’s relationship than what he says. Will Kali get the truth from Matt? Or will their relationship implode?

I got the impression, from the blurb, that this book was going to be some sort of mystery/thriller. Instead, what I got was a book about how communication is good in a relationship and how assuming things always bites you in the butt. The blurb is not a great reflection on what this book is about.

At the beginning of the book, I felt bad for Kali. I remember those last weeks before I delivered my youngest child. I was miserable and swollen. I was snappy and emotional. I got it and sympathized with her. But, as the book went on, my sympathy started to turn to annoyance. Instead of taking charge, she wallowed in pity. She wanted a different nanny. Other than complaining about it, she did nothing. She complained about Britta not cleaning or cooking. She could have made it clear that it was part of her job. She didn’t talk to Matt when she had suspicions. Instead, she stewed on them. In turn, she made life miserable for everyone in that house. It carried over to her work and she made some serious mistakes. Instead of taking the blame for that, she kept blaming her home life for her mistakes. By the end of the book, I was frustrated and wanted to smack her.

My sympathy lay with Britta. That poor girl. Kali put her through the wringer. Of course, since Kali couldn’t speak Swedish, Britta was calling her a few choice names to her face. Which made me laugh. I didn’t blame Britta. She was living with a woman who didn’t like or trust her. If I were her, I wouldn’t have gone back. I would have given Kali the two-finger salute.

I couldn’t believe the lack of communication between Matt and Kali. I didn’t like seeing their relationship go downhill because they didn’t talk. But, to be fair, the times that Kali did try to talk to Matt about what was going on, he shut her down. I thought Matt was a bit of a jerk. His comment in the delivery room along with what happened at the end of the book sealed the deal for me.

The storyline about Kali and her job added nothing to the story except how stressed she was. I started getting stressed out when reading what was going on with work.

The end of A Nanny for Harry was your typical ending. But it didn’t ring true to me. I didn’t get that Kali could be so accepting about Britta. I mean, she didn’t like her the entire book. The sudden acceptance of her didn’t sit well with me. I couldn’t understand how Matt never mentioned certain things from his past and his relationship with Britta.

The author did a great job at wrapping up all the storylines. There was nothing left hanging. There were also there were no dropped storylines. I thought that the Kali and Britta storyline had good bones to it. If the author went the way I thought she was going to, this book would have gotten a higher rating from me. I also felt that the characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been.

I gave A Nanny for Harry a 2.5-star rating. The book was wonderfully written but I couldn’t get into it. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. The one thing that I liked about this book was that it did show that life after having a child isn’t always perfect.

I would give A Nanny for Harry an Adult rating. There is no sex (imagine that!!). There is mild violence. There is language. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would not reread A Nanny for Harry. I also would not recommend this book to family and friends.

I would like to thank Sylvia Mulholland, Independent Book Publisher’s, and Member’s Titles for allowing me to read and review A Nanny for Harry.

All opinions are stated in this review of A Nanny for Harry are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

Have you read A Nanny for Harry?

Love it? 

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Stripped Down (Tap That: Book 1) by Erin McCarthy


3.5 Stars


Date of publication: October 29th, 2018

Genre: Romance

Series: Tap That

Stripped Down–book 1

Where you can find Stripped Down: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | BookBub

Goodreads synopsis:

His best friend’s hot older sister.
Her younger brother’s annoying sidekick.
And one forbidden kiss in high school…

It was complicated back then. It’s even more so now.

Because former mean girl Sloane rolls back in town to find Rick stripping at a charity event like he was born with biceps.
And single dad Rick is her landlord.
And her brother will murder him if he has sex with her.

But sometimes you have to strip it all down to see what was there all along…

My review:

Rick and Sloane have a history. Sloane was a former mean girl who shared an earth-shattering kiss with her younger brother’s best friend. Rick was that friend and he has changed in the years since that kiss. Sloane is not looking to start a relationship. Hurt by a bitter divorce, all she wants is to be left alone. But that doesn’t happen. After seeing Rick stripping for a charity auction, Sloane needs to see if Rick lives up to the promise in his boxers. Rick wants to know if kissing Sloane now was as good as kissing her back then. Determined to keep each other in the friends with benefits zone, they both start to fall for each other. But can it last? Can Rick and Sloane keep it at sex? Or will it blow up in their faces?

I wasn’t too sure if I liked Rick and Sloane as a couple. I got rebound relationship vibes from them. Sloane was fresh from a divorce. Her ex-husband cheated on her and that made her feel like she wasn’t attractive. So, I wasn’t surprised when she ended up sleeping with Rick.

I thought it was hilarious that such a big deal was made about Rick’s package. I giggled through Sloane’s reaction to seeing it. I giggled through people saying that “he grew into it“. Seeing that I was in bed, I got some dirty looks from my SO because well, it was 11pm and I was laughing my fool butt off.

I liked that Rich thought himself to be a smooth operator. His confidence was awesome. His determination to sleep with Sloane was amazing, considering at his bestie threatened to rearrange his face. His one-liners to her were hilarious. But I also liked seeing his other side. His mature and responsible side. His devotion to his 9-year-old sister was amazing. I was saddened by the fact that he had to become her legal guardian at such a young age. But I was also saddened over the situation that led to it. His truth bomb on his father was something that needed to be said. It saddened me to see that he grew up like that but still. He was the complete package.

I felt bad for Sloane. I couldn’t imagine how she felt when her husband told her that he was cheating on her. Betrayed was the closest thing that I could come up with as a feeling. I didn’t blame her when she moved back to her hometown. I was a little surprised when she decided to hook up with Rick and then keep hooking up with him. I was also surprised when she started having feelings for him.

Sloane and Rick did have some unbelievable chemistry. From the minute their eyes met, it radiated from them. So I wasn’t too surprised that the sex was hot. I did think that Sloane was going to have a problem walking because Rick was so big (haha). The scene on the motorcycle was insane. I will never look at a motorcycle the same again.

The end of the book was a big “Eh” for me. I did think that Sullivan’s reaction after the Ferris Wheel scene was a bit much. Also, what is with everyone ditching the baby with Axl? Other than that, I liked the end of the book. It was sweet. Sloane deserved it.

I gave Stripped Down a 3.5-star rating. This was a fast read with memorable characters. There were some elements that I didn’t like. The ending didn’t resonate with me as much as I wanted it to. Also, I didn’t think that Rick and Sloane made a believable couple. Other than that, I enjoyed reading the book and look forward to book 2.

I would give Stripped Down an Adult rating. There is explicit sex. There is language. There is mild violence. There are some triggers in this book. They would be cheating and animal neglect/abuse. I would suggest that no one under the age of 21 read this book. Same goes if you are triggered too.

I would reread Stripped Down. I would also recommend this book to family and friends. I would include a warning about the triggers.

I would like to thank the author for allowing me to read and review Stripped Down.

All opinions stated in this review of Stripped Down are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

Have you read Stripped Down?

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Our Life in the Forest by Marie Darrieussecq


3 Stars

Publisher: Text Publishing

Date of publication: October 25th, 2018

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Where you can find Our Life in the Forest: Amazon

Goodreads synopsis:

In the near future, a woman is writing in the depths of a forest. She’s cold. Her body is falling apart, as is the world around her. She’s lost the use of one eye; she’s down to one kidney, one lung. Before, in the city, she was a psychotherapist, treating patients who had suffered trauma, in particular, a man, “the clicker”. Every two weeks, she traveled out to the Rest Centre, to visit her “half”, Marie, her spitting image, who lay in an induced coma, her body parts available whenever the woman needed them.

As a form of resistance against the terror in the city, the woman flees, along with other fugitives and their halves. But life in the forest is disturbing too—the reanimated halves are behaving like uninhibited adolescents. And when she sees a shocking image of herself on video, are her worst fears confirmed?

Our Life in the Forest, written in her inimitable concise, vivid prose recalls Darrieusecq’s brilliant debut, Pig Tales. A dystopian tale in the vein of Never Let Me Go, this is a clever novel of chilling suspense that challenges our ideas about the future, about organ-trafficking, about identity, clones, and the place of the individual in a surveillance state.

My review

When I first saw Our Life in the Forest, it was in a Read Now email from NetGalley. What attracted me to the book, before reading the blurb, was the cover. This is one of the more original covers that I have seen. I didn’t get why the human body parts were mixed in with trees and flowers. But, having read the book, I understand 100% now. When I read the blurb, I felt that this would be a book that I would enjoy.

I didn’t enjoy reading Our Life in the Forest. Which was a huge disappointment to me. There were no chapters, which was a huge thing for me. That led to me having issues following the plotline. Maybe I am old-fashioned but I need for a book to have chapters. I need those small breaks. Mainly to adjust to anything that was thrown at me during the last chapter.

I did like the storyline and thought it was original. Not a lot of books I can say that about. I liked how the author had Vivianne remembering her life before the forest. I got a good feel for her character and why she did what she did. Now, I didn’t like Vivianne. I thought she was selfish and self-centered. I do believe that the author wrote her that way on purpose. It made what was happening around her come more into focus.

I am not going to get into the ending. I will say that there is a huge twist in the book that I didn’t see coming. One that made me go “WTH” when I read it. I was not expecting what I read and it stuck with me after I finished the book.

What I liked about Our Life in the Forest:

A) The cover

B) The storyline

C) The ending

What I disliked about Our Life in the Forest:

A) No chapters in the book

B) I had an issue following the plotline

C) Vivianne. I didn’t like her

I gave Our Life in the Forest a 3-star review. This is a compelling dystopia. It is not an easy read for me. There were no chapters and I had issues following the plotline. The ending did save the book. It was a stunner.

I would give Our Life in the Forest an Adult rating. There is sex but it isn’t graphic. There is language. There is mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I am on the fence if I would reread Our Life in the Forest. I am also on the fence if I would recommend this book to family and friends.

I would like to thank Text Publishing and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review Our Life in the Forest.

All opinions stated in this review of Our Life in the Forest are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

Big Stick (Aces Hockey: Book 7) by Kelly Jamieson


4 Stars

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group, Loveswept

Date of publication: October 23rd, 2018

Genre: Romance

Series: Aces Hockey

Major Misconduct—Book 1

Off Limits—Book 1.5

Icing—Book 2

Top Shelf—Book 3

Back Check—Book 4

Slap Shot—Book 5–review here

Playing Hurt—Book 6–review here

Big Stick—Book 7

Game On—Book 8–expected publication date January 15th, 2019

Where you can find Big Stick: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads synopsis:

A brooding hockey hunk learns to embrace life—and love—from a single mom who takes the world one puck at a time.

Big move . . . Jodie’s motto is “Don’t wait for the perfect moment – take the moment and make it perfect.” And that’s just what she decides to do when she moves to Chicago with her two-year-old daughter. Now all Jodie needs is a place to live, and her best friend’s boyfriend has just the answer.

Big stick . . . Nick Balachov has zero interest in socializing, partying, or flirting now. It’s not that he doesn’t like women. He loves them. It’s just that hockey, casual hookups, and hanging out at home are enough for him these days. Now Nick has a big problem – because the woman living in his empty coach house is a major distraction.

Big deal? The more Nick tries to keep his distance, the more Jodie needs him – around the house, that is. First, he helps with the snowstorm, then the power outage. Nick even finds himself trying to impress her little girl. What the hell is wrong with him? Jodie represents everything Nick doesn’t want. But maybe she’s just what he needs. . . .

My review:

I want to clue you all in for my first paragraph. Usually, when I say that, it is because the book has made me bawl my eyes out or it sucks. Well, in this case, it is neither. This clue is about the timeline of the book. I am going to assume that most of you have read the earlier books in the Aces Hockey series. Big Stick’s plotline coincides with Playing Hurt’s. Actually, Big Stick starts off with what was mid-book for Playing Hurt. What clued me in? The party where Nick met Jodie was one of Chase and Jordyn’s first dates. Then little hints of their relationship showed up in Big Stick. Like when they broke up and Nick had that talk with Chase. It was mentioned in this book after it happened. So, if you are reading Big Stick and happen to see Chase and Jordyn’s names come up, don’t be “WTF“. The author chose to start Nick and Jodie’s story around the same time. It was also a smart move on the author’s part. That would make me look into buying the other books in the series.

Playing Hurt is Nick and Jodie’s story. Nick is a loner. He is a grouch. He hates little kids (his words, not mine). He wants to be left alone. Nick is still dealing with the death of his brother, 3 years later. A death that he feels responsible for. He figures that he is better off keeping to himself. Then he meets Jodie. Jodie is the complete opposite of Nick. She loves to socialize. She is the complete opposite of a grouch. She likes to surround herself with people. She also has a 2-year-old daughter. After a disastrous run-in at a party hosted by Hallsy and Kendra, Jodie is left with the wrong impression of Nick. When Jodie decides she is outstaying her welcome at Hallsy and Kendra’s apartment, Nick makes her an offer. Live in his coach house for minimal rent until she can get on her feet. What could happen? Well, hot monkey sex and falling in love. But can it last? Can Nick decide that he needs Jodie and her daughter in his life or will he let them go?

The two main characters, Nick and Jodie, were complete polar opposites. Since this is a romance novel, they were going to get together. But man, they were like night and day. Nick was serious and kept to himself. Jodie was not serious and loved to socialize. If this was going to be a real-life couple, I would say that their relationship wouldn’t have lasted for very long. But it did. The author, somehow, made them being opposites work in their favor. He was able to come around to being more social and she tried being a bit more serious.

I will say that I loved Jodie’s daughter. I wanted to reach through the screen and squeeze her. Her reaction to Nick was hilarious. “A big giant” was one of the best lines in the book. I also loved her “face fur” comment. That sounded like something one of my kids would have said about their father. I did feel bad for what happened to her in the book. I would have had the same reaction as Nick.

Jodie and Nick had some serious chemistry going on. Sparks flew when they first met. I had a mental bet going on with myself (so sad, huh) about how long it would take for them to start having sex. I lost the bet. They actually held out longer than I thought they would have. Speaking of sex, it was hot. So very hot. My only complaint is that they went bareback so soon after becoming “friends” (hint). I eye-rolled at that. Other than that, I enjoyed the sex scenes. The butt play scenes were my favorite. Only because few authors go there. It’s like its taboo to do it.

I like how the author chose to discuss Nick’s issues. Suicide and depression are hard to write about and I thought she did a great job at handling it. Aleks story was heartbreaking and Nick’s guilt over not being there for him was even more so. I liked seeing Nick coming to realize that to get on with his life, he needs to get over Aleks death.

The end of the book was great. I had thought that Nick was a jerk to end things the way he did with Jodie. I understood that he was scared to death but still, he could have had more finesse. I loved the talk that Hallsy had with him. Love, love, loved it. It was stuff that Nick needed to hear, no matter how hard it was to listen to. I am not going to talk about the end of the book. Let’s say that I was pretty happy with what happened. What Zyanna asked Nick in the epilogue made my heart melt.

I gave Big Stick a 4-star rating. This was a sexy, fun read with some serious topics discussed. The author handled the topics of depression and suicide tactfully. She handled the aftermath tactfully too. I loved the ending and the epilogue.

I would give Big Stick an Adult rating. There is explicit sex. There is language. There is mild violence. There are also trigger warnings. They would be suicide and depression. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 or who is triggered by the trigger warnings read this book.

I would reread Big Stick. I would also recommend this book to family and friends. I would give a heads up about the trigger warning.

If you or anyone you love is depressed or thinking of suicide, please don’t. Contact a friend, a doctor or call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255). You matter your life matters.

I would like to thank Random House Publishing Group, Loveswept, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review Big Stick.

All opinions stated in this review of Big Stick are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

Have you read Until We Are Free?

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Until We Are Free (Until: Book 1) by TM Blayte


3.5 Stars

Publisher: Alban Lake Publishing

Date of publication: August 1st, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dystopia

Series: Until

Until We Are Free—Book 1

Where you can find Until We Are Free: Infinite Realms

Goodreads synopsis:

Nyl Jayms is tasked with kidnapping the Elder princess, to force her brother, the king, to negotiate with humans. The alternative is a war that could lead to the annihilation of both humans and Elders.

A Rider Council faction, led by Nyl’s father, is opposed to any negotiations. They will do anything, including sabotaging his assignment, to trigger a war.

Nyl and his team have to outsmart the king’s elite Royal Guard, to get to the princess, and somehow stay one step ahead of the faction opposed to negotiations. Everyone will be forced to re-evaluate ideology they were raised with, as an impending war looms ever closer.

Join these élite rebel warriors on a journey of war, betrayal, and political scheming, in Until We Are Free. In this debut novel from TM Blayte, faces of friends, family, allies, and enemies will blur. Loyalties will be tested until the determination to be free becomes the only thing that matters. After all, does one person’s freedom mean another person’s oppression?

My review:

Nyl is a 16-year-old boy who has graduated from Rider Training Camp. The Rider Training Camp is where the rebels go to train their children to fight against the Elders. The Elders are an alien race that has taken over Earth. They have kept the humans living there under severe oppression. Nyl’s first mission out of Camp is one that has failed in the past. He needs to kidnap the Elder princess. The leaders of the Rebel faction were going to use her as a bargaining chip to gain their freedom. What Nyl and his friends weren’t expecting were other Riders sabotaging the assignment. War becomes a reality when the Princess escapes. But Nyl isn’t ready for the reality of war. He also comes to realize that the war isn’t exactly black and white. That friendship can change with war. And that you can’t always trust the people who you grew up with.

I liked Nyl. He was smart and he thought well on his feet. He picked up on what was going on with the council before his father told him. Well, he had some help from Tamira with that. What I liked is that while he was dedicated to the Rider cause, he began to see that how the Rider’s went about overthrowing the Elders weren’t the best way to get things done. It was the end of the book that showed how his character had grown. I am to see what he will do with what he knows in the next book.

I thought that the main plotline of Until We Are Free was interesting. It grabbed me from the beginning and kept my attention to the end. It was well fleshed out. I did have some questions about the Elders at the beginning of the book that were answered towards the end. I also had some questions about the different bloodlines that kept coming up in the book. But, again, they were answered at the end of the book.

I wasn’t sure what to think about the plotline with all the double-crossing going on within the Rider hierarchy. I did find it interesting that Nyl’s own father set him up to fail on the first mission. I also think that Nyl’s father knew what was coming at the end of the book. He didn’t seem that surprised by it.

I didn’t care for the bit of romance between Tamira and Nyl. It didn’t add anything to the book. Was it sweet? Absolutely. Was it needed? No. The book would have been just as fine if they didn’t hook up.

Until We Are Free fit in perfectly with the Young Adult genre. It also fits in perfectly with the fantasy and dystopia genre. I do wish that more information was given about the Elders. There was some info given but not enough to appease me.

The end of Until We Are Free was eye-opening. The author did a great job at wrapping up most of the plotlines. He did leave the one with Nyl wide open. Considering what happened in the chapter before the end of the book, I wasn’t surprised. The twist at the end of the book with Mira’s mother was shocking. I cannot wait to read book 2!!

I gave Until We Are Free a 3.5 rating. This book was a good read. It was fast. The plotlines drew me in and kept me interested the entire book. I was sympathetic and liked the main character. The only thing I didn’t like was that there was a relationship between Mira and Nyl. Other than that, I enjoyed reading it.

I would give Until We Are Free an Older Teen rating. There is sex (not graphic). There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Until We Are Free. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.

I would like to thank the author for allowing me to read and review Until We Are Free.

All opinions stated in this review of Until We Are Free are mine

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

Have you read Until We Are Free?

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Limits by Susie Tate


4 Stars

Publisher: Susie Tate

Date of publication: April 5th, 2018

Genre: Romance

Where you can find Limits: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

For as long as she can remember Millie has had her limits. Staying within them keeps her isolated, safe; helps her to cope. Why then have they started to feel so stifling? Why is her loneliness starting to rival her fears?

When she watches him she wishes she could be normal; she wishes she could be like the people he interacts with so seamlessly. Pavlos Martakis is her complete and total opposite: physically intimidating, likable, naturally attractive, extremely confident, sexually promiscuous: the most uninhibited, charming, outgoing and free person she has ever met in her life. He fascinates Millie; thrills and intimidates her in equal measure.

But, as the culprit behind the invention of her nickname Nuclear Winter, Millie knows that if Pav feels anything for her it is more than likely contempt. Cold, boring, robotic: that is how the rest of the hospital sees her. So she can safely watch him from afar. He would never notice her … would he?

My review:

When I saw the blurb for Limits, I was immediately intrigued. I was eager to read it. Unfortunately, life happened and I kept pushing Limits off to read. When I was finally able to read it, I was blown away. This book is so much more than what the blurb said it was going to be. I wasn’t expecting how much it made me cry. I ugly cried for about 90% of the book.

Limits is Millie’s story. Millie works in the radiology department of a busy hospital in EnglandMillie has isolated herself from all but a few of the staff. Her cold demeanor has earned her the nickname of “Nuclear Winter“. Pavlos is a newcomer to the hospital. He is everything that Millie isn’t. Outgoing, funny and people like him. He has heard of Nuclear Winter but has never met her. Until her friend’s engagement party. He is fascinated by Millie. He wants to know why she is so standoffish, why she keeps everyone at arm’s length. As he gets to know Millie, he realizes that she is anything but cold. Something happened to her to shape her into the anxiety-ridden, self-harming person that she became. And he wants to know what. Can he handle the truth? Can Millie finally let down her guard to trust Pav?

Millie broke my heart. I wanted to reach through the book and hug her. And also slap her parents for putting her through what they did as a child. Her social anxiety and panic attacks left her unable to connect to anyone outside of 3 people. Well 4, if you count her relationship with her psychologist. The nicknames that she got at work hurt her. What got me mad was that people didn’t even try to hide their contempt for her. That burnt me up. I loved seeing her working to be able to go out into the real world and interact with people. Her relationship with Pav paved the way with that. By the end of the book, I was crying happy tears for her. She deserved every bit of happiness that she got.

I didn’t like Pav at the beginning of the book. I found that he was as rude as the other people in the hospital when it came to Millie. When he asked her to present at the Grand Round, he was told no. He pressured her to do it and she did. And look what happened to her. Seeing her have an extreme panic attack finally clued him in that something wasn’t right with her. If he had only listened to Don. It was from that point on that I started to like him, though. He realized that he screwed up and he owned it. He also got to know Millie. He realized that behind her façade was a woman who deserved every good thing that happened to her. And he was determined to make that happen. I don’t know how he held it together when he saw how Millie’s parents treated her. I would have said a lot more than what he did. By the end of the book, he realized what his mistake (read the book!!) was going to cost Millie and swooped in to rescue her. Well, him and Gammy. That’s when I loved him.

I detested Millie’s parents. I wanted to go into the book and drop kick both of them. They screwed Millie up so bad it wasn’t even funny. Because her father who he was, they were able to pay off children’s services, fire and rehire nannies and get teachers fired when abuse was mentioned. It made me see red. Then they wonder why Millie didn’t have anything to do with them. Also, to hang her grandmother over Millie’s head like they did was awful. I was glad when they both got what they deserved. The end of the book, though, did tug at my heartstrings. Not going to say what but her father realized what he was missing all these years.

The other secondary characters were wonderful and fleshed out the plot. I did think that the sudden change from disliking to liking Millie was a little much. Not everyone had to like her. Other than that, they were wonderful. I loved the strippers. They brought some much-needed humor into the book.!!

The first major plotline in Limits was Millie, her struggle with social anxiety and panic attacks and what was the cause of them. I liked how the author introduced them into the book. I also liked that the author didn’t gloss over them or make them go away once Pav was in the picture. She showed what it was like to live with panic attacks. She showed what it was like to live with social anxiety. She showed that some people need therapy to help with their issues and guess what, its OK. She showed the ugly, nasty side and I love her for it.

The second major plotline was Millie and Pav’s relationship. Pav had to work extra to show Millie that he cared for her. Millie had to work on letting Pav in and trusting him. There were mistakes made. Their relationship wasn’t perfect but they made it work. And I loved reading that. Like I said above, Millie deserved every bit of happiness that she got.

As with the secondary characters, the secondary plotlines did their jobs and kept the book going. From Millie’s Gammy to her parents’ political bid to the book club, they all added to the main storylines.

There is NO Instalove in this book. Pav and Millie’s relationship started with them being at odds with each other. The author had them build a friendship and then a relationship. I loved it!!! Of course, they had sex. There was sexual attraction but a big deal wasn’t made of it. Same with the sex scenes. When Pav and Millie had sex, it wasn’t graphic and sweet.

The romance angle of the book was understated until almost the end of the book. It was so understated that I almost missed it. But it was there.

The end of Limits was great. I loved that Millie’s parents got what was coming to them. I would have cheered but it was 11:30pm and everyone was sleeping so I did a fist pump instead. The epilogues (there were two) were fantastic. What happened in the first epilogue should have happened a long time ago. The second epilogue was bittersweet.

I gave Limits a 4-star rating. This book will tug at your heartstrings and it will make you cry while reading it. So, read with Kleenex or tissues nearby. The characters were relatable and I came to care for all but two of them.

I would give Limits an Adult rating. There is sex but it is not graphic. There is mild violence. There is language. I would suggest that no one under the age of 21 read this book. There are trigger warning that comes with this book. They are anxiety, panic attacks, emotional abuse, child abuse.

I would reread Limits. I would also recommend this book to family and friends. I would include a note about the trigger warnings.

I would like to thank Susie Tate and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review Limits.

All opinions stated in this review of Limits are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

Have you read Limits?

Love it? 

Hate it?

Meh about it?

Let me know!!!

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