Sunday, January 25, 2015

ARC Review: Hero by Samantha Young

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: NAL Trade
416 Pages

The emotional and unforgettable new romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the On Dublin Street series.

Alexa Holland’s father was her hero—until her shocking discovery that her mother and she weren’t his only family. Ever since, Alexa has worked to turn her life in a different direction and forge her own identity outside of his terrible secrets. But when she meets a man who’s as damaged by her father’s mistakes as she is, Alexa must help him.

Caine Carraway wants nothing to do with Alexa’s efforts at redemption, but it’s not so easy to push her away. Determined to make her hate him, he brings her to the edge of her patience and waits for her to walk away. But his actions only draw them together and, despite the odds, they begin an intense and explosive affair.

Only Caine knows he can never be the white knight that Alexa has always longed for. And when they’re on the precipice of danger, he finds he’ll do anything to protect either one of them from being hurt again....

I absolutely adore Samantha Young’s writing. I just blew through the On Dublin Series, devouring one book after another. When I heard there was a new book, one that took place on my side of the ocean, I was all in.

Alexa Holland recently had her world shatter around her. Everything she thought she knew about her family was a lie and now she’s desperately trying to forget everything and move on. Unfortunately, she lands in the path of Caine Carraway who’s linked to her past in the worst kind of way.

The hostility on Caine’s side is palpable and he’s furious to see Alexa at his place of work. This girl represents everything that destroyed his family and she just won’t go away. Even after he gets her fired, she’s still there – determined that he have happiness. 

Tension, chemistry, animosity, and just plain fire exist between these two. I’m pretty sure they go through all the spectrums from hate to love multiple times over. It made for an entertaining read and some pretty hot sexy times. While it didn’t blow me away, I enjoyed reading about these characters.
Caine was an enigma. First impression, he was an ass. A hardworking ass. As the story goes on, the layers that make up Caine Carroway shed and we finally see him allowing himself to feel emotions – most of this is thanks in part to his neighbor Effie. He’s very sheltered about his past but is also completely defined by it. Once he lets Alexa in, we see him slowly start to let go. The one frustrating thing about Caine was how, once he would let himself go, he would immediately pull himself back even further into himself. It gave the saying ‘one step forward, two steps back’ a whole new meaning. 

And then there’s Alexa. Man, she was a determined little thing. Here’s a man who hates her guts and gets her fired from her job, and she still seeks him out – even works as his PA fully knowing he’s going to abuse that position. I enjoyed her sass and determination. There were parts towards the end that had me saying ‘just let him go, move on!’, but she didn’t. She hung in there. I still don’t know whether that was brave or just stupidity. 

Overall, I enjoyed this one. Young definitely knows how to write chemistry and intriguing characters. A common theme I’ve noticed in her writings is that she loves to throw in a little bit of mystery and danger in her books and it was ever present in Hero. But based on how quickly I blew through this book, Young remains an author I will always read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Review: Rowdy (Marked Men #5) by Jay Crownover

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
416 Pages

After the only girl he ever loved told him he would never be enough, Rowdy St. James knocked the Texas dust off his boots and decided he was going to do everything in his power to live up to his nickname. Life was all about a good time, good friends and never taking much too seriously. Rowdy learned his lesson early on, when you care that much about anything it can destroy you, and he never wants to risk feeling like that again. Only now he has a new coworker, a ghost from the past who’s making him question every lesson he ever learned.

Salem Cruz grew up in a house with too many rules, too many regulations, and no fun allowed. That never worked for her so she left it all behind as soon as she could, but she never forgot the sweet, blue-eyed boy next door who’d been in love with her little sister. Fate and good intentions from an old friend have placed her right in Rowdy’s path and she’s determined to show him he picked the wrong sister all those years ago. A mission that is going along perfectly until the one person that ties them together shows up and could very well tear them back.

“I always thought it was the firsts that matter, but now I know it’s the lasts that stay with you.”

Finally! Finally I get to Rowdy’s book. I had an inkling early on that Rowdy would be my boy, and damn, I was not wrong. There was just something about him that hooked me, even though I couldn’t place it. His blue eyes and pompadour just hooked me. And now…now I’m gone.
In previous books in this series, Rowdy St. James comes across as being the carefree one. He’s the one who just rolls with the punches, always looking for a good time. It just seemed like nothing could rattle him. That is until Salem Cruz walks in. Not much was known about Rowdy except that he was in love once in his past and when that ended, he basically just decided that love was too much of an effort. It was something he didn’t need in his life. But it wasn’t Salem that made Rowdy swore off love; it was her little sister, Poppy.
Salem may not have been the one who turned him off of love back in the day, but she did break his heart. When she was younger, she and Rowdy formed an unlikely friendship. Along with Poppy, the three of them grew fiercely close. However, living under the harsh rule of her father proved to be too much and Salem left town as soon as she could. Leaving Rowdy in the dust. But she never forgot him. And when a job opens up in the Marked business, Salem packs up her life and heads to Colorado, completely unprepared for the welcome she receives.

While I was worried about the storyline going in – boy loves one sister, gets dumped, falls in love with the other – I should have known just to trust Crownover. This was more than a classic love story, this was about accepting and facing the past and coming out stronger on the other side. Rowdy’s been running this whole time from the pain inflicted upon him by Poppy, and when Salem shows up, he not only has to face that but also Salem’s betrayal. 

I was a little iffy on Salem in the beginning. She just came in, guns blazing, and basically gave Rowdy no room to process and then she was upset when he didn’t welcome her with open arms. But the more we got to know her, the more I warmed up to her. She didn’t end up being my favorite girl in the series, and honestly I’m not sure that I completely love her with Rowdy, but I did come to appreciate her strength and how much she cared for those around her. And her puppy was just adorable.

Then there was Rowdy.
All of these boys are broken in their own way and I love how each story is so different from the others. None of them overshadow each other and I still care about the other guys when they show up. But it’s Rowdy’s vulnerability and overall sweetness that won me. I loved watching him struggle with understanding the different feelings he felt for both sisters in the past. While he puts on this ‘bad boy’ front, he is more like a lost little boy just waiting for everyone to leave him and I wanted to hug him. So much was thrown at him here- more than just the arrival of Salem- that my heart constantly ached for him. 

All in all, I believe that Rowdy is my favorite book of the series and definitely my favorite boy. I look forward to whatever else Crownover has in store for these boys especially based on the little hints that were dropped in this book. I can’t wait!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Book Review: Nash (Marked Men #4) by Jay Crownover

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
302 Pages

Will their past determine their future?

Saint Ford has worked hard to achieve her childhood dream of becoming of nurse. Focused on her work and devoted to her patients, there’s no room for love. She doesn’t need a guy making waves in her calm, serene life—especially when he’s the unforgettable hottie who nearly destroyed her in high school. Dark, brooding Nash Donovan might not remember her or the terrible pain he caused. But he turned her world upside down... and now he’s trying to do it again.

Saint has no idea that Nash isn’t the cocky player he once was. Uncovering a devastating family secret has rocked his world, and now he’s struggling to figure out his future. He can’t be distracted by the pretty nurse he seems to meet everywhere. Still, he can’t ignore the sparks that fly between them —or how she seems so desperate to get away from him. But the funny, sweet, and drop-dead gorgeous Saint is far too amazing to give up on—especially since she’s the only thing in his life that seems to make sense.

When Nash discovers the truth about their past, he realizes he may have lost her heart before he could even fight for it. Now, Saint has to decide: is Nash worth risking herself for all over again?

Nash, Nash, Nash...what am I going to do with you?
Out of all of the boys so far, Nash seems to be the most put together and just all-around with it. He's the voice of reason when it comes to the lives of his best friends and also when it comes to the Marked tattoo shop. But just when everything seems to be going good for him and those around him, Uncle Phil, the man who practically raised Nash, falls severely ill and also unearths a secret that has been buried for years, shattering everything Nash thought he knew.
Saint, a shy redhaired nurse that we met in Rome's book, knows Nash from high school. The only problem is, they both remember their relationship a little differently causing Saint to act cold toward Nash and him wondering why. What Nash doesn't know is that Saint was madly in love with him back in high school, but her low-self esteem and misreading signs caused her so much pain and heartache that she never wanted to see Nash again.Well, like all of these other boys, that just won't do. Nash is determined to know why Saint dislikes him so much, especially since he can't seem to stop thinking about her.

Crownover once again owns me. Having already had three books of slowly getting to know Nash, I loved diving into his head. He's such a sweetie and really wears his heart on his sleeve. He goes through some heavy stuff here and despite all of this, manages to keep his head. Nash seems to be the thoughtful one of the group so it makes sense that when push came to shove, he was able to know when to fight and when to just make himself happy. 

Then there was Saint. Oh, Saint...I wanted to love her and I wanted her to be perfect for Nash, but I honestly didn't feel it. Don't get me wrong, I liked her but there was just so much about her that didn't mesh well with Nash. She just frustrated me to no end. Saint was the first girl in this series to really struggle with self-esteem. Having been overweight in high school and tormented by her classmates, her image of herself is slightly skewed. She doesn't believe she's beautiful and she tended to sabotage everything she touched. While I liked the spotlight on bullying and it's after effects, I felt that this book more than the others had all of the romance cliches. By the time it got to the climatic showdown, I could have gone either way with if they ended up together or not. I just wasn't that invested in their relationship even though Nash was a gem. My heart connected more with the life story more than the romance.

This is definitely a series that is driven by the friendships, I was much more aware of my love for the dynamics between the boys when I was hoping for more of those interactions than Nash/Saint. Still, I loved it and just blew through it like I did all of the others.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: Rome (Marked Men #3) by Jay Crownover

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
387 Pages

Sometimes the wrong choice can be just right . . .

Fun and fearless, Cora Lewis knows how to keep her tattooed "bad boy" friends at the Marked in line. But beneath all that flash and sass is a broken heart. Cora won't let herself get burned again. She's waiting to fall in love with the perfect man—a baggage-free, drama-free guy ready for commitment. Then she meets Rome Archer.

Rome Archer is as far from perfect as a man can be. He's stubborn, rigid, and bossy. And he's returned from his final tour of duty more than a little broken. Rome's used to filling many roles: big brother, doting son, supersoldier—but none of those fit anymore. Now he's just a man trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life while keeping the dark demons of war and loss at bay. He would have been glad to suffer through it alone, until Cora comes sweeping into his life and becomes a blinding flash of color in a sea of gray.Perfect may not be in the cards, but perfectly imperfect could just last forever . . .

Spunky Tinkerbell meets ‘Captain No-Fun’ in the third installment of the Marked Men series. We have met both Rome and Cora in previous books and no one was more shocked than me to realize that these two would be thrown together in the most unlikely of ways. 

Cora Lewis is basically the mother hen for all of the boys. She runs the office part of the Marked business and she always seemed content taking care of her friends. However, when she starts to see how happy and in love some of them are, old feelings resurface and suddenly she’s struggling with the realization that she may never find her ‘one’. And she won’t settle for less than perfect – no baggage, no drama, nothing that rocks the boat. Basically, everything that Rome Archer is not. 

Rome is Rule’s older brother whom we met in the first book. Having just returned from his final tour of duty, he’s unsure of where he fits in. The bombshell that was dropped on his family right before he left last time didn’t help. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since then and his relationship with his brother has also suffered. Instead of the light hearted older brother everyone knew, Rome now spends his days chasing the bottom of the bottle with an unsurly attitude. So of course him and Cora clash – horribly.

One night after too many drinks, Cora is the one cleaning up after Rome and it begins this intricate relationship between the two of them that has Rome seeing a way out of the darkness where he’s been and Cora questioning just what exactly Mr. Perfect is.

What I love about these books is how Crownover writes her characters. They’ve stayed true to who they are throughout the series and none of them get lost or overshadowed by the other. And they are all so different. While Cora’s constant talk of finding the perfect guy did drive me up the wall (Honey, there’s no such thing as perfect), I could see the reasons why she was hesitant to get involved with someone especially someone like Rome. While she is older than the rest of the crew and should know how ridiculous finding a perfect guy is, I understood why she was doing it. Her past relationship left a nasty scar and when it shows back up, she reacts the only way she knows how. Out of all the girls so far, I feel like I connected with Cora the most. 

Then there was the topic of PTSD with Rome. Watching him struggle to find his place was heartbreaking. Here was a guy who had purpose and direction in his life. Now he’s back to civilization and he has no clue what he’s doing. No place to live, no job, just the memories of what happened overseas to keep him up at night. While the relationship was definitely the focus of the story, I liked that it wasn’t the only thing that saved Rome. This book gives meaning to ‘right place, right time’ even if Rome didn’t think so. And it goes to show what can happen with the kindness of strangers.

Up next is Nash’s book and I can’t wait to dive into his mind.


Monday, January 12, 2015

ARC Review: Contradictions (Woodfalls Girls #3) by Tiffany King

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Trade
304 Pages

When everything starts spinning out of control . . .

Three years into college, Tressa Oliver’s life is a nonstop party. She’s skating by in her classes, and there’s no shortage of drinking, dancing, and general hell-raising. The only aspect that hasn’t been much fun: She can’t shake the toxic jerks that always seem to gravitate toward her.

It will take someone totally wrong . . .

Trent Lawson is the classic anti-bad boy: smart, boring, and way too serious. To a wild girl like Tressa, there’s no way in hell they’re compatible—especially since Trent seems to see straight through her defenses.

To set her right.

When a college prank goes terribly wrong, Tressa starts to suspect that her partying ways are leading nowhere fast. Now she has to turn to the last person she ever thought she’d ask for help—and quickly discovers that there’s more to Trent than meets the eye . . .

Nerd boy meets party girl in this super sweet love story. Tressa Oliver is your typical college party girl: she goes to classes but only gives enough just to pass , non-stop drinking and partying are always on her social calendar, and there’s definitely no shortage of boys. When that life comes crashing down, Tressa is doused in the reality that either she changes or she’s out of college.

Trent Larson is everything that Tressa isn’t used to. He prefers studying over partying, he’s quiet, and kind of a geek. And he’s also from Tressa’s hometown. Everything she wants to stay away from. When Trent is assigned as her tutor, her first instinct is to run. Something about the way Trent looks at her makes her uncomfortable. And who needs a tutor anyway?

I absolutely adored Trent. Maybe because I’m slightly a geek myself, but everything about him made me want to cuddle (and more!) with him. Even though he came across as quiet, he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. He was blunt and preferred to get straight to the point of what he was always feeling instead of running in circles and playing games. Tressa has no idea what to do with him, or her budding feelings. But realizing she’s about to lose everything and that she’s disappointed those who believed in her, has her rethinking everything about how she lives. 

Tiffany King’s writing just seems to get better and better within this series. From the first one to this, I see so much growth in storytelling and execution. And the boys just keep getting better. Trent is my favorite thing to come out of Woodfalls and I look forward to reading more from King.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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