Sunday, February 11, 2018

Review: Playing House by Amy Andrews

Playing House by Amy Andrews
Series: Sydney Smoke Rugby, Book 5
Publisher: Entangled: Brazen
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781640633902
Release Date: February 12, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Eleanor is content with her boring life—mostly. She’s even fine being the quirky sister in a bevy of beauties. So imagine her surprise when one of her brother’s Sydney Smoke mates hits on her at an engagement party. Her. The weird sister, who wears vintage dresses and prefers her books to parties.

Bodie is shocked the next morning to find the soft, sexy virgin who seduced him with corsets is his best friend’s little sister. If he could kick his own ass, he would. And two months later, she’s got an even bigger surprise for him. Now he needs to convince the corset-loving wallflower that he loves her uniqueness if they’ve got a chance at forever.

He always did love a challenge…

A shy, quirky heroine who prefers books to parties. A sexy-as-hell hero with a sweet side. A scorching one night stand that becomes so much more. Put those three ingredients together and you’ve got a recipe for a highly entertaining romance. And when you add in Amy Andrews’s fast-paced style and signature humor then it’s clear to see why I couldn’t resist Playing House.

Eleanor is such a fun heroine. She grew up on a steady diet of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and is in love with the fashion, manners, and romantic ideals of the nineteenth century. She’s also turned her love of Victorian fashion into a profitable business, which I found to be a delight to read about. Eleanor feels like the ugly duckling of her family, but she’s so much more than the kooky wallflower she sees herself as. Bodie is immediately captivated by Eleanor and I loved that he wasn’t just taken with her looks, but showed interest in what she was passionate about. Bodie grew up with a shark of a father and between that and his cheating ex-fiancée, he’s wary of falling for someone who will turn out to simply want him for his trust fund or his status a rugby star. Eleanor is a breath of fresh air to him in many ways and it’s clear from the outset that one night with her will never be enough. I could melt with how sweet Bodie could be. He may have wealth, privilege, and good looks, but he has worked hard to become successful and he’s got a heart of gold. I was rooting for him and Eleanor to become more than simply lovers because they were such likeable characters.

Eleanor and Bodie’s story is filled with erotic moments, and it’d be remiss of me not to at least mention how hot Playing House is. But what stood out to me were the quieter moments and if I had one (minor) niggle it’d be I wish there were more of them. Bodie and Eleanor are very different, but they complement one another perfectly. I liked watching them learn about each other. And when the two of them are handed a major surprise, I really liked that they handled life’s curveball fairly well. Their road to happily ever after isn’t smooth sailing. Insecurities, pain, and heartbreak made the story feel more real and may have even had me sniffling at one point. But I knew Ms. Andrews wouldn’t let readers down and the ending of Playing House left me with a smile on my face.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780399587672
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in this fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there's something about Drew Nichols that's too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can't stop thinking about the other...

They're just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century--or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

An elevator glitch + two charming characters + cheese and crackers = one of the most delightful meet-cutes I’ve read in a long time. Jasmine Guillory sets the stage for an effervescent romance from the very first page of The Wedding Date. Alexa and Drew have instant chemistry and they’re a whole lot of fun to read about.

Alexa is a heroine who’s easy to root for and adore. She’s successful, intelligent, and kind. She’s confident in her job as chief of staff to the mayor of Berkeley, but she’s plagued by some very relatable insecurities in her personal life. When she agrees to Drew’s spontaneous request to be his date to an ex’s wedding, Alexa lets go of her inhibitions for a whirlwind weekend of fun. I was so eager to see her find happiness with Drew, a pediatric surgeon who made me smile right alongside Alexa when they first meet. Drew is a sexy, fun hero to start with, but he loses some of his shine over the course of the story. He’s not a bad hero, but because his character isn’t explored as deeply as Alexa’s is, his commitment phobia and moodiness stand out in an unappealing way a few times. I do wish we’d gotten to know his character better because it would have made the romance stronger.

The Wedding Date is a book I have a hard time rating, because there are some things I really love about the book and some things I struggled with. I loved that Alexa opened Drew’s eyes to some of the everyday struggles a person of color faces and that she, a black woman, faces in particular. Alexa’s candor adds depth and realism to what would otherwise be a fairly breezy story. I also loved that both Alexa and Drew are successful thirty-somethings with high-power, demanding careers. That they understand and support one another in their work really had me rooting for them. What kept me from falling in love with this story like I wanted to was the middle of the book. It’s disappointingly repetitive. Either Alexa or Drew flies to meet the other, they eat, have sex, and don’t talk about their relationship or what their expectations are. The same thing keeps occurring with very little change, and I wish I’d seen more of their conversations or activities outside eating, sex, and the occasional party so that I could feel more of a connection to their romance. I also had a hard time with the fact that a lot of the conflict stemmed from miscommunication or simply an unwillingness to talk to one another about a problem. I did understand why Alexa was reticent to do so (to a certain extent), but when the same patterns kept emerging, it dragged the book down. That being said, the end of the book was so sweet, so lovely that I circled back around to falling for Alexa and Drew.

The Wedding Date is Jasmine Guillory’s debut novel and I cannot wait to read more from her. Alexa and Drew have quite a few wonderful friends whose books I’m dying to read. In fact, it’d be remiss of me to talk about this book and not mention Carlos, Drew’s awesome best friend and my new book crush. Carlos is friendly, incredibly patient, and caring and I absolutely cannot wait for his book. Until then, I will definitely revisit my favorite moments from The Wedding Date because when Alexa and Drew work, their book shines.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Series: The Invisible Library, Book 1
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 9781101988640
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction...

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen.

London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…

Enter the world of the Library, an interdimensional organization that collects important books from as many alternate dimensions as possible. Genevieve Cogman’s debut has an exciting premise and there’s a ton of possibilities to this world, but I struggled a bit with the execution.

The Invisible Library follows the journey of Irene, a junior Librarian, as she takes on Kai, a new apprentice, and is sent to an alternate version of Victorian-era London to steal an important book of fairytales. What should be a routine mission is anything but. The world is chaos-infested, one of the side effects of that being supernatural creatures exist, including the Fae. Things go wrong for Irene almost from the start, and she catches the attention of Vale, an alternate version of Sherlock Holmes, the powerful Fae Lord Silver, and an enemy of the Library who threatens to destroy not just Irene, but the whole world.

There are quite a few things that I liked about The Invisible Library. The premise is fantastic and of course a bibliophile like myself is ready and eager to enjoy a book about people who love books. The seemingly infinite number of alternate worlds means there’s a host of possibilities to explore, and I liked how Ms. Cogman set up the powerful forces of Fae and dragons and their respective representations of chaos and order. In short (so as to avoid spoilers), all the elements of a great story are there. That being said, the story did not live up to its parts. The world building was a case of tell, rather than show. There were seemingly endless amounts of exposition that slowed the book’s pace to a crawl. The characters aren’t very well developed (not even our principals, Irene and Kai, though Kai did charm me), most likely because there was no time to do so. Everything but the kitchen sink seemed to be thrown into this story, and quite a bit of it could have been cut without impacting the narrative. Less might have been more for a first book, as I’d have liked to have delved more into the characters and the different kinds of magic.

The Invisible Library is the kind of book I struggle with rating. While I did have a number of issues with this book, I can’t say I didn’t like it. The second half of the story found its footing and the pacing did pick up. More importantly (to me, anyway), I think Ms. Cogman has a great imagination and I’m excited to learn more about the world of the Library. There’s a lot of interesting information exposited in The Invisible Library that I didn’t unpack because it’d spoil the story. Suffice it to say that – while I struggled with the writing overall – the premise has me hooked and I look forward to seeing what Irene and Kai get up to in The Masked City.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Review: About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis

About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay, Book 5
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062741776
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

When love drives you crazy…

When sexy Joe Malone never calls after their explosive kiss, Kylie shoves him out of her mind. Until she needs a favor, and it’s a doozy. Something precious to her has been stolen and there’s only one person with unique finder-and-fixer skills that can help—Joe. It means swallowing her pride and somehow trying to avoid the temptation to throttle him—or seduce him.

the best thing to do…

No, Joe didn’t call after the kiss. He’s the fun time guy, not the forever guy. And Kylie, after all she’s been through, deserves a good man who will stay. But everything about Kylie makes it damned hard to focus, and though his brain knows what he has to do, his heart isn’t getting the memo.

…is enjoy the ride.

As Kylie and Joe go on the scavenger hunt of their lives, they discover surprising things about each other. Now, the best way for them to get over “that kiss” might just be to replace it with a hundred more.

About That Kiss is a warm, funny read that’s classic Jill Shalvis. Kylie and Joe are endearing, vibrant characters and their love story charmed my socks off. Like all the Heartbreaker Bay books, About That Kiss draws you into a wonderful world of welcoming characters, making you want to pull up a comfy chair and get lost in their stories.

Ms. Shalvis knows how to write sigh-worthy heroes, and Joe definitely fits the bill. He’s strong, protective, and his love for his family shines on the page. He had to grow up fast at a young age; his father is a Gulf War vet with severe PTSD, so as a child Joe had to be the one to ensure his family was safe and fed. Hid childhood left its mark on him, and Joe is reticent to get involved with someone long-term, which is why he tries to resist Kylie. She gets under his skin like no one else, and I loved that she knocked Joe off balance a bit. Kylie also carries some scars from her childhood, which makes her wary of opening her heart. She has hidden vulnerabilities, but I was rooting for her to take a risk and open her heart to Joe. Kylie is the kind of heroine you want to have for a friend. She’s quick, funny, kind, and an incredibly talented woodworker. She also has an utterly adorable dog who threatens to steal the show more than once. It’s clear from the start that Kylie and Joe are simply meant to be. They’ve got buckets of chemistry and their banter made me grin more than once. So while they might resist the “L” word, Joe and Kylie don’t stand a chance. Their romance is bright, sexy, and sweet – the perfect combination.

About That Kiss is the fifth full-length book in the Heartbreaker Bay series, but it can easily be read as a standalone. Kylie and Joe’s friends – all part of the Pacific Pier Building crowd – add even more humor and warmth to this story. The friendships are as important to the story as the romance, which is part of the book’s charm. Everyone is perfectly imperfect and easy to adore. I finished About That Kiss a well-satisfied reader, but I cannot wait to see what Ms. Shalvis has in store for Joe’s sister, Molly.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Headmaster by Tara Sue Me

Headmaster by Tara Sue Me
Series: Lessons from the RACK, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Erotic Contemporary BDSM Romance
ISBN: 9780399584503
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Lennox MacLure, owner of the RACK Academy, has sworn off the Dominant/submissive lifestyle. Years ago, his submissive, Winnie, died in a car accident following a heated argument for which he blames himself. Guilt-ridden and emotionally closed off, Lennox sees the academy as both his punishment and penance for her death.

Mariela, a dance instructor and a natural submissive, was Winnie’s best friend and longs to help Lennox move past his grief. She’s accepted that he will never see her as anything more than a friend, but she still wants to help him acknowledge what he needs. Mariela comes up with a plan of seduction, guaranteed to unleash the Dominant he’s willfully buried—but the passion they unleash could prove to be stronger than they are ready to handle.

After the death of his submissive, Winnie, Lennox MacLure turned his back on the Dominant part of himself while at the same time opening the RACK Academy as a sort of penance. He’s been living a half-life since then, but emotionally shutting himself down is getting more and more difficult when faced with his desire for the academy’s dance instructor – and Winnie’s best friend – Mariela. Mariela has wanted Lennox for years, but he’s never seen her as more than Winnie’s friend. Frustrated and determined not to lose him to despair, Mariela makes one last desperate bid to unleash Lennox’s Dom side, and the risk she takes could make or break their chance at happiness.

Since I first ventured into the world of the RACK Academy in Master Professor, I’ve been dying to read Lennox and Mariela’s story. Headmaster is filled with emotional turmoil, but there’s also quite a bit of hope to balance that out.

Lennox has been closed off for years, unable to move past his misplaced guilt over Winnie’s death. I liked that it wasn’t easy for him to come back to his whole self; the work he had to put in made his journey feel “earned,” for lack of a better word. And Lennox definitely needed to start finding himself before he was a good fit for Mariela. Though she’s loved him for years, Mariela was always stuck in the role of “Winnie’s best friend.” And though Mariela is kind, she’s no doormat that will let Lennox put in her in a sort of box. She and Lennox clash more than once over the course of the story, and their happily ever after is well earned. There are a lot of ups and downs, and sometimes I might have been frustrated with Lennox’s one-step-forward-two-steps-back, but the fast pace of the story kept it from ever dragging. And while it has plenty of angst, Headmaster isn’t all loss and discovery. There are also plenty of smoking hot scenes. Mariela and Lennox have fantastic chemistry, and things get hot.

I really enjoyed Headmaster – so much so that I read it in one sitting. And even though I had some issues with the story (namely problems popping up which are then quickly resolved off-page), I was still quite happy with how Lennox and Mariela’s romance turned out. These two had a rough journey, but the result is a strong, believable love story that was a pleasure to read.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Down by Contact by Santino Hassell
Series: The Barons, Book 2
Publisher: InterMix
Genre: Male/Male Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780399586309
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Two rival football players begin a game with higher stakes than the Super Bowl in this steamy romance from the author of Illegal Contact.

Simeon Boudreaux, the New York Barons’ golden-armed quarterback, is blessed with irresistible New Orleans charm and a face to melt your mama’s heart. He’s universally adored by fans and the media. Coming out as gay in solidarity with his teammate hasn’t harmed his reputation in the least—except for some social media taunting from rival linebacker Adrián Bravo.

Though they were once teammates, Adrián views Simeon as a traitor and the number-one name on the New Jersey Predators’ shit list. When animosity between the two NFL players reaches a boiling point on the field, culminating in a dirty fist fight, they’re both benched for six games and sentenced to joint community service teaching sullen, Brooklyn teens how to play ball.

At first, they can barely stand to be in the same room, but running the camp forces them to shape up. With no choice but to work together, Simeon realizes Adrián is more than his alpha-jerk persona, and Adrián begins to question why he’s always had such strong feelings for the gorgeous QB…

Down by Contact is insanely addictive! Like the first Barons book, Illegal Contact, Simeon and Adrián’s story is so compelling that you’ll want to be sure you have plenty of time to devour it in one sitting. Santino Hassell’s writing has power and passion and his characters are so vibrant that there’s no way this story won’t stick with you.

I dare readers not to fall in love with Simeon from the start. He’s so charming that he lights up the page and it’s easy to see why almost every one he meets is instantly at ease with him. In the previous Barons book, Illegal Contact, Simeon came out as gay in solidarity with his best friend and teammate, Gavin. Coming out hasn’t harmed Simeon’s reputation in any visible way, but the invasiveness of the media and the online taunting from his former teammate now rival, Adrián, is wearing on even the generally positive Simeon. Simeon isn’t perfect, but he’s a pretty perfect hero. He’s kind, generous, and has a spine of steel. He doesn’t let anyone walk over him, but he’s also willing to forgive. I absolutely loved him and couldn’t wait for him to fall for someone who’s his match.

While Simeon made me swoon, Adrián isn’t immediately endearing. And though it might sound weird to say it, I enjoyed the fact that Adrián is deeply flawed at the start, because he grew into a hero worth rooting for. Adrián is aggressive and doesn’t think before he speaks, throwing out comments he doesn’t even realize are homophobic and deeply hurtful. He also carries deep resentment toward Simeon for leaving the Predators to play for the Barons. Part of Adrián’s animosity also stems from the fact that he’s bisexual and doesn’t realize it. I really liked that Simeon was able to open Adrián’s eyes about his behavior. Adrián isn’t a bad person, which is why his change over the course of the story is organic. It was great to see him realize just what he had been saying and the impact it had. He not only starts to think before he speaks, but becomes a better, more aware person, one who is happier and more at peace with himself.

Adrián and Simeon may hate each other at the start of Down by Contact, but the former friends turned enemies have one hell of a love story. When the tension simmering between them explodes into a fistfight on the field, they’re both suspended and forced to teach teenagers how to play football. Having to put the kids first means they have to put aside their animosity, which of course leads to the barriers between them coming down. It’s clear from the start that these two have incredible chemistry and I couldn’t wait for Adrián to realize that his feelings for Simeon run far deeper than he ever could have imagined. The sexual tension between them is incredible, and when it boils over Down by Contact gets insanely hot. In bed and out, Adrián and Simeon make a fantastic couple. That doesn’t mean the road to happily ever after is an easy one. Adrián not only has to come to terms with the fact that he’s bisexual, he and Simeon have to make hard decisions about their burgeoning relationship that could impact the careers they love (and those are only the non-spoiler obstacles). Mr. Hassell makes every bump in the road worth it, because the ending of the story left me grinning.

Down by Contact is the second book in Mr. Hassell’s Barons series, but it can easily be read as a standalone (though you’d be missing out on a great story if you skip Illegal Contact). I absolutely loved Simeon and Adrián’s romance. It’s sexy and sweet, but also interesting and layered. I cannot wait to re-read it!


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Best Books of 2017

2018 is here and with it comes a batch of highly anticipated reads. But before I fully dive into the new year looking for some new favorite books, it’s time to take a look back at the best books of 2017. I read 138 books last year, including quite a few re-reads that I fell in love with all over again. I tried 31 new (to me) authors and discovered some wonderful authors (like Rebecca Brooks, Santino Hassell, Stefanie London, and Heather McCollum) whose backlists I cannot wait to dive into. And finally, I participated in my eighth A to Z Reading Challenge, a fun challenge that usually leads me to at least a couple of books I might not have moved to the top of my TBR pile otherwise.

I read a number of excellent books in 2017, but I did manage to narrow the list down so I could spotlight my 17 favorites of '17 – the ten best new reads and the seven best re-reads.



Top Ten Books of 2017
Top Re-Reads of 2017

My Top Ten Books of 2017

Note: My picks weren’t all published in 2017 (one is even a 1930s classic), but all were new-to-me reads for the year.
Also note: The books are alphabetized by author as I love them all equally.


1. White Hot (Hidden Legacy, Book 2) by Ilona Andrews
My Review | Purchase Link






2. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Purchase Link




3. On Broken Wings (Wild Aces, Book 3) by Chanel Cleeton
My Review | Purchase Link






4. Illegal Contact (The Barons, Book 1) by Santino Hassell
My Review | Purchase Link






5. Fair Game (All’s Fair, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon
Purchase Link







6. Fair Play (All’s Fair, Book 2) by Josh Lanyon
Purchase Link






7. Fair Chance (All’s Fair, Book 3) by Josh Lanyon
My Review | Purchase Link






8. Trouble Next Door by Stefanie London
My Review | Purchase Link






9. The Wolf of Kisimul Castle (Highland Isles, Book 3) by Heather McCollum
My Review | Purchase Link






10. Silver Silence (Psy-Changeling Trinity, Book 1) by Nalini Singh
My Review | Purchase Link










My Top Re-Reads of 2017


1. Rock Chick (Rock Chick, Book 1) by Kristen Ashley
Purchase Link




2. Quinn’s Hart by Cassandra Gold
My Review





3. Azagoth (Demonica Underworld, Book 1) by Larissa Ione
Purchase Link






4. Accidentally Compromising the Duke (Wedded by Scandal, Book 1) by Stacy Reid
My Review | Purchase Link






5. One Hot December (Men at Work, Book 3) by Tiffany Reisz
My Review | Purchase Link






6. Angels Fall by Nora Roberts
Purchase Link







7. High Noon by Nora Roberts
Purchase Link