Monday, July 9, 2018

The World Around the Corner by Rick Ellrod

A new novella coming August 22nd from Wild Rose Press.

From Rick's Website:
Flirting with the lively rogue Rosmara is the best part of Jeff Stanton’s favorite online role-playing game, even though he doesn’t know her in the flesh. She’s much better company than Dana Roland, the sharp-tongued mechanic who keeps his balky car running—just as Dana would rather banter with Badon the warrior online than with a man she sees as a stuffy professor.

When a young teammate from the game goes missing in real life, Jeff and Dana end up on a road trip together. In a real-life quest, they discover more about each other than either one expected—and new kinds of sparks begin to fly!

My Take:
This was a lot more fun than I anticipated. It's not my normal kind of thing, which might sound strange since I used to love video games. However, I agreed to read this because I have two friends who love online role play games and I was curious to see if this would give me a glimpse into what they liked about it.

I thought Rick Ellrod did a great job helping me see the camaraderie of this team of players and how they worked together. He also did a great job with the back and forth of the characters in their real-life interactions. It was fun to see them before and after they realized their double connection. I always love when pre-conceived notions are stripped away and people have to see each other for who they really are. The romance was sweet and realistic. The search for Evanesce was also interesting in its own right. And Pendragon? Let's just say it's good to have a sneaky match-making leader like that on your side.

This is a short and easy read. I never felt lost or confused with the game world, and the real world scenes were just that--real and believable.

I give The World Around the Corner a solid 4.5 and Clean rating. Check out Rick's website for links when the book is available.

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

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Change of Plans by Donna K Weaver

From Goodreads:

When Lyn sets off on her supposedly uncomplicated and unromantic cruise, she never dreams it will include pirates. All the 25-year-old Colorado high school teacher wants is to forget that her dead fiancĂ© was a cheating scumbag. What she plans is a vacation diversion; what fate provides is Braedon, an intriguing surgeon. She finds herself drawn to him: his gentle humor, his love of music, and even his willingness to let her take him down during morning karate practices. Against the backdrop of the ship’s make-believe world and its temporary friendships, her emotions come alive.

However, fear is an emotion, too. Unaware of the sensitive waters he navigates, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendship--on the very anniversary Lyn came on the cruise to forget. But Lyn's painful memories are too powerful, and she runs off in a panic.

Things are bad enough when the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise’s snorkeling excursions in American Samoa. However, paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped. Lyn’s fear of a fairytale turns grim. Now she must fight alongside the man she rejected, first for their freedom and then against storms, sharks, and shipwreck.

My Take:
Oh my gosh, I don't even know where to start! This is going to be a hard review to write without giving away spoilers. Let's just all accept the fact that a romance has to have an HEA (happily ever after) but this one had me worrying I'd have to accept a different version of the standard form of HEA. So, here we go...

Weaver is a talented writer who knows how to pull the emotion straight from your soul. Her characters were real from page one. Never once did they feel cliche or like stock people that needed to be there to fulfill a plot device. For a moment, I thought Jori might be a stock character, but even he was his own person with a unique role to fill in the story.

I'm not going to go into a play by play summary or list the qualities of the two main characters. Just know that I cried for at least the last hour of reading. This is a good thing for me. It shows how invested I was with Lyn and Braedon's lives, not just their romance. I love romance, but this was so much more. The suspense elements and the daily struggle of surviving added such depth to the story. I can't say much more than that without giving too much away.

This was a beautifully written, tender, and heartwrenching story. I almost never give romance a 5-star rating, but this one gets it without a seconds hesitation. I'd like to give it two 5-stars for doing it while staying clean on top of it all.

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Always a Bridesmaid by Lizzie Shane

From Goodreads:
She's all heart. He's all business.

Parvati Jai knows better than to pin any romantic hopes on Max Dewitt. She may have had a crush on her best friend's older brother since she figured out what boys were good for, but she's looking for Mister Forever - not a workaholic entrepreneur with a romantic attention span that tops out at two weeks. Yet with her business failing, her newly-engaged best friend vanishing into a love bubble, and even her teenage niece announcing she's getting married, Max becomes the one person she can rely on - and the idea of a little fling with him becomes even more tempting.

Max knows his little sister's best friend is off-limits...until Parvati confesses she once had a crush on him and he can't help seeing her in a new - and very intriguing - light. He's never been good at letting people past his charming facade, but something about Parvati makes him want to let down his defenses.

But even if he lets himself fall for her, how can he convince a woman who knows all about his love-'em-and-leave-'em ways that he finally wants forever?

My Take:
This was a pleasant surprise. I found myself sick and spending a lot of time in bed, so I binge read my TBR kindle pile. I think I'd put this more in the love story category than romance, and I think I needed that. This simply means there were chapters that weren't just about the two people falling in love. We really get to know Parvati and Max as individuals without each other before, during, and after they get together. It makes their relationship mean even more.

Parv. *sigh* I felt for her. Her whole world was falling apart. It really was kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy that she talks about two-thirds into the book, but that doesn't make it any less painful. She's trying to be something and someone she isn't to impress her family, her friends, herself, and of course, that's going to implode. The fact she's never told Max she's been in love with him for over a decade is just icing on the cake. And, a note on her best friend Sydney, Parv is WAY to easy on her. Just saying!

Okay, Max is an awesome type A over-achiever alpha male personality. He didn't have a great role model growing up for a loving father figure but in his own way, Max isn't doing as bad as everyone tells him. I love that Parv finally goes for what she wants and is willing to give Max a chance. Unfortunately, before the end, she starts to doubt everything because she listens to Sydney. Why!!?? I love Max even more because he gives Parv exactly what she needs. He needed bonus points because he was going to do it before she runs. I'd like to point that out.

I give Always a Bridesmaid a 4.5 for everyday realism without being too stupid (thank you!). It's got real heartache, real problems, and real solutions. It gets a PG-13 rating for talk about sex and off-screen scenes.

NOTE: I'm not 100% sure on the swear words used so sorry if the F-bomb is in there without warning. I've kind of forgotten since reading.

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Love in Alaska by Tina Scott

From Goodreads:Can facing down a bear and tackling the Alaskan wilderness tame the storm in Marcia Williams’s heart?

After a painful breakup, Marcia prescribes herself a two-week vacation to Homer. Time with her friend Traci John is all that’s on the agenda, not falling for the first guy she meets.

Storm Gaige is handsome, kind, and polite. He’s an educator, like her, and he wants kids, like her. For Marcia, it’s an instant attraction. The problem is, there are over 2,140 reasons for her not to like Storm, give or take a few miles. But, distance isn’t the only issue.

My Take:
I received this story in exchange for an honest review.
First, I enjoyed the story, however, I thought it was too short. I liked Marcia from the very beginning when she struggled to walk into the pawn shop with her engagement ring. It represented all the wasted years and all that she had hoped for, so she did sell it for the chance to spend a few weeks with her best friend. It was easy to cheer for her after that and to understand her insecurities.

When she reaches Alaska she feels an instant connection with Storm, even though she doesn't know why. I didn't have a problem with that. This is where I thought the story was too short though. Although we see Storm doing nice things for Marcia, she's kind of clueless. And since we don't see anything from his point of view we have to fill in the gaps when she zones out. And she zones out every time she gets insecure. That in itself wouldn't be a problem if we had a few more chapters of Storm drawing her out of her shell, talking to her, telling her point blank how he feels about her. Because that's what she needs. She's not good at picking up the clues.

All in all I liked the story though and see a lot of potential in the writing. I'd give another story by Tina Scott a chance based on this one.

I give Love in Alaska a 3.8-4 and a clean rating. It's sweet and hopeful, and I enjoyed glimpses of life in Alaska.

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
SaveSave

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Counterfeit Date by Cami Checketts

From Goodreads:

To capture Lolly's heart, Mason tricks her into helping him get ready for his dream date ... with her. Mason Turner only has eyes for Lolly Honeymiller. She's vivacious and hilarious and unfortunately thinks of him as her best friend's ex. Lolly's friends cook up a scheme: pretending Lolly is making him over for a special date with his dream girl. The more time he and Lolly spend together, the harder it is to keep his feelings a secret.

Lolly offers to help Mason Turner prepare for a date with his dream girl. Through makeovers, shopping, and practice kissing, she tries to keep her distance but finds herself falling for a man she can never have. As the date approaches, both wonder if they can keep things fake or if the farce will implode and shred both of their hearts.

My Take:
What fun! It took me a chapter to realize that Mason was high school Mason from way back in Christmas Makeover from the first Echo Ridge anthology. It seems like I missed the story where he and his high school sweetheart Kaitlyn broke up in college (or where she meets and falls in love with Axel). Now they're all grown up and Kaitlyn is married. She's still friends with Mason who also gets along with her husband Axel.

Okay, got all of that straight? Enter Kaitlyn's other best friend, Lolly, who hasn't seen Mason in about three years. Throw in some sparks and some mistaken thoughts that it would be disloyal to like her best friend's ex and you've got a fun rom com. Lolly is determined to help Mason get ready for his dream date, not knowing it's with her! Kaitlyn keeps telling Mason to play hard to get, but all he wants to do is tell Lolly the truth and kiss her senseless.

It was so fun to see the good guy catch the girl in the end. I give The Counterfeit Date a 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.
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

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Southern Bride by Lenora Worth

From Goodreads:

Melissa Sonnier is desperate to find her own happily ever after as she helps her sister celebrate her beach wedding in Driftwood Bay, but it’s difficult to move on and find love when she can’t let go of Judson Duvall, a boy she’s loved since middle school, even after their last break up in their on again, off again relationship. But as she watches her sister exchange her sacred vows, she sees Judson, waiting for her asking for one last chance. He vows he’s changed. Can she risk her heart one last time?

After his latest rodeo related injury, Judson Duvall is ready to hang up his spurs and always a man of action, defies doctors and drives all night to reach the only woman he’s ever loved. He begs for one last chance and is prepared to do anything to win back Melissa’s love. He claims he’s changed, but is it enough or is it too late?

My Take:
This one's been sitting in my kindle for a long time. It was a short read, and I think that hurt the storyline for me. I wanted more from the characters and their journey to their happy ever after. It felt too much like a summary. There were missed opportunities to build on this painful history that Melissa and Judson shared. It would have been really good to see them working harder to build trust and love but they just decided to do it and then months have passed and they're engaged again.

I really wanted to like this and give it a higher rating. The writing was good, but I didn't feel the emotional payoff at the end.

I give it a 3.5 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.
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, June 4, 2018

Kings Crossed Lovers by Donna K Weaver

From Goodreads:

Ethan Walters has no time for distractions like romance. Not if he's going to have the brilliant medical career he's always dreamed of. But when he's given a trip to a theme park resort as a college graduation present, he can't exactly say no. Even if Samantha—the one girl with the power to dismantle his goals—is tagging along.

Samantha Diederik has managed to avoid her high society mother’s manipulations since the woman moved to Europe. Now she’s back and pressuring Sam to move to New York with her. With that battle on the horizon, Sam proceeds to go on vacation with her brother and his roommate. She’s crushed on Ethan for years. They've only met online, but their hours-long conversations are the highlight of her week. Now she has a chance to find out if the cyber magic she's felt with him will translate to real life.

And wow, does it ever—with sparks flying! Now all she has to do is find a way to fight off her mother's machinations while convincing Ethan she won’t destroy his dreams.

My Take:
Okay, this is going to be a mixed review and I'm not quite sure where to start. So, first, I LOVE that these two have been talking to each other through video chat for years before they meet. They've become friends and really already fallen in love without knowing if the chemistry is there. They both suspect it will be, but they already like each other for who they are not the sparks that fly when they touch. I love this because it lets the story move quickly (I think it's like 3-4 days tops in the story) and it's okay because it's backed up by years.

The characters are great. They are well rounded, lovable, and imperfect. Sam and Ethan both have one major flaw that could possibly hold them back and that flaw is believable. Sam's mother is toxic. So much so that early on we learn about behaviors Sam used when she was younger to feel like she was in control. I won't spoil it, but when I read it (It isn't a major part of the story and I kind of wish it had come up again, maybe with Ethan) I thought, wow this is going to be real. Everyone knows Sam should walk away from her mom, but Sam keeps saying, "but she's my mom." It made me love her even more for wanting to try. Then there's Ethan. He's going to med school and he knows how hard that can be on a relationship. His motive for not putting a girl through that is admirable if stupid. See, another adorable trait in a character.

You put all of this together and you get a wonderful little story that was a quick read. The only part that I'm still not sure about was the whole Ross Hughes thing. I'm not saying I didn't like the nod to Harry Potter, which this obviously is, I'm just saying I might have found it distracting from the actual romance. Not a bad thing, I just kept focusing more on the connections between Ross and Harry instead of Sam and Ethan.

I give Kings Crossed Lovers a solid 4 with a 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.
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