Tag Archives: Guest Review

Guest Review: Don’t You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire

*Barbie’s Review

Don’t You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire
Young Adult Fiction released by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on July 10, 2012

When plain and unpopular Annie Nutter gets zapped by one of her dad’s whacked-out inventions, she lands in a parallel universe where her life becomes picture-perfect. Now she’s Ayla Monroe, daughter of the same mother but a different father–and she’s the gorgeous, rich queen bee of her high school.

In this universe, Ayla lives in glitzy Miami instead of dreary Pittsburgh and has beaucoup bucks, courtesy of her billionaire–if usually absent–father. Her friends hit the clubs, party backstage at concerts, and take risks that are exhilarating . . . and illegal.

But on the insde, Ayla is still Annie.

So when she’s offered the chance to leave the dream life and head home to Pittsburgh, will she take it?

The choice isn’t as simple as you think.

I don’t read much YA at all, especially nowadays, because they all seem to have the exact same premise. I only picked up this one up because it was by Roxanne St. Claire, who’s been one of my favorite authors in her other genres, and it wanted to give it a shot. Don’t You Wish really surprised me in a great way, because it seems to be different from the current YA books being published. This books has such a fun, innovative story, with a creative, fast-paced, plot and lovable characters. I devoured it like a beloved desert. I’ve loved every page of this book. It’s been one of my favorite reads this year!

Annie Nutter is supposedly your average girl, as she doesn’t get noticed at school and doesn’t get to hang out with the popular crowd at school. She’s just a band dork who gets made fun of. Annie is really nice and fun, but she’s shy and doesn’t show that much of her lovable personality to the world. At the point where she becomes Ayla Monroe on the outside, yet continues to be Annie on the inside, is where the true beauty of the character lies. Because of this – Annie gets this huge initiative and changes Ayla’s life. A life that would seem to perfect for everyone that wasn’t really living it. It’s like Annie gets the spark to light the fire within [Ayla] and starts to proactively make things better.  And Annie finally stands up for herself. I love that about her.

Then, there’s Charlie, a geeky guy, within a picture perfect world who gets bullied for not being rich enough for the Crop Academy. He befriends Annie as Ayla. Of course, the real Ayla would never have befriended him. Charlie is a key character as it’s his genius that eventually helps Annie figure out her final solution. Charlie is a very authentic, multi-layered character. He’s so real to me, I have a physical image that I associate with him. Charlie is brilliant, and he’s not very trusting of other people. He’s more vulnerable than he appears to be, and it’s very hard for the reader not to wish you had a guy like him when you were in high school. Think *insta-crush*. He’s a really great character, and you can’t help but keep rooting for him and Annie to end up together..

I have to admit, even though Annie has a very nice and sweet best friend in real world, it was the character of Ayla’s “Dumb-Blonde-Friend” Bliss that made me laugh out loud. Bliss was my favorite secondary character. She brought a lot of fantastic humor to the book. I would have liked to see what happened to Ayla’s life after Annie left and Ayla’s real soul returned, as Annie changed so many things, from minute details to relationships with friends, classmates and parents. Perhaps this was the only thing that was lacking in the book for me. The “after” scenes.

One of the best things about Don’t You Wish is that it’s not a depressing, angsty book. This is what separates it from the paranormal YA books nowadays – because as it’s about parallel words, the book does have some paranormal elements. This story is a fun, light-hearted book, that is above all, a very pleasurable read. I recommend it to everyone that loves a really unique story, a good laugh and really interesting characters.

Grade: A+ 

You can read an excerpt here, or buy a copy here.

Guest Review: Barefoot in the Sand by Roxanne St. Claire

As you can see we’ve got another guest review today! It’s Barbie’s first time reviewing and she’s really nervous, so show her some love please! Also, she’s so cute – she wrote her own back cover copy/book blurb because she felt that fit the book better. So that’s why there are “two” of them.)

Barbie’s Review of
Contemporary Romance released by Forever Romance on April 24, 2012

(Barbie’s Book Blurb)
When a hurricane literally sweeps away the life Lacey Armstrong had always known, she has two choices: keep making excuses and holding herself back, or start anew and finally daring and going forward to realizing her dreams. Having lost everything she held dear, except for the single most important thing in her life – her teenage daughter, Ashley – and realizing none of the material things mattered at all, Lacey starts a journey to make a new life for herself and her daughter, to build her dream of having a bed and breakfast.

That’s when Clay Walker, a young, sexy architect comes into her life and sees in her land a great project opportunity to build a beautiful resort on the beach. The chemistry between Lacey and Clay is real and instant, and, in the process of helping Lacey rebuild her life, Clay ends up doing some life-building of his own.

I have to start by confessing I was surprised by how I just I absolutely loved Barefoot in the Sand, even though Roxanne St. Claire ventures from romantic suspense (which is my preferred genre), to contemporary romance. With a new beach setting! Having been a fan of the author for a long time and devoured all her thrilling books, I was a bit afraid this one was going to have a slower tempo and the lack of crimes, chases, and general action was going to put me off, so, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he tempo isn’t slow at all. The characters are well developed and very real and there’s more action involved at building a resort and getting a happily ever than one would think.

Lacey is a single mother of a teenager, and their relationship is what you would expect: full of love, spats, loving words, secrets and eye rolling. All the decisions she’s made in her life, since she’s become a mother, have been about what’s best for Ashley, and, in this book, she goes through a process of self-discovery, as her daughter is growing, figuring out that it’s just about time she thought of herself, too. It makes her very… human. With the loss of her house, she sees the opportunity of finally making her dreams come true, but she needs to get rid of the excuses she’s always made and stop letting fear paralyze her. I think that makes her very relatable, as she tries to balance the reason and emotion and move forward with her life. The best thing about Lacey is just this, that is very, very real.

She doesn’t go through this process alone, though. As soon as they hear Lacey’s in trouble, her very best friends in the world, Jocelyn, Zoe and Tessa, catch the very first plane to Florida to be by her side during the hard time. And, OhMyGosh, how much FUN they are. Again, the biggest thing about them is how real they are to me. They have their own personalities: be it cracking the sex jokes, being private and collected, not liking secrets… that they could be any of us girls out there. At the same time that they’re brilliant, unique and I want them to jump off the book and become my best friends.

I couldn’t help but fall in love Clay at first sight. He’s not just funny, smart and sexy, he’s also caring, he has a sense of justice, the spirit of a fighter that won’t give up. Neither when it comes to building a big resort in the beach of Mimosa Key, nor when it comes to being with the woman he loves. As he helps Lacey overcome her fears of love and intimacy, he realizes he needs to take down his own emotional walls before he can open up for love himself. The romance is well paced – it doesn’t happen too slow nor too fast – the conflict is well timed with the development of the book and, overall, I think every aspect of it was very well done. Clay grows a lot during the book, he starts out boyish, and grows into a fine man. I think he and Lacey grow together.

Honestly, I don’t have a single thing bad thing to say about the book. Maybe, I wish there were more scenes with the girls – Jocelyn, Zoe and Tessa – I think they’re fun and brilliant and give the book a lot of life. But the book can’t be 800 pages long. Overall, though, it’s a great, great book!

I admit, I was never much of a fan of contemporary romance. I’m a big fan of romantic suspense and I didn’t think books could be much fun without blood and guts and dead bodies in it. But, Barefoot in the Sand showed me a book can be just as great even without the gore. So, I recommend it to everyone.

Grade: A+
Publisher’s Back Cover Copy

When all you hold dear is taken away . . .

When a hurricane roars through Lacey Armstrong’s home on the coast of Barefoot Bay, she decides all that remains in the rubble is opportunity. A new hotel is just what Mimosa Key needs, and Lacey and her teenage daughter are due for a fresh start. And nothing, especially not a hot, younger architect, is going to distract Lacey from finally making her dreams a reality.

A second chance is the only thing you have left.

Love has already cost Clay Walker everything. And if he’s going to have any chance of picking up the pieces of his life, he needs the job as Lacey Armstrong’s architect. What’s not in the plans is falling for the headstrong beauty. Her vision of the future is more appealing than anything he could have ever drafted for himself. Will Clay’s designs on Lacey’s heart be more than she can handle, or will she trust him to build something that will last forever?

You can read an excerpt here, or buy a copy here.

Guest Review(-ish): Sweet Addiction by Maya Banks

A guest review(-ish) by Kati Brown (aka @KatiD of Katidom fame! Totally excited she agreed to share/post her review here!) 
**SPOILERS AHOY**

Sweet Addiction by Maya Banks
Contemporary erotic romance released by Berkley on April 3, 2012

He awakened a need within her…

Cole is successful beyond his dreams. He can have any woman he wants, but there’s only one he can’t stop thinking about. His childhood sweetheart, Renita. He’s never forgotten his first taste of innocent love and the desire that consumed them—or the pain he brought upon her…

But now she belongs to another…

Her long ago brush with submission awakened a longing in Ren that drove her to walk the darker edge of desire. She’s become a beautiful woman at ease with her sexuality and unapologetic about her need for a dominant man. When Cole finds her again, he’s gutted that she belongs to another. Ren’s current master agrees to give her to Cole for a short time, but then she must return to his keeping. And though Cole agrees to this bargain, he knows he will never be able to let Ren go again…

I’ve been an avid reader of Maya Banks for quite some time. I followed the “Sweet” series and have liked most of the books. This is the final book in the series, and it’s Cole’s book. For the last five books, readers have been wondering about Cole. He’s dark, got a past, and not averse to serving up a little pain with his sexytimes — all things that draw me immediately as a reader.

It turns out that Cole’s “darkness” comes from his past with Renita, a woman that he loved as a young man. They met young, and immediately saw in each other a particular need: Cole’s need to dominate and Ren’s need to submit. Cole, knowing next to nothing about a D/s relationship, stumbled his way around, doing what felt good for both of them. But one night, after going too far, he realizes he’s caused Ren actual pain, and ends things. For her part, Ren loved the encounter and is devastated that Cole would end their love affair.

Years later, his handling of the ending of his relationship with Ren haunts Cole still. So he’s shocked when he hears her distinctive laugh in a restaurant. When he turns, he finds Ren with a very handsome man. They are definitely together, and she looks really happy.   Cole is immediately overcome with jealousy and coerces one of his friends who is acquainted with Ren’s man to arrange a meeting. Ren is beyond shocked to see Cole. All of the feelings she had come rushing back, and she’s immediately torn between her new love, Lucas, who provides everything she’s ever wanted, and Cole, the man who she has her most visceral connection to.

When Lucas witnesses Ren’s reaction to Cole, he decides to gift Ren with two weeks with Cole. His hope is that those two weeks will erase or mitigate whatever feelings she has for him. As Ren has agreed to submit control of her life to Lucas, it is his right to give her to Cole. Cole is not stupid and immediately agrees to what Lucas offers. He knows that once Ren is in his possession, he’s never letting her go.

This is a relatively hardcore D/s storyline. Ren is very much a beloved piece of property to both men. While it is her choice, and she willingly allows both of them to dictate to her, it is the men who make decisions for her. It is how she feels safest. She is, by her choice, a slave. While it’s clear in the story that both men have strong feelings for her, and are quite tender with her, she is also placed into situations that stretched my comfort levels beyond what I felt was appropriate.

In the scene where Lucas “gives” Ren to Cole, the three end up in a sexual encounter, and Lucas “marks” Ren by coming all over them while Cole is penetrating her anally. To say that my squick factor was exercised would not be an understatement. On top of that, in several scenes, Cole has other men have sex with Ren. At one point, allowing one to spank her with a wooden oar. This was in no way a turn on for me. It felt like debasement, in a way that made me deeply uncomfortable. I found many of these scenes to be gratuitous, adding nothing to Ren and Cole’s developing love story.

My second problem, and a more significant one at that, was that I never really understood the inclusion of Lucas in the threesome. In the end, the decision is made that Lucas and Cole would find a way to live together with Ren, sharing her. For me, this was never credible. While it was clear that Lucas loved Ren, he never struck me as hero material. As a reader of the series, I’d never heard of him, never encountered him, and had absolutely no investment in him. I didn’t understand why someone whose role in the book was minor became the third part of the threesome. If the author wanted me to become attached to him, she needed to make him more sympathetic, and a more integral part of the story. I never invested in him as a character, and therefore was dissatisfied with his part in the Ren/Cole Happily Ever After.

For me, Sweet Addiction fails because the romance between two of the characters (Lucas and Ren) was not credible, and also for several sexual encounters that did nothing to advance the connection or love story between the main characters and felt gratuitous and debasing. It disappoints me deeply to say that this story really adds nothing to a strong series from Ms. Banks. I walked away from the book with a bad taste in my mouth and a strong dissatisfaction that Cole didn’t get the Happily Ever After that he deserved.

Grade: D-

You can read an excerpt of the book here or buy it here.

Guest Review: About That Night by Julie James

Romance Gal’s Review:

About That Night by Julie James
Contemporary romance released by Berkley on April 3, 2012

Though Rylann Pierce tried to fight the sparks she felt for billionaire heir Kyle Rhodes the night they met, their sizzling chemistry was undeniable. But after being stood up on their first date, Rylann never expected to see him again. So when she finds herself face to face with Kyle in a courthouse nine years later, she’s stunned. More troubling to the beautiful Assistant U.S. Attorney is that she’s still wildly attracted to him.
Just released from prison, Kyle Rhodes isn’t thrilled to be the star witness in a high-profile criminal case—but when Rylann comes knocking at his door, he finds she may be the one lawyer he can’t say no to. Still as gorgeous and sharp-tongued as ever, she lays down the law: she doesn’t mix business with pleasure. But Kyle won’t give up on something he wants—and what he wants is the one woman he’s never forgotten. . .

Julie James is at the top of the best contemporary romance authors and she doesn’t disappoint in her newest release. Her books seem to be getting better every year and in her previous book A Lot Like Love we get to meet Kyle who is the hero in About That Night.

Kyle is the son a multi-billionaire, a computer geek who is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and has no trouble attracting the ladies with said good looks and adorable hair. He also happens to be an ex-con who has just been released from prison. Nevertheless, he is still the kind of guy that every woman wishes for! I mean, despite the fact that he is wealthy, being hot, and a genius, he doesn’t put on airs. To the contrary he has a heart of gold. Kyle is the kind of guy who is not afraid to admit when he is wrong and suffer the consequences of his mistakes. All these make him such a captivating character that you cannot help but fall in love with him right from the beginning.

Rylann is beautiful, smart, and always has a plan to follow –whether it’s a 6 month or 5 year one. She is a girl who knows where she wants to be 10 years from now and won’t let any kind of distraction deter her. Rylann is a tough lawyer (a prosecutor in fact), sassy, and sarcastic as can be. At the beginning of the book we see that she knows where she is going. For example, while in college she drops a hot guy who gives her a great kiss because he stood her up for their date.

The thing that I love most about the book is the smart and witty characters! The dialogue between the characters alone makes one excited to keep on reading. I am so glad that Ms. James is still writing books with such strong minded characters that do not bore you with their dialogue. Instead you become avidly engaged in their conversations. The friends and family of the main characters also help add unforgettable moments throughout the course of the book.

About That Night is a very well written book that won’t disappoint Ms. James’ fans. The story brings together two characters that enjoy mentally and verbally sparring with one another. In Ms. James’ books we get to meet a male hero who is very insecure about relationships. The fact that he is sort of vulnerable makes him even more lovable. But don’t confuse that for weakness for you’ll see that he is not.

The reunion between Kyle and Rylann has been a long time coming with them not having seen one another in nine years. However, they do not exactly run into each other’s arms. Instead they try to deny the attraction they feel for each other. Not for long though and the sexual build-up ultimately culminates to very spicy, heated sexual scenes. I think they’re the hottest that Ms. James has written so far! We get to see uninhibited love making that made me wish for more. We also get to enjoy their relationship develop albeit in secret. They both get to learn their innermost feelings about themselves and each other. Despite the obstacles that appear to hinder a long lasting relationship with each other (a prosecutor and an ex-con), they eventually throw caution to the wind and go for what they both want. It’s a story that will make you shed some few tears while experiencing the tough decisions that Kyle had to make but also make you laugh in between.

The only thing that did not impress me about this book is the conflict between Kyle and Rylann before the book ends seemed farfetched. I don’t know if it’s just me but the misunderstanding that separates them for a while doesn’t seem believable. The whole scenario seems to be thrown in there for the sake of the expected norm of having a conflict almost at the conclusion of the story. Despite that this book was great!

This book is a must read for everyone who loves romance novels with the good old happy ending and I would highly recommend it. I am eagerly awaiting the next book in James’ FBI/US Attorney series.

Grade A-

You can read an excerpt of the book here, or buy it here.

Guest ARC Review: Devil’s Kiss by Zoe Archer

Liz’s Review of:
Devil’s Kiss by Zoë Archer
Historical paranormal romance released by Zebra December 6, 2011

A Handsome Devil

1762. James Sherbourne, Earl of Whitney, is a gambling man. Not for the money. But for the thrill, the danger–and the company: Whit has become one of the infamous Hellraisers, losing himself in the chase for adventure and pleasure with his four closest friends.

Which was how Whit found himself in a gypsy encampment, betting against a lovely Romani girl. Zora Grey’s smoky voice and sharp tongue entrance Whit nearly as much as her clever hands–watching them handle cards inspires thoughts of another kind…

Zora can’t explain her attraction to the careless blue-eyed Whit. She also can’t stop him and his Hellraisers from a fiendish curse: the power to grant their own hearts’ desires, to chase their pleasures from the merely debauched to the truly diabolical. And if Zora can’t save Whit, she still has to escape him. . .

The Devil’s Kiss is a book that draws the reader in from the beginning with fine details about the time period, the people, and the supernatural world that the Hellraisers tangle themselves up in.  The characters are well written, from the arrogant and bored Whit to the darkly alluring Zora, and the devil himself and his demons.  Full of supernatural and magical elements, the story weaves between the human world and the place where souls are taken in exchange for promises.

Whit is a typical wealthy elite playboy, but his vice is gambling, not women.  Along with his four friends, the Hellraisers, he sets in motion events to bring about hell on earth and loses his soul in the process.  But there is light in his new darkness, and her name is Zora.  His struggle to rid himself of his demons and to save her, at any cost, is compelling.  There is no quick resolution to Whit’s salvation, and the book keeps you guessing right to the very end.

Zora is independent and feisty.  Her gypsy romani world is turned upside down by Whit’s gilded one, but no matter what evil he brings with him, she is the sort of woman to find that kernel of goodness inside and put all her hopes on it.  Her assurance that he is not completely gone to the darkness is what makes her not only a heroine, but a champion.  Because the book shifts between Whit and Zora’s point of view, the reader is treated to knowing what they both are thinking and feeling, which brings depth to the book.

This is not a classic good vs. evil story about two people trying to save the world and fall into bed in the process.  It’s a romantic suspense-filled book about faith in a person you care for, sacrificing even yourself to see them safe, and galloping head first into danger without thought for your own safety.

Overall, this book about redemption and love was well written, steamy, and full of remarkable characters.

Grade:  C+

You can read an excerpt of the book here.

Me again: One day I’ll get a proper grading scale up. If you’re interested in reviewing, or being reviewed, please feel free to contact me! (No promises on either end, but hey – nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?)

Guest Review: Risqué Business by HelenKay Dimon

When this book first came out, I was really excited. So excited in fact, that I gave away three copies. One of my winners very kindly agreed to review the book. We felt the same about it. You can tell I’m a big fan of HelenKay Dimon’s contemporary stories.

These are Brandy’s thoughts about the sexy short. (Sorry it took me so long, Brandy!)

Risqué Business by HelenKay Dimon
Contemporary romance novella published by HelenKay Dimon June 2011

Kari Reynolds is a human resources specialist on a short-term assignment at Coleman Engineering. It’s her job to lead workshops but there’s one big problem – the boss, Matt Bradford.

Being near Mr. Tall, Dark and Smoking Hot brings out Kari’s naughty side. One look at him makes her forget what’s appropriate in the workplace, and she’s smart enough to know the heated glances he’s shooting her way have nothing to do with business.

Now all she has to do is convince Matt to ignore her job title and try a little office pleasure…

I received a copy of Risqué Business from the lovely Limecello. It was a twitter thing and I was completely stoked to read it. You see I’m a fan of HelenKay Dimon. I enjoy her characters and settings and everything in between.

Risqué Business was no different for me. Up to a point. The story of Kari and Matt gets off to a hot running start. There is tension and heat and I was thrilled when they talked about hitting the sheets and actually did it without someone wavering and needing to be seduced into what they already wanted.

I sped read through until the conflict was thrown in. With a few misplaced words I ended up confused near the end. Some of the emotion Matt was feeling and Kari’s reactions just didn’t work. The introduction of Matt’s cousin Rob didn’t help matters for me since I couldn’t get a handle on his personality in such a short snippet.

Luckily I was able to overcome the slight speed bump and the story ended well. I will admit to going back and re-reading the part that confused me. It still confused me but it didn’t hold me back from the rest of the story like it did the first time.

Grade: B

Ed: I actually hope that Rob gets his own story as well, and have told HelenKay as much. As for the confusing bit Brandy mentioned… that’s something else we both noticed. I think it was a typo or editing miss – not a huge deal, but it did kind of throw me out of the story. Nevertheless I enjoyed it. In fact I read this novella in an hour.

I definitely recommend this story. You can read an excerpt for it here.