Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Supremacy (Supremacy, Book 1)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Kate Parker is a 17 year old senior living in Texas. She's on the swim team, has two incredible best friends, and a passion for saving animals. She falls hard when she meets a mysterious and fascinating guy named Lucas. He has a sexy accent and a killer smile. However, she sees unexplained pain and anger in his dark brown eyes. He claims he’s a foreign exchange student from Spain who is attending the local University—Kate knows there’s more to his story than that. She works hard to discover who he is—what he is.

How acquired: ARC sent to me by the author for review. Scheduled release date June 3, 2016. 

My thoughts: I didn't know much about this book other than it's a YA/Urban Fantasy, and I really had no idea what to expect. Kate is an interesting character. The word “hyperthymesia” is never used, but Kate has it. In case you're unfamiliar with it, it's also called Superior Autobiographical Memory, and those who possess it can remember every detail of everything that ever happens to them. Kate tells Lucas if she hears it or sees it, she will remember it. Other than her memory, Kate is a pretty normal teenager. She's on the swim team, she likes hanging out with her best friends, she fights with her little brother. She also loves animals, and seems to feel a connection to them. I thought in the beginning that might be explored a little more or be more intrinsic to the plot, but after the first part of the book, where Kate is trying to rescue a starving stray in the woods, it became more secondary.

Lucas is a mysterious motorcycle riding foreigner. He's come to the US from Spain to attend college. They have a “meet cute” moment when Kate walks out of the woods to find Lucas stranded on the side of the road, and she ends up fixing his motorcycle for him. (“Lucas, if you hold my pork chop, I will fix your bike.” That line made me laugh out loud.) There's a slight element of paranormal introduced, as Kate feels a strange anxiety inducing energy when Lucas touches her. Kate's father is a psychiatrist, and she tells him about this weird feeling (I can't imagine telling my dad anything like that at 17!), which leads to an extremely embarrassing moment for Kate when her father meets Lucas for the first time. Her father was a little off the wall with the over protectiveness, and I'm not sure if it's just the way he's wired, or if there's something about Kate that will be revealed in a future book.

Overall the writing felt a little simple, which may be typical of a lot of YA? Since I don't read a lot of it I can't really compare it to the rest of the genre. I was interested in the story, but did not really get engrossed until Kate learned the secret Lucas was hiding about himself. Until then I think I had mixed feelings about him. He had very violent tendencies, and while he seemed to really care about Kate, he did inadvertently physically hurt her at one point, and not knowing what drove him made it hard to feel completely sympathetic to him.

Some of the descriptive passages were vivid, and there was a very funny scene between Kate and her mother in the kitchen, as mom is getting dinner ready and Kate starts acting like a boxer and pretending to throw punches at her exasperated mother. I could see the scene play out in my head and it made me laugh.


This is the author's debut novel, and I think she shows a lot of promise. The book ends a tad abruptly, not on a cliffhanger, exactly, but sort of...I can't tell you any more than that, but it will be interesting to see what unfolds in future books. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Taste (A Love Story, Book 3)

TRACY EWENS

Synopsis from Goodreads: In her twenties, Kara Malendar found herself at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris, thousands of miles away from the harsh media coverage of her political family. But Paris ended abruptly when she was summoned home to Los Angeles and expected to stand in again as the senator’s perfect daughter.

Now, thirty, Kara has made a different kind of life for herself. As a food critic for the Los Angeles Times, she casts a critical eye on other people. That is, until her past finds his way back into town and opens a new restaurant.

Logan Rye, the youngest son of the Ryeland Farms family, is a chef and knows exactly what he's doing with his life. After a few years spent getting his head and heart together, he's opened a new farm-to-table restaurant, The Yard, in Los Angeles. It’s his passion, but according to the LA Times, he’s a trend.

Kara and Logan haven't seen each other since she left him in the lobby of her Paris apartment building, but when she is asked to write a feature on him, it's not long before they are rediscovering the delicious parts of each other. As things heat up, all recipes are forgotten, and Kara and Logan realize nothing was what it seemed in Paris.

If Logan can only find a way to trust, he may be exactly what Kara needs . . if she's ever going to taste life again.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, 2015.

How acquired: NetGalley for review.

First line: Kara Malendar was a bitch.

My thoughts: I read RESERVED last month, which is the fourth book in this series, after this one, and I loved it. Five stars loved it. So I was excited when I looked on NetGalley recently and discovered this one was also available.

I love the opening line: “Kara Malendar was a bitch.” Kara, a restaurant reviewer, is the heroine. She's a senator's daughter and has grown up in the spotlight of politics. She's spent her life conforming to what her parents, namely her mother, expects of her. The happiest time of her life was a brief period at a cooking school in Paris, where she used an assumed name and had a wild and hot affair with a fellow American student, Logan. And then her mother dragged her home and she never heard from or talked to Logan again. Until she's assigned a three part story about Logan's restaurant and farm.

Logan grew up taking care of his family, especially his younger sister, Kenna, after their mother walked out when they were kids. He still takes care of everyone and he doesn't do commitment. When Kara left Paris, he was hurt that she had lied about who she was, and he closed his heart off and told himself he didn't care.

Of course sparks fly when Logan and Kara meet again. But they both have a lot of issues to work through before they can even think about an HEA.


I liked Logan. He was a good guy, charming and funny. However, I struggled to connect with Kara. I could understand her issues, where she was coming from, but I found her a little blah. I loved the characters of Kenna and Travis in RESERVED. They were so incredibly vibrant and well written. Kara and, to a lesser extent, Logan, just didn't live up to my expectations. I laughed a lot less with Logan and Kara. But the ending was satisfying, and while overall the book just fell a little flat for me, I still want to read the rest of the books in the series. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Forever Road (Peri Jean Mace Ghost Thrillers, Book 1)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Peri Jean Mace’s knack for seeing ghosts made growing up in her rural East Texas hometown a living hell. Now an adult with her own business, she thinks she’s finally got things under control.

But the murder of Peri Jean’s trailer trash cousin, Rae, forces Peri Jean to face long buried issues. She owes her cousin a favor from beyond the grave and must solve her murder. The more Peri Jean pokes around, the more she realizes everyone in Gaslight City has something to hide.

Uncovering the wrong secret will send Peri Jean straight into the arms of a killer.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Long Roads and Dark Ends Press, 2016.

How acquired: Given to me by the author's publicist for review.

First line: An inhuman shriek sliced through the pre-dawn darkness, stabbing at the haze of sleep coating my brain.

My thoughts: Peri Jean Mace is an interesting character. She can see ghosts, a condition which caused her mother to commit her to a mental institution as a young child, where the word schizophrenia was bandied about. She's not the first heroine I've read about who has the ability to see ghosts, but I believe she is the first who has not embraced this particular trait. Seeing ghosts has caused Peri to become an outcast in the little town of Gaslight City, where everyone is aware of it, whether they believe it's true or believe she's crazy, but pretend they don't know anything. Even in her own home, her ability is never talked about, as if it doesn't exist. It was a different take on the “ghost whisperer” genre, and a welcome one.

The story starts out a little slow,with Peri's cousin, Rae, shrieking up a storm and yelling at Chase, her flavor of the month who is also Peri's best friend. Peri lives with her grandmother, and Rae lives in a travel trailer parked on grandma's property. When Peri hears the shouting she flies out to the trailer to shush them before her grandmother is woken up, and in exchange for Rae shutting up Peri agrees to owe her an unspecified favor. It was all a little melodramatic, and the favor for silence a little silly.

But Rae cashes in that favor pretty quickly when Peri walks into her trailer later and finds her cousin's been murdered. And then Rae's ghost appears, and Peri realizes that Rae wants and expects her to find the killer.

From there the story picks up nicely. Dean Turgeau is introduced, Gaslight City's newest deputy, and he and Peri clash from the beginning, especially since Chase is suspect number one and Dean is determined to prove it, while Peri is determined to defend her friend. Which becomes more difficult when Chase pulls a dissapearing act. Dean brought to mind (to my mind, anyway) Aiden Quinn's Detective Hallett from the movie Practical Magic.

I loved watching Peri and Dean dance around each other, and I also enjoyed Peri's interactions with her childhood friend turned nemesis Hannah. As Peri gets deeper and deeper into her investigations there were quite a few twists, and the mystery was unpredictable. I didn't figure out who the murderer was until she did.


A nicely written whodunit, which got a bit violent during the big reveal, but with a satisfying conclusion. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hopeless


Synopsis from back cover: Sky, a senior in high school, meets Dean Holder, a guy with a promiscuous reputation that rivals her own. From their very first encounter, he terrifies and captivates her. Something about him sparks memories of her deeply troubled past, a time she's tried so hard to bury. Though Sky is determined to stay far away from him, his unwavering pursuit and enigmatic smile break down her defenses and the intensity of the bond between them grows. But the mysterious Holder has been keeping secrets of his own, and once they are revealed, Sky is changed forever and her ability to trust may be a casualty of the truth.

Only by courageously facing the stark revelations can Sky and Holder hope to heal their emotional scars and find a way to live and love without boundaries.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Atria Books, 2013.

How acquired: Loaned to me by my daughter.

First line: I stand up and look down at the bed, holding my breath in fear of the sounds that are escalating from deep within my throat.

My thoughts: I see references to Colleen Hoover and her books constantly, on blogs, and on Instagram, where it seems the majority of the book-related accounts belong to teenagers and twenty-somethings. So much hype about this author and her books. I've gotten away from the YA genre in the last few years, so I didn't really have any interest in reading her.

My daughter, who will be twenty-three in a couple of weeks, loved books as a child, but once past elementary school she didn't spend much time reading. In fact, she hardly read at all, other than at work (a daycare) during nap time, and then she mostly read Joyce Meyer or similar, or self-help books related to relationships and nutrition and healthy eating. But one of her co-workers convinced her to try a Colleen Hoover book, and suddenly she's reading like crazy, wanting more Hoover books, and then she read Nicholas Sparks and wanted more of his books, and then she just wanted me to find anything similar that I thought she might also like. So I am forever grateful to Ms. Hoover for helping my daughter rediscover her love of books and reading. And when my daughter texted me and said I should read this Colleen Hover book she just finished and would I want to borrow it, I said yes, because I owe it to Ms. Hoover to give her books a chance.

So, I read HOPELESS. It took me awhile to get through the first half. Partly because of work and life and being so tired at night that I sometimes could only read for ten or fifteen minutes before I had to go to sleep. Partly because it just did not quite captivate me the way it did my daughter and all those other Hoover fan girls out there. To begin with, I'm not a big fan of present tense narration, so that put me off just a little, but I got to used to it fairly quickly and it didn't bother me too much in the long run. I just found the story kind of blah in the beginning. Sky tells us early on that Karen, her mother, adopted her when she was three. And yet all throughout the book she always refers to her mother by her name. When speaking to her mother she calls her mom, but when telling us about her mother she calls her Karen. I just didn't like the connotation that gave, as if since Karen is not her biological mother she's not entitled to be referred to a her mother. Even though she is.

And then there's just all the angst of being the new girl in school. Of having the reputation of being the loose girl in school who sleeps with everybody even though she's not actually had sex with anybody. Of the one person becoming her friend being the weird gay kid. And then of meeting Holder, who is a little disturbing with his violent outbursts.


And then the big secret comes out, and from that point on I was suddenly reading faster and was much more invested and it was intense and at times a little nerve-wracking, and I can't really say much more about it without giving away too much plot, but the ending was fantastic and I even cried a little bit. So while I don't necessarily want to run out and buy every Colleen Hoover book I can find, I understand why she's so popular and beloved, and she deserves to be. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Once a Rancher (The Carsons of Mustang Creek, Book 1)


Synopsis from back cover: THE CARSONS OF MUSTANG CREEK: three men who embody the West and define what it means to be a rancher, a cowboy and a hero in this brand-new series from the queen of Western romance.

SLATER CARSON might be a filmmaker by trade, but he's still a cowboy at heart – and he knows the value of a hard day's work under the hot Wyoming sun. So when he sees troubled teen Ryder heading down a dangerous path, he offers the boy a job on the ranch he shares with his two younger brothers. And since Ryder's guardian is the gorgeous new Mustang Creek resort manager, Grace Emery, Slater figures it can't hurt to keep a closer eye on her, as well...

GRACE EMERY doesn't have time for romance. Between settling into her new job and caring for her ex-husband's rebellious son, her attraction to larger-than-life Slater is a distraction she can't afford. But when an unexpected threat emerges, she'll discover just how far Slater will go to protect what matters most – and that love is always worth fighting for.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, HQN Books, 2016.

How acquired: Won from Harlequin Books in a giveaway on Goodreads

First line: Slater Carson was bone-tired, as he was after every film wrapped, but it was the best kind of fatigue – part pride and satisfaction in a job well done, part relief, part “bring it,” that anticipatory quiver in the pit of his stomach that would lead him to the next project, and the one after that.

My thoughts: Despite having 25 of her books in my TBR pile, this is the first book I've actually read by Linda Lael Miller. I would see her books constantly, and the covers often drew my attention, so I began grabbing them at library sales, thrift stores, etc. I knew that once I read her I would like her, and I wasn't wrong.

Slater Carson and Grace Emery have a fiery first meeting in the opening pages of the book, and I was immediately hooked. Slater shares a ranch with his two younger brothers and his mother, and is a documentary filmmaker. On the night that his latest project has wrapped, he's just arrived home, and he's exhausted. And then Grace barrels into his home office with her step-son, Ryder in tow, a ball of angry energy. Grace, I mean. Ryder is more the stereotypical sullen teenager. He stole something from one of Slater's trucks, and Grace has dragged him here to return it and apologize. So really it's the first meeting between the three of them, because even though Ryder is Grace's ex-husband's son, she's pretty much his only real parent and he's very much a (welcome) part of the book.

I loved Slater from the get go. He's a handsome cowboy, he's charming, he's got a great sense of humor, he's never been married but he has a daughter, Daisy, who he adores...need I go on? He's attracted to Grace immediately, and while he's never been truly in love or into having a real relationship, he finds himself finally thinking that way.

Grace I also loved, though I'm not generally drawn to heroines with “beautiful girl problems”, i.e., a woman who is so knock out gorgeous that men fall all over themselves about her, and she doesn't know if they're only attracted to her because she's so beautiful or if they actually like her for who she is. But she does also have a beautiful personality and I loved her as much for her relationship with her stepson as for anything else.

The last thing Grace is looking for is a relationship, and her relationship with Slater moved along a little quicker than I normally prefer. And yet they did spend a lot of time just getting to know each other, which kept it from feeling too rushed.

I also loved the relationship between Slater and his two brothers, Drake and Mace. The siblings are close to each other, but the younger brothers often exasperated Slater with their teasing and their betting on how soon Slater would bring up Grace's name for the first time and when he would propose to her. I definitely got a kick out of the bantering back and forth between the three men.


And this may be considered a spoiler, but then again it's a Harlequin romance so you should expect that there's likely to be a wedding in the end. And when the wedding plans did a complete 180 after a request from Daisy, well, Slater and Grace's response just made me love both of them even more.

I very much look forward to the next book, Drake's story, and I sure hope Mace's story will come after that! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

HELEN FIELDING

Synopsis from back cover: Fourteen years after landing Mark Darcy, Bridget Jones's life has taken her places she never expected. But despite the new challenges of single parenting, online dating, wildly morphing dress sizes, and baffingly complex remote controls, she is the same irrepressible and endearing soul we all remember – though her talent for embarrassing herself in hilarious ways has become dangerously amplified now that she has 752 Twitter followers. As Bridget navigates head lice epidemics, school-picnic humiliations, and cross-generational sex, she learns that life isn't over when you start needing reading gasses – and why one should never, ever text while drunk.

Studded with witty observations about the perils and absurdities of our times, Mad About the Boy is both outrageously comic and genuinely moving. As we watch her dealing with heartbreaking loss and rediscovering love and joy, Bridget invites us to fall for her all over again.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Vintage Books, 2014.

How acquired: Book Mooch.

My thoughts: About 30 pages into this book, I was already thinking about moving on to something else. I was just really put off at first by the choppy diary entry style narrative. Although I don't remember that bothering me at all when I read the first two books some ten or twelve years ago. My first impression of Bridget in this book was that while I had grown and matured since the first two books, she had not.

I did persevere, however, and in the end I enjoyed it well enough. Once Bridget met Roxster, I became much more invested in the story, as he was a great character (aside from his ridiculous name) and I really really liked him, And while I'm not particularly a fan of older woman/younger man stories, I really liked them together. Of course it can't all be smooth sailing for Bridget, and I often winced for her and the situations she found herself in. Her kids were cute, though sometimes I wasn't sure if they were really written age appropriately. But then, it's been awhile since my kids were that age, and I'm never around young kids these days, so who knows. All of Bridget's friends from the previous books are still around, but none really stood out, except Daniel, who was just as I remembered him and made me laugh. And of course there were new characters. Bridget's run ins with Mr. Wallacker, one of her son's teachers, were increasingly funny, and I found myself intrigued by him and liking him more and more.

Halfway through I began feeling very nostalgic for the movies, and since the first one was available for streaming on Netflix I watched it one evening and quite enjoyed revisiting it. The second movie is only on DVD (well, I think it was available on Amazon but I'm not willing to pay extra to watch it), so I added it my Netflix queue and am expecting it to arrive tomorrow, and am looking forward to it.

In the end, I was pleased with how it all turned out for Bridget and her kids, but the journey to that point was sometimes a little tedious and exasperating.


One last note – I read the author's Acknowledgments in the back of the book, and I thought it was interesting that she thanked, among several other names, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, but not Renee Zellweger, and I can't help but wonder if there's some story behind that.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

Reserved (A Love Story, Book 4)


Synopsis from Goodreads: If only life were as simple as making a reservation.

Makenna Rye Conroy was living the dream—amazing husband, beautiful new baby daughter—when one night changed everything.

Almost six years after Adam’s death, Makenna and her daughter Paige have built a solid, happy life together. Makenna manages her brother’s trendy restaurant, The Yard, and helps out at Ryeland Farms, the family business, all while trying to navigate the world of private school parenting. Sure, being a single mom has its challenges, but she hardly has time to pack her daughter’s lunch in the morning, let alone think about dating.

Travis McNulty, the middle child and the biggest disappointment of the McNulty clan, is a chef at his best friend’s new restaurant. He gave up apologizing for not being the football hero his family wanted a long time ago. In fact, Travis apologizes for very little these days. He loves creating great food, it’s more of a passion than any job, and he lives life on his own terms with as little complication as possible.

For the past couple years, Makenna and Travis have worked alongside each other at The Yard, bickering, teasing, and never taking each other very seriously. Until Makenna has her usual reoccurring dream, but this time instead of her late husband as the featured man, Travis stands in his place. Travis may be attracted to his best friend’s sister, but she’s a widow and a mother, which tops the charts for complicated in his book.

As the game changes, Makenna and Travis, with a little help from Paige, have to figure out what they are willing to risk to reserve a table for three.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, 2016.

How acquired: NetGalley.

First line: Makenna Rye Conroy was naked again.

My thoughts: I loved this book. Seriously. Loved.

Makenna is a single mom, managing her brother's restaurant and the business side of her family's farm. She's been raising her daughter, Paige, alone since her husband died when Paige was only five weeks old. She's focused all her energy on her daughter and her work, and has created a cozy little home for the two of them. She's had no desire to date. But now suddenly she's had a dream about Travis, the hunky chef at the restaurant, and her brother's best friend. And Travis, being a player, a man whore, not to mention a co-worker, is definitely off limits. So when her best friend, Sage, the bartender at the restaurant, who has been harboring a crush on Makenna's brother, suggests they sign up with an online dating site and put themselves out there, Makenna agrees.
Seriously, though, this is news. So you're...on the market now?”
Wow, what an evolved and sensitive way to put it, Travis.”
What? I could have said, 'So, I hear your rack shack is open for business.'”
Travis has always crushed on Makenna a little bit, but she's his best friend's little sister and has a child, so she's definitely off limits. Travis doesn't do relationships or commitment. He does a string of sexual encounters with women who have stripper names. But when he notices Makenna seeming to notice him, he begins to really notice her.

Makenna is a great character, and kindergartner Paige is cute and funny and precocious without ever crossing the line to dreaded plot moppet. And Travis. Travis has a beard and rides a motorcycle, which is a strike and a half against him – I don't care for beards, other than a little scruff on occasion, and I'm not into motorcycles. In fact, he didn't really tick any of my usual boxes, other than having a sense of humor and being great with the child. And yet I absolutely adored him. He's got some serious family baggage, and I liked the way the author let that play out.

There are so many laugh out loud moments. I mean I literally laughed out loud, and often backtracked to read those passages again. The writing flows, and the characters and dialogue are well written and realistic, and just full of warmth and heart. And one scene at the end had me a blubbering mess. I stayed up until 1:00 in the morning to finish the book, which I rarely do. 

So, seriously, a wonderful romance, and a wonderful book, and another author whose complete back list I now need to obtain. Not to mention Sage and Garrett's story coming out May 10!