Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Guarded Widow by K M Gaffney

From Goodreads:
Two years after her husband’s accidental death, Olivia Jones has successfully rebuilt a stable, loving home for her four young sons. Alone, the way she prefers to handle life.Then a series of disturbing events shatters her safe world. Lies begin unraveling as her husband’s past comes back to haunt her. Against her better judgment, she must rely on an arrogant, local police officer for answers to her questions. Out of desperation, she is forced to open her home, entrusting him with her family’s safety. Will she ever trust him enough to let down the guard around her heart?

Gavin Rafferty had never met a stronger willed, more organized woman in his life. He certainly never meant to become enamored with the attractive, single mother and her sons. But he did. Olivia’s ability to handle her boys and her life impressed him. Her cool demeanor and pretty face attracted him. But it was the brutal attack on her life that enraged him. After unearthing incriminating secrets buried with her deceased husband, and witnessing the extent unto which someone intended to keep them hidden, Officer Rafferty vows to protect the young widow by standing guard, twenty four-seven.

My Take:
This is an older story, so you have to deal with head hopping. Meaning you go from one person's point of view to the other every couple of paragraphs. Sometimes it's irritating, but you just kind of go with it.

The story is fun and intense at times because of the suspense elements, which are done very well. However, some of the dialogue seems stilted and unrealistic. I liked the chemistry between the characters, and I kept reading because of the tension. These two are super attracted to each other, but Olivia gives a little speech about turning her life over to God after her husband's death, which for her means no sex out of wedlock. I appreciate the sentiment and values (agree personally) but it came across as awkward and a little preachy in the story. Gavin however is a good man if a bulldozer sort of guy. He respects that and keeps himself under control.

The attacks and ending really keep the story moving. There is one mild sex scene at the very end which is where the movie rating comes from.

I give The Guarded Widow a solid 4 and a PG-14 rating.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.
PG-14—somewhere between PG-13 and R. Not erotica, but at least a paragraph of on screen sex
R--swearing (F bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always

Monday, March 19, 2018

Beauty and the Beast by KM Shea

From Amazon (couldn't find on Goodreads):

Once upon a time Elle made a mistake. A small miscalculation sends her through the roof of an enchanted chateau. Stranded until her broken leg mends, Elle is unwillingly forced to rely on the good will of the sour chateau owner —the cursed Prince Severin.

Prince Severin—the commanding general and staunch supporter of his brother the crown prince—is cursed to look like a beast until a maiden falls in love with him. He has given up all hope of shattering the curse, and has only disdain for Elle.

Unfortunately, the pair can’t seem to avoid each other thanks to the meddling of the chateau’s cursed servants. Eventually Elle’s playful manners and Severin’s hidden gentleness draw the pair together.

But not all love stories can end that easily. After all, Elle is not what she seems, and Severin’s life is placed in danger when hostilities flare between his brother and the monarchs of a neighboring country. When Elle risks everything to save Severin, will he be able to forgive her for her lies?

My Take (Slight spoilers):
First things first, although this is a gorgeous cover, it doesn't fit the book AT ALL. It is set in historical times, similar to the original fairy tale. And Elle never felt like what this woman portrays. She was always confident, even when frustrated with her new found situation. As time goes on, she starts to think she may have been wrong in her assumptions about Prince Severin, but she's never really this wilting demure girl.

My favorite part is Elle's secret. The thing she's lying about. I can't tell you, but it's what makes her such an awesome strong female lead. I also liked that most of the book I wasn't sure what kingdom's side she was on until the big secret is revealed. This is when we get to see why she thought Severin was a certain way in the beginning--because he was.

I also thought it was great that after the curse is broken, they don't get together right away. Remember that secret? Severin thinks it means she lied about her love! Men can be so dense!

All in all, I enjoyed the beautiful setting, the originality on the cursed nature of the servants, and the refreshing look at what true love is. The fact it isn't a fairy tale, but a choice and lots of hard work.

I give Beauty and the Beast by KM Shea a 4.5 and Clean rating.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.

 R--swearing (F bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always

Friday, March 16, 2018

Bellamy and the Brute by Alicia Michaels

From Goodreads:
A fresh twist on a classic story, Bellamy and the Brute proves true love really is blind.

When Bellamy McGuire is offered a summer job babysitting for the wealthy Baldwin family, she's reluctant to accept. After all, everyone in town knows about the mysterious happenings at the mansion on the hill—including the sudden disappearance of the Baldwin's eldest son, Tate. The former football star and golden boy of Wellhollow Springs became a hermit at the age of sixteen, and no one has seen or heard from him since. Rumors abound as to why, with whisperings about a strange illness—one that causes deformity and turned him into a real-life monster. Bellamy wants to dismiss these rumors as gossip, but when she's told that if she takes the job, she must promise to never, ever visit the third floor of the mansion, she begins to wonder if there really is some dark truth hidden there. Tate's condition may not be the only secret being kept at Baldwin House. There are gaps in the family's financial history that don't add up, and surprising connections with unscrupulous characters. At night there are strange noises, unexplained cold drafts, and the electricity cuts out. And then there are the rose petals on the staircase. The rose petals that no one but Bellamy seems to be able to see. The rose petals that form a trail leading right up to the 3 rd floor, past the portrait of a handsome young man, and down a dark hallway where she promised she would never, ever go…

As Bellamy works to unravel the mysteries of Baldwin House and uncover the truth about Tate, she realizes that she is in way over her head… in more ways than one. Can her bravery and determination help to right the wrongs of the past and free the young man whose story has captured her heart?

My Take:
This was a nice mix of suspense and romance. All the elements of the classic Beauty and the Beast are present without the author feeling the need to stick to a play by play, exact reinterpretation at the fairy tale.

First off, the opening scene is straight out of a crime suspense novel. At first I wondered how it was going to tie in, but Michaels does it wonderfully in her own time. Bellamy is a breath of fresh air as well. She's kind and caring, but she's also no push over. Her father is the laughing stock of the town because he claims to see ghosts. Bell wants to believe, but it's hard until she starts seeing ghosts herself. As the mystery unravels to who these ghosts are and why they haunt Wellhollow Springs, Bell will start to fear the living more than the dead.

Tate's cursing is also a new and unique twist for the story. He's partially being cursed for his father's sins, but he had his own transgressions to atone for. I like how Michaels uses Bell's kindness to slowly draw him out and bring him to the point where he is ready to make amends.

I loved that this was a multiracial story. It's done well, without drawing big arrows to point stuff out. Bell is Bell and Tate is Tate. It makes for a lovely story from curiosity, to friendship, to attraction.

And Lincoln? While the fact he's the football star felt a little cliche, he really pulls off the perfect villain for Tate's hero.

I found the story well written, easy to get lost in, and at times, very much an edge of your seat kind of deal.

I give Bellamy and the Brute a Clean and 4.5 rating.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.

 R--swearing (F bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Touchstone Series by Andrea K Host

From Goodreads:
On her last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walked out of exams and into a forest. Surrounded by the wrong sort of trees, and animals never featured in any nature documentary, Cass is only sure of one thing: alone, she will be lucky to survive. The sprawl of abandoned blockish buildings Cass discovers offers her only more puzzles. Where are the people? 

Cass is overjoyed at the arrival of the formidable Setari. Whisked to a world as technologically advanced as the first was primitive, Cass finds herself processed as a 'stray', a refugee displaced by the gates torn between worlds. Struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, she must adapt to virtual classrooms, friends who can teleport, and the ingrained attitude that strays are backward and slow.

Lab Rat One:
Test subject was not the career path Cass had been planning.

With no privacy, too-frequent injuries, and the painful knowledge that she must always be an assignment to her Setari companions, Cass can only wish for some semblance of normality and control. And as her abilities become more and more dangerous, tests and training may be the only thing capable of protecting Cass from herself.

Caszandra:
Cassandra Devlin doesn’t know what she's for, but she knows she's running out of time. Space is tearing itself apart. Ionoth attack in ever-greater numbers. And "the useful stray" has been injured so many times that the Tarens hesitate to use her for fear of losing her.

With one particular Taren now her most important person, Cass is determined to contribute everything she can - and hopes to find some answers of her own.


My Take for the series as a whole:
I just finished rereading the series for the second time. The first time there were several typos and style choices that bugged me about the series, but not enough that I quit. In fact, after the first free book, I paid for the other two because I had to find out how it ended. I enjoyed the second read through even more because I could skip the annoying parts (which I didn't find as annoying this time and didn't even skip).

This series follows a girls straight out of high school, though a worm hole of sorts, and into a completely new world where she has to learn to survive. She goes from being a Stray (someone who wonders through the Ena, to a Lab Rat (her form of coping), to finally finding herself, a cause, and a new home and family.

My main complaint about the series is that Cassandra knew an awful lot about things that most 17-18 year olds wouldn't (heck I don't know them and watching documentaries is a favorite pastime of mine). The character names also piled up to confuse me at times. Everyone has two like we do, but you rarely see them together to connect first names to last names, not even when new characters are introduced. And there are a lot of characters. However, the second read through was easier to put formal names together with the given names used when off-duty.

The world building is complex and imaginative, if a bit disjointed at times. It is young adult, so there's plenty of angst, but I become giddy with Cassandra's need to find connections to her new world by relating them to several fandoms. They aren't more than a sentence, and highly entertaining without trying to pull from those franchises. I just love her general geekiness. Here's one of my favorite quotes following the moment she decides to stop actively searching for a way home and help fix the tears in the universe.

"I blame Doctor Who. Mr. Spock. The Scooby Gang: both the ones in the Mystery Machine and the ones with the stakes. I've spent my life with stories of people who don't walk away, who go back for their friends, who make that last stand. I've been brainwashed by Samwise Gamgee."

And finally, in spite of some technical writing issues (which I think were intentional style choices because it's written as a journal), there are moments that I just connected with on a deep emotional level. There's a lot of telling, but then you'll get a scene that just grabs your heart. For instance, at the end of book two, Ruuel and Cassandra finally give in to the romance side of the book. You have to read the first two books to get all the ways this is such a big scene (all the complications and paranormal and political reasons they shouldn't, and so on), but it's one of those moments I just "get".

Ruuel tells her she needs to be certain she wants "this" meaning a relationship with him. Her answer is a beautiful example of love and trust, not just lust.

"What is certain? Haven't even ever really talked. Only know that every day, first I know on waking, is that you're not there. I hate it when you're not there."

*Le sigh* There is awesome sci-fi stuff, super powers, scary creatures traveling through near space and tears in the walls to reach real space, secret agendas, and people doing the best they can to be "super space ninjas" as Cass calls them, and romance!

So, it's easy to say that this has gone in to my multiple read piles. I know I'll visit Tare and Muina again many more times.

I give the series as a whole a 4.5 because it was good enough that I had to read it again, and I know I'll read it in the future as well. This is a world I can live in and enjoy the journey over and over.

I have to give it an R rating because it uses the F-bomb, but sex is mostly innuendo/PG 13.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.

 R--swearing (F bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always

Sunday, March 11, 2018

New Reviews Coming Soon!

I've had time the last two weeks to read, and I've taken advantage of it with a vengeance. There have been some fun books that I can't wait to share with you. My goal is to write the reviews this week and get them posted before next week. Here's what's coming:

Touchstone series by Andrea K Host
Bellamy and the Brute by Alicia Michaels
Beauty and the Beast by K M Shea
The Guarded Widow by K M Gaffney

Monday, December 4, 2017

YA and Clean Romance Instafreebie Giveaway

If your looking for YA or clean romance, I'm part of a 50 book Instafreebie giveaway that will be running until December 9th. My books are FADE INTO ME (by Charity Bradford, a modern day fairy tale with a scifi twist) and CHOCOLATE KISSES (by River Ford, clean contemporary romance).

Feel free to browse all 50 books. If you see anything you like, grab it, read it, and please post a review for that author on Amazon. That's the best Christmas present you could give us. 

Click HERE to browse books

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Acting Married by Victorine E Lieske

From Goodreads:
Tara McDermott needed a job, so she took the only thing available--cleaning house for the swoon-worthy actor, and Hollywood Bad Boy, Rick Shade. When he comes up with a crazy plan to tame his wild reputation by marrying her, she reluctantly agrees so she can pay off her debts and move her daughter back to the Midwest where life is simpler. If only he wouldn't make her heart pound every time he kisses her.

Rick's reputation is in the toilet and it's affecting his job. In order to get a good role, he needs to show Hollywood he's now a family man. After enticing Tara with a large sum of money to go through with the farce, he sets out to show the public he's in love. But Tara's soft lips keep calling to him and soon he doesn't know what's pretend and what's real.

Acting Married is a sweet romance, and a stand-alone novel.


My Take:
This was a quick, easy read, and I loved that is was clean as well. There is definite chemistry between Tara and Rick, but they are also responsible adults capable of controlling their impulses. They both want something meaningful and are willing to wait for it. I know that sounds weird since they've entered a fake marriage to help each other out.

Tara so wants to be tough and capable, but she's really an emotional mess. Vulnerable, and so starved for real love that I hurt for her. She's a wonderful mother though. Tara works hard to give her little girl all that she can. The ultimate goal is to get out of Hollywood and somewhere Tara sees as stable. She's surprised at how Rick fills the gaps in her daughter's life.

The only thing I couldn't decide on was the daughter. I believe she was supposed to be four, but sometimes she acted much older, and other times much younger. Other than that, quite enjoyable.

I give Acting Married a solid 4 and Clean rating.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.

R--swearing (F bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always