[671]: Sting by Sandra Brown

sting Sting by Sandra Brown
Grand Central Publishing | August 16th, 2016
Adult Fiction | Romantic Suspense
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


When Jordie Bennet and Shaw Kinnard lock eyes across a disreputable backwater bar, something definitely sparks. Shaw gives off a dangerous vibe that makes men wary and inspires women to sit up and take notice. None feel that undercurrent more strongly than savvy businesswoman Jordie, who doesn’t belong in a seedy dive on the banks of a bayou. But here she is . . . and Shaw Kinnard is here to kill her.

As Shaw and his partner take aim, Jordie is certain her time has come. But Shaw has other plans and abducts Jordie, hoping to get his hands on the $30 million her brother has stolen and, presumably, hidden. However, Shaw is not the only one looking for the fortune. Her brother’s ruthless boss and the FBI are after it as well. Now on the run from the feds and a notorious criminal, Jordie and Shaw must rely on their wits-and each other-to stay alive.

Miles away from civilization and surrounded by swampland, the two play each other against their common enemies. Jordie’s only chance of survival is to outwit Shaw, but it soon becomes clear to Shaw that Jordie isn’t entirely trustworthy, either. Was she in on her brother’s scam, or is she an innocent pawn in a deadly vendetta? And just how valuable is her life to Shaw, her remorseless and manipulative captor? Burning for answers-and for each other-this unlikely pair ultimately make a desperate move that could be their last.


If you don’t know it by now, Sandra Brown is an author on my short list whose work I try not to miss. I’ve been obsessed with her novels for as long as I can remember. Every single one more addictive than the last. It really is unfortunate that she only writes one book per year. Because I always dread that moment when there are no pages left to read and knowing that the wait for the next book will take another year.  She’s written more books than I can count but I’ll go ahead and proclaim Sting to be her best one yet. Sandra Brown may be a favourite author of mine, but I rarely give her books a perfect five. So this is a big deal.

A Theme That Never Gets Old

Sandra Brown has always been my go-to for Romantic Suspense novels. I’ve read quite a few from different authors but I always go back to her books. She does this genre really well. But – and I mentioned this in my short review of Sting on Goodreads – her books are habit forming. As I’m writing this review, I’m in the midst of reading Smoke Screen. As much as I hate to say it, her books are deterrent to reading schedules.  More than anything, I think it’s her ability to write stories that are nowhere near an echo of what she’s written in the past. She somehow manages to stay within the times but oddly still not losing the old fashioned Southern charm of her arches and characters. But whatever the story is about,

She has the ability to write stories that get better every time even though the foundations are similar. She somehow manages to stay within the times but oddly still not losing the old fashion Southern charm of the characters and setting. But whatever the story is about, the defining theme of her books is how well she meshes the perfect mix of conspiracy, politics, social injustices, and sex. 

 The Set Up

As readers, we all know that the opening of a novel makes or breaks a book. In as little as ten pages, we can sort of gauge whether or not the book will sustain us right through the bitter end. Well, this woman is very proficient at casting her line and dangling her proverbial lure until I’m nothing but a gaping fish anticipating the inevitable.

The likes of Jordie Bennet has no business being in a dive bar. She screams of class that the incongruity of her sitting at there was not missed by Shaw Kinnard. Don’t let the synopsis fool you. Though it implied about a cheesy, “their eyes met and the Earth shook” kind of meeting, it was nowhere that corny. In as much as Jordie’s appearance at that bar was all kinds of wrong, Shaw Kinnard fit the place to a T. Later, we’ll find out that he’s a hired assassin on the hunt for Jordie’s brother who stole 30 million dollars from a known criminal.

The Romance and the Suspense

I’ll never get enough of a romance between an assassin and his target. Sting features one that was addicting as it was frustrating. As the story slowly unfolds, you can’t help but feel that there was more to Shaw than just a man who can kill anyone for money, let alone, a woman with whom he was undeniably attracted to.

At least, you would hope.

Her books are also the kind that doesn’t feature just one mystery. More often, it’s convoluted; like layers of phyllo dough held together by a sweet, sticky, juicy twist. And boy, was it ever tasty. The beauty of her plot twist is that they’re rarely predictable. She always manages to surprise me at ever turn.

In Retrospect

Sandra Brown delivers another fast-paced page-turner that caters to her loyal fans. It’s what we’ve come to expect and what we’ve loved about her novels. With alternating action and romance at every page, this book gives new meaning to heart-pounding.

 

 

 

 

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[662]: Swear on this Life by Renèe Carlino

23492533 Atria Books
August 9th, 2016
E-ARC via Net Galley
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?


Renèe Carlino is a recent discovery for me. Last year, Before We Were Strangers was on my list of 2015 Favorites. I’ve decided then that I need to read every book this woman has ever written and will ever write. Much like Coleen Hoover’s books, her stories are novelties. They appeal to those who still hasn’t seen what it is that makes NA novels so popular.

Much like her 2015 release, Swear On This Life is also about second chances and how difficult it is to move from a first love. Years may pass, but the feeling never really goes away. It’s buried underneath all the relationships that have worked and failed over the years. All it takes is one meeting or sometimes even a memory for it to come back from the dead with a vengeance.

In Jace and Emiline’s case, it was a book that brought all the feelings back. And it only took reading the first page for Emiline to realize that her childhood friend and first love authored the book. Emiline didn’t have a very good life as a child and as a teenager. Her mother abandoned her in the care of her abusive, drunk father. Although Jace didn’t start off as a friend, he eventually proclaimed himself as Emiline’s lone protector. Their history was sweet and difficult at times but that’s what’s great about this story. It was romance years in the making. Their connection wasn’t something that’s easily severed. In the end, I understood why Jace wrote the book and it’s not because he saw the opportunity to make money, but it was a way for him to help Emiline face her demons.

I didn’t enjoy the way Emiline strung Trevor (her boyfriend) along, though. I thought she wasn’t fair to him and that she treated him badly. Granted that there was very little love between them but it still didn’t give her the pass to treat him unkindly. Emiline was the type of character that’s difficult to like at times. She was blasè and aloof; cold and unpredictable. She had a hard time dealing with the old Jace and the present Jace. She  was also very quick to give up on her hopes and dreams.

In the end, this book was every bit as addictive as Before We Were Strangers. This is a bit more emotionally heavy that will make readers consider the brevity of Emiline’s reactions and Jace’s intentions. One of the marks of an author’s talent is their ability to successfully write a story within the story. They have to be able to provide readers two distinctive tones to differentiate the actual book versus the one embedded inside. Ms. Carlino did exactly that and I could tell that she didn’t take the easy way out. She made sure her readers would know the difference.

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[660]: Saga, Volume Six

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Saga, Volume Six

by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples


Volume Six of the Saga series finds us a few years into the future with Hazel in kindergarten. She barely remembers anything about her parents but for the ache of longing to see them again. Stuck on a planet where criminals and rejects are incarcerated, Hazel and her grandmother tried to make the best of it. She kept fervent hope that her parents will find her and break them out of prison. In the meantime, she’s living a semblance of normalcy as they bided their time.
Unbeknownst to her, her parents haven’t stopped searching either. If it would mean contacting their former enemy and making him their temporary ally like they did in the past, then, they’ll do what they must. They’ve been trying to repair the damage they’ve done to each other before and after Hazel’s disappearance. But they knew in their hearts that they can never be truly happy again until Hazel comes home.
Nothing about this series surprises me anymore. I don’t think it’s possible for me to hate them. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m biased because it’s the first graphic novel series that I’ve ever read and loved. But then I’d look at other people’s reviews on Goodreads then immediately realize it wasn’t a coincidence at all. This duo has been giving us everything we wanted with every installment; each one outrageously drawn and brilliantly written than the last. And we can’t get enough of it. It’s hilarious, dark, and tender all at the same time. It’s not a wonder as to why this is a very popular series. And for once, I don’t mind being a slave to a series at all. I hope y’all have had the chance to read this fantastic graphic novel.
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[637]: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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Salt to the Sea

by Ruta Sepetys


Books about wars from any period tend to leave a lasting effect on me. Stories about the struggle, the hunger, the pain, and anger stay longer than I’d care to admit. Mostly, I’m overcome with admiration to the characters; it had me thinking about how I could never have survived  had I lived in that era. I’m particularly drawn to stories about World War II. Two years ago, I was completely enamored with Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Michael Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Then, last year, I discovered Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena; it’s not set in the same time period, but just as affecting regardless. It was a book set during the Chechen war. But these books have one thing in common: they were written by authors who has an uncanny ability to transform horrific tales into something beautiful. Salt to the Sea was no different.

Book Description

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets. Each one born of a different homeland; each one haunted by tragedy, lies…and war. As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. Yet not all promises can be kept.

One of the reasons that I enjoy reading books in this genre is that it affords me  the opportunity to learn something. Before starting this, I knew nothing about Wilhelm Gustloff or the “Amber Room”. After I wiped the snot dripping off my nose, I took to the trusty Wikipedia and did a bit of side reading.  It did indeed happen. For a moment or two, I felt the same indignance Ms. Sepetys felt for the way we’ve dismissed this disaster. We certainly haven’t given it the same reverence as we do the Titanic. And I know it’s tough considering who were on the ship to begin with. But we need to remember that they were mostly refugees and victims of war and that they, too, deserve to be remembered.

Reading historical fiction is not always going to be an easy read. More often, they tend to be heavy on the narrative and dry. Salt to the Sea is not the kind of historical fiction, however. Sepetys’ writing has a one-sitting type of reading quality. The pacing was swift and not at all inundated by the four-person points of view.  She set up the novel in such a way that readers would have a heavy weight on their chests, ominously waiting for that looming heartbreak.  There was sporadic humor that felt out of place, but I felt was necessary. It made the story even more endearing.

And of course, the characters. Oh, these lovely characters! They were full of life, and love. Despite the hopelessness of their situation, this motley crew was one of the most compelling band of characters I’ve read in a long time. They looked out for each other, bonded by the will to survive.  There were romance and stories of their lives before the war.  They were heartbreaking, poignant and gorgeous – but mostly, sad. Box of tissues required.

 

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[628]: She’s Not There

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She’s Not There

by Joy Fielding


Double Day Canada                                                                                       February 23, 2016


I was in a reading rut. A hell I would not wish on my fond enemy. But on Saturday, I finally found reprieve. She’s Not There threw the proverbial raft to save me from an ocean of misery.

About the book

It’s been 15 years since Caroline’s daughter disappeared from her crib at a hotel in Mexico on their 10th year wedding anniversary. Every year on the day of her disappearance, she’s had to deal with the guilt and the shame that the entire world has made her feel. The world hasn’t forgiven her. She hasn’t forgiven herself. And yet, she’s never lost hope. So when she receives a phone call from a girl who claims that she might be her long-lost daughter, she followed her instinct and flew to Canada to meet her. But she didn’t show up. Days later, she showed up at her doorstep in San Diego and threw her life into a frenzy. Old wounds and old hurts will be opened. Lili’s appearance might very well widen the distance between Caroline and her oldest daughter’s already difficult relationship. But Caroline will face anything – even being hounded by the media – just for a chance to finally find out the truth, absolve her of guilt, and to be reunited with a piece of her heart that’s been missing for 15 years.

My Thoughts

Joy Fielding perfectly captures a parent’s worst nightmare in her latest work. While I never would leave my kids in a hotel room all to themselves (especially at such young ages), she shows how easily it was for Caroline to succumb to her then husband’s reassurances that everything was fine. Caroline took the brunt of the blame and the ridicule that the world threw their way. Never mind, that it was her husband’s suggestion to leave the kids in their room while they  dined with their friends. Never mind that her husband only stayed a week longer than her three months waiting for word from the authorities. She was unfairly scrutinized to within an inch of her life. But even if I was angered by this, I can’t help but feel that Caroline did have a victim complex. She didn’t speak up. She didn’t cry foul. She took all of the injustices in stride. She even took the abuse from her oldest daughter. I don’t know if it was because they already had a precarious relationship to begin with, but the tension between the two never let up over the years.

This book made me go through a tumult of emotions for all the characters involved. I was angered by the ex-husband who lied when he said he checked out the kids when he didn’t; I was mad at the world who cast the stone at Caroline; I was even mad at the tempestuous older daughter who was difficult from the get go.

She’s Not There was a one-sitting read for me. I read it with ease all thanks to Joy’s effortless writing. I recommend this to those who enjoys light psychological thriller and an emotional powerhouse. This book gave voice to a resonating nightmare that I bury at the back of my mind every time I leave my 14-year-old and my 9-year-old at home. I always tell them to set the house alarm. Lock the doors. Don’t answer the phone from an unfamiliar number, and never, ever answer the door when someone knocks and we’re not home. It’s that sick feeling I always get whenever I’m not around my kids.

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[625]: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

22816087 HarperCollins | May 19th, 2015
Hardcover, 867 pages
Adult Fiction | Science Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
CHAPTERS | AMAZON


What would happen if the world were ending?

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain…

Five thousand years later, their progeny — seven distinct races now three billion strong — embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown … to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.


When I first started my very own minimalism movement, I made a list of things I needed to tackle: 3 closets, 4 toy boxes, a wall-to-wall bookshelf, bedrooms, and a number of bathroom sinks. As the list got longer, I felt daunted. It got worse when I was faced with the debacle that was my bookshelf. I don’t quite know what to do. It was a mess of books to keep, books to give away. When it was all laid out in stacks before me, I wanted to put them all back and forget about the whole thing. I took a break. Stepped back and imagined the big picture. I was coasting after that.

Seveneves is that kind of read. First of all, it’s a monster of a book, a Sci-Fi of all things. Which means, my brain was fried by the end of the first chapter. I’ve never fully committed myself to reading something as elaborately plotted as this book. But once I gave myself some time to think about it, I realize the feat of what I was able to accomplish. Seveneves is a story that spanned thousands of years into the future. It is jam-packed with space jargon. So much so that I would dare suggest it’s the closest thing to a Rocket Science textbook as I’m going to get. The most significant thing of all is that it’s a story completely lacking in human emotion. It’s dry and sterile – and just like every other Sci-Fi books I’ve ever read. Only more involved. So did I enjoy this book? Surprisingly enough, yes. Yes, I did.

This book has quite a good hook: “The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.” And just like that, the human race was on the clock to save whom and what they can before Earth is engulfed in hellfire. Bits and pieces of moon rock debris will create a hard rain of high-velocity ammunition destined to destroy life, as we know it. In the meantime, a space ark meant to sustain life into the future will carry a select number of astronomers, scientists, and members of the general population needed for the human race to go on.

Life in space is frightful enough as it is. But if you add politics and ego to the mix, you have less of a chance of life evolving into something better than what you’ve known. That’s exactly what happened. The space ark is built into little arklets that can break apart in case of damage. So when some of the population rebelled, they didn’t think about the consequences of their actions. Humans, even the educated ones, become stupid when they’re led by egos. Water is scarce, food as well. The onset of space dementia accelerates. Populations quickly lessen from a few hundred to less than twenty. Where is the hope for humanity now?

Thankfully, there were few level headed scientists who knew what needed to be done. And this is where the title of the book comes into play. I’m not going to say anymore because that’s part of the charm of this book. It made me wonder if the author built a story around his fondness for this palindrome. In which case, I’ll come out and say, brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Even though I had to get past 600-some odd pages before the title was explained, the journey to get there was torturous fun.

Seveneves is an exhaustive tale of the human race’s resilience no matter the odds. Where it gives us hope that we will go on, it’s also a sad revelation of our tendency to destroy each other at will. Be advised, the author is quite fond of long narratives. I would say it’s best to listen to the audio book, but even that nearly put me to sleep.

 

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[622]: Shimmer by Paula Weston

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The Mother of a Cliffhanger

Paula Weston knows how to write them and write them well. Practically every book in this series ended in the most painful way possible. Haze, in particular, was the most painful of all. So Shimmer started where Shadows ended – the Outcasts had no choice but to seek shelter at the Sanctuary while they figure out how to rescue Rafa and Taya from the Gatekeepers. For Gaby, it means that she might not have a choice but to ask for help from the same people who knowingly fed her to a hellion in the hopes of jogging her memory. Whatever their methods were, she knew that they have the angel-power to destroy the Gatekeepers and the iron room where Rafa and Taya were being held. Gaby has never been the most patient person, especially when waiting means knowing that Rafa is slowly being tortured to death.

The Sanctuary

In the cold mountains of Italy, Gaby and Jude will find out more about the women who built the iron room in Iowa. A secret society made up of women whose primary objective is to rid the Earth of rephaims by any means necessary. But the knowledge they unearth would bring more questions and traitors in their ranks. Regardless of what they find out, the rephaims would be more divided than ever.

Anxious Anticipation

By now I can say without a doubt that Paula Weston’s Rephaim series surpassed all the other angel series that I’ve held dear over the years. Angellfall by Susan Ee took forever to finish and when the series ender came out, it was big let down. Daughters of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was great, but the installments were painfully too long and was saturated by purple prose that they didn’t resonate with me at all. There’s not a lot of angel books series that I follow. In fact, these were it. So I was really hoping that the Rephaim series would come through. Well, it did. And all the familiar feelings of anticipation and nervous anxiety came rushing back as soon as I held the book in the palm of my hands. I knew she was going to take me for one hell of a ride.

While Shimmer wasn’t as action packed as its predecessor, it was full of revelations that made me hold my breath. My head spun with every discovery – end over end because I can’t figure out all the implications of each revelation. Ms. Weston knows how to make my heart pound even if her characters barely lift a finger. And with Rafa’s absence, she knows that she has to make it up to us somehow.

I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist torturing us again, so heads up, this ends with yet another cliffhanger. I sure am glad I have Burn sitting prettily on my shelf because I for one wouldn’t be able to resist taking a peek at what really happened before Gaby’s and Jude’s memories were erased.

Shimmer is the kind of book that will activate all your sweat glands, will give you heart palpitations and a feeling of restless wanting for the next book. You’ve been warned.


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Goodreads | Amazon | Chapters !ndigo | Book Depository

MY REVIEWS:

Shadows | Haze

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[607]: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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This much-awaited book from the  author of the Grisha Trilogy didn’t disappoint. Lauded for her intricate world building and craftsmanship, this initial installment is all that her fans were asking for. Admittedly, I’m not a true fan of the Grishaverse for a lot of reasons. However, this book was a great appetizer for what’s to come.

THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

Set in the world of the Grishaverse, this tells the story of a group of misfits and thieves about to carry out the ultimate heist. The Danny Ocean of this pack is Kaz “the dirty hands” Brekker. It is virtually an impossible heist, one that would mean sure death if they failed. But with 30 million kruge on the line, he simply couldn’t resist. Rounding up his posse are Inej, the wraith; Jesper, the sharpshooter; Nina, the heartrender; Matthias the fjerdan, and Wylan, the secret weapon. They are known as The Dregs. Simply put the bottom of the Ketterdam barrel.

THE MISSION is to infiltrate the Ice Court; a kingdom circled by impenetrable walls under constant surveillance by a highly efficient, highly trained Fjerdan army. Within the walls lives a chemist responsible for creating a drug that can amplify a greisha’s power. But the power comes at a high price. Anyone that takes parem easily succumbs to the oblivion it provides, a great high so addictive that only a continuous use can stop the craving. Soon the madness comes. Then the body deteriorates into a state of skin and bones nothingness and then shortly, death. The only way to stop the production of the drug is to kidnap the chemist himself. But the chemist is being held hostage in a very secure fortress inside the Ice Court. With a lot of money on the line, and a chance for The Dregs to live comfortably without thievery for a number of years, Kaz and the gang will do whatever it takes to succeed.

KAZ’S SIX

I dare you to read this book and not assimilate it to Ocean’s Eleven. I have loved every single movie of that trilogy. They were a sophisticated brand of criminals who perfected the art of bait and switch. Kaz Brekker, much like Danny Ocean, anticipated everything that could go wrong and was, for the most part, one step ahead of the competition. He was suave, charismatic and sophisticated in his own way. It was hard to forget that he was, above all, a criminal.

Heist stories are typically intricate. An author must have the talent to foresee every course of actions their characters decide to take. Kaz was a master manipulator that preempted trouble the way he saw them. I enjoyed being on the edge of my seat, scared shitless of what will become of the characters.

THESE KIDS ARE A’IGHT

For the most part, Bardugo managed to assemble a great cast of characters. I love seeing their interactions with one another. I love seeing their beginnings and how they came to be part of The Dregs. The only thing I thought was far-reaching was the idea that these kids are just that: kids. For this group of teens, none of them acted and thought like they should. But then again, perhaps it’s because most of them grew up faster than your ordinary teenagers. Each one of them has a disturbing past that shaped them to the person that they’ve become. In spite of all that, these kids are all right in my books.

IN RETROSPECT

It’s an impressive world. The Ice Court reminded me of the seemingly impervious security of the casinos in Ocean’s Eleven minus the sophisticated security systems or weaponry, of course. Kaz and his group relied heavily on the talents and knowledge each one offers to the team. Bardugo is an expert storyteller who can perfectly describe every mundane setting and ambiance her characters inhabit. For reasons I now can’t remember, I wonder if I impulsively dismissed the whole Grishaverse. Perhaps one day, I’ll revisit the books and see it from a different state of mind.


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Henry Holt and Company | Hardcover, 465 pages | September 29th, 2015 | Amazon | Chapters !ndigo | Book Depository


 

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[601]: Status Update by Annabeth Albert

26162169Status Update by Annabeth Albert
Series: Gaymers, #1
Publication Date: December 7th, 2015
Format: E-ARC via Net Galley & Carina Press
Adult Fiction | M/M Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Adrian Gottlieb is winning at life. He’s a successful video game designer with everything a man could ask for, including a warm comfy ride to Denver and a date for his sister’s wedding. But he finds himself in need of a total reboot when he’s left stranded at a snowy campground in Utah. Holiday plans? Epic fail.

That is until Noah Walters offers him shelter for the night and a reluctant cross-country ride. Nothing about the ultraconservative geoarchaeologist should attract Adrian, but once he discovers Noah’s hidden love for video games, the two connect on a new level. Soon, a quiet but undeniable chemistry sparks.

Something doesn’t add up, though. As the miles accumulate and time runs out, Noah must face the most difficult choice of his life. Meanwhile, Adrian must decide whether he’s ready to level up. Is their relationship status worth fighting for, or has this game ended before it’s even begun?


I’m not a pro at M/M romances so when I find something really good,    I will check out the author’s other work – which is exactly what I did after reading Status Update. This is the story of Noah and Adrian. Two people who couldn’t be more different who met at a time when they least expected it. One is raised as a conservative Christian, and the other, an out-and-proud hipster.

Noah is a professor at a staunch Christian university whose foundation of belief is based on homosexuality being a condition that is curable by prayers and repentance. He met Adrian at a point in his life when he’s resolved to live a lonely life because he believes that his career is all that will ever be for him. He’s satisfied living in the closet because he feared reproach and ridicule from his family and colleagues.

Adrian, on the other hand, lives in a progressive environment where no one really cared about anyone’s sexual orientation. But even with the liberties he’s afforded, his relationships are usually cultivated on-line and typically, long distance. Some soul-searching will lead him to conclude that it’s because he’s satisfied with the status quo. In any case, these two would meet and would then form a tentative relationship. But regardless of their connection, their lives are just too different. Noah needs to think about his career and what was more important. Adrian, on the other hand, is a successful game developer in Los Angeles who is ready to be in a serious relationship.

I always expect some angst when I read a romance novel where one is a closeted gay man. And there was some here. What I liked about it is that the author didn’t prolong the agony, you know? Noah stepped up to the plate and decided what he needed to do to make it less hurtful for either of them. Adrian also recognized that he can’t force the issue and that the relationship needs to happen only when they are both ready to deal with it. I like their chemistry. I like Noah’s shyness and reluctance. He’s a virgin, but his attraction to Adrian was undeniable.

Annabeth Albert apparently is a pro at these romances, so I’m really glad I found this book on NG. This was a fantastic introduction to her work! She crafted a coming out story that was both steamy and romantic, with no overreaching story arches that over complicate a simple story line.

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[598]: Steal Me by Lauren Layne

25058352 Steal Me by Lauren Layne
Series: New York’s Finest, #2
E-ARC Galley from Forever Publishing & Net Galley
Publication Date: November 24th, 2015
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


IN HOT PURSUIT

Being a cop might be in Anthony Moretti’s blood, but protecting and serving the city of New York has always been more than just the family business. If that means his love life stays locked up, well then that’s just another sacrifice made in the line of duty. That is, until he sets eyes on the gorgeous new waitress at The Darby Diner and suddenly Anthony’s morning coffee is leaving him a whole lot more hot and bothered than usual.

Though waitressing at The Darby isn’t exactly Maggie Walker’s dream job, it pays the bills and gives her time to work on her novel. Now if only she could stop fantasizing about gorgeous Anthony Moretti every time he sits down at her table, she’d really be in great shape. But when he needs her help identifying a criminal threatening The Darby—and Maggie recognizes her ex-husband—she fears her fresh start might be a pipe dream. Faster than a New York minute, Maggie and Anthony find themselves in one perilous pursuit that only gets hotter with each and every rule-breaking kiss.


I could never resist a good romance featuring men in uniforms. I rarely request them from Net Galley, but since hearing a slew of wonderful reviews for this book, it was only a matter of time. I like reading these books on a lazy Sunday. It takes me a minimum of 3 hours to devour them. Even shorter when I enjoy them like I did with this one. I didn’t even realize that I was reading the second book to a series until I went snooping in my Kindle to find the first book (Frisk Me) still unread. Thankfully, you need not read the first one to follow the story line.

GRACELESS HEROINE vs. THE GRUMPY CAPTAIN

There is nothing more endearing than a clumsy heroine. Pair her up with a straight and arrow, unsmiling, unamused, man of the law and you’ve got yourself a perfectly well suited awkward couple. Maggie is not normally a clumsy person. There is just something about the oldest Moretti that reduces her into a bumbling klutz. Anthony doesn’t make it easy for her, though. But if he were to be honest, he’ll admit that he was intimidating her for a reason. They have an inherent chemistry. Even if they seem to clash whenever they’re within a 5-foot radius of each other.

A CASE OF PETTY CRIME

Adding to Anthony’s sour disposition is his frustration to solve a rash of theft perpetrated by a lone, petty criminal. The thief has a penchant for eluding the cops much to Captain Moretti’s chagrin. NYPD hasn’t caught a break in the case, that is until Maggie recognized the criminal as her ex-husband, Eddie.

Through the investigation, Maggie and Anthony will face decisions that could affect them in more ways than one. Maggie knew the score when she decided to give into Anthony’s only-sex-no-attachment rule. She’s used to men using her and leaving her once she’s done being useful. Anthony is focused on furthering his career no matter the cause. So Maggie just has to get used to the fact that he’ll never be the kind of man she wanted.

Maggie also learned a few things about herself. About what she really wants to do with her life. She has to work for it, but she’ll forever be a dreamer if she doesn’t work for everything she deserves. Anthony, for his part, has to learn to let go of the past. To stop blaming himself  and admit that Maggie can weather the storm of being with an officer of the law.

IN RETROSPECT

I enjoyed this one. As far as romance goes, this one was sweet. I like the comic relief that the entire Moretti family provided. They were meddlers – the lot of them – but they all have their hearts in the right place. I’m looking forward to reading Vincent’s story!

 

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