Friday, June 30, 2017

seriously romantic: falling for forever by melissa chambers

we met jenna in the summer before forever, she's chloe's best friend with an outsize personality and a heart of gold. she's a bit of a star, having placed 8th in a talent show competition, and plans to head off to l.a. and take the world by storm. but she's made a deal with her dad, that she'll stay for senior year if he can get her into a local magnet school for artists and performers. she's convinced it won't happen. but then it does.

miles cleveland hates her. she stole his spot in the talent competition. and she's just one of those pop princess types that are too thin and too pretty and stomp on guys like him. she's already stomped on him once, who's to say she won't do it again. except jenna isn't mean-spirited. she's unfailingly friendly and her sunny, open nature is actually the real deal. and when she does realize who he is, and why he has every right to hate her. she's genuinely sorry.

the thing is there is this crazy talent competition at their school. and the winner gets a $50,000 prize. both jenna and miles need that money. they have plans. dreams for the future. and in falling for forever, the problem is that even though they are at odds with each other, being together makes sense.

for one thing, when they kiss it's like they can't stop kissing. it's intense and romantic and crazy. and they argue about music all the time, but they also complement each other perfectly. they both are so gifted musically in different ways, and they both have a real shot at winning the competition. and they both want it so badly.

i loved the way music and performance played such an important role in jenna and miles' story. and even though they spend a lot of the time in conflict with one another, the fact that their love is strong enough, maybe even stronger because of it makes all the arguing worthwhile.

i also really loved all the friendships in this novel. it's not just one particular grouping of characters that works, it's the whole group. they fight and make up and get angry and still support each other, love each other every step of the way. having friends you can be real with is a gift, i have friends like that, and i know it is a gift. so it's nice to see friendship like that in fiction.

**falling for forever will publish july 3, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (entangled teen) in exchange for my honest review.

seriously romantic: the summer before forever by melissa chambers

landon and chloe are perfect for each other. except the whole future step-sibling thing is weird. and chloe''s got hang-ups. so does landon. but it's summer, the summer before forever. and their parents aren't married yet. and maybe it's time they just enjoyed things without worrying so much about the consequences.

this young adult romance is so sweet. not overly so, as it's dealing with some real issues. chloe was nearly raped by her long time crush last semester and her strained relationship with her father isn't helped by his inability to communicate. then there's landon who is dealing with a severe learning disability, dyscalculia, which is an inability to process numbers or number patterns. he's trying to pass a remedial math course to finalize his high school graduation. a test he needs to pass in order to assure his scholarship to college, even though he's going on a wrestling program that he actually isn't interested in. his first love is football, but he thinks the accommodations they make for him in his small private school won't fly when he's at a division I program. the kicker being that he is actually good enough to go to a division I school.

landon makes chloe feel safe and respected. he makes her feel good about herself. and since so many of her issues stem from lack of confidence, being with him emboldens her in a way that allows her to grow as a person. with landon chloe is her best self.

and landon is so dreamy. he is struggling with his future, because he is afraid to go after what he really wants. and he also really wants to make chloe's dreams come true. so much so that when he puts her ahead of everything, they need to take a moment to breathe. it hurts him that it comes at a time when he wants to be there for her. she's dealing with the fall out from her assault and she's pulled away from him for valid reasons.

but as they figure things out, and figure out whether or not what they have is strong enough to last beyond summer. and beyond her dad marrying his mom, because it's a little bit weird and awkward. and also special and sweet and real. and maybe the combination of everything sounds crazy, but it's also what works for them.

**the summer before forever published on august 22, 2016. i received a digital copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (entangled teen) in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

slightly silly: the originals, season 4

you guys, my shipper heart can't take the heartbreak.

i mean, i get why hayley and elijah probably shouldn't be together. (let's not even try to calculate the age difference) and i actually enjoy the originals for more than hayley and elijah. and this season, this show has been so good. the little girl they have playing hope mikaelson is fantastic. but beyond that, this season all these monsters, not just the mikaelsons, but the witches and marcel and his crew,  have come together and faced their demons and really searched for redemption.

facing the hollow, the biggest bad of them all, there's no quarter. things go from bad, to worse, to the worst in the blink of an eye, or snap of a finger. and there's nothing else to be done.

for a family that has vowed always and forever, a family that have lived and fought and loved for 1000 years, to end up where they do it's devastating. i mean, sure some of them get happy ever afters, i'm glad for rebekah and marcel, davina and kol, and freya and keelin. but the heart and soul of this show is the love of two brothers, klaus and elijah. everything revolves around them. and sure they've been monsters for 1000 years, but we love them regardless. i love them regardless. and it can't end this way. it just can't.

so i'm so happy that there is a season 5. because their story could not end here. and there has to be a way to get the gang back together. it's the only way i can be okay with that finale.

seriously romantic: coming up for air by miranda kenneally

this is the perfect young adult contemporary to read by the pool, especially given that levi and maggie basically spend all their time at the pool. they've been swimming together for ages and have been best friends forever. and they also happen to be two elite competitive swimmers vying for spots on the us national olympic team. levi has his tryout all sewn up, but maggie is still competing for hers, so the last thing she needs are any distractions.

but when a college visit highlights how much she's been missing on a social level, she realizes that she needs to use her senior year to prepare. here's the thing: when it comes to kissing, levi is kind of an expert. and she already spends so much time with him anyway, so what could go wrong?

the problem is, so many things go right when she and levi start kissing. every time they touch it's like sparks fly and they were meant to be in each other's arms. but with all the kissing, comes feelings. and suddenly levi and maggie aren't communicating the way they used to. and this newfound awkwardness between them is distracting maggie like crazy when it comes to the pool. especially when it seems like she isn't going to qualify in her signature stroke.

the stakes are actually pretty high for both maggie and levi. getting their relationship on track and their heads in the water is super important. but this is what makes them so relatable. it doesn't matter how gifted or talented you are, you always have the capacity to indulge in romantic drama. setting it right is a little more challenging, but it's really fun to read coming up for air, while maggie and levi figure it all out. or at least figure most of it out. they're teenagers after all.

**coming up for air will publish on july 4, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/sourcebooks fire in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

seriously romantic: falling for trouble by sarah title

the librarians in love series continues with falling for trouble. the nice thing about this series is that the theme of librarians is what links the books, but they are total standalones, as this book has a completely different setting and set of characters from the first book in the series. this is totally fine with me, but if you like linked series, it might be a let down.

joanna green returns home after a meltdown of rockstar proportions. it's on youtube, y'all. meanwhile, liam byrd is the sexy new librarian in town and happens to be a music fan. the thing is, liam likes small town life in halkarnassus, new york. even the petty battles with the sports-obsessed mayor don't affect his feelings for the place. he loves his job. he loves his life. and when he meets joanna he realizes he can love this girl. except all she wants to do is leave.

since she was left behind by her parents and raised by her beloved grandmother, joanna has been searching for something else. some sort of acceptance and peace. she's always felt that there was no one in halkarnassus that could appreciate her for who she truly was.

but being back home makes her realize that maybe she was too quick to lash out instead of giving people a chance. maybe as much as she thought people were out to get her, she was the one who struck first. and what she saw as attacks we're actually retaliations. looking at your past through the lens of another is always a challenge, but it can be eye-opening. all these feelings that being back home bring up in joanna are confusing enough, but when added to her insane attraction to liam she doesn't quite know what to do.

he knows she is a flight risk. her dreams have always been bigger than halkarnassus. but dreams change. and it's possible with her new perspective things are different. but they have to talk it all out. because liam and joanna fall into a relationship without talking. and the only way to really know where you are ending up is if you make a proper decision. so both of them need to take a chance on each other. it really might be worth it. love always is after all.

**falling for trouble will publish on june 27, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (zebra shout) in exchange for my honest review.

seriously romantic: along came us by nicole mclaughlin

lia hanson has a plan. finish up her studies. quit her terrible job. get a good job she can be proud of. one good enough that will allow her to quit her second decent job. all while supporting her infirm mother and her teenage brother. along came us opens when her brother gets involved in a series of fights she realizes that maybe she doesn't have things as in control as she thought.

first she discovers that he's been taking lessons on how to defend himself at a local mma gym. she's definitely not pleased when she meets tyler cavallo and learns of past involvement with gangs in la and the military. but he has a connection with her brother she can't deny. and she is attracted to him in a way she can't deny either.

tyler is so interested in lia. and the fact that she wants nothing to do with him kills him. and with her brother putting him in the middle of things his loyalty and ability to keep promises are in question. because he hates lying to lia. she barely trusts him as it is, and all he wants is her trust.

there's a push and pull between them throughout the book that works because they are so good at talking about their problems. they still fight and get their wires crossed. but nothing ever feels insurmountable, you have faith that they'll figure it out. that what they feel for each other is love. and that love is strong enough to withstand all the hurt and pain they cause one another without meaning to. because their biggest problem is trust. lia has been hurt so badly before. her father, her stepfather, previous boyfriends, not one of them have stepped up and treated her the way a woman should be treated. and so with tyler everything feels too good to be true. and when he doesn't act or react the way she wants him to, it's painful. but the truth is, he's human. he's entitled to feel conflicted and angry. he's hurt by her lack of confidence in him more than anything else.

but once they really decide to go for it. to trust each other. to trust in their love. what they get is something wonderful. something that might not have been planned for, but is exactly what lia needs in order to achieve happiness.

**along came us will publish on june 27, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press (swerve) in exchange for my honest review.

seriously romantic: the highland commander by amy jarecki

it's interesting to read about the characters in the highland commander, because it is not often that your heroes are on the wrong side of history. in the early eighteenth century england and scotland are still at odds. and the jacobites believe that the rightful heir to the throne of england is the roman catholic stuart exiled to france.

many a scotsman are jacobites, and aiden murray, the second son of the duke of atholl is one of them. he serves as a lieutenant, and then as a commander in the royal scottish navy. and while he's not in a position to publicize his political leanings, he does hold true to them. lady magdalen keith is the illegitimate daughter of the earl of keith who has been imprisoned for being a jacobite sympathizer and for treasonous actions against the queen.

meeting in london for the second time—their first meeting was an interlude at a masquerade where they both succumb to an undeniable attraction—aiden puts aside his plans to debauch himself during his leave and instead sets about helping maddie as best he can.

but the politics at court are tenuous and maddie is in some terrible danger. aiden has to put himself at incredible political risk in order to save her, and even then there is no certainty that either of them will make it out alive. what they endure, they endure because they are together, because they have the promise of being together to hold them up. believing in one another is the only thing they can trust, because god and country are against them.

aiden and maddie are each other's first loves. they are truly each other's one and onlys. in some ways their relative naïveté works, because the odds are so squarely stacked against them that only youth and relative unworldliness would let them believe that they could survive this. there's a lot of political thriller in this romance novel. i am not as familiar with the time period as i am with the regency or victorian era so i had to refresh my memory with some wikipedia deep dives. it's interesting, and i'm always up for shaking up my historical time periods ever so often, it's a nice switch from the nineteenth century that i'm used to.

**the highland commander will publish on june 27, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/grand central publishing (forever) in exchange for my honest review.

simply all about the highland commander


Author: Amy Jarecki
Series: Lords of the Highlands, #2
On Sale: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Mass Market: $7.99 USD
eBook: $3.99 USD
Audio: $22.98 USD
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She cannot resist the man behind the mask...

As the illegitimate daughter of a Scottish earl, Lady Magdalen Keith is not one to partake in lavish balls or other frivolities. Yet at her father's urging, she agrees to dance with the battle-weary officers at this year's holiday masquerade. It's practically her civic duty! But when one such officer—whose dashing good looks cannot be disguised by a mere mask—sweeps her off her feet and into his arms, the innocent lass can't help herself. Her lips are his for the taking.

But will he betray his country for a kiss?

Navy lieutenant Aiden Murray has spent too many months at sea to be immune to the charms of this lovely beauty. Even after he returns to his ship, she lives in his dreams. But when he discovers Maddie's true identity—and learns that her father is accused of treason—will the brawny Scot risk his life to follow his heart?



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As in the Highland custom, Aiden wore the plaid belted at his waist, the length pulled from the lower right opening of his doublet, around his back and pinned at his left shoulder with a silver brooch bearing the Atholl arms. The valet had put forth a good effort ensuring there was neither wrinkle nor hair out of place.

He regarded himself in the looking glass above the mantle in the drawing room, sliding one foot forward as he would do for a portrait. Not liking the image, he puffed out his chest and moved a hand to his lapel.

God’s bones, take me to sea where I can cast aside these frills.

Tuning his back to the looking glass, Aiden resorted to pacing and pulling out his pocket watch. The coach would arrive in five minutes, and Maddie hadn’t yet made an appearance.
At least a light glowed from beneath her door indicating she was within. It cast a hazy glow in the otherwise dark passageway. After pacing around the chamber half-dozen times, he again eyed his timepiece. Another minute had passed. Perhaps he should knock on the door—perhaps Maddie’s mantle clock had stopped and she was unaware of the time. Just as he started off, her door opened. A burst of light flooded the passageway, and with the tap of dainty footsteps, an angel emerged.

Aiden knew she’d purchased a new gown, but he hadn’t expected this. His mouth went dry and he suddenly needed to take in two stuttered breaths to steady the thumping of his heart.

Christ, men aren’t supposed to experience such heart hammering. Especially men bred for the sea. Damnation.

She smiled, and his goddamned knees wobbled. He should have taken a healthy tot whilst he was pacing in the drawing room.

Her golden gown rustled as she walked forward, with a matching fan in her hand. She moved the fan to her waist…just below her breasts. Creamy skin Aiden knew to be softer than spun silk swelled above a dangerously plunging neckline. His mouth went completely dry. If Maddie’s serving maid had been anywhere but behind her lady, Aiden would have taken the lassie into his arms, pushed through his bedchamber door and damned the recital.

“I hope I haven’t made us late.” Maddie batted her eyelashes as if she had no idea of the effect she had on his aching cods. “Miss Agnes spent ever so long curling my hair.”

Aiden’s tongue slipped over his bottom lip. “Your curls are exquisite. You are exquisite, m’lady.”

Agnes cleared her throat, coming up behind with a cloak over her arm. “You’d best say so, m’lord. It took the greater part of the afternoon to make those ringlets.”

Nay, there’d be no slipping into the bedchamber for a hasty sampling of those pearl-tipped bosoms.
Aiden glanced to his pocket watch—they still had a few minutes—and now that he knew Maddie was ready, there’d be no harm in making the coach wait for a minute or two. “Fine job, Miss Agnes,” he said with more sobriety than he felt. “I think you deserve a healthy tot of fine spirit for taking such fine care of her ladyship.”

“Have we time?” asked Maddie.

Aiden led them into the drawing room and gestured to the settee. “A stolen moment will not set us behind overmuch.”

Agnes gave a firm shake of her head. “You needn’t make a fuss for the likes of me.”

“It is no fuss. You take good care of your lady, and for that I want to thank you.” Aiden poured three tots of sherry and offered each of the ladies a glass. “Shall we drink to Miss Agnes?”

Blinking, the woman drew a hand over her mouth, dipping her head and smiling broadly. “Heavens.”

“Aye, we should.” Maddie patted her chambermaid’s knee and raised her glass. “To the woman who has seen me through one and twenty years of happiness. I have no idea what would have become of me if you hadn’t been by my side. Sometimes I’ve felt as if you’re the only person in all of Christendom who cares.”

Aiden’s gut twisted. He cared a great deal, but it was inconceivable that Maddie had been made to feel like an outcast from such a young age. He drank thoughtfully, watching the two women as they sipped. Even their mannerisms had become similar. “Miss Agnes, how long have you been serving Lady Magdalen?”

The woman’s eyes glistened with pride. “Since the day she was born. The moment I held her in my arms I knew my purpose.”

Aiden glanced to Maddie and knitted his brows. “Did your mother pass in childbirth?”

Shaking her head, the lass bit her bottom lip. “Nay. My mother knew I would have a better life if she gave me to my father. Only…” Maddie looked away, and took another sip.


“The one caveat was that she could never set eyes on me again.”

Grumbling under her breath, Agnes guzzled the remainder of her sherry. “We shan’t discuss the countess any longer. It sets both of our hackles to standing on end.”

“Agreed.” Aiden set his glass on the mantel and offered Maddie his hand. “Shall we be off, m’lady? We do not want to miss the opening. I hear it will be most spectacular.”

Maddie tapped the chambermaid’s shoulder before they strolled toward the door. “I want you to take some time for yourself this night. Do something that w
ill make you happy. You have nothing to worry about, my pet. I’ll be in Lord Aiden’s capable hands.”



Series Page on Goodreads


Amy Jarecki is a descendant of an ancient Lowland clan and adores Scotland. Though she now resides in southwest Utah, she received her MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Winning multiple writing awards, she found her niche in the genre of Scottish historical romance. Amy writes steamy edge-of-your-seat action adventures with rugged men and fascinating women who weave their paths through the brutal eras of centuries past.

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seriously romantic: make me stay by sidney halston

the panic series continues with make me stay, and we spend some time with mateo moreno before his father's bust and afterwards. and the woman who is mixed up in all of it, june simpson aka april white.

she was undercover and she shouldn't have let things get as far as they did. she had a job to do. but she fell in love with matt. and her disappearance devastated him. he was so lost and hurt without her that drugs and drinking and basic debauchery became his life. his brother was so determined to build their nightclub back up without his input. and there was nothing left for him. june was gone.

and then he saw her. she looked different, but he knew it was her. in his bones he knew. and when she finally clued him in on what was happening, the betrayal he felt goes beyond words. but then she is injured while off duty, but because of her job. and she remembers nothing, but matt is familiar. at least, he seems to know more about her than anyone else does. because even though she met him while undercover, what she shared with him was real. she was her truest self with him. even trusting him enough to share the truth about her battle with krohn's disease.

a fact that helps save her during her hospital stay. matt is conflicted. he doesn't know april. and yet, he does. he still feels something for her no matter what her name. but is it anger? love? passion? it doesn't matter because it's something. it's better than the numbness and pain he felt after june left his life. and maybe it's worth exploring to see if the good outweighs the bad.

matt and april have so much baggage between them, that it's not a straightforward path to a happy ending. they have anger and resentment and hurt and lies a plenty. but there is also love and connection. and there is something they can build up. they just both have to want it. they have to give each other a reason to want it.

**make me stay will publish on june 27, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/random house publishing group (loveswept) in exchange for my honest review.

seriously romantic: duke with benefits by manda collins

book 2 in the studies in scandal series, duke with benefits, sees dalton beauchamp, the duke of maitland, connect with lady daphne forsyth beyond her mathematical skills. though not known for her social graces, in fact she has none, lady daphne isn't uncaring or unkind. she is abrupt and suffers no fools, and in polite society, this behavior, especially given her status as an unmarried woman is quite beyond the pale.

she is attracted to the duke and tried unsuccessfully to proposition him. she has no interest in marriage or being any man's property. three months later she is actively trying to ignore him, even as he is regretting having rejected her advances. he is fascinated by her—her brilliant mind, her adorable confusion when dealing with people, her beauty that he finds so alluring. but when the reason she inherited a portion of lady celeste beauchamp's estate comes to light and a dangerous figure from lady daphne's past is murdered in the priest's hole in their library, she finds herself working closely with the duke to solve the mystery.

they are the perfect team to investigate matters, he has all the people skills. she has the smarts. they work well together. and when they are finally able to talk things through regarding the ill-fated proposition, lady daphne finds that the duke's position wasn't so far from hers after all. and seeing that she is a rational being, she finds his arguments for marriage quite compelling. and she also finds that the more time she spends with him, her worries about marriage are easily put aside. because the duke clearly values lady daphne for her brilliant mind. he would never use her to his advantage, but he also appreciates her talents for what they are and wouldn't stop her from her brain for any reason.

for the time period, dalton's views are definitely progressive. even nowadays having someone value a woman's contributions to math or science can be a hard-fought battle.we've come far, but still have so much farther to go.

**duke with benefits will publish on june 27, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press in exchange for my honest review.

strictly literary: badlands by melissa lenhardt

the third and final book of the sawbones trilogy brings laura and kindle's story to a close. these two are the ultimate survivors. it's like they literally reach the depths of hell and crawl their way back.

at some point, you think, what else could possibly go wrong for them? and somehow lenhardt finds ways to surprise you on how badly things go sideways. but then as we barrel toward the conclusion of the saga, things start to come full circle. i'm not interested in spoiling the end for anyone, because i think that if you've stuck it out this far, you deserve to experience the story firsthand. so i'm just going to speak about the book in generalities.

one thing i think this is so great is that everything does tie together. we literally come back to the beginning in badlands and solve the original mystery once and for all. and how we reach that conclusion really does work for me. i love that she doesn't do it alone. because one thing i've loved about laura, even as she has frustrated me as a character, is her ability to connect with others. especially other women, and how she develops relationships that while not necessarily predicated on friendship, are at least about mutual respect. as much as catherine bennett relied only on herself, laura kindle learns that she alone can't do it all, as brilliant and as resourceful as she might be. sometimes you get by with a little help from your friends.

that's a worthy lesson. and it's nice to see laura take it to heart. when you think of everything this woman has suffered and endured, it's good to see that she comes out of it, in the end, a better, a more complete person. i didn't connect with laura until blood oath, and in badlands we finally see her reach her potential.

i think that's worth something. i'm glad i stuck with the series past sawbones, it's not really easy reading, the western frontier was not an easy place to be, especially if you were a woman. and reading about it now, and seeing the fights and the struggles that women continue to have today, you realize maybe we aren't so far off from this. and then you wonder what the heck is wrong with the world. and then you are happy that there are stories of survival like this one.

**badlands will publish on june 27, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/orbit books (redhook) in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 26, 2017

seriously romantic: a sky full of stars by samantha chase

i work in the astronomy department of an ivy league university, so i'm surrounded by super smart scientists like owen shaughnessy all the time. they are super nice and often awkward and we somehow all muddle through it together. the one thing that would make me absolutely crazy is if they for real were fans of james patterson. i've never actually read a james patterson book on purpose. i've read over other people's shoulders on the t and just that was enough of a glimpse into the fact that he is a terrible writer that i have never felt the impulse to read his books. so i know that this is a ridiculous quibble, but i just couldn't believe that owen would be excited to read patterson. like why not george r. r. martin? at least you get the nerd cred there. i know his prose can veer into purple fairly quickly, but i don't know. i respect martin more than i do patterson i guess.

anyway, owen is our totally social awkward hero. but he's such a sweetheart. he overthinks everything, but he also has the most giving heart. so in a sky full of stars, when he meets brooke matthews and is thrown for a loop he has no idea what to do. his instincts are telling him to run away. but there is a pull and connection between them that he can't ignore.

and then they go on the most epic of dates. a random encounter at a diner turns into a week of being together. and even though there are some communication issues, and family issues, and misunderstandings between them, you never doubt that these two crazy kids belong together. it makes sense that the smartest and quietest of the shaughnessy brothers would end up falling head over heels and settle down with the girl of his dreams in an instant. (not that i've read the other books in this series, but you get a sense of the brothers from this one, and even so it totally stands on its own.)

**a sky full of stars published on june 6, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/sourcebooks casablanca in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

seriously romantic: alex, approximately by jenn bennett

described as the ya version of you've got mail, alex, approximately does hit all the right beats in this young adult contemporary. bailey has recently moved to the same town as her online crush, a boy she only knows as alex. being the cautious type, she decides to track down alex without telling him that she's close by.

in the meantime, she's got a summer job at a local museum of curiosities and sparks fly with security guard, porter roth. he has the uncanny ability to get underneath her skin. yet the more time she spends with him, the more she realizes that there is a thin line between love and hate.

and as she and porter commit to a relationship, what should she do about alex? is it cheating on him? is she cheating with him? it takes a while for bailey to sort this all out. but the answers she finds are worth all the angst. this is a sweet, summertime read.

bailey and porter are delightful together and the cast of supporting characters are really quite wonderful.

seriously romantic: once and for all by sarah dessen

having grown up in the wedding business, louna is cynical when it comes to happily-ever-afters. it doesn't help that her first love, ethan, was totally epic in nature and ended in tragedy. it's been a year and she's only just trying to come out of her shell.

she meets ambrose at a wedding. unlike ethan, their story isn't love at first sight. she thinks he's an overgrown child playboy who cares nothing for his mother's happiness. her second impression doesn't go much better, but when her mom is strong-armed into hiring him to help out over the summer, louna is seemingly stuck with him. 

the thing about ambrose is that he is 100% annoying and knows it, but he's also so damned good-natured and sweet and you can't help but love him. he's a total disaster. but he's also a dreamboat. he seems shallow and not all there, but he has hidden depths and is more observant that you'd give him credit for. it takes a while for louna to see all this because she is so intent on disliking him for everything he stands for. 

one of the more interesting things about the way once and for all is structured is that we are given louna and ethan's story in flashbacks. their story is beautiful and conflict-free and yet i so much preferred louna and ambrose together. one thing louna makes clear is that what we are witnessing are her memories of that magical night she and ethan spent together. they didn't have time for conflict, and it's easy to brush over the moments that were less than perfect given the circumstances. 

and yet, as you contrast all of ethan's perfections versus ambrose's imperfections, i just found ambrose that much easier to love. he's not perfect. he's actually a bit of a disaster. but he means well. he cares more deeply than he lets on. and he's one hundred percent got a thing for louna. 

there sweet and bittersweet, loss and love, hurt and healing in this book. you get glimpses of characters we've met before in colby and lakeview. i love that dessen's characters all inhabit the same world. it's reassuring that they keep on living and breathing well after their story has been told.

**once and for all published on june 6, 2017. i received a free sampler of the first 3 chapters courtesy of netgalley/penguin group (viking group for young readers) in exchange for my honest review. i was always going to read this book, so i read the remaining chapters on my own dime. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

seriously romantic: pull me close by sidney halston

in pull me close, when katherine tries to attend her sister's engagement party at nico's nightclub panic, she actually has a panic attack. unfortunately, nico thinks she's having some sort of overdose. given the way things have been falling apart at panic since his father was arrested for a whole host of dirty deeds, the last thing nico wants are headlines about anyone od'ing.

the thing is, katherine isn't od'ing. she's having a panic attack. a survivor of the september 11th attacks, she suffers from anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, and severe claustrophobia. the truth is that over time, her anxiety has gotten worse and her life is mostly confined to her apartment.

meeting nico serves as a catalyst for change. he's interested in her, in spite of all her crazy, and god help her, she is interested in him. but in order for them to work, she has to try to get some of her anxieties under control. she will never be rid of them, but she needs to find a way to live with them in a way that doesn't require her to be a hermit.

there's a push and pull between them. nico wants more than katherine can give at times. but she also needs to be pushed because so many of her fears are predicated on irrational thoughts. and when nico experiences a traumatic event of his own, he understands katherine's anxieties more fully.

and they both realize that life is too fragile to waste on petty differences. their love is real. and that's something worth holding on to. no matter the challenges. for an "issues" book, this was entertaining and sweet and sexy. what nico and katherine experience in the novel is really something incredible. and their emotional and psychological traumas are hard won, but hopefully worth it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

seriously romantic: storming the castle by arianna hart

in this contemporary romance, musician sam castleton finds love in the hills of georgia with faith evans, the owner of a small bed & breakfast/hunting lodge. he's got a serious case of writer's block and a record due, and on top of that his last tour has left him so empty and overwhelmed that he's resorted to drinking to excess. 

renting out the entire lodge to secure his privacy and find a way to get himself back on track, the last thing sam expects is to connect with faith. she's a single mom who has no idea who he is. she couldn't be further from his rock-and-roll lifestyle if she tried. and yet, maybe someone who has no expectations from him is exactly who he needs. 

the fact that he is attracted to her doesn't hurt either. and the fact that she inspires him. well, that's even better. even if the music is a departure from his angry, anti-authoritarian rock anthems. what makes sam and faith such a great couple in storming the castle, is that they bring out the best in each other even as they learn that they are more than what they thought they could be. when they are together they really are their best selves.

i also loved that there was no huge drama or crazy separation where they had to beg each other for forgiveness. they had a little fight, stewed about it for about half a day and then had a rational adult conversation. i love it when the couples in romance novels behave like rational adults. too often they suddenly become soap opera caricatures to create drama and i find that so unnecessary. 

but that is not the case here. it's a sweet, enjoyable romance. the perfect thing to read on a lazy summer afternoon. 

**storming the castle will publish on june 26, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (select contemporary) in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

seriously romantic: dirty little secrets by a.j. nuest

this is the second book in the a likely story series, but having not read the first one i can assure you that it stands alone. however, there are events that happen in this book that are influenced by things that happen in the first book, and some things in dirty little secrets might be a spoiler for the first book if you haven't read it at all. so if that bothers you, read them in order.

xander dade has been in love with charlie mcgovern since he was a skinny tech-savant kid out on the streets. they were a team. she took care of him, protected him, comforted him. but when she was forced to leave their benefactor's care he felt incredibly guilty and stayed away because he was so sure he'd done her wrong.

charlie was always a master thief. so when she steals a chemical formula from an evil pharmaceutical mastermind that the government is watching things go south pretty quickly. when xander shows up on her doorstep out of the blue, ten years after she last saw him, she's thrilled, but also she wants to keep him out of her problems.

she's also kind of overwhelmed because the awkward teenager she remembers is a hunk of a man. and she's a fat blonde to most people. xander thinks she is gorgeous. and his opinion is really all that matters. these two are in their heads a lot of the time, xander stepping in it because he has no idea that charlie doesn't immediately know where his mind is at. he's loved her always, he'll love her always. that's clear to him from the start. how he makes it clear to her is another matter.

for a time i was worried that there was going to be a lot of outside meddling and advising, something i really detest in romance novel series is when there are know-it-all characters. but it helps that while this person is right, to a point, she isn't fully right. and xander is able to figure stuff out on his own. i like relationships without a sideline coaching section, and xander and charlie have all the love, they just need to figure out the trust in it bit.

**dirty little secrets will publish on june 27, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (lyrical underground) in exchange for my honest review.

something from the archives: say goodbye - part 25

catch up with parts 1234567891011121314151617181920212223, and 24. part 25 continues after the break.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

slightly silly: unbreakable kimmy schmidt, season 3

this show, you guys, is totally insane.

the characters are actual cartoon characters. and they get so many things wrong about race and cultural appropriation. and yet the aura of absurdity that surrounds everyone inhabiting kimmy's corner of new york somehow lets you move on, even if you do not fully forgive the show for its faults.

this latest season starts out and everyone is off the rails in separate storylines, but over the course of the season things start to converge and the one thing i have to admit about this show is that all the actors have fantastic chemistry. it honestly seems like they are having an absolute ball filming this thing.

from titus's epic lemonade homage:

to jacqueline's successfully advocating for a name change to the washington redskin's football team. while lillian boycotts a new grocery store and falls in love with the owner. 

to kimmy not getting a divorce, getting into columbia, flunking out of columbia, losing her dream of being a crossing guard because she's married to a registered sex offender to finding her dream job. 

every moment, every crazy inside joke, finds a way to make complete sense by the end. but when you are watching it the only thing you can think is that these people be crazy. ah well. at least it makes for great background watching while i'm working on other things.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

seriously romantic: at his mercy by shelly bell

at his mercy kicks off a new series by shelly bell, all about forbidden lovers. this first novel brings us isabella, a gorgeous grad student with submissive leanings and her dominant grad school professor, tristan.

isabella brings a lot of baggage to intimate relationships, she's got a crazy stalker, abusive ex-boyfriend who tried to kill her. she bears scars on her wrists that look like suicide but were not self-inflicted. it's heavy stuff. it's been two years and she's tired of everyone treating her with kid gloves. she knows that she doesn't want that. but she is also burdened with an innocence she doesn't want either. so when her cousin, who is into the bdsm lifestyle, brings her to a play party she is all in.

she's done her research, and she's pretty sure that what she needs in order to be comfortable with her sexuality is to surrender control to someone else. tristan is on his way out of town to start a new job, he's antsy but nothing interests him. except on his way out of the party he catches a glimpse of isabella and knows that she is his. everything about her drives him crazy with want, with need. and the night that they spend together stays with him even as he moves out of town.

the last thing isabella and tristan expect is to encounter one another in the classroom. even worse is the realization that isabella has been assigned to tristan as his graduate assistant. but their chemistry is crazy off the charts, so you know that there is no way they are going to keep their hands off each other. when isabella starts getting threatening letters and worries that her ex-boyfriend, who was eligible for parole, is stalking her again, tristan and isabella get even closer.

tristan has his own problems too, when his ex-wife shows up out of nowhere demanding more money. she's been threatening him with abuse charges when she decided that their previously consensual bdsm relationship wasn't for her. when she shows up dead, tristan is the prime suspect. and everything seems poised to break isabella and tristan apart.

but their connection is stronger than that. this is a romantic, sexy thriller. isabella and tristan face threats from all corners of their pasts and they have to be strong enough together to withstand them. watching them figure out how to trust each other fully is totally worth it.

**at his mercy will publish on june 20, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgally/grand central publishing (forever) in exchange for an honest review. 

simply all about at his mercy


Author: Shelly Bell
Series: Forbidden Lovers, #1
On Sale: June 20, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Trade Paperback: $14.99 USD
eBook: $4.99 USD
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“Bell opens the Forbidden Lovers series with a sexy thriller that will leave readers breathless. This novel is sultry and hot in all the right places, with just enough plot to keep the pages turning.” –Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“With a liberal dose of suspense and mega-hot sex, Bell's compelling first novel in the Forbidden Lovers series is exciting right through to the epilogue...absolutely nothing is wasted in this taut tale.” –RT Book Reviews, Top Pick Review

Angel in his arms . . . Devil at her heels

One last, no-strings night of indulgence. That's all Tristan wants before he begins a much-needed new chapter in his life. Instead he finds an innocent angel in pink who brings him to his knees.

Isabella is done hiding from the world . . . and her haunting memories. Discovering courage in the arms of a perfect stranger, she finally lets go and sheds her inhibitions.

To Isabella's shock, she soon learns that Tristan is more than her mystery man—he's her professor. But Tristan isn't the only person who's found Isabella on campus. A dark figure from her past has come back for her. Now Tristan will risk anything to protect Isabella . . . even if it costs him his life.


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“You want to know what I’m going to do to you if you consent to playing with me tonight?” His hot breath tickled the shell of her ear. “Anything I want.” He bit down on her lobe, causing a slight sting before soothing it with his tongue. “And what I want is to turn that creamy white skin of yours pink as your T-shirt. Then, when you’re wet and throbbing, and you’re out of your mind with the need to come, I’ll finger-fuck that pussy of yours until you see stars. How’s that to start? Does it meet with your approval?”

Holy hell in a handbasket.

The image sent a flash of heat to her lower belly, rocking her off her axis and causing her to wobble, her knees suddenly weak as a newborn foal’s. Between her thighs, the muscles clenched and rippled with what she swore was a mini orgasm. “Yes.” She coughed, clearing the rasp of arousal that had formed in her throat. “I can honestly say I approve wholeheartedly.”

His expression turned hungry as his eyes raked over her from head to toe. For a moment, she had the urge to flee just to see if he’d run after her. Pressing her hand to her chest, she shivered, the idea of it surprisingly arousing. What would he do to her when he caught her?

He didn’t give her the chance to find out, snatching his black duffel bag off the floor before interlacing his fingers with hers and dragging her through the throngs of people.

She couldn’t help but wonder what was in that bag of his that would turn her skin pink. “Where are you taking me?” she asked, her heart hammering wildly.

“Somewhere we can talk.”

Talking was the last thing she wanted to do. Her body was hovering on the edge of the unknown, and ready to make that giant leap. “Couldn’t we skip the talking?”

Tristan placed a hand on the base of her spine, directing her past the kitchen. Although the gesture probably meant nothing, it felt almost…territorial, as if he was staking his claim to her. “Safety first. This is your first time and you deserve the full experience. Besides, negotiating is part of the fun. Think of it as cerebral foreplay.”

He was right. She knew nothing about him other than his first name. To hand over her submission without at least having a conversation about safe words and limits would be foolish. But negotiation, fun? She could think of several other things she’d rather do with her mouth at that moment.

A sucker for a happy ending, Shelly Bell writes sensual romantic thrillers. When she's not working her day job, taking care of her family, or writing, you'll find her reading the latest romance.

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seriously romantic: warrior of fire by shona husk

this is the second book in husk's blood and silver series. leira is the younger sister of saba, who we met in lady of silver, and she's been waiting for a man on a train to come into her life and change her world. because this man is also an albah, she's avoided group meetings so as to not change the future she saw in her vision. she liked that version of the future.

but when she is forced to attend a meeting to discuss the increased threat her people are under and she sees julian ryder, she knows that everything is different now. the future she had been protecting has literally gone up in smoke, a terrifying prognostication given that she is a fire elemental and has problems controlling her power.

julian also wields fire. and he is attracted to leira from the moment they meet. he also has a girlfriend, soon-to-be-ex, who is clingy and demanding and a guardian of adam, a race of human hunters who have had it out for his kind for centuries. most paranormals or fantasies draw themes from our real world and represent them in a new light in fiction, and while this may be a romance, it does do this here, in particular with the guardians of adam and their fervor in trying to exterminate a race they view as a threat to humankind.

behavior like this is still prevalent today. and warrior of fire, does a nice job of drawing parallels without hitting you over the head with symbolism.

when leira and julian realize that the future that they wanted with one another is gone, they have to work together and see if they can change enough of their present and get it back on track. the spark between them is undeniable. and not only that, they like each other, they work well together, and who's to argue when things are meant to be. it's meant to be because it is right. i really liked their relationship and what they had to overcome to earn their hea. sometimes with stories that start with this "we are destined" for each other have me bucking at the convention, but julian and leira make sense together. they really do work. and there is enough suspense and doubt as to the outcome of their relationship that you aren't stuck on it's inevitability, even knowing this is a romance novel.

**warrior of fire will publish on june 20, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (lyrical press) in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 19, 2017

seriously romantic: talk british to me by robin bielman

mateo gallagher is not british. he is the dating guy, l.a. talk radio's hottest dj ever. in order to date and preserve his anonymity he uses a fake british accent on the air. that his job requires him to stay single and available is no hardship. that is, until he meets teague watters. and suddenly he finds that staying unattached can be a challenge when you've met the right girl.

except beyond mateo's employment contract, they have a bigger obstacle in mateo's mom, gabriella, who also happens to be teague's boss. and she does not approve of her assistant socializing with her beloved son. but it's also impossible to stop their paths from crossing given mateo's prominent role in one of the weddings gabriella is planning.

the more teague gets to know mateo, the more she realizes that there is more to him than just a pretty face. and he comes through for her in a big way when her world is rocked by a family crisis. but when he holds back, she believes it's because he doesn't think she's worth the commitment. when actually it's his job and his sudden realization that he wants her in his life full time that has him running scared. is it even possible for him to have it all?

mateo is super dreamy and teague is funny and charming and normal. these two characters are so great, and it's nice to see them work it all out in a believable, rational way. sometimes these new adult romances can go a bit over the top with the melodrama, but that isn't true in talk british to me.

**talk british to me will publish on  june 19, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (embrace) in exchange for my honest review. for more information on talk british to me read on past the jump.

strictly literary: full count by lynn stevens

another day, another sports romance, or is it? it's actually kind of hard to categorize this new adult story because while there is romance, it's not really all sunshine and rainbows. this one has a lot of dark clouds.

full count is about up-and-coming baseball star, aaron betts, a star player on the westland university baseball team who is injured in a pick up game welcoming rookies to in his junior year. aaron has a plan, and a knee injury seriously intereferes with those plans. all of a sudden he's battling academic probation, dealing with a break-up with his high school girlfriend, and facing the possibility that he won't play his junior year and will miss the draft.

to deal with the academic probation piece, aaron hires mallory fine as his history tutor. she isn't a fan of baseball players, but also seems to know an awful lot about the sport, moreso than the average fan. aaron is interested in mallory from the get-go, but she is hesitant and pulls away anything things get too serious between them.

their romance is definitely a slow burn. aaron is pretty much all-in, but it takes him a long time to win over mallory.

a third of the way through the novel though, aaron makes a morally questionable choice. and this choice drags down the story. i spent the entire rest of the book waiting for that shoe to drop and wondering how the writer was going to write herself out of this. because it's almost irredeemable. and so this was my struggle, because as a character i loved aaron. he's a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, and i just felt like he was smarter and better than the choices he makes. and he was being so extraordinarily stupid.

and after so much build up and so much stressing about that shoe dropping, when everything does blow up, there's almost not enough time to deal with the consequences. and as the book closes, it's not entirely clear where things will end up between the characters. which is fine, except this romance was already such a slow burn, to end up with only some embers that could possibly spark something or possibly die out feels like a letdown. so actually it's almost better to think of this as fiction, rather than a romance.

**full count will publish on june 19, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (embrace) in exchange for my honest review. more information on the book follows the jump.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

shockingly real: too fat, too slutty, too loud: the rise and reign of the unruly woman by anne helen petersen

one of the things that struck me most about the elections last november was the amount of misogyny out there. when hillary lost it felt like i'd been bathed in ice water and the shock of it made me see how far women still had to go in order to be truly equal. i'd always resisted the idea of labeling myself as a feminist. but the pride i felt in hillary's nomination, in voting for her, told me that there was no reason for me to be uncomfortable to identify as a feminist, even as i recognized that labeling myself as such would open me up to confronting sexist attitudes from sometimes surprising quarters.

in too fat, too slutty, too loud: the rise and reign of the unruly woman anne helen petersen takes all the critiques society throws at women and analyzes them through the eye of celebrity. petersen has a particular interest in celebrity and the media and culture of celebrity and the role it plays in society and its norms, and this interest is perfectly suited to the topic at hand. from serena williams to kim kardashian to hillary clinton to madonna, these women both flout society's strictures while suffering through incredible scrutiny and blatant sexism.

petersen may be working as a journalist now, but she is first and foremost an academic and at times her writing lapses into phrasing more suited to an academic paper than a nonfiction work on celebrity and feminism. there were certainly also moments where i was frustrated by the fact that it felt like she was simply reporting on sexist behavior without providing analysis and positing remedies that feel necessary. but ultimately the topic and the structure of the book really works, and even as petersen asks us to question our own judgments of the women spotlighted in her novel this is a very easy book to relate to. especially if you are a woman.

**too fat, too slutty, too loud: the rise and reign of the unruly woman will publish on june 20, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of penguin's first to read program in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

superbly suspenseful: gone to dust by liliana hart

the gravediggers series continues with gone to dust, and picks up the thread of chemistry we got in the darkest corner between elias cole and miller darling. this time the world isn't at stake, but miller's brother and elias's old seal brother, justin is in danger. a drug cartel interested in the same bit of treasure that miller's family has been searching for throughout history makes for a bad combination. when miller is sent her brother's finger and a message demanding she show up in ecuador, she has no choice.

and elias has no choice but to join her. weeks ago he left her high and dry in order to protect her. his life is made for revenge. he's been declared dead and he has a contract of service being held over his head. he might have come to like his teammates, but he hates the woman who got him mixed up in this mess and who continues to play the puppeteer. he believes that there is no room in his life for love or passion. instinctively knowing that if he were to pursue things with miller there's no way he could maintain his quest for revenge.

but he's drawn to her. it's as if there was an electrical current running between them. connecting them more deeply than they could have imagined. once they are alone together there is no way they aren't going to be together. this mission a testament to how they fit together. how easily they can be a team. in no time at all it's all too clear. what they feel for each other is love. something miller never thought would come her way. but elias worries that there isn't a future that ends with a happily ever after for them. he's dead after all. dead men don't get married and have babies and gorgeous wives who fulfill every dream.

is there any possibility of having it all? or perhaps, more simply, is there any way he can live without her? because his heart belongs to her and hers to him. he can't stand to make her miserable. being apart from her makes him miserable. so there has to be a way forward. and if taking out a drug cartel and rescuing her brother while they sort it all out is what needs to happen, then happen it will.

honestly the balance between suspense and romance in this series works perfectly for me. there's still enough mystery about eve and her ultimate plan for the gravediggers that future books are a certainty. and i for one can't wait.

**gone to dust will publish on june 20, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/gallery, threshold, pocket books (pocket books) in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 16, 2017

seriously romantic: not through loving you by patricia preston

book 3 in the love heals all series, not through loving you, picks up the story of pediatric surgeon dr. aaron kendall and singer-songwriter lia montgomery. divorced and burned by his ex, aaron thought his dream of having a family was over until one day a patient gave birth to her baby and gave him away. at that moment, aaron knew he was destined to be the child's father. and he would put all his expertise on the line in order to save his son.

but before he could legally adopt the baby, who he had named john aaron, he needed to clean up his bachelor pad and prepare his home for a home study and for the baby. but there should still be time for his father to sneak in a bachelor party before everything changes. except that's the night lia montgomery, john aaron's aunt, stops by. and she is not at all impressed by what she sees.

lia has a temper and a habit of going off half-cocked, although once she calms down she can usually see reason. in fact, this ended up being a somewhat disconcerting personality trait because too often she had already calmed down out of her temper by the time aaron went to talk things out or beg for forgiveness.

as aaron and lia get closer while they deal with prepping the house for john aaron and taking turns watching over him in the nicu, their relationship deepens too. they go from friends to lovers pretty seamlessly. except lia has a complicated romantic landscape. in the world's eyes she is dating country star dallas james, they've been country music's hot couple since the moment she realizes he had the right voice to bring her songs out to the world. dallas and lia haven't been romantically involved for a while, but celebrity has a way of making things complicated and lia also needs to navigate things with her father, who happens to be their manager.

they both struggle with things from their past before they are truly free to move forward, but john aaron and the promise of family that has eluded both of them so long, as well as their insane sexual chemistry makes it all worth fighting for.

**not through loving you will publish june 20, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (lyrical shine) in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

something from the archives: say goodbye - part 24

a perfect day can't last forever right?

catch up with parts 12345678910111213141516171819202122, and 23. read on for part 24.