BOOK REVIEW: Kyland by Mia Sheridan

Kyland

Dirt poor. Hillbilly. Backwoods hick. Mountain folk.

Tenleigh Falyn struggles each day to survive in a small, poverty-stricken, coal mining town where she lives with her sister and mentally ill mother. Her dream of winning the college scholarship given to one student by the local coal company and escaping the harshness of her life, keeps her going.

Kyland Barrett lives in the hills, too, and has worked tirelessly—through near starvation, through deep loneliness, against all odds—to win the Tyton Coal Scholarship and leave the town that is full of so much pain.

They’re both determined not to form any attachments, but one moment changes everything. What happens when only one person gets to win? When only one person gets to leave? And what happens to the one left behind?

Kyland is a story of desperation and hope, loss and sacrifice, pain and forgiveness, but ultimately, a story of deep and unending love.

 

review

“I do go to hell. Every day. For you.”

Every Mia Sheridan novel I have ever read has left a small part of itself deeply impressed onto my heart, the memory of each story leaving a permanent footprint of the bouquet of emotions it stirred in me. With an uncanny talent for making readers feel so much no matter what scenario she gifts us with, I have learned to submit my mind wholeheartedly to this author’s extraordinary prose, expecting it to affect me and pierce through my composure effortlessly and without fail. But even knowing all that, nothing could have prepared me for the devastating effect that this book would have on me and my poor heart. This is a story I cannot and never want to forget. It is one of the most beautiful tales of selfless love and resilience of the human spirit I have ever come across, and it is a book I’d urge anyone to read as soon as possible.

“You had to appreciate the small things in life when the big things made you want to curl up in a corner in the fetal position and give up.”

In a small town in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, enfolded by nature’s breathtaking beauty and its perfect landscapes, lies a community marred by poverty and misfortune, a community wanting for everything—from food to warm clothing, from education to basic health care—and yet, this community survives, one way or another, their shared social condition reminding them each day that there is always someone who is worse off than they are, and that even a little bit of kindness goes a long way. And it is in the heart of these mountains that we find a young woman who dreams of seeing the ocean, of owning more than one pair of shoes, of living in a house with her own bed in it, of becoming a teacher and inspire others to love books as much as she does. And a young man who dreams of becoming an engineer, of never going to bed hungry, of doing something in his life that would make a difference.

“All my life I was a nothing, a nobody. My life was small and worthless. And it hurt so badly.”

Tenleigh and Kyland grew up dirt poor and both desperately determined to escape the lives they were born into, their only beacon of hope being a college scholarship that could change their futures. But while Tenleigh dreams of not only improving her own life, but also of those closest to her, Kyland’s tragic reality is very different to hers. Having lost everything he holds dear, he plans on leaving everything behind, all the pain, all the memories, all the despair, and on never looking back, at anything or anyone, especially a green-eyed girl whose smile makes him want to be a better person.

“A beautiful girl with a spirit so bright I wanted to squint when I looked at her was not going to derail me now.”

But they fall for one another, completely and irreversibly, and even though they both know their love would be short-lived and doomed from the beginning, they cannot help but seize the only happiness that life has ever granted them, losing themselves in each other, and for once, daring to want something just for themselves.

“…it was so hard not to dream that somewhere out there, there was someone strong and gallant who would dance with me under a starlit sky and call me his beloved—and mean it.”

When the time comes to make a choice, the love they both feel for one another is so overwhelming and pure, that a choice becomes not a choice at all, and their love manifests itself in the most heartbreakingly spectacular way there is—with a selfless sacrifice—because when you have nothing in life, the greatest thing you can give to a loved one is the future they would never otherwise have.

“Tenleigh, don’t love me. Please don’t love me. I can’t stay here. Don’t love me.”

I cannot tell you how deeply this story has touched me and how much it still hurts even just recalling some aspects of it. This is a book that drowns you in its heartache as much as it blinds you with it beauty. The inner strength and the dynamic nature of these characters is what drives this story forward, the ‘glue’ that holds a story like this together, and we can’t help but fall swiftly in love with them from the get-go and travel this journey with them willingly and wholeheartedly. Nothing in this story is rushed, or skimmed over, every aspect of the bond that slowly forms between Tenleigh and Kyland is given equal care, giving readers, in turn, the opportunity to get to know them, understand them, feel a myriad of emotions for them, the early scenes of them oh-so reluctantly falling for one another being as vital to our connection with them as are some of the later more dramatic ones.

Framed by a juxtaposition of nature’s beauty and human tragedy, we are given an unexpected story of a selfless and never-ending love, a story designed to churn emotions in us and make us ponder on our own lives. I swooned, I cringed, I smiled through my tears and I bowed from the pain, and every word of this extraordinary tale is sheer magic.

“Half agony, half hope. Half pain, half ecstasy. Half grief, half joy. Half my downfall, half my savior.”

5stars

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A Sign of Love – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links

(LeoLeo’s Chance, and Becoming Calder + Finding Eden are stories that unfold over two books, while Stinger, Archer’s Voice and Kyland are standalone novels)

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BecomingCalder
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Kyland

LeoAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Leo’s ChanceAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
StingerAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Archer’s Voice: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Becoming CalderMy ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Finding EdenMy ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Kyland: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

Connect with Mia: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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BOOK REVIEW: Three Brothers by Nicole Williams

threebrothers

I grew up with three brothers. They weren’t tied to me by blood, but our connection went beyond genetics or bearing the same last name. Our connection was forged the summer I turned thirteen, the summer my mom ended her life and left me in the custody of John Armstrong, a man I’d never met. Packing all I owned in a couple of boxes, I left the familiarity of the big city and headed west to Red Mountain Ranch, set in a lonely valley outside of Jackson Hole.

Nothing was as it seemed at Red Mountain—it didn’t take long for me to figure that out. John was kind to me but distant, as if he was afraid to let anyone get too close. His three teenage sons had their own devices for keeping love as far away as they could. The eldest distracted himself with cheap relationships that had a shelf-life of one night. The middle son threw himself into the rigor of running a ranch, and the third wielded cruelty and mind-games in his quest to keep people from getting close.

Time has gone by, and I’ve spent those years trying to forget the brother I’d fallen for—the biggest mistake of my life.

Finally, I’ve moved on. Finally, I’m back. But what I didn’t realize was that running away from the wrong brother meant I’d also run away from the right one. The one who’d been there for me all along, waiting in his brother’s shadow for the day I either would or could move on.

But a decade is a long time to wait. Has the brother I should have chosen all of those years ago moved on too? Am I about to discover that my biggest mistake wasn’t falling in love with the wrong brother, but failing to return the love of the right one sooner?

Does unrequited love have an expiration date?

I’m about to find out.

review

“There is no one better for me than you. There never has been, and there never will be.”

As someone who reads so avidly and is constantly seeking that next great story, that next unforgettable journey to hold me captive and overwhelm me emotionally, I am getting pickier and pickier the more books I read, and it takes more now than it used to for a story to rock my world and make me swoon over every word in it. But there are some authors who never fail to do just that, time and time again, their powerful prose never disappointing, and their stories always making me feel so much, and always in such different ways. This is one of those extraordinary books. A timeless tale, a tale in which powerful themes are approached with subtlety and sensitivity, a tale in which even the most understated of scenes has the ability to fill us to the brim with emotions, and while the deliberately unhurried pace of this story might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I personally needed it to be just as it is because it ensured that every message took root, that every life lesson got heard, and that every single deeper meaning was conveyed just right. I fell in love with these characters, so much that I never wanted to part with them, but even more than that, I fell in love with a touching story of love, loss, courage and forgiveness, a story that made my heart smile cover to cover.

“I’d spent more time away from that place than I’d spent there, but I’d learned that some places and people leave a deeper impression than others, regardless of time.”

Scout is a young woman in her mid twenties who has spent seven years of her young life running away from a place that made her the person she is today. A place filled with memories, both good and bad, she has allowed her heartbreak to keep her away from the only place she calls home, and from the only people in her life that she considers family. But when a tragic turn of events takes her back to that very place, Scout is forced to confront old demons while rekindling bonds that never should have been severed in the first place.

“I’d let one person and the memories of him keep me from this place for seven years. I’d never make that mistake again.”

Scout grew up with the three Armstrong brothers by having spent five of her most impressionable teen years living under the same roof, raised by the same man and treated as one of them, but she forged very different ties with each of the brothers, their differing personalities reflecting the type of relationship she formed with them—a loving best friend, a playful older brother, and an unrequited teenage crush. But when she returns to Red Mountain Ranch after seven years of absence, nothing is as it once was. And where once there was life and joy, now there is only despair and bereavement haunting the halls of her old childhood home.

“Life was heightened on those thousands on acres, and no one who entered its boundaries was exempt. The highs of life were higher, but the lows followed the same pattern, and in my experience, the lows outweighed the highs at Red Mountain.”

Taken aback by all the changes, Scout is forced to confront all that she has left behind, and the very reasons that drove her away from a place she loves so dearly. She is no longer the vulnerable young girl whose heart led her astray, and the Armstrong brother whose past actions have troubled her for so long no longer has the same power over her. Amidst past and present heartache, Scout has to finally recognise her unhealthy obsession for what it once was and allow her heart to see what had been in front of her all along.

“What I wanted to give and wanted to feel wasn’t hiding in the darkness… it had been in plain sight the whole time.”

But love is the very thing that the Armstrong men fear the most, and sometimes finding the love of your life does not necessarily mean you are allowed to keep it too. Especially when old family secrets are thrown into the mix.

A beautiful and at times heart-shattering story about learning to live life to the fullest, fearing nothing, not even death, and living it with no regrets, the entire story is akin to a nostalgic trip down memory lane, evocative of an old-fashioned world where life was simpler, more predictable, and where human bonds and their connection to the land they lived on formed the essence of a person’s life. With great finesse and unquestionable sophistication, Ms Williams has gifted us with a tale to make us reflect, to stop us in our tracks and make us evaluate our own life’s journey. This is not a story about the highs and lows of one’s life—this is the story about the space in between, the simple joys, the important joys, the daily joys, and about learning to appreciate and celebrate every last one of them.

“You make life fun, not matter what we’re doing. I wake up with a smile, even if the first thing on my list is scouring through a pile of cow crap to see why one of them’s sick, because I know you’re here. I know I’ll get to see you when you show up and chore the say away with me.”

4halfstars

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BOOK REVIEW: Bully by Penelope Douglas

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My name is Tate.

He doesn’t call me that, though. He’ll barely refer to me at all, and he’ll hardly ever speak to me.

But he still won’t leave me alone.

We were best friends once. Then he turned on me and made it his mission to ruin my life. I’ve been humiliated, shut out, and gossiped about all through high school. His pranks and rumors got worse as time wore on. I even went to Europe for a year, just to avoid him.

But I’m done hiding from him now, and there’s no way I’ll allow him to ruin another year. He might not have changed, but I have.

It’s time to fight back.

When one brave young woman stands up to her best friend Jared, now tormenter, the consequences go beyond anything either of them ever would have imagined…

review

“You were my tempest, my thunder cloud, my tree in the downpour. I loved all of those things, and I loved you. But now? You’re a f*cking drought. I thought that all the assholes drove German cars, but it turns out that pricks in Mustangs can still leave scars.”

For someone who likes to think that she has somewhat ‘outgrown’ the New Adult genre, once in a blue moon, there comes an author who makes me question that self-proclamation and fall in love with it all over again. In one of my spur-of-the-moment dips into my endless reading list, I picked this book by sheer chance, only to find myself three days later in the midst of a ‘reading marathon’ of the entire series, hooked to these characters, these stories, these addictive and utterly fabulous exemplars of a genre that draws you in and reminds you of a time when being yourself was the hardest thing to do, when it felt like the sun would not rise in the morning if a certain person was not holding your hand, loving you as you secretly loved them, and when just one wicked look aimed your way could crush your entire world. A splendid coming-of-age tale of a young woman finding her inner strength and of a boy whose own pain made him the tormentor of the only person in his life he ever truly loved, this is a book I would recommend wholeheartedly.

“What did I ever do to you?!”

Tate and Jared grew up living next door to each other. They were as thick as thieves all throughout childhood, but the sweet, generous and loveable boy Tate once called her best friend disappeared overnight, leaving in his stead a guy who made it his daily job to intimidate her, to make her feel insignificant and unwanted, and to isolate her from her peers. No explanation was ever offered, leaving her confused and hurt, and even after countless rumours, pranks, cruel jokes that made the last two years of her life hell, she never stopped missing her best friend. By not understanding his behaviour, she never stopped searching for that kid she once loved in his eyes somewhere, reluctantly hanging on to a memory of him that no longer existed, regardless of all the tears and pain he had willingly caused her.

“Jared indulged in my misery like it was candy. He had fed me to the wolves time and again, reveling in the unhappiness he caused. Jared, my friend, was completely gone, leaving a cold monster in his place.”

After a year of studying abroad, she returns to her hometown for the last year of high school, with a new attitude in tow, telling herself that she would not let Jared’s actions affect her again, but her bully is as determined as ever to toy with her. And to make her feel every bit of hatred he feels for her. Until Tate finally fights back.

“Isn’t it time you fought back?”

Two years of torment have shaped Tate into the kind of person she most probably would have never become had she not endured such emotional suffering for so long. Her patience has worn thin, she has developed a short fuse when it comes to people putting her down or mistreating her, and when it comes to Jared, she has simply had enough. And so the tables are turned and she goes out of her way to make him feel as insignificant as he has made her feel for so long. And knowing exactly which buttons to press to make him hurt the most ends up turning her into a cruel adversary.

“You wanted to hurt me? Did you get off on it? It felt good, didn’t it?”

But when Tate finally gets to Jared, his walls start crumbling down and what is left behind them is an angry little boy who is so blinded by his own pain that he hurts the one who represents his greatest weakness in life, the only person he has ever loved, allowing him to fool himself into believing that her pain would take away the pain that is ravaging him from the inside out. And what Tate discovers ends up putting a whole different light on the last three years of her young life.

This book might have started as a very vivid example of the kind of issues many teens unfortunately go through nowadays, our hearts breaking for our heroine and all she has had to endure, but it ultimately turns into a heart-warming romance that was always at the core of these characters’ connection. They could hurt each other so deeply because they knew each other so well, and every action had a reason, a source, a trigger, even though it was difficult for me, as a reader, to swallow some of those reasons at times and find in them a valid justification for such cruel and continued emotional and verbal abuse. As much as I understood the hero, there were times I wished I understood him even more, and for his triggers to have been explained in a more thorough fashion.

“He was cold to most people, but he was downright cruel to me. Why me?”

This is a story about the kind of scars we are left with after years of maltreatment, the kind of emotional baggage we carry well after things are said and done, affecting our relationships, our ability to trust those around us, and ourselves. It’s a book that moved me, angered me, made me do the occasional fist pump here and there, and it owned me cover to cover. With a refreshing and captivating writing style, Ms Douglas has pulled me into a world I never wanted to escape, becoming hopelessly invested in these characters, in their stories, and after turning that last page, only too eager to jump immediately onto the next book in the series.

“I love you more than myself, more than my own family, for Christ’s sake. I don’t want to take another step in this world without you next to me.”

4halfstars

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Fall Away – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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untilyou_new
rival
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BullyAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Until YouAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
RivalAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAPaperback
Falling AwayAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Aflame (novella): Amazon US | Amazon CA

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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: Wild and Free by Kristen Ashley

wildandfree

Abel Jin and Delilah Johnson have lived their lives with a hole in their soul, yearning for something they don’t understand.

Until one night Delilah is in mortal danger and a man who’s otherworldly strong and supernaturally fast saves her. Delilah is then cast into a world where fiction comes to life in the form of Abel, her destined mate, a vampire/werewolf hybrid who claims her at first breath as his.

But Abel knows the danger isn’t done. He’s dreamed for centuries that his mate will perish and he will stop at nothing to keep her safe.

For Delilah, she’s not only coping with fantasy come to life, but a mingling of very different families. Not to mention, she has on her hands a man who doesn’t understand his true nature and has lived his long life thinking he’s a monster.

Abel and Delilah together fills the hole that has been clawing at them for decades. But finally finding each other, it also tips their destinies as the last of The Three. They must unite with the other destined lovers, who with Abel and Delilah, are fated to save the world.

Or die trying.

review

“This was it. This was us. This was what we’d be. Wild and free.”

I am always in awe of authors who can traverse genres flawlessly and effortlessly, continually gifting us with their signature style in everything they write, that being sexy, alpha mountain men, bikers, boxing champions, kings of fictional lands, or supernatural beings. Regardless of the label put on their works, their stories have the power to transport us into a reality that is as tangible or as imaginary as it gets, holding us captive and making us wish we never left, because with every word, with every delectable moment of make-believe we are given an escape that we can trust, seek, depend on. Kristen Ashley is one of those authors for me, a safe haven I frequently run to when the hopeless romantic in me is in need of some special care, and the mere idea of reading about vampires and werewolves with her unique stamp on them has been an utterly thrilling experience. In this third book of The Three series, the final Prophesy is fulfilled, where the werewolf/vampire hybrid, Abel, finds his lifemate, Delilah, finally bringing this fantastical world to an eternity of peace between species.

“I’m two hundred and five years old and I’ve been raised with love. I’ve been blessed with family. I’ve shown and been gifted with loyalty. I’ve known joy. But I’ve never felt complete until I had Delilah.”

Abel and Delilah are the last of the chosen three couples whom the fates have given extraordinary abilities and powers, in preparation for the battle that is said to determine the future of all races. An orphan raised by generations of the same loving adoptive family, Abel has lived for over two centuries knowing that no matter how much love and devotion he is given by those around him, a crucial part of him would be missing until the day he meets the one and only mate who would fill the hole in his soul. When he finally finds Delilah, a twenty-nine-year-old ball of sass and attitude, his every instinct tells him that she is his.

“I’ve waited three lifetimes for you, and now that I’ve got you, I’m keepin’ you.”

It takes a little longer for Delilah to accept the idea of Abel as her fated mate, having to come to terms with the existence of a supernatural world around her as well, but once she gives in to their scorching chemistry, we get nothing less than fireworks. And they are s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r. As they grow closer to one another and learn everything about each other, they are all too soon faced with the very danger that wishes to destroy them. And a world they never even imagined existed.

“Found the man I’ve been waiting for all my life and he’s an overprotective werewolf vampire who drinks bagged blood for breakfast, has the strength of ten men, the speed of a superhero, not to mention we have people who want us dead. This is not something a girl takes in stride. At least give me to lunch.”

In this book, we are also reunited with all the main characters we already fell in love with in previous instalments in this series, as well as a few of the secondary ones, all their stories being wrapped up in light of the impending doom facing them all.

As much as I have truly enjoyed this story and the way my mind so eagerly travelled to such an enthralling imaginary world, I did feel that it somewhat fell short of the very elements that would make it a compelling paranormal read. It felt to me like this story was only set in a paranormal reality, these characters quite comfortably being capable of ‘existing’ in and drawing similarities from many of this author’s contemporary works. I loved that and, at the same time, I did not like that at all. I hoped for a deeper feeling of immersion into a fantastical world of this kind, with more attention on the supernatural other-worldly elements and a bit less on the everyday ones such as the characters’ fashion sense or their random musings about everything and anything around them, not to mention the numerous sex scenes (and I will have to wash my mouth with soap for saying this) that often served no other purpose than to entice our senses over and over again. My biggest obstacle in connecting with this story was the actual heroine, Delilah. After two books in this series where the lead female characters perfectly complemented their respective male counterparts and ‘fit the bill’ quite seamlessly, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the heroine in this book did not belong in it at all. Her personality was over-the-top, too much of the storyline centred around her ‘biker chick sass’ and inner reflections, significantly more so than on her mate, even though we are offered both of their points of view, and her interactions with the other characters in the story did not sit well with me. In addition to that, I felt that the background storyline kept building up to a huge climax that never really eventuated, the ending seeming rushed, wrapped up too quickly and almost skimmed over. I wished for that one single occurrence of epic proportions that we were bracing ourselves for which would have represented the culmination of all three books at once, but the event we got did not end up being satisfying enough. We were, however, given the chance to revisit characters from previous instalments and even hear their inner voices once more, which added an enjoyable level of familiarity to the overall storyline.

It does not happen very often, if ever, that I do not connect quite viscerally with a Kristen Ashley novel. This book had all the right components, all the ‘winning’ elements that would make it an instant hit with me, but I simply did not connect with this story as much as I hoped for. This did not take away from the sheer beauty of the romance between Abel and Delilah, but it was enough for it not to become another favourite of mine.

“Thank you for making a lifetime of longing worth every second, Abel.”

3halfstars

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excerpt

“I’m a monster, Lilah.”

“What?” I whispered.

“I’m a werewolf vampire. I exist on human blood. I can tear a man’s head off and I have. I’m a monster.”

“You—”

“I am,” he stated flatly. “And the first chance I’ve had in all my years to understand why I am as I am is to go to that f*ckin’ hotel.”

I stared at him, then straightened my body so I was fully facing him. This caused his jaw to get hard again, but I ignored that and stated, “Okay, let’s break this down.”

“Nothin’ to break down.”

“Humor me,” I snapped, his head jerked, and his lips curved up.

“Carry on,” he muttered.

“Thanks,” I bit out. “First, how many men’s heads have you torn off?”

“Four, and two wolves.”

“That’s it?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“These being the night we met,” I stated.

“Yeah,” he repeated.

“The night some of them were trying to kill me and the others were trying to kill you.”

To that he said nothing.

I kept going, “So you haven’t torn off unsuspecting citizens’ heads willy-nilly, for the f*ck of it, or on a psychotic rampage?”

He pressed his lips together and I knew it was to hide his humor because his eyes lit with it before he unpressed them to say, “No.”

“Right,” I said sharply. “Have you ever had a psychotic rampage?”

He shook his head.

“So let’s get to the human blood part,” I suggested. “When you were,” I paused, “drawing from one of your ex-bitches, did you ever kill one of them?”

“F*ck no.”

“Take too much and make them sick?”

“No.”

“Do it against anyone’s will?”

His eyes went guarded, but he said, “No.”

I threw up a hand. “Okay, so what’s the problem?”

He blinked, straightening in his chair, but again said nothing.

“I mean, seriously,” I went on, “I’ve seen lots of vampire movies and TV shows and even the good vamps screw up and overindulge. Hell, Jessica killed three fairies in a ravenous attack. She might have had her issues as a young vampire, but by that time, she was full-on good.”

His brows shot together. “Fairies?”

“Fairies.”

“What the f*ck are you talking about?”

I threw up both hands and cried in exasperation, “True Blood!

“Jesus, Lilah,” he muttered.

“No, seriously, Jessica is very sweet.”

“For f*ck’s sake,” he growled, sounding like he was losing patience, which I didn’t figure was a good thing.

“Okay, back on track,” I began. “Tell me. Tell me one instance in your life where you actually behaved like a monster.”

“I wanna f*ck you,” he snarled.

I stared.

“Yeah,” he ground out. “I wanna f*ck you, Delilah. Consumed with the need and I have no idea why, but I can guess, seein’ as it’s like you’re a bitch in heat, I’m a dog that catches the scent and his mind is wiped…wiped of anything…but the need to mount you and”—he leaned forward—“rut.

“Holy f*ck,” I breathed.

“Yeah,” he said again. “That make you feel safe?”

“Abel—”

“I can smell your fear.”

I swallowed.

“It turns me on,” he kept going. “Makes me wanna tear into your throat and f*ck you and feed from you. Now, does that make you feel safe?”

“No,” I whispered, because it really f*cking didn’t.

“Right. No,” he bit off. “So I’m not a monster?”

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The Three – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Until the Sun Falls from the SkyMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
With Everything I AmMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Wild and FreeMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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BOOK REVIEW: The Pact by Karina Halle

ThePact

It all started with a pinky swear…

Linden McGregor is tall, rugged, and gunslinger handsome; a helicopter pilot with a Scottish brogue and charm to spare. He’s also one of Stephanie Robson’s best friends and has fit into that box for as long as she’s known him.

Beautiful, funny and an ambitious businesswoman (with one hell of an ass), Stephanie Robson is one of Linden McGregor’s best friends and has fit into that box for as long as he’s known her.

But some relationships can’t be boxed, can’t be classified, can’t be tamed.

Back in their mid-twenties and tired of the competitive hit-or-miss dating scene of San Francisco, Steph and Linden made a pact to marry each other if neither one of them were in a serious relationship by the time they hit thirty.

It sounded like fun and games at the time but as the years to thirty tick past and lovers come and go out of their lives, the pact becomes larger than life.

Sex is inevitable. Friendships are tested. Hearts are on the line.

The pact is about to change everything.

review

“The two of you in a marriage? World’s pickiest woman with the world’s biggest manwhore? Yeah, have fun with that.”

In a sea of stories about young lovers sharing their firsts—first loves, first heartbreaks, one and only forevers—there finally comes a story about single people in their early thirties desperately searching for that rare, almost illusive connection with someone that would make them feel a little less lonely in the world, a little less stranded, all the while trying to reconcile the scars from their pasts with the uncertainty of their futures. This is a story about friendships, about two best friends falling in love with each other, about the sacrifices we make in the name of those friendships, and about learning to finally see what counts the most in life. The perfect balance of sensual anticipation and character introspection, I could not put this book down for more than a few minutes at a time, these characters driving me insane and making me utterly addicted to them all at the same time. It might have all started with a premise we’ve all seen before, a scenario that is neither groundbreaking nor complex, but Ms Halle managed to put her inimitable stamp on it by giving us two imperfect characters dealing with everything that life throws their way, inevitably messing up along the way, while searching for their slice of happiness.

“I wanted Steph. My best friend. She was my baby blue and I was her cowboy. So a pact, a foolish, naïve pact, was born.”

A sexy Scottish pilot and a small clothing business owner, Linden and Stephanie have been best friends since their early twenties, their bond and affection for one another being the only constant they’ve had in their adult lives. After numerous failed relationships and dating disillusionments, they make a drunken pact with each other, sealed with a pinky swear, that if neither of them are in a serious relationship by the time they are both thirty, they would marry each other. But while they both pretend to box it all as a joke, deep down, neither of them see it that way. Or ever forget their pact.

“How do you ensure someone feels the same about you without telling them how you feel?”

Over the next five years, as they both approach their thirtieth birthdays, we get quick glimpses of the ways their lives change year after year, witnessing failed relationships and career changes, the memory of their pact ever-present on their minds. But as much as they both secretly pine after one another, neither of them is willing to admit their feelings or make the first move, fearing that such a drastic change in their relationship would eventually destroy their friendship. Until one kiss takes all their self-control away and they end up discovering that they were meant to be more than friends all along.

“You’re it, you’re it, you’re it. All this time you’ve been it.”

The long anticipation leading up to the moment they finally let go of their fears and wholeheartedly embrace their feelings for one another is paid off in spades, as we are given a truly satisfying romantic climax to make up for all the will-they-won’t-they moments leading up to it. It is racy, it is all-consuming, and it is utterly delicious, the whole element of best friends turning into lovers, of two people who already know each other so intimately crossing that ultimate line, adding an even more exciting angle to this pulse-quickening scenario.

“I’m going to relish every inch of your body until you’re begging for release. Then, I’m going to f*ck you so hard, so good, that you’ll still feel me inside you days later.”

But Linden and Stephanie have been unsuccessfully searching for love for so long that when they finally have it in their grasps, they are unable to recognize its unique beauty and thus hold onto it, allowing life to interfere and make them question themselves. This is a story about making mistakes in life and finding the courage to correct those mistakes, as much as it is a story about finding true love and never settling for anything less.

“Nine years. I’ve been waiting nine years for this. Nine years to finally have you the way I’ve always needed you. And now that I’ve had you, I want nothing else.”

Even though this author is not known for giving us fairytales wrapped up in neat little bows, this story is a slight departure from her previous style of storytelling, with a few more ‘bows’ present than usual, with a slightly ‘broader brush’ used to define these characters, and fewer moments designed to make our hearts clench, but her signature prose never disappoints and it holds us captive cover to cover. I have to admit that I missed the angst, I missed the raw emotions normally driving all of Karina Halle’s stories forward, but that is only because her extraordinary writing has made me greedy and always hungry for more. At times, I failed to truly understand these characters’ actions and what made them tick one way or another, I did not connect with any of the secondary characters in the story as they lacked clarity in my eyes and felt more as supporting acts whose actions justified those of the main characters, but none of this impacted in any significant way on my overall enjoyment of this fun, relatable, sexy tale that I devoured in one single day.

“He is my rock. He is my Linden. Always has been. Always will be.”

4stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Ripped by Katy Evans

RIPPED

A ripped rock star with attitude.
An ex-girlfriend with a reckless plan.

Pandora assumed getting her heart broken by her bad boy ex could only happen once–until Mackenna Jones comes back to town for the biggest concert of his career. They say girls are getting pregnant just thinking about the Crack Bikini tour and it’s destined to be a huge hit.

Oh, it’ll be a hit alright–when Pandora comes out swinging. She and her friend Melanie are determined to humiliate him onstage. But when they’re caught by security and her ex is
summoned, Mackenna decides not to press charges if she’ll join him on tour and follow certain conditions–rules designed to give him the upper hand and keep her in close contact with him once again. Soon, the passion they once shared is reignited, and no matter how much Pandora wants to hate him, her hard exterior starts to crack.

And worse: Mackenna knows it, too. But he hasn’t uncovered all her secrets…

review

“We’ve hurt each other too much. Our past runs too deep. We can’t suddenly just be . . . happy.”

I am so distressed over this book, I could cry. After reading and loving its prequel in the series, I was positive that this story would undoubtedly end up becoming another instant favourite of mine, especially since it centred around my so-called ‘golden trifecta’—a second chance at love story, a bad boy rock star, a sassy heroine—but nothing about the end product made me weak at the knees, and everything about it left a bland taste in my mouth. I had huge expectations of this book, even bigger of the scenario in question, and yet I somehow ended up walking away baffled by all the ways this novel fell short of all I hoped to find between its pages. A teenage romance ending in two broken hearts who never got over each other, this is a story of second chances, of stolen meant-to-bes, of forgiveness, and of healing, and while I was disappointed with the overall picture, I did finish this book, I never was tempted to give up on it, and it did not in any way deter me from picking up any subsequent works by this author.

“He was my first love and my first everything, including my first heartbreak.”

The pain from having your heart broken at seventeen by the one and only love of your life is something Pandora Stone has had to live with for six long years, her heart only breaking even further every time she heard a song by the ever-popular band Crack Bikini. But when the band comes to perform in her home town, Pandora decides to finally unleash her wrath and show its lead singer exactly what she thinks of him and the lyrics he wrote about her. Armed with tomatoes.

“Hating him is all that keeps me sane. Hating him means what he did to me doesn’t matter.”

Mackenna Jones never expected to lock eyes with the woman he never got over in the middle of a sold-out concert while at the receiving end of tomatoes being thrown his way. His reluctant muse and the inspiration behind some of his greatest hits, Pandora has been his only love and his greatest regret. They never saw each other after he disappeared from her life and left her without even a goodbye, but he never forgot her or stopped loving her. So nothing could have prepared him for the blatant hatred in her eyes, or her unrepentant desire to humiliate him in public. Let alone her willingness to agree to go on tour with the band in an effort to humiliate him even further and keep giving him hell.

“Pandora. My nightmare, my dreams, my walking, talking fantasy.”

What starts as an act of vengeance and a desperate attempt to get closure, slowly becomes something neither of them are able to stop or deny—a sizzling battle of wills that always ends up with them tangled around each other, making up for all they lost, missed, and could not wait to get back. They quarrel, they hurt one another, but each night, their succumb to their bodies and the memories of a time when all they wanted out of life was to be each other’s everything.

“You’ll never have me again.”
“Your lips say one thing but the rest of you screams the opposite.”

But six years have changed them both, deeply and painfully, and while happiness might appear to be finally with their reach, embracing that happiness is not an easy feat, especially when one of them is convinced that her sins have erased any trace of the girl she once used to be, leaving behind an empty shell with nothing more to give, and the other still carries the burden of the reasons he once walked away from his girl in the first place.

“I want your mind, your dreams, your hopes, your f*cking soul. I want it all.”
“You can’t have it all. You already took it. You took it, and now I have nothing left to give to anyone.”

I have to say that I truly loved these characters from the get-go, but I simply never got an opportunity to fully understand them and thus connect with them. They were full of contradictions and the holes in their character development stopped me from enjoying their story. Or often make sense of it. And even returning characters from previous books acted oddly and did not seem themselves at all. The flow of the entire book is splintered by rough transitions, awkward random monologues that felt repetitive and unnecessary, and by obvious gaps in the story itself, greatly affecting the smooth pace and progression of the storyline. Personally, it felt to me like this particular scenario had all the foundations for a great, unforgettable story, and it kept building itself up, more and more, but continuously failing to capitalise on everything it built up, and eventually crashing down like a house of cards without even offering the reader a true climax. I wanted to love this book, I would have been happy even just liking this book, but I found myself unable to do so because this story could have been so much more. And it simply wasn’t.

“Once, her mother told me I wasn’t good enough for her. I vowed to her that in a few years I was going to be good enough for any woman’s daughter . . . especially hers.”

2halfstars

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BOOK REVIEW: You Were Mine by Abbi Glines

youweremine

Gossip is the ultimate currency in Rosemary Beach, but Bethy and Tripp have managed to keep one big secret to themselves.

Eight years ago, Tripp Newark was dating a rich girl he didn’t like and was on his way to Yale—and a future he didn’t want. The only way he could escape his predictable life would be to give up the money and power that came with his family’s name. And that’s exactly what he planned to do. At the end of the summer, he was going to ride off on his Harley and never look back.

That was before he met Beth Lowry.

It was only supposed to be a summer fling. She was a sixteen-year-old trailer-park girl who served drinks to his friends at Kerrington Country Club. They didn’t run in the same social circles. No one even knew they were friends, let alone lovers. Yet, for one summer, Bethy became his entire world.

But he couldn’t give up on his plan. He needed to leave Rosemary Beach, but he vowed he would come back for her.

Problem was, by the time he came back—years later than promised—it was too late. His cousin, Jace, had already claimed the woman he loved…

review

“This is mine. It always was. You were mine then, and you’re mine now.”

She broke our hearts, she took him away from us and made us all blubbering messes in the wake of one of the most startling events in the entire Rosemary Beach series, but we knew along she would make it up to us, and when Abbi Glines decides she is going to make us feel, she takes no prisoners. In another brilliant instalment in a most-beloved series, we are back in the world of the Rosemary Beach crew, and this time around, two of their own need to find their way back to each other. This is a story of second chances, of putting back the pieces of one’s broken heart, and of healing in the arms of the one who never gave up on their love. It’s an emotional book, one that might or might not make us cry, but it will make amends for everything that its prequel has taken from us. And then some.

“I’m done running, and there’s nothing for me out there. What I want is in Rosemary Beach.”

When Tripp Newark left his childhood home in search of himself and to escape his controlling family, he left his girl behind. Three years her senior, Tripp never expected to fall for the brown-eyed beauty raised in a world so different from his own, but one look at her and he was lost. One summer together is all they ever got, but that is all it took them to fall in love and become inseparable. She gave him her innocence, he stole her heart and promised her a forever, but then one day he just took off and left her behind to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and to fend for herself. Eight years later, Tripp returns to Rosemary Beach, tired of running away and determined to fight back for the girl he still loves. But that girl is not the same girl any longer, the pain from losing two great loves in her life having changed her, made her numb to the pain and anger that ravished her gentle soul.

“You want that girl you left behind. I’m not her! Don’t you get it? She’s gone. I’ve lost her. I made choices that made me an awful person. I’m not worth all this time and energy you’re wasting.”

Once an naïve and impressionable young woman, Bethy Lowry’s life has never gone as she hoped, loss and grief hardening her heart and teaching her to shut her emotions off in order not to drown in them. She wallows in her pain, becoming emotionally catatonic and self-destructive, and when her first love suddenly returns to town, her already fragile defenses start crumbling down, his very presence in her everyday life being a constant reminder of everything she has lost and would never get back. The more Tripp pushes her to admit her feelings for him, the more she shuts him out, the memory of their time together only digging an even deeper hole in her own pit of guilt and despair.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to get over you.”

However, some things are worth fighting for, patiently, sensibly, lovingly, and Tripp is a man who is willing to do all that he can to make sure that the love of his life gets better, that she is happy again, that she forgives him for his mistakes, even if she never ends up becoming his again. He is gentle with her, gives her all the time and space that she asks of him, but he never makes her question his devotion to her or what he is willing to do to make her love him again.

“We may have been kids, but what I felt for you was real. It never changed or faded. Not once.”

In true Abbi Glines fashion, we are given a beautiful story of redemption, of second chance at love, life, happiness, and these characters unsurprisingly embed themselves into our hearts from the very start. The whole story focuses on the emotional journey of these leading characters, but all the other characters are also offered closure over the very event that broke them all collectively. It is a story that is born out of tragedy, heartbreak, an incident that affected each person differently, but all of them permanently, and it paves the road for them all to get rid of the burden of that pain and guilt, and finally heal. I could not help but sigh at the end of this book, my heart clapping in my chest like a happy seal. I loved every word, every sliver of pain, every ray of hope, and I loved loved loved that what we are given in the end balances out what was taken from us in the first place.

“Things worth having don’t come easy. You have to fight for it until you’re tired of fighting, and then you take a breather and fight some more.”

5stars

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Fallen Too Far: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Rush Too Far: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Never Too FarMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Twisted PerfectionMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Forever Too FarMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Simple PerfectionMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Take A Chance: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
One More Chance: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
You Were Mine: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: Easy Virtue by Mia Asher

easyvirtue

Love is selfish…

My name is Blaire.

I’m the bad girl.

The other woman.

The one who never gets the guy in the end.

I’m the gold digger.

The bitch.

The one no one roots for.

The one you love to hate.

I hate myself too…

Everyone has a story. Are you ready for mine?

review

“Love fades … or it’s selfish … or unkind … but a diamond, a diamond will last forever.”

Stories like these are the very reason I spend so many sleepless nights feeding my reading addiction! Nothing prepared me for the wild stampede of emotions that ran through me while I devoured this book cover to cover, my absolute investment in the story and its heroine surprising me at every turn. This is not a sweet romance, this is not even a typical romance as such—this is the very candid tale of a beautiful swan who never escaped the painful memory of being an ugly duckling, and whose every choice in life only fed but never quenched her insatiable hunger for attention and acceptance. This book wrecked me, consumed me, brainwashed me, and I am not even sure I am capable of walking away from it just yet, my mind still spinning in a million different directions, trying to put together the intriguing pieces of Blaire White’s complex personality. I have no idea how this has happened, but I am utterly enthralled by a damaged young woman who thinks “spreading her legs open is her superpower”.

“What is love? I don’t know. I’ve never had it. Is it even real?”

Blaire White was a neglected child who spent countless nights crying herself to sleep due to her parents’ perennial absence and lack of affection towards her. But her pain eventually turned into bitterness and apathy, her desire to be loved as a child now replaced by a constant need to feel desired and needed by the men she seduces, uses and then discards. And even though Blaire has grown into a beautiful young woman whose strikingly good looks make her irresistible to any man she sets her eyes on, in her mind, she is still that chubby little girl who got mocked and bullied as a child, and whose parents’ inattention taught her to close her heart to everyone around her. She uses her newly found sex appeal to feed her insecurities and to suppress that inner voice still whispering to her that she is worthless, ugly, just an empty shell.

“Whatever was left of my heart, I surrounded it with so many thorns and spikes that if you ever came anywhere near it, I would willingly and happily hurt you.”

But just when her young life seemed to have become nothing more than an endless string of meaningless conquests—seducing men into her bed and sucking their wallets dry, before discarding them and moving onto her next target—Blaire meets two very different men, offering her two very different paths in life, and asking very different things of her, but both destined to change her future forever.

Ronan is the kind of man Blaire has never allowed herself to date or grow attached to. He is everything she never wanted and everything she always needed, open and upfront about his feelings for her, his unassuming good looks and boyish charm awakening the innocence she believed to have lost a long time ago. But he is also the very weakness she has always avoided in life, his mere presence stirring the kind of feelings she worked hard to forget. The more she falls for him, the more she pulls away, her own growing affections towards him terrifying her and forcing her to sabotage the only genuine relationship she has ever had. She cherishes her time with him, but every stolen moment of happiness with him only reminds her that she cannot allow herself to keep him. Because she would never be worthy of him.

“One day you’re going to let me love you, and I’m going to hold you so tight, I’ll never let you go. I’m going to love you as if it were the one thing I was meant to do. As if it were my purpose in life.”

Lawrence, on the other hand, is the kind of man Blaire believes she should be looking for. A successful businessman who knows exactly what he wants and is not afraid to ask for it, their entire relationship is prearranged as a short-lived business transaction of sorts, his every sexual demand setting her body on fire and awakening the uninhibited seductress in her, but leaving her emotionally unaffected and in control. Being with him is safe, familiar, manageable, while everything about Ronan makes her want to lose herself in him.

“I hope you’re not delicate, darling, because I’m going to f*ck you until I break you.”

I have never ‘clicked’ with a character so much as I have with this heroine. I loved her for her imperfections the most, her self-sabotaging tendencies making me want to pull her hair out and hug her all at the same time. We understand the source of all her demons, we know why life has hardened her heart and made her afraid to take her mask off, and while we foresee all the ways in which she stops herself from finding happiness, we cannot help but hope for more from her.

A story that might appear simple at first, but it is in fact everything but that—this is not a love triangle, this is a story that centres around a broken young woman looking for herself and learning to cope with the emotional scars from her past. The two men in her life represent the two conflicting sides of Blaire’s personality. One man understands her as she has become and doesn’t need or want her to change in order to give him everything he needs from her, while offering her everything she always thought she wanted. The other man only knows the Blaire she refuses to be, offering her the very thing she is scared of the most—his heart. We might easily pick a favourite as readers, but for Blaire to make her choice, she needs to decide who she wants to be.

“How can someone as beautiful as you are have no heart?”

Ms Asher is a very persuasive storyteller, her straightforward prose capturing perfectly the heroine’s battle with herself, while offering us a very sympathetic and utterly fascinating portrayal of the fallibility of human nature. It’s a story that has multiple sub-plots running through it, all flawlessly intertwined with one another, all leading somewhere and all sparking with electricity. We are left gasping for more, with a million theories running through our minds, but certain that we are about to saddle up for a ride of a lifetime.

“One day, you’re going to fall in love with a man and I hope he breaks your heart, Blaire. When that happens, you’ll know what kind of pain you’re capable of inflicting, and maybe then you’ll grow a heart and hopefully find your humanity.”

5stars

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excerpt

Part I
Innocence
Past [Read more…]

BOOK REVIEW: Maybe Not by Colleen Hoover

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When Warren has the opportunity to live with a female roommate, he instantly agrees. It could be an exciting change.

Or maybe not.

Especially when that roommate is the cold and seemingly calculating Bridgette. Tensions run high and tempers flare as the two can hardly stand to be in the same room together. But Warren has a theory about Bridgette: anyone who can hate with that much passion should also have the capability to love with that much passion. And he wants to be the one to test this theory.

Will Bridgette find it in herself to warm her heart to Warren and finally learn to love?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

review

“She’s so confusing. She’s so frustrating. She’s so damn unpredictable. She’s nothing I’ve ever wanted in a girl. And absolutely everything I need.”

It’s astounding how little it takes for great characters to completely mesmerise you and pull you into their world, even when they only have a limited number of pages at their disposal to woo you off your feet. I am usually not a great fan of novellas because I’m a greedy reader by nature and always wish for more rather than less, but there are authors who could make me love absolutely anything they write, and Ms Hoover is one of those authors. Her recognisable writing style is present on every page, a delicious blend of quirky humour and assured but frill-free prose, no over-descriptive excess to affect the pace of the story and every word dripping with purpose. This is first and foremost a fun story to read, a surprisingly sexy story to read, a story that gives us two colourful characters who are so imperfect, and yet so perfect for one another. I loved every word, I treasured every word, and I wish we had been given even more words to adore.

“Why does she have to be so damn mean? Mean girls are my weakness, and I think I just now figured that out.”

Warren is a big twenty-four-year-old kid who never grew up. Sharing a house with his two best friends, Ridge and Brennan, what he lacks in day-to-day maturity he makes up for in responsibility in his job as their band manager. He is open, friendly, brutally straightforward and hilariously extroverted, and when it comes to his friends, he is loyal and reliable to a fault, but nothing could have prepared him for the sudden arrival of their new flatmate, a feisty brunette named Bridgette. Hopelessly attracted to her at first sight, Warren tries to get her attention the only way he knows how—with childish pranks and flirtatious remarks—but his poor attempts at making her like him seem only to make her even more determined to resist him.

“Hell, I’m one of the most inconsiderate people I know, and I would never treat someone like she’s treating me.”

When Warren’s determination finally starts melting some of Bridgette’s icy walls, what he finds underneath it is a young woman whose life has not been kind to her, and who doesn’t know how to accept or return affection. And while all his attempts at seducing her have only made her even angrier at him, his boyish humour seems to be her one and only weakness.

“You kiss like you’re trying to resuscitate a dead cat,” she says, disgusted.
“You kiss like you are a dead cat.”
“You probably f*ck like a limp noodle.”
“I f*ck like I’m Thor.”

Through engaging and often laugh-out-loud funny dialogues, sexual chemistry so palpable, you could cut it with a knife, and a heart-warming connection between two people with very little in common, we get to witness the birth of a romance that makes us smile ear to ear. They fight, they tease, they press each other’s buttons, but every night they cannot keep their hands off one another and the more they fight their attraction, the more they fail at every turn.

“If you have sex with me, Bridgette, you’re the one in danger of becoming clingy. You’ll want so much more of me, I won’t be able to tell the difference between you and Saran Wrap.”

As satisfying as this little bite of goodness truly was, I wish these characters could have been given more ‘air-time’ to show us even more facets of their intriguing personalities. Their differences are the very fuel that sparks the connection between them and their chemistry is so compelling that it is a pity it was not explored even further. I am of the opinion that Ms Hoover should not be allowed to write novellas ever again as they always leave us hungry for more and wishing they were full length novels. Her characters are that charismatic and her stories are that clever and exciting.

If you were a fan of Maybe Someday, you will undoubtedly love this book. If you’ve never got a chance to read Maybe Someday, you will still love this book. And if you just happened to stumble upon this story accidentally while searching for a quick read, you just got yourself a new addiction.

“She’s the best worst thing that’s ever happened to me.”

4halfstars

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BOOK REVIEW: The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon

thelawofmoses644If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.

Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.

It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.

And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.

And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all…a love story.

review

“If I were to paint you, I would use every color.”

You know you’re going to experience a myriad of emotions just by opening an Amy Harmon book, having personally welcomed many a sunrise curled up in bed sobbing like a baby while not getting a wink of sleep, simply unable to put her beautiful words down. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer exquisiteness of this story, and for the marvellous characters Ms Harmon has once again gifted us with. Every part of this book surprised me, thrilled me, made my heart burst at the seams, and the biggest gift I’m going to give you, my fellow readers, is by not telling you what this story is really all about.

“This is the story of love with no end . . . though it took me a while to get there.”

We meet Georgia Shepherd at the tender age of seventeen—a simple girl from a small country town, a tomboy, a loving daughter. Georgia’s love of horses and her unique talent at taming them have always meant that her future would never be uncertain, but Georgia’s rather sheltered small town upbringing has also made her hungry to leave home for a while, seek the unknown and experience freedom for the first time in her life. Yet everything changes when a young man with an unusual life story moves into the house next door.

“… when Moses came to Levan, he was like water—cold, deep, unpredictable, and, like the pond up the canyon, dangerous, because you could never see what was beneath the surface.”

Moses Wright was born a ‘crack baby’, and found abandoned in a laundry basket when he was only a few hours old. Moses has always been different from other little boys of his age, his unusual looks only overshadowed by his peculiar behaviour, his unpredictable temperament and his determination not to let anyone get close to him. Constantly tossed from one relative to another, never wanted by any, repeatedly dismissed as a ‘messed up kid’ who could not be fixed, his life never became easy. However, everything changes for Moses the day his great-grandmother decides to take him in on a permanent basis, despite being advised against it by her entire family, her love for him making her confident she could pull him out of his self-imposed solitude. But Moses is not an ordinary young man. He holds a secret that has shaped his entire existence, every human contact, everything he sees around him, and that very secret has made him afraid of loving anyone in his life. His incredible but highly unusual art is a visual representation of everything he keeps to himself, his only escape from the images he cannot hide from.

“If you don’t love, then nobody gets hurt. It’s easy to leave. It’s easy to lose. It’s easy to let go.”

The last thing Moses expects to find in life is someone like Georgia Shepherd. She is open, unpretentious and her every failed attempt at making Moses warm up to her and let her be his friend only seem to make her even more determined to sneak through the cracks of Moses’ brooding disposition. Georgia is the kind of girl who loves freely, generously, and her pride never gets in the way of her honesty, regardless of how many times he rejects her or mistreats her with harsh words. She speaks without thinking, says everything and anything that is on her mind, gives her heart unreservedly, and eventually, a bit of Georgia’s light manages to shine through the dark cracks that Moses so desperately tries to hide.

“She was a small town girl with a simple way of speaking and thinking, a frank way of being that turned me on and turned me off at the same time. I wanted to run from her. But at the same time, I spent all my time thinking about her.”

As their budding romance progresses very slowly, and Georgia grows more and more attached to Moses, heart-shattering loss strikes this young man’s life again, and his future suddenly changes forever. When faced with returning to a place that only holds sorrow for him or taking off to never return to that place again, Moses decides to flee, leaving behind a heartbroken girl whose only sin was loving him without restraint.

“I’m a very ordinary girl, Moses. I know that I am. And I always will be. I can’t paint. I don’t know who Vermeer is, or Manet for that matter. But if you think ordinary can be beautiful, that gives me hope. And maybe sometime you’ll think about me when you need an escape from the hurt in your head.”

Seven years later, their paths suddenly cross again, but neither of them are the same as they once were. Life has changed them both deeply, taken away their innocence and altered their perception of what they once shared. However, some loves never fade, some loves survive all hurt, and some loves never stop reminding you of everything you should be grateful for.

“Georgia’s eyes, Georgia’s hair, Georgia’s mouth, Georgia’s love, Georgia’s long, long legs.”

As always, there is a subtle but very powerful message woven into every word, every single heart-warming scene. By letting us hear both the main characters’ voices, we are given the opportunity to bond with them equally, to understand them, empathise with them, share their hopes. Moses’ ‘secret’ is a crucial part of the story itself, an angle I never expected to find or adore so much, and because of the way it astonished me, I wish for you to uncover it on your own too. This is a book about gratitude, about never forgetting that there is always something to be thankful for in life, even in the grimmest of moments, and that it is never too late to seize happiness and never let go of it again. It’s a story that does not shield us in any way from soul-crushing heartbreak, a few scenes being so intensely distressing that I could not breathe from the sheer heaviness of them, but the beauty of the moments of joy we are given throughout this book is what we walk away with, smiling through our tears and babbling our own ‘five greats’ to ourselves.

There are no words that would ever do justice to a story like this one. Ms Harmon has once again given us an inspiring tale to cherish forever, a story written so elegantly, at times even poetically, that breathes itself into our hearts and, hopefully, even leaves a small part of itself behind. An absolute delight to read, as always.

“If you would just let me in, if you would just love me back, we could have a beautiful life.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Captivated by You by Sylvia Day

captivatedbyyou

Gideon calls me his angel, but he’s the miracle in my life. My gorgeous, wounded warrior, so determined to slay my demons while refusing to face his own.

The vows we’d exchanged should have bound us tighter than blood and flesh. Instead they opened up old wounds, exposed pain and insecurities, and lured bitter enemies out of the shadows. I felt him slipping from my grasp; my greatest fears becoming my reality; my love tested in ways I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to bear.

At the brightest time in our lives, the darkness of his past encroached and threatened everything we’d worked so hard for. We faced a terrible choice: the familiar safety of the lives we’d had before each other or the fight for a future that suddenly seemed an impossible and hopeless dream . . .

review

“You okay, angel mine?”
“I’m in your arms. Life doesn’t get better than this.”

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me as a reader that the Crossfire series is my own personal kryptonite. No other series has kept me as emotionally invested for such a long time as these books have, having re-read each one of them countless times and always discovering new layers to the story, new details that I might have missed or skimmed over on that first…or tenth…or twentieth re-read. This is one of the most powerful, passionate love stories that I know of, Gideon and Eva being two such meticulously developed characters that we cannot help but want to talk about them over and over again, psychoanalysing their every action, their every word, their every breath, because they feel that real to us. This fourth instalment in the series is possibly my favourite of the lot, encompassing every single element I hoped to find in it, in particular the careful attention that is paid to these characters’ emotional growth and change. There was not a moment that I did not understand the motivation behind their actions and reactions, and there was not one scene that did not make my heart race or skip a beat. Every word in it counts, every emotionally charged scene plays a vital role in the overall storyline, and every part of the puzzle is fundamental to our deeper understanding of the key players in it. This book was everything I wished it would be, and so much more, my mind still reeling from the mere brilliance of the way these characters are brought to life. Bravo, Ms Day!

“Are you in love, Mr. Cross?”
“Irrevocably.”

They may have known each other for just a few months, but Eva and Gideon’s tumultuous relationship has survived through enough trials to last them a lifetime. But even after exchanging vows in secret and promising their forevers to one another, they know that there are still many obstacles before them, most of them stemming from Gideon’s past and the painful memories he refuses to address. Their unique connection is their biggest strength—their almost visceral bond and need for each other being their greatest weapon against the world that questions their commitment to one another and tries to pull them apart—but that connection is also their greatest weakness as it isolates them from others, making them codependent and essential for each other’s happiness. As we finally hear Gideon’s voice in this book, we get to see firsthand the depth of his love for Eva and how her presence in his life has changed him. Her unwavering devotion, her protectiveness of him, and her every touch silence the demons that devastate him through his dreams and affect his every human connection.

“You’re the reason I breathe, I can’t turn it off. I think of nothing but you. All day. Every day. Everything I do, I do with you in mind. There’s no room for anyone else.”

As the limelight is put on the their young relationship, their private moments in each other’s arms are what drives that relationship forward, their intimacy with one another growing with each sexual encounter, every kiss, every embrace. Behind closed doors, they are one, both physically as well as mentally, completely in sync and vulnerable only to one another. They understand the other person’s needs and addictions better than anyone else in their lives, their frequent and very intense lovemaking sessions sustaining and temporarily satiating their hunger for one another. No part of themselves is hidden, no sexual act is off limits, and their physical as well as emotional addiction to each other only grows. And within their unique dynamic, sex still remains their primary mode of communication.

“She was every promise, every hope, every fantasy a man could have. And she was mine.”

But as they work on improving themselves in order to have a functional and healthy relationship with each other, old foes from Gideon’s past keep resurfacing, relentlessly set on destroying him and making him pay for his past sins. For the first time in his adult life, he has shown the world his only weakness—Eva—and they are willing to hurt her in order to get to him.

“She’s the chink in your armor, you heartless piece of shit. You’ve got ice in your veins, but she bleeds … It’s time to pay, and your billions won’t cover the debt.”

We watch our fearless hero battle his past, fight for a future with the woman he loves, all along navigating through marital waters he never imagined himself embarking upon. Nothing in their marriage is left to chance, their every energy dedicated to honouring their commitment to one another, to being what the other needs, craves, wants, and to shouldering each other’s burdens. But every step comes with a hurdle, every achievement with a mistake, and every lesson learned with a hefty price attached to it.

“I would set the world on fire to clear a path for her, if that’s what it took.”

There is an extraordinary self-awareness present in these characters that makes them incredibly fascinating to watch, overcoming their personal hang-ups being their greatest challenge both personally as well as a couple. I was enthralled start to finish, reading slowly in order to absorb every emotion, swallow every word. Ms Day’s writing style is unmatched, her confident and sophisticated prose pulling us in and making us feel every emotion she wishes us to feel. I walked away emotionally drained, with the biggest smile on my face, thrilled for everything that my two favourite characters achieved in such a short time span, but more than happy to wait for their grand finale as their story concludes in the next book.

“I’m hanging on by a thread, Eva.”
“You don’t have to hang on. Let go. I’ll catch you.”

5stars

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Crossfire – Reading Order and Purchase Links
BaredToYou_highres ReflectedInYou_highres entwinedwithyou3 captivatedbyyou

Bared to You: My review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAHardcover
Reflected in YouMy review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Entwined with You: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Captivated by You: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
One with You: TBA

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BOOK REVIEW: Eight Days a Week by Amber L. Johnson

eightdaysaweek

Andrew Lyons has been running from responsibility his entire life. Returning home after a couple of years abroad, he finds himself jobless and living in close quarters with a sister he can barely tolerate. At her request, he searches for a job on Craigslist, but finds a room for rent instead. Or so he thinks.

Gwen Stone is in a lurch. With a new promotion at work and two young children at home, she’s in dire need of a caretaker. When Andrew shows up on her doorstep, she thinks he may be exactly what she’s looking for. When she offers him the job, he’s more than interested and she’s confident she’s made the right choice.

It shouldn’t be awkward at all.

But Andrew isn’t exactly forthcoming about his intentions, and Gwen has some secrets she’s unwilling to share. When the mom and the “manny” don’t have a clue what they’re doing, things are bound to get messy.

What do you get with two kids who don’t know how to be kids, a man who never grew up, Beatles Rock Band, and hundreds of hours of kids’ TV? A very interesting job, indeed. But when emotions get in the way, there’s more at stake than just an occupation.

Because life doesn’t have clock-out button. And neither does love.

review

“WTF? I am so tired I can’t see straight. Kids have no bedtime in the summer? Screw that shit. I’ll enforce it—if not for them, then for me. I want to pass out by eight now , which is uncool because the sun is still out. Can you give children melatonin? Or is Benadryl still the go-to?”

A true surprise, a book I could not put down, and truly did not want it to end—this is the kind of story that stays with you and pops into your head every time a Hyundai hatchback drives by, or a children’s show is on TV, or someone shouts, “Kowalski,” and you know they have a certain penguin in mind. It was an absolute joy to read, every single scene laced with the type of light-hearted humour that makes you gigglesnort. But it is your heart that is the ultimate winner because it grows tenfold by the end of this delightful book.

A young man in his mid-twenties but a big kid at heart, Andrew Lyons has never found his true calling in life. Constantly drifting from one interest to another, he never commits to any endeavour long-term because he knows that no achievement of his would ever make his father proud. After two years spent travelling through Europe and squandering his inheritance, he returns home, only to find that no place feels like ‘home’ anymore. Desperate to get away from his overachieving sister’s judgemental eye and to stop depending on her for a roof over his head, Andrew manages to find the perfect place to rent. And somehow between drooling over his new landlady and fantasising about having sex with her, he ends up agreeing to become a live-in ‘manny’ as well.

“I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with this kid.”
“He’s a child and you’re immature. Play with him.”

Completely out of his depth, with no prior experience in childcare, he has no idea what he is doing, making it up as he goes along and following his instincts, and as a result, all his attempts at being a responsible adult and role models to the two small children in his care never stop being downright hilarious. But the more time he spends looking after them, the more he realises that something in their young lives has marked them deeply and that for the first time in his adult life not only might someone truly need him. But he might also be the best person for the job.

“Be cool. What did they do on television? What would Tony Danza do? He’d sleep with his boss, Angela. Shit. Sitcoms were no help at all.”

Unfortunately, his growing affection for the kids is not the only unplanned complication to his seemingly simple life plan of having a job and satisfying his libido, his attraction to the ‘lady of the house’—Gwen—slowly morphing into something he has never felt before. But when the wellbeing of two innocent souls starts depending entirely on Andrew’s selflessness and his ability to put them first, even before himself, every decision he makes becomes a wake-up call for a big kid who never wanted to grow up. And not even an overly eager “Don” can sway him from listening to his newly found conscience.

“Don wants to know what he did to make Gwen want to hang out with other dicks.

As Andrew stumbles through the never-ending challenges of quasi-parenthood, his head is desperate to catch up on what his heart already knows. We watch him embrace every new responsibility, every new promise, every new emotion unreservedly and wholeheartedly, to become the kind of man his parents can be proud of.

“Please be real.”

A story that is both heart-warmingly sweet and laugh-out-loud funny, I was besotted from the very beginning, giggling at Andrew’s hilarious inner banter as much as I choked up every time he interacted with the kids. I felt somewhat detached from the heroine though, which is unusual for me, wishing at times to hear her thoughts too as her actions did not always depict a clear picture of her state of mind, but this story is written entirely from Andrew’s point of view and as such, it is a male viewpoint through and through. The intimate scenes between Andrew and Gwen, from mere sexually charged exchanges to sizzling make out sessions, are phenomenally written, and at times, even too well written, in my opinion. I felt a slight imbalance between the sweet family moments and the intense and quite graphic sex scenes, making me wish for less of the graphic in favour of more of the sweet. But I did not look away and I enjoyed every mind-blowing moment of it.

“Her eyes flicked to the opening in the towel, and her eyebrows rose an inch. Oh, hello, Gwen. Meet Don. You two will be great friends.

This is one of those books you cannot help but want to re-read at some point, so many memorable lines staying with us long after turning that last page. I caught myself chuckling too many times to count, Andrew’s shenanigans never failing to amuse me, and yet this is a story that is deceivingly light-hearted, tackling some very serious issues and life lessons, all under the guise of humour and entertainment. A beautiful read, one I genuinely recommend to anyone looking for a book to warm their heart.

“I want to be better… I want to be a better man.”

4stars

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BOOK REVIEW: The Duet by R.S. Grey

theduet

When 27-year-old pop sensation Brooklyn Heart steps in front of a microphone, her love songs enchant audiences worldwide. But when it comes to her own love life, the only spell she’s under is a dry one.

So when her label slots her for a Grammy performance with the sexy and soulful Jason Monroe, she can’t help but entertain certain fantasies…those in which her G-string gets more play than her guitars’.

Only one problem. Jason is a lyrical lone wolf that isn’t happy about sharing the stage—nor his ranch—with the sassy singer. But while it may seem like a song entitled ‘Jason Monroe is an Arrogant Ho’ basically writes itself, their label and their millions of fans are expecting recording gold…

They’re expecting The Duet.

review

“He must be a kicker when he slept…or maybe he slept spread eagle. In the nude. With whipped cream.”

There is nothing quite like a book that makes you smile so many times your jaw literally starts hurting! I went into this story somewhat blindly, drawn to the ‘opposites attracting’ type of scenario, but I never expected to become so easily captivated by the characters, or that the mere thought of them even a week after finishing this book would still be putting a smile on my face. An upbeat, utterly delightful read, the perfect balance of light-hearted comedy and sizzling romance, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a delicious escape from the mundanity of everyday life.

“Oh good, apparently when you have sex with Brooklyn Heart, you leave with a fruit basket. What a lovely experience.”

To millions of her fans worldwide, pop princess Brooklyn Heart appears to have it all—money, fame, a successful music career—but apart from a sister she adores and would do anything for, and a whole team of people in charge of every aspect of her professional life, Brooklyn is alone in the world. Orphaned at a young age and left in charge of raising her younger sister on her own, she has never had the time or inclination to pursue long-term relationships with the opposite sex, a string of meaningless hook-ups being all she can account for in her personal life. Good looking and self-assured, Brooklyn has never had a shortage of interested parties, but she secretly keeps hoping for more than just a one night stand. With an occasional earth-shattering orgasm on the side.

“Have you ever had sex with a Brazilian underwear model and thought, ‘Seriously, I thought this would be better’?”

When forced by her record label to co-write and perform a duet with one of the most reclusive musicians of the day, the sexy and very talented folk singer Jason Monroe, the last thing Brooklyn expects is to find herself a few days later on a ranch in Montana, far away from the glitz and glamour of the big city, at the mercy of the very man who does not hide his very obvious disdain of her. Or the stereotype he believes she represents.

“Wow. You are probably the assholiest person I’ve ever met.”

So, what starts as a daily battle of wills, with snarky exchanges between a man who sees himself exclusively as a solo act, and a woman determined to change his opinion of her, very slowly moves into the warmer waters of friendship and ultimately romance, the gradual progression of their relationship setting the pace of the very song they are trying to write together. The more time they spend in each other’s company, the more their opinion of one another changes, their mutual attraction only adding spice to the mix. But while their hearts might be aching for more, sex with no strings attached could be all their bodies are willing to offer to one another, especially when old skeletons come out to stir the pot and manage to rattle an already shaky relationship.

“We were over from the start… You never said you’d give your heart…”

A truly heart-warming and satisfying read, even though I did not connect with some of the comedy at times and would have loved an even deeper insight into the characters themselves, this is a book that I loved reading and this author’s engaging prose will definitely make me come back for more.

“Jason Monroe was getting buried where I kept all my other cravings: deep, deep, deep down below. Right next to mint chocolate chip ice cream.”

4stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Love, in Spanish by Karina Halle

LoveInSpanish“She sat beside me on the bus – and she changed my whole life.”

Successful, wealthy and absurdly handsome – Spanish ex-football player Mateo Casalles seemed like he had it all. A high-society wife, an adorable little girl, and flashy apartments in Madrid and Barcelona only sweetened the deal. But there was more to Mateo than met the eye – a life of uncertainty and regret that colored his black and white world.

That was until Vera Miles came into his life like a shooting star. Tattooed, wild and young, Vera seemed like Mateo’s polar opposite at first. But you can’t choose who you fall in love with and the two lost souls did everything they could to be together, all while suffering the grave consequences.

Now with Mateo divorced and living in Madrid with Vera, there is a whole new set of challenges and setbacks facing the couple and rocking the foundation of their star-crossed relationship.

Unfortunately for them, the brighter the star, the faster they burn.

review

“I’ll forever keep searching for you. I will look up to the sky and let it point me your way. I will not let you go, Vera. I will never let you go.”

For a self-proclaimed seeker of fairy-tale endings, I have an uncanny penchant for stories that feel particularly ‘real’ to me, stories that refuse to be sugar-coated or bubble-wrapped in forced imaginary scenarios, stories that are so honest and raw that even the sweetest of happily-ever-afters often comes with a healthy and sobering dose of truth. They put your heart through the wringer, they jerk it around like their favourite toy, but the most satisfying thing about them is the way they colour the lenses through which you see your own life, the lives of those around you, and the way they expand your view on things you would have never considered otherwise. Love, in English will forever remain one of my most beloved books. It is not a love story with a big red bow on top—it is a love story born when it perhaps never should have been, a love story that has been scrutinized, dismissed, judged, attacked, and yet it remains alive because two people met on a bus in Spain and ended up falling for one another so deeply and so irreversibly that every hurdle before them pales in comparison. Mateo and Vera’s relationship has never been easy—it is not that kind of love story—but their love for each other has never been in question. It shows us that some things in life are worth fighting for until our very last breath, and that it is never too late to find oneself, to embrace the person one is born to be, to capture happiness, even when knowing that no gift in life comes without a sacrifice to pay.

“Our journey has never been easy. The only thing easy in all of this is my love for her. It is pure, it is simple, and it is true.”

We saw them meet, we saw them fall in love, we saw them fight that love, we saw them give in, and we saw them become one. But for Vera and Mateo, the road ahead was never meant to be simple, and it was always going to be marred by prejudice and opposition.

“Through it all we have each other, two exiled souls. We pay for our sins with each kiss, we feel our mistakes with each touch.”

Mateo Casalles has finally found the love of his life, a woman who has changed him and given him purpose, and when faced with having all his dreams come true as professional fulfillment is once again within his reach, he is suddenly reluctant to accept more change in his life, fearing it might cost him the one he loves the most. Being in the public eye brings its own set of challenges for their young relationship, their every public move now dissected and twisted around even more, but Mateo never stops putting Vera’s needs first, her happiness being his key concern, knowing how heavily her role in the break-up of his marriage weighs upon her.

“I see her as my star, one she thinks has burned too much for the both of us.”

By hearing Mateo’s every thought and every fear, we are faced with a very different man than the one we met in the first book. A better man. His every action is now seen in a different light, his every word now speaking volumes about the gentle-hearted, selfless, loving man that he is. His love for Vera is a sight to behold. The raw intensity of their every touch is only outmatched by how much her happiness means to him, and how much of himself he is willing to give to her.

“I follow every part of you, everywhere. You go before me, Vera. You always will.”

As they embark on the next chapter in their lives, the odds playing against them only keep multiplying, from scorned ex-spouses to meddling paparazzi, but through it all, Vera remains his constant, his own guiding star, and Mateo is not a man who ever forgets how dark his life had been without her. Or would once again return to be.

“You are my star, my light, my love. And it doesn’t matter if you believe in it or not because it is the truth and the truth always finds a way to shine.”

I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book so thoroughly and so ardently as I have this one. I found myself constantly stopping, re-reading entire paragraphs, desperately trying to absorb the beauty of every single line in it. Karina Halle has a very unique talent for weaving words almost poetically, the sheer elegance of her writing style only outshone by her meticulous character development and the annihilating power of the notions behind her stunning words. And ‘meeting’ the real Mateo Casalles this way has been quite a treat in itself. A complex man, an intelligent man, a passionate man, a caring man—Mateo’s only ‘sin’ is to have fallen in love with someone whom society deems inappropriate for his social standing and reputation, but it is his relentless devotion to the woman he loves and his emotional vulnerability and honesty before her that make us weak at the knees as readers. And utterly enchanted with him.

“Just a man in love. Just a hero. Just a coward. Just me.”

Karina Halle does not just give us heroes and heroines, she gives us real, tangible people for us to identify with, learn from, and she gives us stories to talk about for many moons to come. I know that a lot of people often dismiss these books because of the ‘cheating’ theme in the story, but it is my personal and humble opinion that this story is not about a cheating spouse or a homewrecker. It is about what happens when people fall out of love, or have never experienced true love before, and then they are given the unexpected gift of finding someone who suddenly lights up everything in their life, including the person they are but never got a chance to be. These are not reckless human beings, they are not driven by hormones or lust—they are fallible individuals who feel deeply the sting of every single consequence of their actions and who never forget what their happiness has cost them.

This novella only completes an already perfect story in my eyes, a story that might not be your traditional idea of a fairytale, but whose brutal honesty makes it that much more unforgettable.

“We were worth every sacrifice, every burnt bridge.”

6stars

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Love in English – Reading Order and Purchase Links
loveinenglish
LoveInSpanish
whereseameetssky_CR

Love, in English: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Love, in Spanish (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Where Sea Meets Sky (spin-off): Amazon US | Amazon UKAmazon CA | Paperback (31 Mar 2015)

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BOOK REVIEW: Nocte by Courtney Cole

NOCTE2Save me and I’ll save you…

My name is Calla Price. I’m eighteen years old, and I’m one half of a whole.
My other half—my twin brother, my Finn—is crazy.

I love him. More than life, more than anything. And even though I’m terrified he’ll suck me down with him, no one can save him but me.

I’m doing all I can to stay afloat in a sea of insanity, but I’m drowning more and more each day. So I reach out for a lifeline.

Dare DuBray.

He’s my savior and my anti-Christ. His arms are where I feel safe, where I’m afraid, where I belong, where I’m lost. He will heal me, break me, love me and hate me.
He has the power to destroy me.

Maybe that’s ok. Because I can’t seem to save Finn and love Dare without everyone getting hurt.

Why? Because of a secret.

A secret I’m so busy trying to figure out, that I never see it coming.

You won’t either.

review

“Do you know what it’s like to not be able to change something?”

How do you even beginning reviewing a book that left you utterly speechless? This fascinating, astonishing, gripping story completely mesmerised me, stealing my mind away from the very first sentence and bewitching it with a reality that kept me questioning everything in it. Including my own mind. Unlike anything I have ever read before—from its atmospheric setting and the level of detail in every single scene, to the meticulous pace and unexpected points of view—this phenomenal book quite literally consumed me cover to cover. I felt mentally ‘stranded’ at the end of it, unable to return to normal life and stop thinking about all that unfolded, and you know what? I absolutely adored every mind-wrecking moment of it.

“…it should’ve been me in the first place. Finn is a better person than I am… Finn really is better. He’s funny and witty and smart, and his soul is as gentle as they come. He’s the one who deserved to be healthy. Not me. I’m the snarky, sarcastic one.”

Calla Price is an eighteen-year-old girl from a small coastal town, whose unusual childhood of being raised in a funeral home has made her the target of constant mockery and ostracism by other kids of her age. But nothing in her young life has touched her as deeply and as permanently as growing up with a twin brother whose mental disorder has forced her to act as his protector ever since he first started hearing violent voices in his head as a small child. She has often felt unworthy of her own mental stability, wishing it had been her born ill rather than her kind, beloved brother—the brother who has always run to her to quiet the demons in his head and seek comfort from her—but she has embraced her role as his guardian with no regrets, putting his wellbeing before anything and anyone else.

“I’m the one he comes to when he’s afraid.”

But it is her mother’s sudden death that changes Calla’s life forever, leaving the family under a heavy cloud of grief, disconnected and adrift, and leaving Calla drowning in her own heartache and guilt for the hand she believes she played in that tragedy. Facing her last summer at home before she goes to college, Calla’s life sees its first ray of hope when she meets Dair, a handsome but mysterious young traveller, whose mere presence in her life starts awakening something in Calla that she’s never felt before—optimism. However, the more time she spends with Dair and the more happiness she feels while in his company, the more her guilt grows. And that guilt is only exacerbated by the evident deterioration of Finn’s mental state. By hearing her brother’s voice as well, we see the true extent of his illness, we get to witness it firsthand, and it is a frightening sight. But we also see his unconditional love for his sister and his inner struggle to stay as sane as he can be for her sake. And we see the way her growing closeness to Dair affects him, how much he needs things to stay the same, and how guilty he feels for feeling that way.

Dare, however, is not just a handsome Englishman who gallops in and steals Calla from the reality of her own life—his own secrets weigh heavily upon him, affecting his every interaction with her, and setting the pace for the way their relationship develops.

“You’re going to be the death of me.”
“Why?”
“Because you’re so much better than I deserve.”

A slow building, carefully plotted scenario, a psychological thriller of sorts, which then culminates in a jaw-dropping finale which sends our minds racing in a million different directions. I am not sure a review could ever truly capture the mood of this book, the unique way it plays with our minds, because every single word in it serves a multitude of purposes, manipulating our thoughts being just one of them. I was so totally immersed in it all that I felt every icy raindrop, every chilly breeze, every lazy sea wave. I absolutely adored this story and even though it leaves us in a happy-for-now place, I am already hungry for more. But also very happy to wait a little while I put my poor heart back together stitch by stitch…

“You make me feel guilty… Because you make me forget that I’m sad.”

5stars

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The Nocte Trilogy – Reading Order and Purchase Links
NOCTE2
VERUM3

Nocte: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback | iBooks
VerumAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooks (2 Feb 2015)
Lux: iBooks (27 Apr 2015)

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