Thursday, July 14, 2016

Steadfast by Sarina Bowen

Title: Steadfast (True North #2)
Author: Sarina Bowen
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Source: ARC from Publicist
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Kobo
She’s the only one who ever loved him—and the only one he can never have.

Jude lost everything one spring day when he crashed his car into an apple tree on the side of the road. A man is dead, and there’s no way he can ever right that wrong. He’d steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction can’t find a job just anywhere.

For Sophie Haines, coming face to face with the man who broke her heart is gut-wrenching. Suddenly, he’s everywhere she turns. It’s hard not to stare at how much he’s changed. The bad boy who used to love her didn’t have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And he’d never volunteer in the church kitchen.

She knows it’s foolish to yearn for the man who returned all the heartsick letters she wrote him in prison. But the looks he sends her now speak volumes.

No one wants to see Sophie and Jude back together, least of all Sophie’s police chief father. But it’s a small town. And forbidden love is a law unto itself.

If you haven’t yet read anything by Sarina Bowen, do yourself a favour and go pick up one of her books as soon as possible. With every one of her books that I read, I just become more and more convinced that she can do no wrong. And Steadfast, her latest release, might just be her best yet.

A few weeks ago I completely devoured Sarina Bowen’s Bittersweet and as much as I loved Griffin and Audrey, Jude is who stayed with me. So I was beyond excited to get to read his story in Steadfast, even though I knew it had the potential to be the kind of story that breaks me. And it definitely broken me, but in the best way possible. Jude and Sophie’s story was just an incredibly touching one, even if they didn’t have the easiest of times making their relationship work To say there was a lot standing in their way would be quite the understatement because at times it felt like everything and everyone was against them. But they made it through and their story often had me in tears. But it was okay though, because despite the need for tissues while reading, I finished the book with a big smile on my face. Because as much as Steadfast broke my heart, it also put it back together. And stories that do that are my absolute favourite. Not only that, but through all the heartbreak and pain, Sarina Bowen injected an element of hope in the story that left me believing that no matter how bad things are, there’s always a little bit of hope, especially if you’re willing to fight for that hope. 

I was craving Jude’s story from the moment I first met him in Bittersweet. There was just something about him that spoke to me and I wanted to hear his story no matter how heartbreaking and difficult to read it would be. And while reading that story, I felt completely in love with Jude. In fact, I don’t think it would have been possible for me to not fall in love with him. Jude had definitely made some poor decisions in the past but he was working so hard to not repeat his mistakes and move on with his life. He struggled and his struggle broke my heart. But I also wanted him to catch a break, to finally have something go his way. And that something came in the form of Sophie, even if both of them were trying to resist falling back in love (did they ever really stop loving each other, though?) with each other. And I loved Sophie just as much as I loved Jude. Though she wasn’t struggling with addiction the way Jude was, Sophie had her own set of struggles and it seemed like at times she had no one in her corner. Except for Jude, even if he didn’t think he was good enough for her. And I know I’ve already said it, but Jude and Sophie just worked together and I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for a couple more than I rooted for them.

Sarina Bowen’s Steadfast was a beautiful and heartbreaking story and I loved every single moment of it. I am completely hooked on her True North series and I can’t wait to read the next book, Keepsake. And I’m pretty much dying to know who will be joining Zach in that story. 

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fast Connection by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

Title: Fast Connection (Cyberlove #2)
Author: Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: July 11, 2016
Source: ARC from authors
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Kobo
After a decade of serving in the Army, everyone still expects me to be Dominic “Nicky” Costigan—the skirt-chasing player. They don’t know I’ve been spending my days trying to figure out my post-military life. Including how to pick up guys.

When I meet Luke on a hookup app, he makes it clear it’s for one-night only. That’s fine with me, because I’m down to see what this silver fox can do. But after I arrive at his doorstep, it doesn’t take long to realize we have serious chemistry, and we end up meeting again.

He’s got more walls around his heart than a military base, but I think he’s as addicted to me as I am to him. He can’t resist me for long. I mean, who can? Except Luke’s rules exist for a reason, and when I test his limits, things get complicated. Maybe too complicated.

It’s official, I will read everything and anything that Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell collaborate on because, if you ask me, they can do no wrong. Fast Connection was an amazing follow-up to their first collaboration, Strong Signal, and I loved every single moment of it.

Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell’s first collaboration, Strong Signal, is definitely in the running for my favourite book of 2016 (at least, so far). It was a book that took me completely by surprise and one I didn’t know I would love as much as I did. I mean, it’s been months since I’ve read it and I still think about it and find myself wanting to reread it on an almost-weekly basis. So Fast Connection, their second collaboration? I DEVOURED it. I couldn’t put the book down. I mean, I mean I put my own safety at risk and read while walking home one night because I just had to finish the book (there were a couple close calls with lampposts but I survived). It was a completely addicting story that hit all the right notes for me. And that was especially true for the romance. I can’t even begin to explain how much I loved the romance in Fast Connection. There was something about Dominic and Luke that just did it for me and I could have kept reading about them forever. I was so sad when I reached the end of the book because it meant no more reading about them. Just like they fell in love with each other, I pretty much fell in love with them.

Let me be real here for a second: I didn’t exactly have a very high opinion of Dominic Costigan after reading Strong Signal. I mean, he was a bit (okay, more than a bit) of a jerk to Garrett. But even then, I was curious to see if there was more to him. And guys, there was so much more to Dominic Costigan than I could have ever thought and I absolutely love him now. There was something so endearing about him, despite the fact that sometimes I wanted to slap him because he was being stupid. And if the way Luke felt is anything to go by, I’m not the only one who thought so. And Luke. I so did not expect to be as charmed by him as I was. Much like Garrett in Strong Signal, Luke was the strong, silent gruff type. Which apparently is something I go for. Or at least it is in books. But for real though, I totally loved Luke despite my initial reservations about him. And Luke and Dominic together? It shouldn’t have made much sense, and yet it totally did. As completely different as they were, they were also absolutely perfect for each other. And I loved reading about them. 

If you’re even the least bit curious about Fast Connection (or Strong Signal for that matter), drop whatever you’re doing and go read it. Trust me when I say that you won’t regret. And when you’re done, you’ll be counting down the days until Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell’s next book. Because that’s what I’ve been doing since finishing Fast Connection.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mini Reviews - Just a Girl & Good Girl

Title: Just a Girl
Author: Ellie Cahill
Publisher: Loveswept
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Indigo
In this pitch-perfect novel from the author of When Joss Met Matt (“One of those books that make you forget everything around you.” —Sophie Jordan), a rock’n’roll diva must choose between her career and her heart.

After getting kicked out of her own band—by her own boyfriend—Presley Mason finds herself back in Wisconsin, helping her parents run their renowned music store. Instead of belting out powerhouse vocals to sold-out crowds in L.A., she’s stocking shelves an inspecting rental violins. But the shop isn’t all bad: When she’s vacuuming up late one night, she bumps into the guitar teacher with the smoldering amber eyes and the killer tattoo. And that’s when things take an interesting turn.

Presley soon finds that Paul Kellerman is as good in bed as he is on guitar. So why isn’t he stoked to share his band, Jukebox Bleu, with her? Turns out Paul has crippling stage fright, which he’s been self-medicating without much success. But when Jukebox Bleu’s lead singer gets called for military service, the other members beg Presley to front them. Even though she swore never to mix men with music again, the temptation to perform is almost as intense as her chemistry with Paul. Now Presley must decide what’s more important: a second chance at love…or rock stardom.

Though she’s only been publishing books for just over a year, Ellie Cahill has quickly become one of my go-to authors when I’m looking for some fun, light-hearted romance and she hasn’t disappointed me yet. Just a Girl was exactly the fun story I was in the mood for when I picked it up. But what I loved about Just a Girl was that it wasn’t just fun, light-hearted fluff. Sure, there was plenty of fluff, but the story also deals with anxiety in a big way. But even though anxiety plays a big role in the story, it also doesn’t overwhelm it. It balances out all the fun music stuff nicely. And it made for an interesting dynamic between Presley and Paul who otherwise would have been very similar. And I loved Presley and Paul. They were both so passionate about their music and cared so much about it and each other. And for me, they just made sense.They worked together and I loved seeing them work through everything together. But the romance is always my favourite part of an Ellie Cahill book, so that’s not really much of a surprise. I have to also say that I loved the family relationships as well in Just a Girl, whether it was Paul with his sister, or Presley with her unconventional parents. I just loved everything about this book and I can’t wait to read whatever comes next from Ellie Cahill.


Title: Good Girl
Author: Lauren Layne
Publisher: Loveswept
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Indigo
Lauren Layne brings all the unpredictable heat of her USA Today bestseller Blurred Lines to an all-new cast of characters! Country music’s favorite good girl is hiding away from the world—only to find herself bunking with a guy who makes her want to be a little bad.

Jenny Dawson moved to Nashville to write music, not get famous. But when her latest record goes double platinum, Jenny’s suddenly one of the town’s biggest stars—and the center of a tabloid scandal connecting her with a pop star she’s barely even met. With paparazzi tracking her every move, Jenny flees to a remote mansion in Louisiana to write her next album. The only hiccup is the unexpected presence of a brooding young caretaker named Noah, whose foul mouth and snap judgments lead to constant bickering—and serious heat.

Noah really should tell Jenny that he’s Preston Noah Maxwell Walcott, the owner of the estate where the feisty country singer has oder her spoiled self at home. But the charade gives Noah a much-needed break from his own troubles, and before long, their verbal sparring is indistinguishable from foreplay. But as sizzling nights give way to quiet pillow talk, Noah begins to realize that Jenny’s almost as complicated as he is. To fit into each other’s lives, they’ll need the courage to face their problems together—before the outside world catches up to them.

Late last year I randomly decided to pick up Lauren Layne’s Blurred Lines without having heard all that much about it, only to find myself completely surprised by how much I loved the story. So when I saw Good Girl on NetGalley, you can bet that I jumped on that. I knew that if it was anything like Blurred Lines, I would totally love it. And on top of that, it involves a country music and that’s just something I can’t say no to. And Good Girl didn’t disappoint me. I loved reading every page of it, even if there were plenty of times when I just wanted to talk some sense into the characters because they were being completely stupid. But if they had gotten everything right on the first try, it wouldn’t have been as fun story to read. Which brings me to Jenny and Noah. I loved that there was more to Jenny than met the eye. I’m not going to lie, at first I didn’t expect all that much from her, but the more I read, the more I found myself loving her. Lying about his identity aside (which was a really stupid thing to do), Noah was pretty great, too (and by pretty great, I mean that I pretty much loved him). Jenny and Noah were an unlikely pairing and I think, for me, that’s what made them that much more fun to read about. And the fact that they didn’t exactly like each other at first led to some pretty amusing moments. Good Girl was exactly the fun romance story I had hoped it would be.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mini Reviews - Ignite & Smolder by Karen Erickson

Title: Ignite (Wildwood #1)
Author: Karen Erickson
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Kobo
Weston Gallagher is falling hard for the wrong woman.

One night of passion has haunted him for years.

Now he's got a second chance to get the girl of his dreams but there's just one problem:

She hates him.

Eight years after he stormed out of Wildwood, California, West has returned to his hometown as a firefighter. His friends and family are thrilled he's back with the exception of Harper Hill. His sister's best friend is all grown up and in all the right ways. He knows she's going to do everything she can to protect her heart and keep him at arm's length, but West has other ideas.

He will win the girl that got away. No matter what it takes.

Saying that Ignite was the first book of Karen Erickson's that I've read is both true and a lie. Because Karen Erickson also writes under the name Monica Murphy, and if you know me, you know that I've read and loved many of her books. But until a couple weeks ago, I hadn't picked up any of her Karen Erickson titles. And that was a mistake because Ignite completely hooked me. I got completely sucked in to West and Harper's stories, as well as life in Wildwood in general. I'm more of a big city person myself, but I always find it fascinating to read about small towns where everyone knows everyone and everyone has a shared past with most people in that town. And that was definitely the case with West and Harper. I mean, Harper has been crushing on West for most of her life but never thought West felt the same way about her, what with the whole him leaving town the day after the one and only time they kissed. Meanwhile, now that he's back in town, West can't help but wonder if he screwed everything up with Harper after that one kiss years ago. So yeah, West and Harper definitely had some stuff to work through and I loved seeing them work through it and come together over the course of the story. Needless to say that after reading Ignite I was definitely looking forward to what was to come in the Wildwood series (and it reminded me that I have lots of Karen Erickson books I to catch up on).

Title: Smolder (Wildwood #2)
Author: Karen Erickson
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: June 21, 2016
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Kobo
Lane Gallagher wants Delilah Moore--bad.

He's imagine the sexy brunette in his bed more times than he can count.

She's everything he's ever wanted, but the only problem is...

She's his brother's ex.

For years, the stoic sheriff's deputy has fantasized about the sweet, bubbly dance teacher who stirs his deepest desires. But Lane's too loyal to ever move in on forbidden territory and he knows that while he can look, he definitely can't touch. Fighting his attraction to Delilah is nearly impossible, but the infuriating--and incredibly sexy--woman seems determined to drive him crazy.

And she's bringing him to his knees. One smoldering kiss at a time.

After reading Ignite, I was definitely excited to read Smolder. The fact that I practically read them back to back only served to make me more excited about the books and this story. After reading the first book, I had gotten curious about Delilah and Lane. It was clear that their was something going on there even if both of them were in total denial about it. Or even if they weren't in denial, they certainly weren't acknowledging it. I loved getting to explore their relationship and their history some more in Smolder. And that history they share is definitely a complicated one. I mean, how exactly do you go about dealing with the fact that you're in love with your brother's ex if you're Lane or that you're in love with your ex's older brother if you're Delilah? That's not complicated at all, right? I wouldn't even know where to begin dealing with that one if I were them. But over the course of the story, Lane and Delilah figured it out and I loved seeing them work through it all. Because right from the beginning, I knew they were perfect together. They just needed to wade through all their baggage. I also want to mention the whole firefighter/law enforcement aspect of these books. The Gallagher family is a family of cops and firefighters and I love seeing that play out in the story. And I'm curious to see if the mystery behind all the fires is going to be resolved in the next book.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen + Q&A

Title: Bittersweet (True North #1)
Author: Sarina Bowen
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Release Date: June 14, 2016
Source: ARC from Publicist
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Kobo
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the orchard.

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they'd shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago.

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn't have time for the sorority girl who's shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder's travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second change with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay--a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They's adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey's top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

In the past year, Sarina Bowen has quickly become one of my go-to authors when I want some good romance. I have yet to pick up one of her books and not find myself completely charmed by the characters and swept up in the romance. And it was no different with her latest, Bittersweet.

If you're familiar at all with Sarina Bowen and her books, then you know that her books tend to revolve around sports and athletes. But Bittersweet is a departure from the hockey players, skiers, and snowboarders she's written about in the past. Instead, it's about chefs and farmers and cider makers (as a side note, if you don't find yourself craving hard cider by the time you finish reading Bittersweet, there's something wrong with you...I'm only mostly kidding). Just like with the world of high level sports, Sarina Bowen brings the world of Vermont farmers to life. I'm not exaggerating when I say that Bittersweet made me want to hop into a car and take a roadtrip to the Vermont countryside to see some of the sceneries Griffin and Audrey describe in the story. And if it were fall, I would totally be heading to an orchard for some apple picking. It honestly felt like the setting was a character in this story just as much as Griffin, Audrey and the whole Shipley clan. It just came to life while I was reading. And it wasn't the only part of the story that felt completely real.

Whenever I read one of Sarina Bowen's books, I always want to be friends with the characters by the time I finish reading the story. There's just something about them. As you might have guessed it was no different with Griffin and Audrey. I absolutely loved both of them. I loved Griff despite his grumpy and gruff tendencies. Though I wasn't sure about Audrey's flightiness at first, I was completely charmed by the end of the book. And they just balanced each other out so well. Audrey made Griff less serious and all business all the time by reminding him to just have fun sometimes, while Griff showed Audrey that she was more than the disappointment her mother had led her to believe she was her whole life. They were just so freaking great and adorable together. But Audrey and Griff weren't the only people I wanted to be friends with. By the time I finished Bittersweet I wanted to be an honorary member of the Shipley family. I loved reading about the whole family, and seeing the way they were all there for each other, regardless of if they were related by blood or just someone they had taken in. And I'm more than excited to keep getting glimpses of this big, crazy family in future True North books.

In case it wasn't completely obvious by now, I absolutely ADORED Sarina Bowen's Bittersweet. I completely fell in love with the story, setting and characters and I was sad to reach the final page of the book. Thankfully, Steadfast, the next in the series, is out soon because I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

Q&A with Sarina Bowen

All your previous books (and your new series kicking off in the fall!) feature athletes, what made you was to move away from that?
I love athletes, but I’m surrounded by the coolest, hippest innovative farmers, and I thought it would be fantastic to explore their world. And Griff is an ex-football player, because I couldn’t help myself.

In Bittersweet, Griffin makes artisanal cider. What was the research process like for that aspect of the story?
You should see my recycling bin! #notkidding. We drink lots of tasty ciders at my house, and many of them are locally made. Vermont (and New Hampshire) are ground zero for cider appreciation. It’s awesome.

When you’re looking for your next story, where do you look for inspiration?
I don’t even have to look, they just find me in newspaper stories and blog posts and on Twitter.

What about the romance genre appeals to you as a writer?
Happy endings are really important to me. I love that quest.

Describe Bittersweet in one sentence.
Take one perky chef, add one grumpy farmer, season until scorching and serve hot.

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