Thursday, February 22, 2018

Review: Cake by J. Bengtsson

Title: Cake

Author: J. Bengtsson

Series: Cake #1

Publication date: May 14th, 2016

Pages: 610

ISBN: 9781539844570

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Jake McKallister might have been a rock star, but he was no ordinary one. Surviving an unspeakable crime as a young teen had shaped him into a guarded workaholic, and he now lived his life trying to forget. If it hadn't been for music and the redemption he found through it, he might not have survived. Career success came easily for him. Personal connections did not. 

When outspoken, vivacious college student Casey Caldwell was paired with the famously reserved rockstar for a friend's wedding, she was prepared for the worst. What could they possibly have in common? She was a bubbly talker; he was a reclusive loner. His life was filled with music; she couldn't carry a tune. She'd enjoyed a happy childhood; his was a well-publicized nightmare.

Yet despite their obvious differences, Jake and Casey found each other, and her light balanced out his darkness. Would their love be strong enough to survive the weight of his tragic past?

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a *full-length* standalone romance. Cake is a love story at heart but does deal with a sensitive topic and may not be for all.

Due to strong language and sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of eighteen.

*This novel was professionally re-edited on June 28th, 2016*

I have to admit something that normally reviewers keep to themselves. I am a sucker for a cover. Sometimes I won't even read the description of the book and simply go off cover appeal. This one's cover was not something I would call particularly "wow-worthy". I could tell it was about a rock star as with the guitar and silhouette of a concert at the bottom, but other than that I didn't see anything that made me perk up with interest. However, as I determined I was going to read most if not all the books available for Kindle Unlimited I decided to try it out.

Jake is a rare breed. He's a rockstar who still has a down-to-Earth personality. You won't see him marring the front pages of the latest gossip magazine with wild antics. He is from a troubled past and a popularity he had hoped would not define his entire career. His past is traumatic and his present is unpredictable. Everybody wants something from him and it gets old fast. So when he meets Casey, who doesn't seem to care much for his fame, he can't help but to get to know her. When he does, he doesn't know how he survived without her. She is the first person who doesn't seem to immediately want something from him and it's that rare quality that makes walking down the aisle at his brother's wedding with her that much more exciting.

Casey knows the newspaper's report of what happened to Jake when he was younger. She wouldn't dream of feeling sorry for him, but knowing the man, who seems so put-together and accomplished, was hurt like that makes Casey's heart ache. Casey is awkward in the most delightful way and she keeps Jake on his toes. But when Jake's past starts to bleed into their life together, Casey must find a way to weather the storm so both her and Jake make it out alive.

I loved Casey. I loved everything about her. She was the perfect female lead in this story. Jake I don't feel was as flushed out as Casey was. The situation leading to Jake dealing with his past was very true to real life with someone with PTSD. The flashbacks and the feel of those types of traumas was real and clearly well researched. I felt for Jake even while being annoyed with him for the way he would treat Casey when he was having one of his "moments". He definitely had a diva side to him and Casey's role as the complete opposite did wonders for the story. If they had both been dramatic then the story would have come off as very whiny. It was a good balance.

Cake was the real story behind rockstar fame when you remove the drugs and alcohol that seems synonymous with that career path. Rockstars have a past and it's not always pretty but sometimes, like everyone else, they find the person to pull them from their dark abyss and into the light. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: Torn by Carian Cole @CarianCole

Title: Torn

Author: Carian Cole

Series: Devil's Wolves #1

Publication date: August 29th, 2016

Pages: 422

ISBN: 9781539139461

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
**Please note: there is NO underage sex in this book. There is NO incest or blood relation in this book. This is NOT an MC Club story. This is NOT Erotica. This is a slow burn romance. This book is intended for readers 18 years and older**

He's loved me since the day I was born.
He's taken care of me.
He's awakened me.

Tor. My father's best friend.
Fifteen years older than me, he's always been my protector.
The one I should never, ever want.
But I was born to be his.

She's always loved me.
She's shattered me.
She's healed me.

Kenzi. My best friend's daughter.
I held her the day she was born, and I never let go.
She's forbidden to me. But she's the only one that really gets me.
We're slowly being torn apart by everything we love.
Everything we want.
Everything we desire.

And now I want the one thing I can't have... I want her.

You would not believe how many times I passed this book over when browsing Amazon. I just have a thing against main male characters who have long hair. Perhaps that makes me a bit shallow to dismiss a book based on the physical characteristics of the main character, but when I read a book I want to be immersed. I want to feel the love and lust dripping off the pages as if it's my own life. It's a fantasy oasis that everyone deserves to have periodically in their choice of literature. But, I had made a promise to try to read almost every book I could get my hands on in the New Adult Kindle Unlimited selection. I had to go off cover appeal and what I thought would be a male lead who I couldn't get lost in. So I dove in.

Tor has been in Kenzi's life since she was born. He was her babysitter while her rock star parents were on the road. He was her confident when she needed a shoulder to cry on. He was a best friend when she felt alone or isolated due to never being able to trust anyone's intentions with her parents' lifestyle. He was her everything well before she started to feel something she had never felt before: lust. The problem is, Tor has been habitually known as Uncle Tor as he's her father's best friend. 

Tor knows these new feelings for Kenzi are wrong. It's a betrayal to her father and almost too close to incest for his liking. He should be looking at her as a daughter or sister not as someone he wants more than his next breath. Tor will go to any lengths to push Kenzi away, even breaking her heart. Will it be enough? Or is their connection just too powerful to ignore?

I thought this book was going to be a little too line-toeing for me. Yes, there is no blood relation but to go from having someone call you an uncle to uncontrollable lust? Makes me squirm a little. But, when I got around that little uneasiness I realized there is really nothing wrong with it. Kenzi and Tor as a couple were amazing. The honesty between these two was so romantic. I found myself rooting for them in the end and finding all their naysayers to be irritating. I binged this book so hard I was practically falling asleep in my living room chair while my 2-year-old quietly played with her toys. 

"Torn" stirs up so much fairy tale romance you want to slap your husband with the book and ask him why he can't be more like Tor. He's still grumbling at me for it, for the record. 

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Review: Loving Mr. Daniels by Brittainy C. Cherry @BrittainyCherry

Title: Loving Mr. Daniels

Author: Brittainy C. Cherry

Publication date: May 11th, 2014

Pages: 310

ISBN: 9780692221914

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
To Whom it May Concern,

It was easy to call us forbidden and harder to call us soulmates. Yet I believed we were both. Forbidden soulmates.

When I arrived to Edgewood, Wisconsin I didn't plan to find him. I didn't plan to stumble into Joe's bar and have Daniel's music stir up my emotions I had no clue that his voice would make me hurts forget their own sorrow. I had no idea that my happiness would remember its own bliss.

When I started senior year at my new school, I wasn't prepared to call him Mr. Daniels, but sometimes life happens at the wrong time for all the right reasons.

Our love story wasn't only about the physical connection.

It was about family. It was about loss. It was about being alive. It was silly. It was painful. It was mourning. It was laughter.

It was ours.

And for those reasons alone, I would never apologize for Loving Mr. Daniels.

- Ashlyn Jennings

I said I was going to give Brittainy Cherry another chance after I read her book "The Air He Breathes" and I stuck by my word. I was so glad that I did. "Loving Mr. Daniels" was the next book on the list on Amazon's Kindle Unlimited New Adult Romance. The opportunity to read another book by her was presented and I dove in.

Ashlyn has lost her best friend and sister all at once. She doesn't know what to do with herself as a part of her has suddenly been ripped away. Now, her mother has decided to send her to stay with her estranged father. Does anyone truly want Ashlyn in their life because from the way it seems everyone is trying to get away from her or push her away? Ashlyn  only has one thing to hold onto; letters and a bucket list written to her by her dead sister. Ashlyn manages to meet a man... boy... manboy, on the train to her new life and upon his invitation and a chance to knock something off her bucket list, she finds herself standing outside the bar waiting to see his band. After an unforeseeable panic attack and the comfort of this manboy named Daniel, Ashlyn starts to find reasons to smile again. This is until she walks into her new school and sees her favorite reason for standing at the front of the class wishing to be addressed as Mr. Daniels. Now Ashlyn must figure out how to resist her new teacher while not losing the first person who seems to understand her loss.

Daniel definitely understands loss. He has lost more people in his life than he cares to think about. Which is how he chooses to handle this fact; don't think about it. You can't hurt if you merely accept what has happened and move past it, right? But is there really any way to move past losing people who mean the world to you? And what about finding a kindred spirit only to find she is forbidden? Can he manage his past and keep his future intact by resisting Ashlyn or is he going to give into temptation and find solace in someone as equally as broken as he is?

Daniel was an indecisive ass hat in my opinion. He couldn't decide whether to break up with Ashlyn or be with her. He would pull her close, then push her away, then pull her close and promise forever, then tell her they can't be together. Ashlyn spends most of her time crying which got to be a bit of a pain in the ass. Ashlyn is fine, flip the page, and there she goes again. I swear if her tears were physically manifested my house would be called Atlantis. But that is all minor irritants and doesn't reflect on the meat and bones of the story. The teacher/student thing was interesting to watch unfold. The splitting of the main male character in Ashlyn's eyes between Daniel and Mr. Daniels was also a good way of showing the differences between professional and personal lifestyles. There was a lot of good in this book which outweighed the character flaws and the fast-paced writing that seems to be the norm with Brittainy. All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and felt like crying a lot of the time right along with Ashlyn. Some of the writing was almost poetic. Shakespeare would have added a death scene or twelve but he'd be proud either way.

Loving Mr. Daniels tests the bounds of the taboo and makes it less shockworthy by adding a healthy dose of romance in the face of tragedy. 

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Review: The Air He Breathes by Brittainy C. Cherry

Title: The Air He Breathes

Author: Brittainy C. Cherry

Series: Elements #1

Publication date: September 25th 2015

Pages: 422

ISBN: 9782755623826

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
I was warned about Tristan Cole.

"Stay away from him," people said.
"He's cruel."
"He's cold."
"He's damaged."

It's easy to judge a man because of his past. To look at Tristan and see a monster.

But I couldn't do that. I had to accept the wreckage that lived inside of him because it also lived inside of me.

We were both empty.
We were both looking for someone else. Something more.
We both wanted to put together the shattered pieces of our yesterdays.

Then perhaps we could finally remember how to breathe.

In the world of literature there are many facets, often called genres, which helps narrow down a subject matter a reader would be interested in. Mine is more times than not in the romance genre. A subset of this genre, the new adult section, has become my home away from home. While looking through books I may enjoy reading this one came across my desktop. I went into the read totally blind as I often like doing so that I am not waiting for a particular scene to happen to have the synopsis make sense. What I found was equal parts delightful and cringe-worthy.

Elizabeth and Tristan know loss better than any other people in their small town of Meadow's Creek. Elizabeth, one year from the loss of her husband, is trying to pull the pieces of her life back together when she meets her new surly neighbor. The hard edge of his eyes are often seen as evil or angry by most of the other townspeople but Elizabeth sees more. She knows the look of loss and desperate pain because she wears a similar expression in hers. Elizabeth and Tristan feel an attraction for one another and hope to feel what they lost once more in each other's arms. The recipe for disaster was set from that point on. The two of them must learn to grieve, let go, and move on before they lose themselves completely.

This book was scattered and not well formatted. The quick pace makes me feel as if the book would have been better suited for a trilogy. One book having their struggles to deal with their pain and try to love again, one where they realize their love only to lose it, and one where they come together as a united force against a common antagonist. As it is, the book rushes from one milestone to the next leaving me blinking in confusion while trying to let myself fall into the story. The characters, in my opinion, grieve and fall in love too fast. There were ample opportunities to throw obstacles in their way to cause hiccups. The hiccups did happen, but they were overcome so easily I had to roll my eyes. It had only been a year since they lose their spouses and yet they were able to throw themselves together without much buckling as to how the dead spouse would feel (as is common with the loss of a spouse, I would assume)?

Mostly, the book just left me exhausted. I felt like so much happened and it was so rushed that I wasn't able to relax into what was happening between two characters that were otherwise well constructed. I would be willing to give the author's books another chance to see if the rush job on this one was a fluke but if a pattern is evident I will sadly have to write it off as a loss.

I wanted to love "The Air He Breathes" but I was never given a chance to catch my OWN breath.

DISCLAIMER: This book was borrowed from the Kindle Unlimited Library at the discretion of the reviewer and not in exchange for a good review by the author.

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Review: Pretend You're Mine by Lucy Score @LucyScore1

Title: Pretend You're Mine

Author: Lucy Score

Publication date: October 22nd, 2015

Pages: 451

ISBN: 9781518674129

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
A Small Town Love Story

I only wanted to protect you...

Luke Garrison is a hometown hero, a member of the National Guard ready to deploy again. Strong, sweet, and sexy, he doesn't have a girlfriend and doesn't want one. When the wildly beautiful Harper stumbles into his life, though, he realizes that she's the perfect decoy. A fake girlfriend to keep his family off his back until he's out on another mission.

So what if a single bite of her lip sends his mind to wicked places? He can control himself. Can't he?

Harper was on her way to starting a new life... again. But something about Luke makes her want to settle down in this small town and make Luke's house a home. When his arms wrap around her like steel, she finally knows what it's like to feel safe. Protected.

One night of sleeping in the same bed turns into something much, much, more... and soon Luke can't keep his mind off Harper's wide gray eyes, or his hands off of her luscious curves. He never thought he'd feel this way about a woman again. But he knows that he can't tell her the truth about his dark past, and she can't reveal to him what she's running from.

Anyway, this isn't a real relationship. It's only for a month. Only pretend. Until it isn't...

On my excursion to read every romance book available on Kindle Unlimited I stumbled across this gem. As I had never read anything but the author, I was more than happy to see how to stood up to all the other authors I have had the pleasure of getting to know through their work. I had been going through a bit of a drought for good books so I was desperate to find something I could get into. Once I read the male lead was a military man, I was sold. Who doesn't love a man in uniform, amiright?

Harper was on the run again, this time to avoid the philandering ex-boyfriend she found banging a random woman in their bed. She left her home with nothing but the keys to her car and headed towards her best friend's a few hours away. What she didn't realize until she stopped on the side of the road to find a phone to call her friend, that she had gone the completely opposite way! It was only after Harper jumps on the back of a man assaulting another woman like a rabid monkey that she is suddenly thrown into the path (literally) of devastatingly handsome, Luke. 

Luke was set to deploy in a month's time. His life was planned out. His goals were set. Then Harper happened. The attraction was immediate but due to his dark past, Luke resisted. Even with the spirited little blonde tucked into his bed beside him, he tried to maintain his distance. But, his family is determined to see him let another woman into his life and at the risk of dating a third cousin, he asks Harper to be his pretend girlfriend. But where does the line between pretend and real truly end?

Two words, ladies. Miliary. Man. The uniform is drool-worthy on its own but add to that a chip on his shoulder and a 'no nonsense' personality makes the main male lead extra swoony. I loved that he was paired with a woman that was DRASTICALLY different from him in every way. She was the lighthearted troublemaker to his stoic hardass-ness. Harper was my ideal heroine. She was not one to let bad things drag her down for too long. She was a survivor through and through. Her personality is infectious and she bettered Luke's small town and Luke himself just by being there. 

In some ways, I found this book to be a little long winded. There were several times in the book where I thought it was drawing to and end only to hit another bump and start towards yet another climax. Normally, I would be heavily frustrated and ripping my hair out but somehow this author made a very odd format work to her advantage. I never got tired of the characters and while I think she would have been better sticking to their underlying issues and not adding separate ones, I still enjoyed it. 

"Pretend You're Mine" is the perfect contemporary romance book featuring two very odd characters who make you believe love is possible no matter how hard life kicks you in the teeth.

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