Review: With Everything I Am (The Three, #2), by Kristen Ashley

With Everything I Am (The Three, #2)With Everything I Am by Kristen Ashley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book in Kristen Ashley’s ‘The Three’ series, ‘With Everything I Am’ tells the story of Callum and Sonia. Callum, the King of Werewolves, meets his mate when she is a young girl. Although their initial interaction was brief, Callum was never far from Sonia’s mind.

Since she was a young girl, Sonia has dreamed about the wolf she “adopted” as a young girl. After the death of her parents, she is taken in by a family friend. Eventually her family’s cabin and “her wolf” remain only in her dreams.

When Sonia is attacked, Callum is forced to claim his mate earlier than he had intended. The threat to her safety has made it imperative that Callum step in. He no longer has time for the prolonged “human” courtship that he had planned for Sonia.

Unaware of the existence of supernatural beings, Sonia dismisses everything Callum does as the actions of a madman. Clearly, he is unhinged and completely delusional. Initially thinking that she’s been kidnapped for ransom, she soon decides that Callum is the leader of some fanatical cult instead. This made for some pretty comical situations as Callum tries to win Sonia over.

As Sonia comes to terms with the existence of werewolves and other supernatural beings, she slowly comes to question her own special abilities. Sonia has always had extremely heightened senses, but never knew the cause. Furthermore, she suffers from a debilitating illness that she must take daily injections to manage or risk suffering tremendously.

This book was definitely a slow-burn, as is typical of a Kristen Ashley book. At times, I found myself wondering if the storyline would ever progress. Similar to the first book, Callum was not upfront with Sonia about the prophecy and what she meant to him.

Eventually, everything between Callum and Sonia works itself out. Now two of the three prophesied couples have connected. Things are heating up and it is clear that war is on the horizon.

After finishing ‘With Everything I Am’, I was anxious to meet the third couple and see what Ms. Ashley has in store for these supernatural warriors. I am sure that the third book will prove to be much more action-oriented and dangerous. I cannot wait for Lucien’s father to get what he has coming.

Overall, this was a great story. It was a little slow at times, but the characters and storyline were well-developed and engaging. I enjoyed Sonia’s quirky personality and sense of humor quite a bit. I will definitely be continuing this series.

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Review: Lost and Found (Lost and Found, #1), by Nicole Williams

Lost and Found (Lost and Found, #1)Lost and Found by Nicole Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘Lost and Found’ was a sweet, heartwarming story that ended up being a pretty good way to pass some time. This book tells the story of Rowen Sterling, a troubled teenage girl that has spent years acting out. She has used drugs, alcohol and sex to try and get her deadbeat mother’s attention to no avail.

When Rowen’s mother has finally had enough of Rowen’s antics, she sends her to the home of an old friend in Montana. Rowen has never met the Walker family before, but she will be spending the summer on their ranch. It is about as far from Rowen’s normal life in the city as possible, but she begrudgingly agrees to go or else her mother will not pay for her to attend art school in the fall.

Right from the start, I noticed that there was a contradiction between who Rowen was supposed to be and who she actually was. From the moment that she arrived on the ranch, she was considerate and respectful. She immediately fell into the routines of the Walker family and pulled her own weight. She was a far cry from the rebellious hell-raiser that she was supposed to be.

In very little time, Rowen and the Walker’s son, Jesse, have caught each others’ attention. While Rowen was supposedly the “bad girl”, Jesse was a total sweetheart. He was hardworking, good looking and the type of guy that parents want their daughter to date. It was hard not to love Jesse.

As Rowen and Jesse’s summer romance takes off, Jesse’s past comes back to haunt them. His ex-best friend and his ex-girlfriend add a little drama to this story. Both Jesse and Rowen have to fight their insecurities at every turn.

When Rowen’s mother shows up on the scene, all hell breaks loose. To say that her mother is nurturing is putting it mildly. Rowen’s mother has spent years selfishly placing the needs of her revolving door of boyfriends above the needs of her own daughter. She is selfish and shallow. Suddenly, it becomes very apparent why Rowen had been acting out at home.

Overall, this was a nice, sweet story. If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming, YA type of romance, this is a pretty good choice. This can easily be read as a standalone, although it is part of a series. You won’t be left hanging. It will leave you with warm fuzzies.

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Review: Alternate: A Gypsy Brothers Novella (Gypsy Brothers, # 7.5), by Lili St. Germain

Alternate: A Gypsy Brothers NovellaAlternate: A Gypsy Brothers Novella by Lili St. Germain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s no mystery that I love dark, twisted stories. So, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I absolutely love the ‘Gypsy Brothers’ series. It is a raw, gritty and disturbing story of revenge and I devoured each one of the books in this series.

Somehow, I managed to miss the fact that this novella had been released until I saw a couple of reviews start popping up on friends’ pages. That is precisely why I love Goodreads so much. I hate to think that I would’ve missed this otherwise. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

Although this is just a novella, I found it to bring a lot to the series. Providing three snippets of scenes from the POVs of Jase, Dornan and Elliot respectively, I gained a much better understanding of what was going on inside each of their heads. Some things were surprising, like Jase’s darker urges, and some things not so much, like Elliot’s love for Juliette.

Dornan continues to be one of the most intriguing villains that I’ve ever encountered. He is wicked through and through. Yet, there is a tiny part of him buried deep down that is remorseful and regretful. In his own sick way he still cared for Juliette, even as he was determined to destroy her. I still struggle to reconcile the man he could have been with the man that he became.

This novella also sheds more light on the time that Jase spent as his father’s captive for the years following Juliette’s brutal rape. He was an entirely different person than the Jase that we met in the other books. His despair led him to some very dark places. He’s never even told Juliette about his time pushing the depths of his own depravity.

As for Elliot, you just can’t help but love him. He was just what Juliette needed at the lowest point in her life. Without him, she wouldn’t have stood a chance at survival. He sacrificed so much to save her. Unfortunately for him, she just couldn’t ever love him the way he wanted her to. His story is one of sacrifice and heartache, but integral to the series.

This was another terrific addition to the ‘Gypsy Brothers’ series. This is hands-down, one of my favorite dark series and I’m so glad that Lili St. Germain gave fans another little taste. It does need to be read after other books in the series so that you’ll have an understanding of the characters and events. This one is not intended to be a standalone. If you’re a fan of the series, you can get a free copy of this ebook on the author’s website if you sign up for her mail group.

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Review: Throne of Truth (Truth and Lies Duet, #2), by Pepper Winters

Throne of Truth (Truth and Lies Duet, #2)Throne of Truth by Pepper Winters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you enjoyed ‘Crown of Lies’, then you don’t want to miss the conclusion to Penn and Elle’s story. Finally, all of the lingering questions I had have been answered. With plenty of twists and turns along the way, the facts and the past are unveiled. Some things were predictable, others not so much.

Picking up where ‘Crown of Lies’ left off, ‘Throne of Truth’ thrusts readers right back into the dangerous situation that Elle has found herself in. If I thought that I hated Greg before, I had no idea of how much I would come to despise him. Totally unhinged, with a penchant for the sadistic, he proves to be far worse than I had imagined.

With Elle missing and at the mercy of her abductor, Penn is determined to rescue her. Whether or not Elle wants anything to do with him once he finds her, is something he’s willing to let her decide once she’s heard him out. He’s come too far to let her slip away without hearing his truth.

Elle ends up spending more time than I had anticipated as Greg’s captive. Accordingly, this book had a “darker” feel to it than the first book did. He was one crazy guy and he had no qualms about mistreating Elle.

Eventually, Penn does come to Elle’s rescue. No big surprise there! However, the two still have their own problems to work out.

Despite the big heroic rescue, Elle still isn’t willing to trust Penn. Given the situation, the bickering seemed a little petty and unrealistic to me. I mean, come on! You’ve just been rescued from your kidnapper/would-be rapist and you’re going to refuse to talk to your savior? I call BS.

Once the two finally get things squared away again, it doesn’t take much time before they run into another problem. Elle’s company comes under fire for her association with Penn. After all that work to get her back, Penn begins to question whether or not he is good enough for Elle.

They’re off. They’re on. They’re off. They’re on again. There is certainly plenty of angst and conflict in this second book. I am a lover of angst, but it was getting to feel a bit too contrived for me.

That being said, I did enjoy this book quite a bit overall. I had plenty of gripes – like the friendship with Gio- but I have to admit that I couldn’t put it down or pull myself away from all of the drama. Sure, I rolled my eyes…but I couldn’t get enough.

I haven’t found a Pepper Winters book yet that I haven’t enjoyed. This one proved to be no different. I have enjoyed every minute of Elle and Penn’s story, albeit unbelievable at times. I also loved having a story that came full circle in only two books, versus a series that goes on and on without an end in sight. This wasn’t my favorite of Ms. Winters’ series, but I thought it was great all the same!

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Review: Defy (Sinners of Saint, #0.5), by L. J. Shen

Defy (Sinners of Saint, #0.5)Defy by L.J. Shen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since reading ‘Vicious’, I have been looking forward to reading the story of Jaime and Melody. I love a forbidden love story and says “taboo” like a student-teacher romance. ‘Defy’ was everything that I had hoped for. I devoured this quick read and all of it’s naughty goodness!

After her dream career as a dancer comes to a tragic end, she is forced to pursue a lackluster job as a high school Literature teacher. With no real interest in teaching, she is less than enthused to face the spoiled rich kids than run the elite school where she’s been hired on a whim. It is no mystery to her that she doesn’t belong there and that the Principal intends to fire her at the first opportunity that she gets. With her job on the rocks, Melody Greene does the unthinkable – she has an affair with her high school student.

Of course, Jaime isn’t just any student. He’s the Principal’s out of control son. It seems that both teacher and son have an axe to grind with the Principal. What better way than by having an illicit affair right under her nose?

While this novella was steamy and sordid, with a dose of forbidden, it was also surprisingly sweet. L. J. Shen did a good job of showing the softer side of Jaime, while staying true to the privileged, above-the-law young man that we were introduced to as one of the four Hotholes in ‘Vicious’. There were really two sides to Jaime that were in stark contrast to one another.

Melody also proved to be a character that I really liked. She was so very human and flawed that she was easy to sympathize with. She was not blind to her faults or Jaime’s, but she loved him anyway. I loved that she chose to embrace her forbidden desires, pursuing a relationship with Jaime, knowing the controversy that would result. Similarly, I love that Jaime had the spine to stand up to his parents, even though it meant losing the wealth he’d always known.

Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic novella. It was a steamy, short read and highly entertaining. If you enjoyed ‘Vicious’, or even if you didn’t, this is a great choice if you’re looking for a taboo, forbidden love story.

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Review: Truth or Beard (Winston Brothers, #1), by Penny Reid

Truth or Beard (Winston Brothers, #1)Truth or Beard by Penny Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been meaning to get around to this series for quite a long time. Finally, I downloaded the audiobook and decided to find out what all the fuss was about surrounding these bearded brothers. I wasn’t disappointed.

In the first book in the series, readers/listeners are introduced to the Winston brothers. Listening to the Audible version, I couldn’t help but envision the men from the ‘Duck Dynasty’…which wasn’t exactly sexy. However, with time, I was able to overcome that and mold the brothers into sexier versions of bearded bliss.

Despite being rather over-the-top at times, each of the brothers stood out as being unique and loveable. They were definitely a quirky bunch, but very endearing. I think they might be my latest guilty pleasure.

Jessica James is the leading female character in this first book in the series. She is dying to get out and see the world, but her plans have been temporarily derailed. She’s returned to her hometown to earn enough money to pay off her student loans so that she can travel the world. Long-term relationships or any other commitment that would tie her down are not in her plans.

When she runs into the object of all her young fantasies, Beau Winston, she acts in an uncharacteristically passionate way. Nobody is more surprised than her to discover that her impromptu make-out session was actually with Beau’s twin brother, Duane, her childhood nemesis. She certainly wasn’t prepared for the jealousy and longing that she felt toward her one-time rival.

I enjoyed the progression of Duane and Jessica’s story, from stand-offish to inseparable. This was a sweet, heart-warming kind of story. I smiled and laughed at the personality quirks of the various characters throughout this story. There was just enough action and mystery to keep me engaged as well.

Eventually, everything works itself out. We get the HEA that we craved and are left feeling contented. This story can easily be read as a standalone, even though it is the first book in the series.

If you’re in the mood for a sweet, humorous, feel-good type of love story, then this is a great choice. I can see why so many of my friends have fallen in love with the Winston brothers. I will definitely continue this series. I look forward to seeing what the other brothers have in store for me.

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Review: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1), by Amie Kaufman

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! This book certainly took me by surprise. I’m still digesting exactly what transpired in this book.

‘Illuminae’ was unlike anything that I’ve read before. For starters, I’m not a big Science Fiction fan. However, this story had a strong romance element and so it managed to draw me in and hold my attention. That being said, I was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone with this book.

The writing style was also very unique. The story is told through the transcripts of recordings, e-mails and other communications between various characters. Admittedly, this style took me quite a while to get used to. Yet, once I adjusted to this unique perspective, I was completely hooked on this story.

‘Illuminae’ tells the story of battling mega-corporations in the future. They are fighting over a speck of a planet at the edge of the universe, with little regard for the lives of the people that are caught in the crosshairs.

Kady Grant and Ezra Mason are two of those people. High school sweethearts, the two had just broken up the morning that their worlds would be turned upside down. They find themselves under attack and fighting for survival.

In the wake of the attack, the world that they knew is changed irrevocably. A virus has broken out amongst the survivors, turning friends and neighbors into murdering zombies. Kady and Ezra are separated, but work together to try and save everyone.

As the story progressed, there were plenty of twists and turns. Every time that I thought I had everything figured out, the story would turn in a completely different direction. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.

It did take me a little longer to get into this story, but once I did, it had me completely focused. I even found myself liking AIDAN, the ship’s artificial intelligence that was arguably a “bad guy” for much of the book. This book ended up being surprisingly good for me.

I listened to the Audible edition and I have to give kudos to the narrators. They did a fantastic job of keeping this story engaging and keeping the multiple characters straight. This was a great audiobook selection.

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Review: And I Darken (The Conquerers Series, #1), by Kiersten White

And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)And I Darken by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘And I Darken’ was the first book that I’ve ever read by Ms. Kiersten White, but it certainly won’t be the last. The first book in ‘The Conquerers’ series, it managed to completely captivate me. I am both intrigued, enamored, and at times appalled, by these characters and the turbulent world that they occupy.

Lada Dragwlya is an unlikely heroine. She’s unattractive, uncouth and at times, downright mean. She’s everything her father had hoped for in a son, but got in his daughter. Her only redeeming qualities are her love for her homeland, Wallachia, and her love for her younger brother, Radu.

By comparison, Radu is everything that Lada is not. He is soft-spoken and gentle, an utter disappointment to their father, the Prince of Wallachia. Immediately, Radu claimed a piece of my heart.

When their father trades Lada and Radu to the Sultan of Ottoman as pawns to guarantee his loyalty, they are left to fend for themselves in a hostile new world. Lada is determined to be strong and to plan for her eventual revenge on the Sultan and his countrymen. She refuses to show any weakness that might be used against her and Radu.

Unlike his sister, Radu soon takes to the ways of this new world. He never felt that he fit in in Wallachia and finds comfort in this new country. He is not resistant to the new teachings or the new religion, as Lada is.

After months living in the Ottoman Empire, Radu and Lada make an unlikely friend. Mehmed is the illegitimate son of the sultan. Before long, the three are inseparable. The line between friend and enemy blurs and loyalties are called into question.

From start to finish, I was completely captivated by this story. It has a little of everything. There’s plenty of action and battle scenes. There’s romance and angst. Kingdoms rise and are overthrown. The incredible highs are off-set by bitter betrayals.

I am completely and totally hooked on this story. It is the first book, in what I’m sue will prove to be an epic saga. The characters were certainly flawed, but that only made me love them more. As soon as the next book is released, I’ll be diving in again. I was left with a lot of questions and I’ll have to wait for the next book to get my answers.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and I thought that the narration was well done. I could easily distinguish between the characters and I thought the narrator did a great job of conveying the emotions and intensity. It was a fantastic audiobook choice for me.

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Review: Bright Side (Bright Side, #1), by Kim Holden

Bright Side (Bright Side, #1)Bright Side by Kim Holden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book wrecked me! It was incredibly touching and heartfelt. Despite dealing with some rather depressing subject matter, it was handled with care. I can’t say that I didn’t cry big fat tears, but I can say that I smiled far more than I cried while reading this book. It was beautiful.

The heroine, Kate, moves from San Diego to Grant, Minnesota for college. Right off the bat, I loved her. It is easy to understand why her best friend, Gus, gave her the nickname “Bright Side”. She is the type of person that just lights up a room. Kudos to the narrator for being able to capture the essence of Kate’s character so well.

As Kate makes friends in her new home, she never lets her relationship with Gus weaken. They talk daily on the phone, while he tours with his band, Rook. There is no mistaking the strength of their bond, or the fact that there are feelings shared that extend beyond the bounds of normal friendship.

Despite claiming not to believe in romantic love, Kate finds herself falling in love. Keller Banks is the hot guy that works the counter at the coffee shop that she frequents for her caffeine fix. They flirt tirelessly and find themselves thrown together more often through mutual friends.

Once Kate and Keller begin spending more time together, their attraction is evident. Before long, Keller has let Kate into the private aspects of his life that he doesn’t share with others. The two grow incredibly close in a very short period of time.

Nobody is more surprised by their quick intimacy than Kate herself. She never planned on falling in love. She didn’t even believe it existed. More importantly, she has a big secret that she’s been keeping from everyone she loves, which she knows will ruin everything.

Aside from the romance between Kate and Keller, I found myself drawn to the stories of friendship in this book. Kate’s relationship with Gus was incredible. The support and love between them was so strong it was tangible. Similarly, her relationships with Clayton, Shelley and Pete were inspiring.

This book certainly did not lack for a strong cast of supporting characters. Each of these characters was endearing in their own way. Even the ones that made me mad initially, like Kate’s roommate, won me over eventually. I loved all of them and am looking forward to reading their stories.

In the end, I cried big, fat tears. It was sad, but also very inspiring. This is one of those books that makes you step back and reevaluate how you go through life. It was inspirational and helps keep things in perspective.

This is a must-read! I can’t believe that I put it off for so long, but I am so glad that I finally read it. This book was fabulous!

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Review: Black Swan Affair, by K. L. Kreig

Black Swan AffairBlack Swan Affair by K.L. Kreig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I started ‘Black Swan Affair’, I anticipated a steamy love affair and a fair amount of angst. I had absolutely no idea that this book would gut me the way it did. This book ripped my heart out! Several days later, I’m still trying to get ahold of my emotions and come to terms with what this book made me feel.

The story centers on Maverick DeSoto, who is marrying her childhood best-friend, Kael. Only, Maverick isn’t in love with Kael. She’s in love with his older brother, Killian.

After an intense opening scene with Maverick and Killian arguing on the day of her wedding, I knew that I was in for a hell of a ride with this book. Killian is trying to stop Maverick from going through with her wedding to his brother and she is determined to marry Kael to spite Killian. It was like watching a bad train wreck in slow motion.

For most of this book, my heart broke for Kael. He was so in love with Maverick and she just couldn’t see past her love for Killian to appreciate what she had in front of her all the time. Kael truly did have enough love for both of them.

In contrast, I despised Killian until about 85% through. He seemed to want to have his cake and eat it too. He had married Maverick’s sister, Jillian, without so much as an explanation, leaving Maverick brokenhearted. I doubted the sincerity of his feelings for Maverick right from the start. After all, who would do that if they really loved somebody?

Then, there is Maverick. Jilted by Killian, she sets out to do the same thing to him that he did to her…marry his sibling. Only, she actually claims to love Kael, even if she isn’t in love with him. Kind of cruel, if you ask me. All the while, she pines over Killian.

The longer Kael and Maverick are married, the more he begins to creep his way into her heart. Slowly, she begins to fall in love with her husband. She is determined to push Killian out of her mind and Kael is eager to help her make that happen.

However, there are some big secrets being kept from Maverick. When they come to light, everything will change. Suddenly, the reasons for Killian’s shocking marriage will be explained. The betrayal and lies run deep. Everyone except for Maverick seems to be in on it. She has to decide whether she can get past this deception at all.

I loved every painful moment of this story. It broke my heart, but I couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted to scream and throw a tantrum so many times while reading this one. In the end, I came to a place of acceptance with the decisions that were made. Yet, I can’t say that I felt content with the ending.

I don’t think that there was any way for this to work out with a perfect happy ending. It just wasn’t that kind of story. I understood why Maverick made the decisions that she did and think it was the right one…but it still hurt so much. This one definitely got me in the feels. I highly recommend any book that can make you feel the way that this one does.

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