Thursday, July 19, 2018

New(er) Release Review ~ Before and Again ~ Barbara Delinsky #2018NewRelease

Before and AgainBefore and Again by Barbara Delinsky
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

Source: I received an eARC from St. Martin's via Netgalley. This did not affect my rating and my review is provided voluntarily.
Rating: 4 Bookworms
Challenges: #2018NewRelease
Goodreads

Synopsis
Mackenzie Cooper took her eyes off the road for just a moment but the resulting collision was enough to rob her not only of her beloved daughter but ultimately of her marriage, family, and friends - and thanks to the nonstop media coverage, even her privacy. Now she lives in Vermont under the name Maggie Reid, in a small house with her cats and dog. She's thankful for the new friends she's made - though she can't risk telling them too much. ANd she takes satisfaction in working as a makeup artist at the luxurious local spa, helping clients hide the visible outward signs of their weariness, illnesses, and injuries. Covering up scars is a skill she has mastered.

Her only goal is to stay under the radar and make it through her remaining probation. But she isn't the only one in this peaceful town with secrets. When a friend's teenage son is thrust into the national spotlight, accused of hacking a powerful man's Twitter account, Maggie is torn between pulling away and protecting herself - or stepping into the glare to be at their side. As the stunning truth behind their case is slowly revealed, Maggie's own carefully constructed story begins to unravel as well. She knows all too well that what we need from each other in this difficult world is comfort. But to provide it, sometimes we need to travel far outside our comfort zones.




I knew here name but I'd never read BDelinsky before. The synopsis of Before and Again intrigued me though so I requested it. I'm so happy I did. Delinsky delivered a character-driven, captivating story dealing with love, loss, guilt, forgiveness, and what it means to be a true friend.


Highlights
  • Characters
    Maggie (Mackenzie) is the central character and she was a woman I wanted to wrap up in a big, warm hug. She's endured so much and has built a new life in a small, quiet town, and made new friends. She's on a journey of self-discovery of sorts and she's forced to learn a lot about herself when her past shows up in her present, along with helping a new friend face a challenge. The supporting cast was also well-developed where it needed to be - especially Maggie's friends and Edward. I admired how Delinsky created a close-knit community where, for the most part, people rallied around their own even if "their own" weren't life-long residents. That's something I really enjoy about small town settings.
  • Plot
    Delinsky deftly wove together plot threads from past and present as Maggie put together the puzzle of her life. I appreciated how Maggie's past was dealt with and how the present, particularly helping Grace deal with her problem - something Maggie wished she'd had friends do for her - tied those threads together with the present enabling Maggie to see a real future for the first time in a long while.
  • Message (for lack of a better term)
    Before and Again deals with some weighty topics but does so adroitly. I liked what Maggie's story seemed to say aobut how our pasts shape us, are a part of us but don't define us. I liked the element of forgiveness - of others but especially ourselves. I also liked the ways in which Maggie learned about love - familial and romantic - and friendship - what it means to be a good daughter, wife, and friend.

I'm delighted with my introduction to Delinsky and will definitely be reading more from her.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Audio Review ~ Even the Score ~ Beth Ehemann #AudioChallenge #COYER

Even the ScoreEven the Score by Beth Ehemann
Narrated byChristian Fox and Lucy Rivers
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased on Audible
Rating: 4 Bookworms
Challenges#AudioChallenge, #COYER, #ShelfLove
Goodreads

Synopsis
Single dad Andy Shaw loves his job as a sports agent, with one exception: it doesn't leave him much time for his kids. No parent likes being sidelined, so Andy decides to hire someone to share the workload. But when one of the hottest agents in the industry applies, Andy knows that this deal is definitely trouble.

Danicka Douglas works her butt off, but being an attractive woman in a testosterone-heavy industry isn't exactly a cakewalk. She guards her professional reputation fiercely, which means no crushing on her gorgeous boss. But the more they ignore that sexy little spark, the more it sizzles...

Just when it looks like romance might be in the plan, Dani is threatened by a stalker with dark intentions. To keep her safe, Andy must cross the line between professional and very personal...because this time, he's playing for keeps.




Even the Score was my first Beth Ehemann read and I'm eager to read her backlist now so I can get the stories behind a few of the characters I met here. Andy and Danicka's story was one I enjoyed even though I wished a few things had been handled differently.

What Worked:

  • Characters Andy is a good guy. A single dad who has built his business and life around providing for his kids. In order to spend more time with them he decides to take on a partner - enter Danicka. Danicka is a strong and intelligent woman making a name for herself in a male-dominated profession. I liked them both, who they were as individuals - loyal and compassionate and funny - and I liked them together. They built a friendship first and then worked at the more.
  • Plot The circumstances that enabled Andy and Danicka to get closer, while maybe a little predictable, felt realistic. Ehemann was able to surprise me with the reveal which kinda shocked me. I appreciated the suspense and tension these circumstances created. I also liked the sports management element which kept me guessing.
  • Romance This is a slow-burn and it worked. There were many things to consider before going in - Andy and Danicka's work relationship, Andy's kids, their pasts - but I liked how Ehemann made it all work.
  • Narration I admit to having grabbed this book because I adore Christian Fox's narration. And he proved once again why he's one of my favorites. His delivery, his pacing, his voices...gah! I just love him. Lucy Rivers is a narrator I enjoy as well and that's a good thing since she's routinely paired with Christian Fox. ;)
What Could Have Worked Better:
  • Danicka's Issues I felt like there were things - like her being raised by a single dad - that could have been explored more which would have given her more depth and complexity.
  • The Reveal The reveal honestly surprised me but at the same time, I think it was tied up way too neatly. That part wasn't realistic all things considered.

Overall, I liked Even the Score and I'll be adding more of Ehemann's books to my library.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Blogger Chick Chat Review ~ Bad at Love ~ Karina Halle #2018NewRelease #AudioChallenge

Bad at Love by Karina Halle
Narrated by: Cornell Collins and Jo Raylan
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Tantor Audio. This did not affect my rating and my review is provided voluntarily.
Rating: 4.5 Bookworms
Challenges#2018NewRelease, #AudioChallenge
Goodreads

Synopsis
She's bad at love, but he's even worse...

Marina is hot, blonde, and wickedly smart, but when it comes to men? She's hopeless. Between her quirks and her lack of filter, there isn't a man in Los Angeles that will stick around after the third date.

Her handsome, charming friend Lazarus has the opposite problem. Everyone wants to be the sexy Brit's girlfriend, but he gets bored and moves on quickly.

There's only one way to figure out why neither of them has cracked this love thing -- they'll date each other. On paper, it's the perfect experiment. But in reality, things between Marina and Laz get complicated quickly.

They might be bad at love, but they are even worse at being friends.





Hi wifey! I'm so happy we buddy read Bad at Love - you know, Karina Halle seems to be our "go-to" author for these. ;) Okay, let's chat!

What did you think of Laz's serial monogamy?

Me: I found it very interesting that he dated for periods of time but always had a girl to move to immediately - and that it was easy because he never got close to a girl or let them get close to him. It said a lot about his feelings on relationships even though he felt he was doing a good thing.

Lex: I thought that Laz's serial monogamy was a way for him to not be alone, but also to not be invested. He made himself believe what he did was OK, because he didn't cheat. However, he also didn't really give his girlfriends a chance, as he always knew there was an expiration date.

And what about Laz's career? Poet? Lead singer of a cover band?

I felt both were ways to keep people from really knowing him since poetry is open to interpretation and singing someone else's lyrics allows you to hide. Both were brilliant ways to develop Laz's character and convey the issues he had due to his past. But I loved that he was open with Marina - showed her his true self - and it was easy with her.

Yummy! I loved both his poetry and his music - even when he sang cover songs, he kind of did make them his own. But yeah, he always took the safe road, not taking risks or showing anyone who he really was. I loved his and Marina's friendship too - you know friends to lovers stories are among my favorites, and with Bad at Love, that was one of the things that really made me swoon.

Marina was quirky and I loved her for it. How do you think her childhood influenced her career and relationship choices?

I adored the bee lady! She was out to save everyone - and the planet - one bee at a time. So her career said a lot about her need to save since she was unable to save someone close to her and I think she felt she failed at saving another someone close to her as well. Her relationships and the way she sabotaged them was a self-preservation mechanism. You can't get hurt if you don't let anyone close. In that way, she and Laz were similar. And yet they let themselves be close to each other...because romance was out of the equation. Until it wasn't...

I adored Marina and her awkward dorkiness! It was so funny how she'd have extra coffee and then too much wine at her third date - making sure it would be a disaster, then doing her bee-dance at the end. :D Definitely a self-preservation mechanism, plus, I am pretty sure her subconscious knew there was only one man for her, all the others were just fillers.

Marina and Laz's friendship was miraculous considering how "bad" at love they were. Did you think Laz had ulterior motives for his suggestion about them fake dating or do you think he was genuine and then was genuinely surprised by the results?

I thought he had ulterior motives until I saw his reaction to how good they were together. I was happy about that - but I also felt Marina needed the fake dating to get past her "need" to sabotage things. Then of course I wanted to string Laz up for doing what he always did. I mean, I understood but that was when he should have leaned on Marina... *sigh* All's well that ends well though. :D

I don't think Laz had ulterior motives per se, but he did have strong feelings for her from the beginning, I'm sure of that. However, when things started getting more tangled, he really didn't know what to do with all those feelings he had kept at bay for so long. I cried with Marina when Laz was stupid like that. And while I could kind of understand him, I had hoped he'd be stronger with her.

What did you think overall? And did you get the feeling that this might have been a bit autobiographical? Marina? Lazarus "Scott"?

Overall, I liked Bad at Love. I do love a friends-to-lovers romance and this one just really worked for me. I loved that they'd found their "weirdo" and *finally* figured it out. And I did wonder at whether this was semi-autobiographical since Marina is similar to Karina and her husband's name is Scott... In any event, it was a great read!

I didn't even think of that at all! Autobiographical? Eh...
I loved that Laz and Marina found their weirdo, too, what more can we all ask for, right? I've even found more than one weirdo, since I now also have you, wifey. ;)


So there you have it! Both Lexxie and I adored these characters and how they found their way to love. *sigh*

One thing to note: I actually listened to Bad at Love, which was narrated by Jo Raylan and Cornell Collins. These were both new-to-me narrators and I was impressed. They kept the pace just right as well as kept their voiced distinct and consistent. And they both conveyed the depth and breadth of emotions - especially during the sexy scenes. ;)


Monday, July 2, 2018

#Audio Review ~ Beneath this Mask ~ Meghan March #AudioChallenge #COYER

Beneath This Mask audiobook cover art
Beneath this Mask by Meghan March
Beneath #1
Narrated byAndi Arndt and Holter Graham
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased on Audible
Rating: 4.5 Bookworms
Challenges: #AudioChallenge, #COYER, #ShelfLove
Goodreads

Synopsis
He loves me, and he doesn't even know my real name.

The limelight that follows him could expose everything I'm hiding. But even knowing the risks, I can't force myself to stay away.

I'm going to break his heart, but mine will shatter right along with it.

Will we lose it all when I reveal what's beneath this mask?




Beneath this Mask was a captivating story brilliantly brought to life through Arndt's and Graham's narration (although I preferred Arndt's). There wasn't much about this story I didn't like - from the premise to the well-developed characters down to the NOLA setting - it was all good and I'm so happy I gave MMarch a go!

Highlights:
  • Premise
    A Bernie Madoff-style swindle that ruined not only the lives of those swindled but also that of a young woman whose belief in her father was destroyed forcing that young woman into hiding knowing her life would never again be "normal". While in hiding she meets a man who makes her want to give up her solitary lifestyle, maybe reveal her secrets...but she knows that because of his family's name and his career ambitions her mask of ink and colored hair aren't any better for him than the what the fallout would be were the secrets about her identity revealed.
  • Charlie & Simon/Romance
    Charlie and Simon meet in a tattoo shop. Simon is rather persistent in his pursuit of Charlie and despite her misgivings she eventually relents.
    I adored Charlie. She's smart, resilient, tough, and independent...all qualities I admire. She had absolutely no issues living without all the trappings of her privileged upbringing. In fact, those trappings, which she recognizes as the blessings they were, were never things she desired. What she wanted more was a dad who wasn't "dirty" and a mom who validated and valued her for the person she is. But she's finding that in her new life.
    Simon is the son of a semi-famous family and an all-around good guy. I appreciated how he was so into Charlie that he was willing to let her let him in at her own pace. What I also appreciated with these two was their character growth. They both realized what they wanted and that it was going to take some unpleasantness to get there. But they were both willing to wade through that unpleasantness for their own happiness as well as for each other.
  • NOLA
    MMarch did well with bringing to life the vibrant city. From clubs to street vendors, tattoo shops to Bourbon Street, and wedding parades, too...it made me want to go back to New Orleans ASAP!
  • Secondary Characters
    MMarch also created a nice little cast of secondary characters including Charlie's friends - especially Con - her dog, Huck, and Simon's family. I believe I'll get Con's story later in the series and I'm tickled pink over that. :)
  • Narration
    Y'all! I seriously FLOVE Andi Arndt!! Holter Graham was good too but Arndt really nailed it. I feel like I always say the same things about narrators I enjoy but Arndt easily switched from Charlie's voice to Simon's - including a little NOLA-flare for him - and her delivery just ROCKED. 

Beneath this Mask was an absolute pleasure. And it made my 10 hour drive to Texas a joy!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

My TBR List Review *June* ~ Opposition ~ Jennifer L. Armentrout #MyTBRL #COYER #HW2018

MyTBRList

My To-Be Read List is a meme hosted by Michelle @Because Reading

So sorry for the delay in my posting of this review. I didn't have time on Friday to get it typed up and I was driving back from Texas all day yesterday. =)


***


Opposition (Lux, #5)
Opposition by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Lux Series #5
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Source: Purchased paperback
Rating: 4.5 Bookworms
Challenges: #COYER, #HW2018, #ShelfLove, #TravelingtotheTerminus
Goodreads

Synopsis

Katy knows the world changed the night the Luxen came.

She can't believe Daemon welcomed his race or stood by as his kind threatened to obliterate every last human and hybrid on Earth. But the lines between good and bad have blurred, and love has become an emotion that could destroy her - could destroy them all.

Daemon will do anything to save those he loves, even if it means betrayal.

They must team with an unlikely enemy if there is any chance of surviving the invasion. But when it quickly becomes impossible to tell friend from foe, and the world is crumbling around them, they may lose everything - even what they cherish most - to ensure the survival of their friends...and mankind.

War has come to Earth. And no matter the outcome, the future will never be the same for those left standing...




Even though it took me an exorbitant amount of time to finish Opposition (to be fair, I wasn't dedicated-ly reading it all that time), Opposition was honestly the perfect ending to the Lux series. Here are the highlights:

  • Plot
    Not only was I impressed with the plot threads central to this final installment but also the over-arching plot. They were all well done and all tied up nicely. I know it's been awhile in between Origin and Opposition - and a really long while between all the others - but I admit that JLA surprised me with some things. There were others that tied up a little bit too neatly but I still felt they worked well with the story overall. Also, I liked the parallels JLA drew between the prejudice and judgement going on between the Lux, The Arum, and humans and the way those same things we humans perpetrate against each other. So much could be resolved or even avoided if we only treated EVERYONE with respect.
  • Katy & Daemon
    These two have been through so much and go through even more in Opposition. The growth and maturity they both exhibit, the resilience they display, and the strength of the bond only getting stronger in the face of adversity, prove them to be strong individuals and an even stronger couple.
  • Romance
    Well, with Katy & Daemon it goes without saying. Their romance - their love - is something to behold. But I also enjoyed seeing romance blossom or continue to blossom between secondary characters as well.
  • Secondary Characters
    JLA made sure I was equally as invested in the secondary characters as I was in Katy and Daemon throughout the series. Dawson & Beth, Dee, Archer, Luc, Hunter...yeah, JLA created a dynamic cast that gave the story depth and kept me that much more engaged.

In the end, there were things that shocked me, things that made me gasp, things that made me swoon, things that broke my heart, and things that restored my faith in humanity and I couldn't imagine a more fitting ending to this series.




Friday, June 29, 2018

Berk Reviews ~ Obsidian ~ Jennifer L. Armentrout

For those who may not know, Berk is my younger daughter. She agreed, if somewhat reluctantly, *wink* to review a few of her summer reads. And since my review of Opposition (last in the series) posts tomorrow, I thought it'd be fun for y'all to see what she thought of Obsidian (first in the series.) I hope y'all enjoy!



Obsidian (Lux, #1)
Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Lux Series #1
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Source: Borrowed paperback from my Mom
Rating: 4 Bookworms
Goodreads

Synopsis

Starting over sucks.

When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I'd pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a while lot of boring... until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.

And then he opened his mouth.

Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something... unexpected happens.

The hot alien living next door marks me.

You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon's touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I'm getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.

If I don't kill him first, that is.

**BERK'S REVIEW**

What I Liked:

  • The thoroughly developed characters
  • No love triangle
  • How "real" the aliens were - how there weren't big reaches in believeability
  • Date rape awareness in a high school setting
  • Relatable sass of Katy

What I Liked Less:
  • The constant lusting after Daemon. It may seem like all teenage girls are constantly pining after guys but that's not true and it got annoying because it seemed to be central to the premise when it shouldn't have been.
  • There wasn't enough action. The bit there was good, it just felt like it was lacking.

Overall, I really liked the world building and the story line. I'm just not a fan of excessive romance. However, I have started Onyx.




Wednesday, June 27, 2018

#JIAM Audiobook Tag #LoveAudiobooks

Sophia Rose @Hot Listens found this audiobook-themed tag on the Books and Things YouTube Channel and it looked like fun so I thought I'd consider myself tagged. If you're so inclined, consider yourself tagged too. :)

***

  1. Have you always listened to audiobooks or when did you begin?

    I haven't always listened to audiobooks and when I first tried about 5 years ago, I admit I found it challenging. I'm not one of those people who can listen to audiobooks while doing things like blogging, answering emails, etc., so I was only listening when I was driving (and didn't have kids in the car) or cleaning. So it took me a long time to listen to a book and I'd forget details in between listens. But with practice, and some fantastic narrators (thank you, Andi Arndt!), I've made audiobooks a regular part of my reading diet. :D

  2. What is your favorite audiobook?

    Oh geez! Why don't you ask me which is my favorite child! There's no way I can pick just one so I'll go with narrators and the series they narrated which really made me fall in love with audiobooks:

    *Andi Arndt - Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott
    *Robert Petkoff - Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole
    *Nicole Poole - Seven series by Dannika Dark

  3. What is my least favorite thing about audiobooks?

    Um, I honestly feel like I remember details about audiobooks less vividly. But that's just how my brain works. And it's the little details that are fuzzy in audio whereas in print I can "see" them.

  4. What do you think is the difference in experience between physically reading a book and listening to it?

    Like I said above, I can remember details better when I read them rather than hear them - I'm a visual person. I also like holding a book or an ebook. And that means I'm sitting somewhere comfortable, typically with a cup of coffee or tea, and quite possibly with a cat in my lap. When I'm listening, I'm typically driving, running (yes, I listen while I exercise), or cleaning. Oh, I listen sometimes while I grocery shop as well. :) So reading a physical book is a more relaxing experience overall for me BUT I wouldn't give up my audiobooks for anything. And my hubs likes that I clean more often. ;)

  5. How and when do you listen?

    Um, I guess I got ahead of myself as I kinda answered this in the previous question. At least the when part. As for how...I listen via earbuds and my phone. I know my Kindle Fire can handle audiobooks but since I'm always active while listening, I need the smaller device.

  6. What style/genre do you prefer?

    I don't really have a preference in my reading - I'm a genre omnivore as my blogging wife, Lexxie, likes to say. I do tend to listen to paranormal romance, contemporary romance, and historical romance quite a bit though.

  7. What are some audiobook/narrator recommendations?

    Again, I got ahead of myself and gave a few of these in my answer to question #2. But I have a few more to recommend:

    *Beverley A. Crick - The Sinful Suitors series by Sabrina Jeffries (and I have Berls to thank for recommending this one!)
    *Christian Fox - Sugar Bowl series by Sawyer Bennett
    *Andi Arndt/Zachary Webber - Show Me the Way by A.L. Jackson
    *Mindy Kennedy - Songs of Corruption series by C.D. Reiss




Monday, June 25, 2018

Audio Review ~ Show Me the Way ~ A.L. Jackson #AudioChallenge #ShelfLove

Show Me the Way (Fight for Me, #1)
Show Me the Way by A.L. Jackson
Fight for Me #1
Narrated byAndi Arndt and Zachary Webber
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased on Audible
Rating: 4.5 Bookworms
Challenges: #AudioChallenge, #ShelfLove
Goodreads

Synopsis
Rex Gunner. As bitter as he is beautiful.

The owner of the largest construction company in Gingham Lakes has been burned one too many times. His wife leaving him to raise their daughter was the last blow this single dad could take. The only woman he'll let into his heart is his little girl.

Rynna Dayne. As vulnerable as she is tempting.

She ran from Gingham Lakes when she was seventeen. She swore to herself she would never return. Then her grandmother passed away and left her the deed to the diner that she once loved.

When Rex meets his new neighbor, he knows he's in trouble.

She's gorgeous and sweet and everything he can't trust.

Until she becomes the one thing he can't resist.

One kiss sends them tumbling toward ecstasy.

But in a town this size, pasts are bound to collide. Caught in a web of lies, betrayal, and disloyalty, Rex must make a choice.

Will he hide behind his walls or will he take the chance...




Oh my! It's been awhile since I spent time in a world created by A.L. Jackson and I'd forgotten how rich her stories are. I loved every second I spent in Gingham Lakes and its inhabitants and am eager to return.

Highlights:
  • Rynna & Rex
    Goodness did I love these two! They've both been burned - badly - and yet are still such giving people. They're loyal to their family and friends and care so deeply about them and their hometown. Watching them fight and eventually fall was beautiful.
  • Frankie Lee
    I believe I've mentioned how I feel about guys with kids. *wink* Frankie Lee and her daddy (Rex) were something to behold!
  • Plot
    The circumstances behind Rynna's return were sad but I couldn't help but feel Fate - and Rynna's grandma - had a hand in all that came afterward. The ways in which Rynna and Rex were tangled up in each other - people they knew, their businesses, Rex's love of Rynna's grandma's pies - only served to solidify the fact they were meant to be. The element of suspense and the tension it wrought was very well done and again, I appreciated how ALJ had it all tied together.
  • Romance
    Although there was a serious attraction, Rex fought it fiercely. That bothered me at first but I eventually understood her reasons and as I said, watching these two fall was beautiful. The fact that Frankie Lee was part of the equation only made the romance that much sweeter because the way Rynna fell for her too illustrated the kind of person she was and made me root for them all the harder.
  • Narration
    Andi Arndt and Zachary Webber are a dream team! (a theme lately) I freaking loved their delivery on all counts. The pace was perfect, they conveyed every single emotion, their voices for each character - especially Webber's voice for Frankie Lee - were distinct and consistent, and overall it was an utterly entertaining listen! So much so that I'm getting every ALJ book these two narrate.

Show Me the Way was not only a well-written story but also an aural delight!