Review: Steele Ridge #1 by @KelseyBrowning @TraceyDevlyn @AdriennGiordano

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A super short prequel to what I am hoping would be a series of 5 books (with this being book #1) featuring the 4 barely clothed white men on the cover, “Steele Ridge: The Beginning” is a harbinger of potentially good things to come. Authors Kelsey Browning, Tracey Devlyn, and Adrienne Giordano are new to me (a.k.a. I’ve never read any of their books before), but since I’m a fairly good judge of books via their awesome covers, I thought I’d give them a try.

This 57-page prequel is currently free on Amazon. Books #2 , “Going Hard” by Kelsey Browning and “Living Fast” by Adrienne Giordano, respectively, are also now out. I’m currently reading Ms. Browning’s story about Grif Steele and Carlie Beth Parrish; “Going Hard” is a slow-revealing story, but it’s well-written and keeps you guessing. There’s intrigue, suspense, and a bit of comic relief (i.e., the scene where the 4 macho brothers stage a battle using a nerf gun, a pecan-leaded slingshot, a pellet gun, and a bow and arrow combo is a cute diversion). It’s too slow-going for me that I had to peak at the end to see who the baddie is – who turned out to be a surprise. I just wish that the pace was picked up a bit, quite honestly. All in all, though,3 stars I went back to around the 40% mark and am slooooooooowly progressing thru Grif and Carlie Beth’s struggle to find their inevitable HEA.

BTW, whomever made this slick promo video for the Steele Ridge series ought to be commended for a great job well done. It’s better than all other promo videos I’ve seen, bar none. Enjoy.

RAVE: Black Swan Affair by @klkreig

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K.L. Kreig surprised me. She’s a new author to me and after reading the synopsis, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to buy it. But, buy it I did, however, because of all the raving reviews I saw on Goodreads and on my co-bloggers’ websites. In a word, “Black Swan Affair” is NOT to be missed. I can’t say anything more than that, because I’m afraid I’ll give it away. I will say, though, that at around 40% mark, I did the unthinkable —– I peeked at the end. Gah! Yes, I did. I couldn’t help it. I had to find out who “he” was, dammit. If GR would allow 6-stars out of a possible 5-star rating, then this book would get that from me.

I’ll have to calm down first, and get a hold of myself. “Black Swan Affair” has me gulping coffee down like nobody’s business. Because it kept me up all night. Reading. With just one lousy light on. #thatsmyfriday That’s why I don’t have a full review yet.

Review: Honor by Jay Crownover

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Warning: spoilers ahead. Oh, and if you plan to read “Honor,” you must have read Jay Crownover’s “Welcome to The Point” books in order to really get who the characters are and what the story is about.

This was okay. I just got too impatient to see how Keeley and Nassir finally resolve their personal issues (which I really didn’t understand) to get together. Was a little bit disappointed with the various disjointed events that threatened to make Nassir succumb. I thought with him being the Hitler of The Point, there’d be more nail-biting scenes rather than head-scratching, psychotic ones, i.e., a middle-aged female banker who tries to kill Nassir by running him off the road because he “ruined” her laughable marriage to a gay man (when she herself is into women) and who anonymously reported to the cops that Nassir kept drugs in his club (he didn’t); a kid who wreaks havoc in his sex club by unscrewing storage shelves, releases rats inside the club, and ultimately has a gun-toting showdown with Nassir; and a young, former lover of Nassir’s who became his housekeeper, but who was so insanely in love with him, she was willing to kill Keeley.

This might make me sound bad, but I thought that with the synopsis warning us that the hero is the super anti-hero, Nassir and Keeley would make their enemies and irritating yet murderous tormentors disappear. Yet, Nassir let the middle-aged banker go. Twice. Then, Keeley shot the housekeeper in the shoulder and told her to leave and never come back. In the epilogue, they talk to two Eastern Europeans who were trying to get a slice of the baddie pie in their turf – then they just tell them to leave. I mean… That was it?

I finished the book, but had to skip so many parts and kept jumping back and forth just to get to The Point. Pun very much intended.

Review: The Goal by Elle Kennedy

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The term “good ol’ boys” in America has recently made me realize that it’s not such a great description of a modern American man. If delineated as such, then it connotes that the man’s a pushover, a mama’s boy, someone who doesn’t have a direction and needs a partner who’s emotionally stronger than he is in order to take charge of… well, everything. Well, I disagree. Elle Kennedy has given us a picture of a true “good boy” who proves that good guys DO finish first. That the one who’s perceived to be more than good enough to take home to see mama is a winner, winner, steak dinner.

The Goal,” sadly, is the final book in the “Off Campus” arc. It tells the story of John Tucker and Sabrina James, two unlikely people who would become lovers, then friends, and eventually, each other’s forever and happily-ever-afters. What I especially loved about Ms. Kennedy’s final installment is that she featured a female main character who knows what she wants and needs, knows how to get it, works extremely hard to get to her personal goal, and knows to rely on herself. It hit me in the last few pages of the book – Sabrina, in a conversation with Tucker’s antagonistic and understandably overprotective mother, said she doesn’t need Tuck. She wants him – a crucial difference and a choice she has consciously made knowing all the pros and cons. Someone on Goodreads commented that she found Sabrina frustrating, because it’s so obvious she needed help but was reluctant to ask for it (a.k.a. stubborn pride). On this, I humbly disagree with my fellow reviewer. My reasons – one: Sabrina is a fictional character, but she epitomizes many people who grew up in real similar situations as she did. Pride is, oftentimes, all they really have. Reality is: if someone in need is reluctant to ask for help, then I am of the supposition that their reluctance is warranted. As in, they’ve asked for it before and were shot down so badly time and time again. I don’t get why people of privilege can look down on others who fight tooth and nail for themselves. Two: better that she’s self-reliant and stubbornly proud, than be a whiny/bratty/shouty twenty-something woman. The latter paints a clichéd picture of the modern woman that gets my blood boiling hotter than Tom Hiddleston’s trademark smirk. So, if Sabrina James were a real character, then sign me up as a major fan and wannabe-friend.

As for Tucker – ooohh wee. If one is ever in a tough or tight spot, then Tucker is the guy you want beside, behind, and in front of you. He is the stuff women’s dreams are made of. ‘Nuff said.

Too bad he’s also fictional.

“My goal, once upon a time, was to succeed. I didn’t realize that success wasn’t grades or scholarships or achievements, but the people I was lucky enough to have in my life.”

I cannot express how happy I am to have bought this book. Not only is it amaze-5 starsballs, but I got the e-book version with the original man-abs cover, to complete my collection. To the publisher who decided to change the cover to a woman with crossed legs: booooooooooooo!!!

When reading an ARC…

Receiving Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) of books from my favorite authors are like finding gold in my backyard. Reading them is similar to stepping onto a mine field; one never knows if it’s a gem of a book or an explosion in your face waiting to happen.

I’ve read ARCs that made me look like this:


There were ARCs that made me feel like this:

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THEN, there were the ARCs that made me look like this:

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I just finished an ARC by @LoreleiJames that made me feel like Hailee. Excuse me while I celebrate some more.

Review: The Player by Claire Contreras

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This was a slow burn romance, which normally, wouldn’t make me feel happy about buying it. But, I suppose after reading the idiotic inner thoughts and teenaged addictions of a 33-year-old bratty woman in Mystery Man, this was a breath of fresh air – which I needed. Desperately.

Claire Contreras has written a grown-up book about grown-up love. There were life lessons that we all still struggle to learn on a daily basis – particularly that lesson on forgiveness. It was poignant, romantic, believable, adult, sad, and yet, joyful. An amalgamation of the truths that “true love” carries, “The Player highlights the reality that love is WORK. And that it’s about CHOICE. One chooses to love and trust another person, in spite of a burning lust that might have been the instigator for that relationship – that’s essentially Warren Silva and Camila Avila’s story.

It was pretty obvious from the get-go what secret Warren was hiding from Camila.4 stars Ms. Contreras tries to hide the secret from us readers by referring to Warren’s brother and father by just those descriptions, never by name when associated with Warren. Ah, but for seasoned readers, the secret’s a glaring flashlight in the dark. I already felt bad for Camila by the time I reached page 10, as the outcome of their seemingly doomed love (very Shakespearean, BTW) was plain to see. However, Ms. Contreras makes it difficult for a reader to just completely walk away from “The Player.” Like I said, it’s a grown-up love story. One HAS to see how they resolve their conundrum. By the end of it, I was firmly convinced that true love does, eventually, win. And – OMG – there was absolutely no need for the “me-man, you-plain woman” philosophy! #ThankChristForGoodWriters

Review: Mystery Man by Kristen Ashley

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If you’ve read Kristen Ashley’s books before, then this one is either one you’d really love (since it follows her Rock Chick formula) or one you’d hate (because it follows her Rock Chick formula, you can predict what’s going to happen next). I’m of the latter.

(1) Heroine book editor Gwendolyn “Gwen” Kidd is so irresistible, she’s attractive to at least 3 men who fell into insta-lust for her: hero Cade “Hawk” Delgado, MC prez Kane “Tack” Allen, and Denver PD Detective Mitch Lawson. I am very much aware that this is fiction – but this happens a lot in Ms. Ashley’s books. Her heroines are seemingly more beautiful and sexier than Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, and Sofia Loren combined. It’s annoying. And too predictable. Hence, boring. Can we please have another less predictable female character? We’re not all as one-note as this, really. In fact, it’s been noted in several pieces of literature and countless works of poetry how UNpredictable and wonderfully complex women are.

(2) Gwen is also an irritating character, in my honest opinion. She’s 33, but acts like she’s still 17. Cookie dough and cosmopolitans are her crack. These get mentioned 10 million times in the book. She’s been hurt, yes, by her cheating ex-husband and by her completely opposite-of-her-perfect-self sister, Ginger. In Ms. Ashley’s books, women are portrayed as one of just 2 types: angelic or demonic. Ginger is of the devil, in case you need to know. Yet, Gwennie forgives her. Gwen also has no self-preservation skills. She takes Hawk to her home the very first time they interacted with each other, without knowing his name or anything about him. She continues to allow him to have sex with her frequently for 1.5 years and romantically calls him her Great Mystery Man. Her temper tantrums induce greater migraines in me as her reader. Her wishy-washiness re. Hawk is sad, truly sad. She’s as shallow as a puddle of spit on the side of the road in a 3rd world country. She automatically gives Hawk her soft eyes after he got her Jimmy Choo shoes. In a word: she’s easy.

(3) Hawk is equally as bad of a character. At the end of the book, I still really don’t understand what he does. At one point, his 2nd in command reveals what Hawk’s team of privatized/contractual commandoes specialize in: kidnap and ransom. Great. That’s it? That’s all the “shit” (as Hawk always says he does) he’s up to? He also kept Gwen on a string for 1.5 years. He has unprotected sex with her after he rifled through her purse and found her birth control pills. Never mind that he still had a “Thursday” girl during the time that he was conducting his nightly visits to Gwen. He invades her privacy, stakes his ape-like claim on her, hides himself from her but demands her everything, and breaks promises from which he expects Gwen to easily forgive him for once he explains what his secret is. Boo-effin-hoo.

Their one-week romance is filled with firebombs, drive-by shootings, kidnappings, Tazering, cookie dough eating, cosmo consuming, having lots of impossible sex, meeting the family, breaking down constantly (a.k.a. sobbing loudly), etc. etc. etc. It’s tiring and predictable – not even the epilogue from Hawk’s POV saved this for me.