Saturday, July 30, 2016

How to Be a Normal Person by T.J. Klune (audiobook)

Title: How To Be a Normal Person
Author: TJ Klune
My Rating: A
Narrator: Derrick McClain

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Gus and Casey
Release Date: April 2016 (audiobook)
Publisher: Audible/Dreamspinner
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: g-rated

Story Overview:
Length: 11 hrs and 7 mins 

Gustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.

Gus is not normal. And he's fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.

Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.

But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

My Review:
Overall: 4.5
Performance: 5.0

Story: 4.5

This story was epic in just how fun and funny it was. I can't imagine reading it could be near as much fun as listening to it, because the narrator was amazing. His inflections for Gus and Casey were absolute perfection. Through his voices, he managed Gus's disdain, Casey's stoned cluelessness, and the We Three Queens astounded and confounded comments perfectly. I LOVED listening to this book. 

And, wow, I don't honestly know what else I can say about this book. I can pretty much guarantee that it's like nothing you have ever read before (TJ Klune's brain is a bizarre, but fabulous place). There are moments when it's twisted. There are moments when it's sweet. And there are moments when it's heartbreaking...Gus's remembered moments with his father slayed me. I can't imagine what an incredible man he was to raise Gus to be completely okay with being this VERY off-the-wall character. 

And yeah, Gus has his moments of self-doubt...thus the online "Normal" lessons. 
Oh. My. God. 
The things that came up in the narration of these lessons literally kept me laughing out loud and rolling with laughter. 

It's a fabulous, feel good book about two men who learn to love one another despite and because of their differences. I'm so glad that I listened to it. I HIGHLY recommend it!!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Rush by Emma Scott

Title: Rush
Author: Emma Scott
My Rating: A+

Genre: New Adult Romance
Series: City Lights #3
Main Characters: Charlotte and Noah
Release Date:June 2015
Publisher: Trillion
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable. --John Milton 

Charlotte Conroy, Juilliard-trained violinist, was on the cusp of greatness when tragedy swooped down on dark wings, crushing her hopes and breaking her heart. The music that used to sing in her soul has grown quiet, and she feels on the verge of setting down her violin for good. To pay the bills, she accepts a job as a personal assistant to a bitter, angry young man who’s been disabled by a horrific accident … 

Noah Lake was an extreme sport athlete, journalist and photographer. He roamed the world in search of his next adrenaline high, until a cliff-dive left him in a coma. He awakes to find his career gone, his dreams shattered to pieces, his world an endless blackness that will never lift. 

Charlotte begins to see that beneath Noah’s angry, brittle exterior is a young man in a pain. She is determined to show him that his life isn’t over, that he has so much to live for, never dreaming that she would become the only light in his darkness, or that he would help her find the music in hers. 

The life he knew is over. The life she wants is just out of reach. 
Together, they must face their fears and rediscover what it means to really live. 

RUSH is Book III in the City Lights Series, and each can be read as a standalone. 

My Review:
What a fantastic book this was. Emma Scott was a new to me author when I went into this book, so I had no idea what to expect, but the premise sounded amazing so I leapt. I am so glad that I did. I am pretty sure this book will make my top 10 list at the end of the year. Yes, it was that good. 

This book is about two people who've lost their way. Noah lost his when he was in a horrific cliff-diving accident that almost stole his life and it did steal his sight. For this high-adventure fueled guy, death would have almost been preferable.

Charlotte chases a different kind of high than Noah. Her adrenaline rush comes from playing her violin. As a prodigy, her big brother Chris was always her biggest fan, so when he unexpectedly dies, her grief buries her ability to connect with her music. 

Neither of these characters is doing well with their new set of circumstances. For Charlotte it's been a year. For Noah, it's been six months. But through a set of coincidences, Charlotte comes to live with Noah in his downtown NYC townhouse acting as his personal assistant. Her job is to keep him safe and maybe, if they're all lucky, get him to living again. Noah is angry, belligerent, and never leaves the house. The black in his life is overwhelming and suffocating him and he doesn't know how to pull his way out of it. 

The way the book is written is brilliant, although I'll admit I was a little worried when I first started reading it because the initial set up felt so familiar to Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. But then the book took hold of its own story filled with twists and turns and I absolutely fell in love with these characters. The story is really interestingly written, too....just because of the influence of Charlotte's music. The book is broken into three parts that are broken down with musical terms. For Noah, his other senses have developed and he connects to Charlotte through the emotion in her music, although she isn't aware that he's eavesdropping on her. 

There is so much emotion and angst happening in both these character's lives and through each other, they are beginning to heal. I loved getting to read their story and get swept away in the emotion of it all. My heart mourned just like Charlotte when she lashed out after Noah's migraine. The book is powerful and I loved every single minute of reading it. It switches back and forth between Noah's and Charlotte's POV and that is absolutely my favorite style of romance.

This says that it's the 3rd in the series, but from what I can tell there is NO overlap to the books at all. They are a series by circumstances, not by common characters so they each absolutely work as completely stand-alone novels. 

I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend this book!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

SWAT Secret Admirer by Elizabeth Heiter

Title: SWAT Secret Admirer 
Author: Elizabeth Heiter
My Rating: A

Genre: Romantic Suspense 
Series: The Lawmen #3
Main Characters: Maggie and Grant
Release Date: March 2015
Publisher: Harlequin
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
A predator is no match for her protector… 

It's been ten years since the attack that drove Maggie Delacorte to become an FBI SWAT agent. She's an elite fighter now—and when the Fishhook Rapist sends her a letter saying he's coming back for her, she knows she has to find him first. Her teammate Grant Larkin is assigned to the case, and he's determined to protect Maggie, even if it damages the connection that's been growing between them. And even if her attacker has decided that the way to get to Maggie is by targeting the people she cares about. Her feelings for Grant could get him killed, but she needs him—and his love—to make it through the worst danger yet…

My Review:
I'll admit...I tend not to read Harlequin's category lines, but every time I do, I wonder why these books don't get more attention because some of them are really fabulous. This is one of those books. 

This book focuses on a hero and heroine who work on a SWAT team together and have for the last nine months. Although they have some great chemistry, they've never done anything about it because it's forbidden to work on the same team and have a relationship...and spots on the teams are hard to come by. 

I adored this heroine. Maggie was in college and on her way to becoming a lawyer when she was attacked, branded, and raped by a serial rapist called the Fishhook Rapist. He takes one girl each year on September 1st, rapes her, and brands her...and has gotten away with it for 9 years running. Maggie was the first and with this being the 10th year, the rapist has begun to taunt her. For his 10th anniversary, he's coming back for her. 

Maggie joined the FBI to keep others from being victimized like she was. She is one seriously tough chick. That attack made her stronger. Instead of becoming a victim, she became a savior. The story is awesome just for showing how a person can use a devastating event to strengthen them to become more. 

Grant sees that about her, too. When he's not working SWAT for the FBI, he works serial cases like Maggie's, although he's never let on that he knows exactly what happened to her. He respects her too much as an agent to let what happened to her 10 years ago skew his view of her. But as the case heats up and the anniversary draws near, he can't stand back and not help. He won't let her be victimized again. 

It was a good book. There is a ton of action and adventure. Throughout the book the agents are doing their jobs for the FBI, so not only is there the suspense of the rapist storyline, but there's also the suspense and adrenaline that just comes from their daily jobs. 

I will admit, I guessed pretty early in the book how the rapist story line would play out and his actions, but that didn't detract from my entertainment value while reading the story. I really enjoyed this book. I love that Grant is an alpha set on protecting Maggie, but that never meant that he tried to take care of Maggie like she was a simpering heroine. He's very aware of her impressive skill set and never underestimated her abilities because of that. There is also a great cast of characters and friends that surround Maggie who entered the FBI with her because they were part of her decision 10 years before. I loved them all and highly recommend this book. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Best in Show by Kelly Jensen

Title:  Best In Show
Author: Kelly Jensen
My Rating: B+

Genre: Paranormal Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Mac and Julian
Release Date: July 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: mild

Story Overview:
Solitary mystery writer Julian Wilkes doesn’t want a pet, but his sister persuades him to visit Lingwood Animal Rescue, where he is immediately taken with a large ginger tabby cat. Before he can settle into the joys of cat ownership, however, he discovers something very unusual about his new companion.

Macavity Birch is cursed. By day he is a large tabby cat. At night he can be himself—a human male with ginger hair and oddly yellow eyes. He didn’t mean to end up in the animal rescue, but he never meant any harm when playing the prank that resulted in his curse, either. Happily, Julian adopts him. But while exploring his host’s home, he discovers the diary of a long-dead relative.

Unfortunately, not all of Mac’s ancestors are dead and buried. His great-great-great-grandmother is very much alive, and she’s a powerful witch who doesn’t take kindly to the sharing of family secrets. When Mac reveals himself to Julian in order to save him from bigger trouble, he achieves just the opposite, plunging Julian deeper into a magical mystery with him.

My Review:
Yes, I'll admit it...I'm a cat person and could totally see either of my cats as cat shifters and that made me love this book even more. Mac is a cat shifter and has been able to shift into his cat form since he turned 13. But recently, he offended his witch relative and she's made it so he can only shift into his human form during the dark of night. A twist of fate meant Mac ended up in the animal shelter which is where Julian found him. 

Julian is an introverted author. His sister thinks that a pet may make him more socially adaptable (i.e. a dog will get him out of the house and maybe interacting with PEOPLE). Instead he adopts a cat and begins an even more odd with a standoffish cat...really, is there any other kind? But what he doesn't realize is that his cat turns into a man at night...although that would explain the food and beer he can't remember consuming. 

This was a totally fun read. I loved Mac and the stress of his situation, and I absolutely fell in love with Julian and the nurturing, caring soul he has. I loved how he would talk to Mac and really considers and worries about keeping the cat happy. Julian may be introverted, but he's lonely and really wants the companionship.

There's an interesting twist to the story with the witches and the journal that Julian bought for inspiration for his latest novel. I would have LOVED to have delved deeper into all this...seriously, this book would have worked wonderfully as a full length book going into all they mystery and lore there. But as it is it was a really fun read that kept me smiling throughout. I love the idea of a housecat shifter. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Love Blooms on Main Street by Olivia Miles

Title:  Love Blooms on Main Street
Author: Olivia Miles
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Briar Creek #4
Main Characters: Ivy and Brett
Release Date: July 2016
Publisher: Forever
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: mild

Story Overview:
Love is always in season . . .

Florist Ivy Birch fantasizes about the day a man will surprise her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Especially if that man happens to be Brett Hastings. One stolen kiss at her best friend's wedding and Ivy can't get the sexy ER doctor out of her head.

In the small town of Briar Creek, you can't avoid anyone for very long. Not that Brett has been trying to avoid Ivy. He just can't afford to let anything distract him from his work-not again. So when a hospital fundraiser throws them together, love is the last thing on his mind. But with her quick wit and sweet laugh, soon the one woman he's tried to keep at arm's length is capturing his heart...

My Review:
I really enjoyed this book. My only issue with it came early. Ivy is living in a fantasy world. Seven months ago she shared a sizzling kiss with Brett at a wedding. He was the boy she crushed on in high school and now he's a sexy ER doctor. Ever since then (SEVEN MONTHS!?!?...OMG) she's waited for him to sweep back into her life and fall desperately in love with her...even though he hasn't even called. I hated that she was so deluded early in this book. That made me lose a lot of respect for her as a heroine to start with. I really prefer my heroines to be a little bit more self-aware and less in a fantasyland...but that's definitely a pet-peeve of mine, because I hate clingy heroines. Have some self-respect. 

But that's why I did love her so much when she did have to face the fact that Brett didn't feel that way about her. She never let him see that it bothered her...and that startled him so much. It was fantastic. Even though it wasn't her true feelings, I love that she threw him off his game.

Brett is dealing with a lot. He's a prestigious ER doc who screwed up and is now home trying to recover from the fact that he's human and can make mistakes. Throw in the fact that now the girl he was sure he would have to let down gently isn't actually interested and his ego has taken a bit of a blow. I love that because it sounds like his ego needed to be taken down a few notches. Brett is caught up in his own little aspect of his world and doesn't really see what else is happening around him. He has a great character arc in this story to come to that reality of what his job truly is as a doctor...a greatly needed character arc. He's also having to face some harsh realities of what he can accomplish as a doctor and that affects how he responds as a human. He can't save everyone, no matter how much he thinks he should be able to. 

It was interesting that Ivy had a similar character arc...although different. Growing up everyone felt sorry for the children of the town drunk. So Ivy has taken care to never draw attention to herself. She doesn't want to do anything that makes her different or stand out. As a result, she never asks for help and is extremely independent...something that has hurt her over the years. She has to learn that those around her love her...even if she's not perfect, or maybe even slightly different. Everyone has their own issues. 

And in the background of this story was Kara's story and her trying to break out and become her own person in her career. Normally, I hate side stories that detract from the main story, but this one really worked for me, and I got where I looked forward to Kara's sections in the book. 

I've enjoyed this series and this one was a good installment. I definitely recommend it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ultimate Courage by Piper J. Drake

Hot military heroes, the women who love them, and the devoted dogs that always have their backs. ULTIMATE COURAGE is the second book in a high adrenaline contemporary suspense series from Piper J. Drake published by Forever Romance. Fans of D.D. Ayres K-9 Rescue series and Cindy Gerard’s One Eyed Jacks, will love this action packed romantic suspense series.

Title: Ultimate Courage
Author: Piper J. Drake
Series: True Heroes #2
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing- Forever
Print Length:  336 pages
Format: Digital and Mass Market Paperback

Retired Navy SEAL Alex Rojas is putting his life back together, one piece at a time. Being a single dad to his young daughter and working at Hope's Crossing Kennels to help rehab a former guard dog, he struggles every day to control his PTSD. But when Elisa Hall shows up, on the run and way too cautious, she unleashes his every protective instinct. 

Elisa's past never stays in her rearview mirror for long, and she refuses to put anyone else in danger. But with Alex guarding her so fiercely yet looking at her so tenderly, she's never felt safer . . . or more terrified that the secrets she keeps could put countless people in grave peril. The only way for both to fully escape their demons will take the ultimate act of courage: letting go and learning to trust each other.

Get More information at: Goodreads  | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes
Also in this series:
My Rating: B-
My Review:
Throughout the majority of this book and it was well on its way to a solid 4-star rating, but that all completely fell apart with the ending of the book. I'll try not to give anything away here, but gah...this was a decent book and then things just took a turn that I couldn't ignore. And honestly, the issues were so unnecessarily stupid. It would have been easy for the author to write the conflict in there without things suddenly going so wrong with the writing/plotting. issue #1 (without giving spoilers, so this may be a little vague)...stupid, idiotic hero. Um, hello? This person just shows up and starts spouting all this stuff that you haven't seen any evidence of and you just believe her? When you know that someone is out there after your girl? Seriously?

Issue #2...the last time I checked heavy stress and having to run maybe an 1/8 of a mile does not cause dehydration in need of hospitalization. OMG...she was out on a date, not doing a marathon. Now maybe if she'd been drugged...maybe...but she wasn't. She ran away and not very far at that. Over-extreme much?

Issue week. That's it and you just believed the most heinous thing about her and suddenly everything is hunky dory and let's all move in together, even though I obviously don't trust or know this woman and I have a 9 yo impressionable young daughter at home. Seriously...

And that's all within the last 15% of the book. The bad thing about that is that up to that point, I was really enjoying it. I loved Boom and her sassiness. I liked the dog, Souse, and the way he seemed to just get Elisa. I also really enjoyed the side story of Alex and his battle to overcome his PTSD...although I will admit there that I have my doubts that he should honestly be trusted with his daughter or around other civilians until he has a better handle on the flashbacks. 

So this was a mixed bag...and I'm thinking if I remember right that I had similar issues with the first book in this series. While the author can definitely write an engaging story with interesting characters, some of her details just don't seem to be as thought out as they should be. But honestly because of the way things just kind of seem thrown in there, I do wonder if this is truly an editing issue rather than something the author is doing. Maybe an editor pushing for more drama in the story line at certain points that weren't there originally. I'm not sure, but I think this will probably be my last read in this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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About Piper J. Drake:
Piper J. Drake (or “PJ”) began her writing career as “PJ Schnyder” writing sci-fi & paranormal romance and steampunk. She has recently received the FF&P PRISM award for her work as well as the NJRW Golden Leaf award and Parsec award.
Now, PJ is exploring the complexity of romantic suspense, incorporating her interests in mixed martial arts and the military into her writing.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Counting Fence Posts by Kelly Jensen

Title:  Counting Fence Posts
Author: Kelly Jensen
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Marc and Henry
Release Date: July 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
There are over two hundred thousand fence posts between Syracuse and Boston. Henry Auttenberg likes numbers—it’s his job—but he isn’t going to count them all, even if the view outside the rental car is less confounding than the driver, his attractive but oh so obnoxious colleague, Marcus Winnamore. It’s Christmas Eve, and Henry would much rather be home with his family. When the blizzard that grounded their flight forces them off the road, however, he’s stuck with Marc until the storm passes—or a plow digs them out.

As the temperature outside plummets, the atmosphere inside the car slowly heats up. Henry learns the true reason for Marc’s chilly distance—he’s not exactly straight… maybe… and he’s been fantasizing about Henry’s mouth, among other things. Confession laid out, Marc is all for sharing body heat… and more. Henry isn’t interested in being an experiment, but as the night and cold deepen, he could be convinced to balance certain risk against uncertain reward.

My Review:
One of my most favorite tropes of all time is when love interests get stuck in a snowstorm, but usually that means stuck in a cabin with a cozy fireplace while the storm rages outside. In this book, there isn't that safety parameter. No, these two men are trapped in a ditch in a blizzard and the likelihood of someone finding them seems rather grim. So, you know, the need to exchange body heat is absolutely imperative (see, this is why I love this trope so much!)

No, but seriously, this is a quick little read, but Kelly Jensen managed to pack a ton of story into very few pages. These guys have worked together for 2 1/2 years. While the story is only told from Henry's pov, it quickly becomes obvious that they've both been hiding their attraction to one another for a while. But not only do they work together, but Marc isn't out of the closet. In fact, until he met Henry, he didn't even consider that there was a closet about himself. (I do like a good gay-for-you trope, too.)

The story is fast and it actually only takes place over about 12 hours times, but I never felt short-changed. I didn't even doubt the validity of where these two went from there. I loved how Marc didn't really know what he was doing, but he was very self-assured in all of it. And I also loved Henry's analytical mind. He's very conscious about things...from counting the fenceposts to weighing the pros and cons of doing this thing with Marc, he thinks it all through. 

It was a sweet, romantic story with just a hint of possible life-threatening frost-bite, but snuggling is a very, very good thing. I think you'll probably like this one!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.