Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts #54


My pick this week is from:

The Best Man's Baby by Karen Booth

"Unless you want to find a sit-down restaurant, your options are chain fast food or biscuits."
Ooh. The dilapidated sign for Sunset Biscuit Kitchen was straight ahead. It'd been years since she'd eaten there. It wasn't exactly camera-friendly cuisine, but her pregnant appetite had her salivating at the thought of their fluffy, buttery pieces of heaven. "Biscuits."
"I was hoping you'd say that." Logan pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, which was really more like a shack, with a battleship-gray exterior and a faded red roof. There was no drive-thought or dining room - just a walk-up window and if memory served, lightening-fast service. "The usual? Fried chicken biscuit and a hash brown?"
"How do you remember this stuff?"
"I remember everything."
That was indeed her standard, very unhealthy order. But she wanted more than that. "Can you also get me a sausage and egg biscuit? And an extra biscuit with honey? You know. Just in case."
Logan nodded and smiled. "I like this whole pregnant and hungry thing. It's adorable."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Release Day Review ~ Taking Turns ~ JA Huss (@JAHuss)

Taking Turns (Turning, #1)Taking Turns by JA Huss
Turning #1
Release Date: January 18, 2017
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance
Source: I received an ARC from the author which I voluntarily reviewed. I also purchased my own copy in paperback.
Rating: 5 Bookworms
Challenges: #2017NewRelease
Goodreads ~ Amazon

Synopsis
I've never been afraid of the dark...but that doesn't mean I wanted to live in it. And maybe everyone wants what they can't have, but I should've thought it over before I accepted the key and unlocked the door to their forbidden world.

Number One is mostly silent. He watches me with them very carefully. His gaze never wanders. His interest never wanes.

Number Two is mostly gentle. But it's the other side of him I like best. The wild side.

Number Three is mostly reserved. He refuses to cross the line. Even when I beg.

It was carnal, it was sensual, and it was erotic. That's it. That's all it was supposed to be. A trip into the dark. A peek into the forbidden.

I just didn't expect to like them.




I've read and reviewed every one of JA Huss' books and I have to say there comes a point where it's difficult to find different ways to extol her virtues in storytelling. I mean, her books almost always hit the mark for me. I know no matter what I'm going to get a well-crafted story, typically at least some suspense, a plotline that messes with my head and keeps me guessing, characters so well-wrought they feel like real people. And in Taking Turns she delivered all of that. But this story...this story was also more. And seeing as how I'm always impressed by Huss anyway, it's telling that with this story I was utterly captivated from start to finish...dazzled.

Taking Turns tells the story of four people - one woman, three men - who enter into an unconventional relationship. They each have their own reasons for doing so - the men having been doing so for years. While getting acquainted and comfortable in the relationship, they not only learn about each other but also about themselves.

The story is told from the POVs of each of the four and I appreciated this because it enabled me to get a solid understanding of each character - even if I wasn't privy to all their secrets. There is also a fifth character who plays an integral role in the lives of the four - one we never meet but learn a lot about.

There are secrets - of course there are secrets, this is Huss after all. And I can say in all honesty that I didn't guess what they were and they made powerful impacts. Taking Turns is also very sexy. Huss has written sexy before but not like this. I commend Huss for taking something taboo and making it so accessible. I also commend her for taking on a topic like female sexuality. I admire her saying that it's okay for a woman to be sexual, to own her own sexuality. It's so true - we should not feel shame for liking sex.

The characters, Chella, Bric, Quin, and Smith - they're all complicated and they're all searching for something. They all entered the game with a purpose. However, I'm not yet certain what all those purposes are. These characters, they're each flawed and yet perfect in their imperfection. I adore each of them and am eager for the continuation of their stories.

I don't see Huss making any less of an impression with her stories any time soon so I suppose I'll have to continue to search for creative ways to sing her praises.



Monday, January 16, 2017

Audio Review ~ Crossroads ~ Riley Hart

Crossroads (Crossroads #1)Crossroads by Riley Hart
Crossroads #1
Narrated bySean Crisden
Release Date: November 17, 2015 (audio)
Genre: Adult, M/M Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased on Audible
Rating: 4 Bookworms
Challenges: Goodreads Reading Challenge
Goodreads

Synopsis
After divorcing the woman he'd been with since he was seventeen, Nick Fuller is starting over. He owns the restaurant of his dreams and he's determined to meet new people, find new passions, and experience life to its fullest. Easier said than done--that is until he meets his new neighbor, Bryce Tanner...

Bryce is all about a good time. He plans to show Nick how it's done, help him meet a few women, and enjoy the gift of a the single life he's been given. But things don't go as planned, and soon they realize they'd rather be together than with anyone else.

Neither man has ever wanted another guy, but there's a connection between them from the start--a spark they can't deny. They find themselves navigating an unfamiliar new world and dealing with unforeseen obstacles. Physical desire isn't enough, and now Nick and Bryce are at a crossroads. They have to decide which way to go--the easy path they've always followed, or the one that's determined to trip them up at every turn.




This is my second book with Hart and I've determined I quite like her style. She delivers a provocative story with engaging characters that I can't help but root for. 

I first want to address something I've seen a few comments regarding and that's whether or not this story is a "gay for you" type story. While neither of these guys ever thought they were gay, I didn't feel this was necessarily a GFY and here's why:

  • Nick had married his high school sweetheart and had never been with anyone else. While this might indicate he was straight, one might infer that his being from a traditional family would have kept him from exploring his sexuality earlier. One might also infer that since his wife cheated on him repeatedly, she wasn't happy with their sex life.
  • Bryce had slept his way through many women but at 31 he'd not found a single one that made him want more than sex. Once might infer from this that he kept trying something - someone - new because no one was doing it for him. No one until Nick.
That's all my opinion, of course. Anyway, I adored Nick and Bryce. They were neighbors who became close friends, who became more. Nick, having been with his ex-wife since he was 17, had never had real friends of his own. Bryce's only real friend, Christy, had been around for awhile and they'd even dated briefly. The reason these two worked well because they balanced one another. Nick was staid, had always known what he wanted to do, and was loyal almost to a fault. Bryce was more of a dreamer, who tried a little of everything before picking a career, was always ready with a joke, leaped before looking but also was one who loved deeply.

Watching their friendship evolve, the realization they felt more and the fallout experienced in making their feelings public, all made for an emotional listen - one I was loathe to put down. Sean Crisden did a fine job with voicing a rather large cast of characters. He kept his voices distinct and was also able to convey the feelings in every scene. His female voices don't have quite as much range but it didn't take anything away from the story. This is my second listen with him and I plan to continue the series, so it won't be my last.




Saturday, January 14, 2017

My TBR List ~ January ~ And the Winner Is...

MyTBRList

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

Here's how it works:
On the first Saturday of each month, I will make a post with three books from my TBR List (these books can be already on your ereader or bookshelf OR books you might want to purchase) and add your link on the linky that will be provided on Michelle's post. Y'ALL will help me choose which book I will read next. The following Saturday, I will announce which book won. Then the last Saturday of the month, I'll post my review.

Fun, right?!?


***

Well, the votes have been counted and the winner, by an overwhelming margin, is...


The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #2)The Evolution of Mara Dyer
Mara Dyer #2

Synopsis
The truth about Mara Dyer's dangerous and mysterious abilities continues to unravel in the New York Times bestselling sequel to the thrilling The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past. She can't. She used to think her problems were all in her head. They aren't. She couldn't imagine that after everything she's been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets. She's wrong. In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?




Don't worry if this wasn't your pick. I'll be reading the others at some point this year. ;)


Thanks so much for voting!!


Friday, January 13, 2017

Review ~ Something More Than This ~ Barbie Bohrman

Something More Than ThisSomething More Than This by Barbie Bohrman
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 4 Bookworms
Challenges: #2016NewRelease
Goodreads

Synopsis
Katy Lewis has it all: a sports reporting job she loves, a great roommate, and two brothers who, while nosy, always have her back. But when Conner Roberts, Katy's unrequited first crush, suddenly shows up--and shows interest--after nine years, she reverts to a sweaty, panicked sixteen-year-old once more.

And if trying to read Conner's signals isn't tough enough, Katy's heart is sending some mixed messages of its own. When a beautiful blonde coworker starts pursuing Katy's boss, Dylan Sterling--her longtime mentor and friend--she realizes she may have a problem with that. A reunion with Conner is what she's dreamed of for so long...so why can't she stop thinking about Dylan?

For the first time ever, Katy must fact-check her heart. Should she go after the guy she thought she always wanted or see if there's something more with the one who's been there all along?




Something More Than This was a nice diversion and a quick read. This served as my introduction to Bohrman's writing and I enjoyed it. The story was a little predictable, and was short, but it was fun.

What Worked:

  • The premise. I enjoyed how Bohrman designed events to make Katy's worlds collide - past and present love possibilities.
  • Tough, tenacious heroine. Katie went for it - usually full-tilt - when she wanted something and she had the passion to stick it out in a male-dominated career.
  • Friends-to-lovers trope. 
  • Predictability. Sometimes it's nice to read a story having a pretty good idea where it's going.
  • Format. I liked how we got a few chapters set in the past to set up for Katy's backstory.
  • Large cast of characters. I enjoyed all the characters and the roles they filled.
What Didn't Work:
  • Large cast. The story was a quick read. Had it been longer, the characters could have been more complex, giving the story more depth.
  • Predictable elements. Some things that seemed designed to pull at a particular emotion, or were used in character building, felt contrived.
Overall, I liked Katy's story and I look forward to checking out more from Bohrman.





Thursday, January 12, 2017

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway ~ Volley Balls ~ Tara Lain (@taralain, @VivianaIzzo, @dreamspinners)


Volley Balls  (Balls to the Wall #1)Volley Balls by Tara Lain
Balls to the Wall #1
Release Date: January 11, 2017
Genre: Adult, M/M Contemporary Romance
Source: I received a complimentary copy as part of the blog tour. I voluntarily reviewed it.
Rating: 3.5 Bookworms
Challenges: #2017NewRelease
Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ B&N 

Synopsis
A double dose of alpha male might be better than one.

Despite just getting out of an abusive relationship with an asshole alpha, David Underwood's wandering glance lands on two hot members of the Australian volleyball team on Laguna Beach and gets him harassed again. Still, when the delicious Gareth Marshall proves his interest by coming out to his team, David succumbs to his attraction. But Gareth's volleyball partner, Edge, who's equally hot, makes the lovers' lives miserable.

For Gareth, a lifetime of hiding his orientation--and his attraction--from his best friend, Edge, as well as everyone else around him, adds up to hurt and frustration. David's the first man to ever compete with Edge for Gareth's passion. But Edge has secrets of his own, and David's ex-lover will never be happy without David under his fist. With everything stacked against him, can a gay Laguna man find happiness with an alpha male--or two?






Although I had a few reservations, I quite enjoyed this first book in the Balls to the Wall series. Not only did I get to meet new characters to fall for, Lain also took on the topic prejudice.

When we first meet David, he's being yelled out, taunted with slurs, by one of two hot volleyball players. It shakes him up, of course. It turns out David is a successful guy, owning his own art gallery. But he's also recently out of an abusive relationship and has no real interest in a new one.

Then he meets Gareth - the other half of the volleyball duo he was ogling...the one not yelling slurs. Gareth's been raised in a country and in an environment that ridicules gays. Which is problematic since he is gay.

Edge, Gareth's volleyball partner, is one of the worst offenders in the bigotry department. He and Gareth have been best mates since they were young. And his attitude and behavior are really upsetting since Gareth wants to come out and is attracted to Edge.

All the characters were engaging and I liked the story. I liked watching David help Gareth deal with the fallout over revealing his sexual orientation. I enjoyed seeing how attentive and serious Gareth was over David. Edge had to grow on me but I could see what he was hiding from everyone, including himself. However, I didn't feel like there was enough time spent with the characters, seeing all the dynamics, the relationship(s) grow, so that kept me from forming the deep connection with them that I would have liked. Also, the chain reaction of events that happened once David and Gareth became a couple occurred really fast. Not that I didn't feel the connection between them - it was just lightning quick. I had to wonder at the reality of it all - whether or not Gareth would have come out so quickly or whether David would enter into any sort of relationship with someone who'd harassed him after what he'd suffered with his ex.

Overall though, I enjoyed the story and am eager to continue the series. Lain's writing makes for easy reading and I always like her take on topics such as prejudice. I hope to not only get to know side characters better but continue getting to know David, Gareth, and Edge as well.





Rafflecopter Giveaway



Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her best­selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. She lives with her soul­mate husband and her soul­mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”







Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Review ~ Jagged ~ Kristen Ashley

Jagged (Colorado Mountain, #5)Jagged by Kristen Ashley
Colorado Mountain Series #5
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased in Paperback
Rating: 5 Bookworms
Challenges: #ShelfLove
Goodreads ~ Amazon

Synopsis
An old flame rekindled...

Zara Cinders always knew Ham Reece was the one, but he wasn't interested in settling down. When she found someone who was, Ham walked out of her life. Three years later, Zara's lost her business, her marriage, and she's barely getting by in a tiny apartment on the wrong side of the tracks. As soon as Ham hears Zara's plight, he's on her doorstep offering her a lifeline. Now, it will take every ounce of will power she possesses to resist all that he offers.

Ham was always a traveling man, never one to settle down in one town, with one woman, for more time that absolutely necessary. But Ham's faced his own demons, and he's learned a lot. About himself, and about the life he knows he's meant to live. So when he hears that Zara's having a rough time, he wants to be the one to help. In fact, he wants to do more than that for Zara. A lot more. But first, he must prove to Zara that he's a changed man.




Kristen Ashley never disappoints and even though Jagged was slightly different from its predecessors in the series - the suspense element was muted - it was every bit the fantastic read I expected.

Graham "Ham" Reece was introduced in For You, the first book in KA's The 'Burg series. After what he experiences in that book, he takes a long, hard look at this life and realizes he made a mistake. He let his one get away. And knowing what he knows about Zara, he sets about getting her back into his life.

Zara hasn't had the easiest life but she's definitely made lemonade out of the lemons. Having Ham in her life was always the sweet - until she had to let him go. When her life has once again gone off path, she's surprised to find him back in town - to say. But for how long?

These two - oh my goodness! They're something. They're both stubborn and hard-headed. And they know when to fight for something. Luckily, they determined they needed to fight for one another. Being witness to all the layers peeling back, vulnerabilities exposed, pasts laid bare - it was a wonder these two were as well-adjusted as they were. It also made the dance between them all the more special.

I've mentioned before (just a time or two! ;) that one of the things that makes KA so amazing is her cast of characters. This series revolves around three little mountain towns and the people that inhabit them. It's always a treat to spend time with them, see what they're up to...they my people.

One final thing - I adore that KA used jagged to describe Ham's voice. It'd never used the word in this context but it was perfect. As was Ham and Zara's story. Now always pretty but perfect...for them.



Monday, January 9, 2017

Review ~ Filthy Rich ~ Raine Miller

Filthy Rich (Blackstone Dynasty, #1)Filthy Rich by Raine Miller
Blackstone Dynasty #1
Release Date: November 15, 2016
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 3 Bookworms
Challenges: #2016NewRelease, #COYER
Goodreads ~ Amazon

Synopsis
Billionaire Caleb Blackstone lives in the glamorous world of wealth and success, with every material luxury. But the moment he sees Brooke Casterly, none of that matters. Caleb is filled with a raw, undeniable need that he can't ignore...for a girl who is so completely different from everything and everyone he's ever known.

Only Brooke isn't looking for love. She knows all too well just how much damage the wrong guy can do. Still, what same, broke British girl can resist the charms of an incredibly sexy, chivalrous billionaire? What starts as flirtation quickly turns into all-consuming passion. Nothing could have prepared her for the searing heat of Caleb's touch--or just how much she craves him.

Their whirlwind romance is the stuff of high-society fantasy--but for every moment of pleasure, there is a cost. Past mistakes and tragedy shadow them both...and falling for him might be the kind of trouble she can't afford.



Having adored the Blackstone Affair series, I was quick to request Filthy Rich when I saw it offered on Netgalley. While I liked the story overall, it didn't pack quite the punch I was expecting.

What Worked:
  • Caleb Blackstone. He was self-assured and handsome, so I loved his becoming tongue-tied when first meeting Brooke.
  • Brooke Casterly. She was, for the most part, feisty, lovely, a loyal friend and granddaughter.
  • Big Cast. I quite enjoyed meeting the characters I assume will inhabit the series and I'm eager for more of Caleb's siblings.
  • The Mystery. There was a lot of the plot that was predictable but there was this one thing...I didn't see it coming.
What Could Have Worked Better:
  • The plot. As I said, there was quite a bit that was predictable. There was also an insta-love element and although they built on the relationship, it all happened rather quickly.
  • Brooke's past. I suppose this falls into the plot category but I just felt her past could have had a bigger impact. I didn't really feel, under the circumstances, that it made the difference it was meant to.
Overall, I liked Caleb and Brooke's story. There were things that could have made the story more powerful if they'd been executed differently and it was disappointing to be left wanting when Miller is a favorite author of mine. But I liked it enough to continue the series.