ARC review: Body Shot by Kelly Jamieson

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It’s pretty rare that I don’t love something put out by Loveswept, but here we have a rarity.  It’s not that I hated it, or even disliked it, really.  It’s more that it was missing something that would have made me like it more.

The book begins as professor/scientist/cancer researcher Hayden’s best friend convinces her to finally take a night off work to check out a local tequila tasting.  Hayden is a workaholic who never takes any time to herself, so even stepping away from her work for a few hours is a huge challenge for her.  At the tasting, she meets ex-Navy SEAL Beck, a laid-back charmer who hopes to teach Hayden how to keep a better balance between work and her personal life.

Hayden quickly falls head-over-heels for Beck and then beats herself up for all the time she spends with him that she could have spent working.  I actually totally understood this, because I am also the type of person who feels incredibly guilty for taking any amount of time off.

The thing that I couldn’t stand in this book was all of her flip-flopping.  In one breath, she’ll say that she doesn’t have time to date.  Ten pages later, they’re spending the day at the beach.  She doesn’t want to take chances, wait, now she does, but… oh, now she doesn’t.  I felt like I was re-reading the same conversation over and over and over again as she explained how important her research was to her, how little free time she had, how she shouldn’t be spending time with Beck… and repeat.

Jamieson sure knows how to write a steamy scene, I’ll give her that, but I was missing the connection that’s usually so apparent in Loveswept books.  It was easy to see what Hayden saw in Beck.  He was a gentleman, he helped her relax, and he showed her what’s important in life.  But what Beck saw in Hayden I could never quite figure out.

A little more development of their relationship and a little bit of variety in their conversations could have taken this book from okay to great.  Nevertheless, it’s still a fun, quick read.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

ARC review: Something I Need by Lena Lowe

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Jonte Williamson has always dreamed of being a country star, and she knows she has the talent to make her dream a reality.  Her big break comes in the form of a singing competition in Nashville, so once she’s saved up enough money, she flies there from her native Australia.  Everything is set to be perfect… until her housing falls through at the last minute.

Alone and suddenly homeless, Jonte wanders into a bar in hopes of figuring things out.  The bar belongs to Cash Bellini, a young guy with a big heart.  Cash and his twin sister Dolly take Jonte under their wing, helping her find a job and a place to stay.  It’s not long before Jonte and Cash start falling for each other.

I assumed based on the description that I would like this book, and I was right.  In some ways, it’s your typical New Adult story.  In other ways, it’s completely not.

It follows the usual progression of the hero and heroine meeting under less-than-ideal circumstances. The hero helps the heroine overcome some obstacle and then they have an intense and explosive relationship.  Hurt feelings.  Misunderstandings.  Inevitable break up.  So on and so forth.

This is the plot of about 97%* of New Adult books.
(*Not a scientific measurement or mathematically correct figure.)

But here we have some twists.  Because while, yes, Cash did help Jonte out of a bind, it turns out that Cash has all the issues to overcome.  Jonte is happy in the relationship.  She’s fine with commitment.  There’s no abuse or trauma in her past preventing her from getting close to someone.    Their relationship isn’t going to get anywhere until Cash gets over his baggage, but Jonte isn’t going to sit idly by waiting for him.

No, Jonte has her career to worry about.  Not only does she have a one-year visa to worry about, but she also promised her family that if things don’t work out within a certain timeframe, she’s coming back to Australia.  She doesn’t have time to wait around while her sometimes-boyfriend tries to decide whether he wants to be with her.  And more power to her!

Jonte also doesn’t fall at Cash’s feet when he realizes how much he likes her.  He’s actually a pretty huge jerk to her, and she calls him out on it.  She’s not going to pretend that everything’s okay just because he apologizes.  This is also great because so often in these types of books, the hero sweeps the heroine off her feet and all of his mistakes are forgotten.  Real life doesn’t work like that, and neither does Jonte.

There were a couple things keeping me from giving this book a full five stars.  My main complaint would be that everything seemed so convenient.  We have Dolly, whose sole purpose is basically to push Cash and Jonte together.  We have Cash’s Nannie, whose psychic inklings are the catalyst for all the drama between Cash and Jonte.  We have Seb, Jonte’s coworker who is actually (I think) a much better fit for her, who basically exists only so that Jonte will realize that she has feelings for Cash.  But these complaints are relatively minor and this didn’t bother me too much.

Let me just finish this review by saying that I really appreciated the inclusion of Dean’s character in the book.  Dean is Jonte’s friend.  He’s always there for her when she needs him.  He listens when she needs to complain.  He offers her suggestions when she asks.  He’s a good-looking, straight guy who is not attracted to Jonte in the slightest.  And Jonte isn’t attracted to him, either.  How refreshing!  A platonic friendship between a guy and a girl in a New Adult book!  One that doesn’t exist just to develop into a romantic relationship in later chapters!  Imagine that!

If New Adult is your thing, definitely check this book out. You won’t be disappointed.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.
This book’s release date is September 14, 2016.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

Book review: Confess by Colleen Hoover

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As with most Colleen Hoover books, I actually read Confess in one sitting. By now I’ve learned to read her books on the weekend, which is good because I think I stayed up until about 1am with this one.

I basically started sobbing while I was reading the prologue. So my thoughts were something along the lines of I’m going to love this book so much. I’m dead already. Colleen Hoover has killed me. Probably a little less calm and eloquent than that, but you get the point. But then…

I was a little confused by Owen. Like… why was he trying so hard? Why did he so badly need to convince some random girl off the street to work for him? Offering her $100/hour? That’s a little insane. Real jobs do not pay that much. And then he kept giving her alcohol, even though he knew she was underage. It was a little creepy.

But, surprisingly, Owen is the good guy. And I ended up liking him a lot. Hoover knows how to write her love interests, that’s for sure. She also knows how to write her twists. And I’m not going to get into the twist here. I think it’s better to go in not knowing what it is. (Although I had my suspicions early on.)

The thing I didn’t really like is that Auburn and Owen only actually interact a couple times, but we’re supposed to believe that they have this incredible connection and are somehow in love. They hardly know each other. Am I supposed to believe that this relationship is going to last? Because, honestly, I’ve seen erotica with better relationship development.

One of the main reasons that Owen looks so good is that he’s compared to his total opposite, a controlling, obsessive, abusive jerk from Auburn’s past. And honestly, what was the point of him other than to create drama? The storyline was so absurd, and without giving too much away, I honestly think the fact that he had his parents’ approval for his despicable behavior made it so much more over-the-top.

Like most Colleen Hoover books, there were things I loved and things I didn’t, and it averages out to about three stars. I will still read whatever she writes, even though I know I’ll be simultaneously frustrated and in love.

PS: I absolutely loved the art in this book, and if I could buy prints for my house, I would.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

ARC review: A Secret Between Friends by Serenity Woods

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Genie and her best friend Ciara enlisted in the New Zealand Army shortly after finishing school.  After having the time of their lives traveling the world on active duty, they find themselves in Afghanistan.  One day, their truck is targeted with an unexpected bomb.  Genie is seriously injured, and Ciara is killed.

Genie returns home to heal after surgery and is devastated to learn that Ciara’s mother blames Genie for Ciara’s death.  Simone is convinced that Ciara would never have joined the Army if Genie hadn’t encouraged her.  Being blamed for your best friend’s death would do a number on anyone, but it’s even worse for Genie, who lived with Ciara’s family for years after her own mother died.

Genie just hopes that Ciara’s older brother, Niall, doesn’t blame her.  Genie’s had a crush on Niall as long as she can remember, although he’s always seemed unattainable.  There’s the age difference, the fact that Genie lived with his family, and also the girl Niall’s been dating for the last decade.  But as Genie returns home and her brother catches her up on the local gossip, she learns that Niall is newly single.  Maybe there’s a chance for them after all?

This book was a nice surprise.

It’s clear from the beginning that Genie and Niall are going to get together, but the way that it happens is actually kind of touching.  Genie decides to honor Ciara’s memory by completing her bucket list, and Niall agrees to help her.  As they check off points on Ciara’s list, they become closer and eventually realize their mutual attraction.

The book was also surprisingly funny at times!  I love it when authors weave a little humor into their romances, and that’s exactly what happens here.  Take, for instance, this description of Niall:

He should have had a warning sign above his head. One of those they stuck on fairground rides, ‘Use with caution if you have a bad back or a heart condition.’

I think we all know somebody like this.  I, for one, knew exactly what Genie was talking about!

The story is engaging and it’s a very easy read.  It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it’s certainly worth your time if you like steamy contemporary romances.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

Book review: Ignited by Kaylea Cross

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Khalia’s father, a famous philanthropist, has just been assassinated in Pakistan due to his contributions to a school for young girls.  Khalia decides that the best course of action is to go to Pakistan herself to meet the women who run the school.  This requires her to have a full security detail of several retired Navy SEALs, because obviously, the men who killed her father will want to kill her too.

This is the premise of the book.  No, I’m not kidding.

What follows is 221 pages of thinly veiled racism and very little plot aside from Pakistani terrorists deciding that Khalia is their #1 target.  Oh, and Khalia falling in love with her guard.

I will now present to you a list of questions about this mess of a book:

1. Why do the terrorists care about Khalia?  She’s just some random math teacher from the US.  Sure, her father built a school for young girls, and the terrorists believe that girls should be uneducated, but really.  To devote so many resources and so much manpower to kill a random tourist?  It’s so over-the-top.

2. Why is Khalia in Pakistan?  There’s no reason for her to be there.  Her father was just murdered and she decides, “Oh hey I guess I should see what he was working on that was worth dying for.  I might get murdered too so I guess I should hire some ex-SEALs to protect me.”  WHAT?  Did nobody think to tell this girl, “Hey, Khalia, maybe don’t literally walk into a deathtrap.”  No?  Ugh.

3. What even is this romance? They’ve known each other for three days when:

You know what?  I love you.

Oh, come on.  You only think you love him because a bomb exploded next to you and he pushed you out of the way.  Like three minutes ago you were saying you didn’t like him and now you’re in love?  I can’t.

4. What kind of terrorists are these?  This is an actual scene from the book.  The terrorists want Khalia to go to a location, but they don’t tell her where.  They send her a math problem so she can figure it out.  Get it? Because she’s a math teacher?

Khalia enlarged the image again to read them better despite the blur, and gasped a moment later. “It’s trig.” “Huh?” he asked, squinting at the numbers. As in, trigonometry? “And algebra,” she confirmed, sounding convinced. “They’ve given me the distance between two points on the map and the degrees of this angle…” She muttered something else to herself then nodded. “It’s a math problem to calculate the length of this line.” Her finger traced a route from a dot in the middle of the map to the star on the left. Holy shit, it really was trig.

Apparently, the terrorists have nothing better to do.

(Also, can I just comment that the author is Kaylea and the heroine is Khalia?  Coincidence?  If I write a book, should my heroine be Serah?  Because I’m Sara, get it?)

I was so bored by reading this book.  It was ridiculous.  My Kindle highlights are mostly eye-rolling emojis and, at times, literally just “I DON’T CARE.”  There is so much unnecessary information and so little connection to the characters.

I thought I would like this book.  I liked the last SEAL book I read.  But not this one, and not this author.  How this book can possibly have a 4+ star average on Goodreads and Amazon is beyond me.  It is not worth your $4.99.

Final rating: ★☆☆☆☆