Review: Intercepted (Playbook #1) by Alexa Martin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Marlee thought she scored the man of her dreams only to be scorched by a bad breakup. But there’s a new player on the horizon, and he’s in a league of his own…

Marlee Harper is the perfect girlfriend. She’s definitely had enough practice by dating her NFL-star boyfriend for the last ten years. But when she discovers he has been tackling other women on the sly, she vows to never date an athlete again. There’s just one problem: Gavin Pope, the new hotshot quarterback and a fling from the past, has Marlee in his sights.

Gavin fights to show Marlee he’s nothing like her ex. Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to let her escape her past. The team’s wives, who never led the welcome wagon, are not happy with Marlee’s return. They have only one thing on their minds: taking her down. But when the gossip makes Marlee public enemy number one, she worries about more than just her reputation.

Between their own fumbles and the wicked wives, it will take a Hail Mary for Marlee and Gavin’s relationship to survive the season.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Guys, I loved this book! When I read Deanna’s review on it I knew I had to read it, but I still wasn’t quite prepared for how fun and addicting it would be. I never wanted to stop reading it. I read it in about 24 hours and that included having to take breaks for sleep and work.

I really enjoyed Marlee. She was quirky and funny and very likable. She did frustrate me every now and again, but for the most part I thought she was relatable and I loved being in her head. I also really liked her dad, her boss/friend Brynn, and her best friend Naomi. I even enjoyed the “Wicked Wives” and all the catty, mean girl drama they created. I also think it’s a fun tidbit that the author’s husband used to play football so she spent several years as a Football Wife and I have no doubt some of that over-the-top behavior is inspired by real life events.

And can we talk about Gavin for a moment? He was pretty darn perfect. He was so sweet and protective and I just adored him. I spent the whole book waiting for him to do something awful because no guy can be that perfect, right? Well, he never does anything awful, but he does do some stupid things towards the end of the book. While part of what he did kind of made sense to me (not that I thought it was ok, but I understood his thought process), his total obliviousness to how much he hurt Marlee was not at all consistent with his character and I didn’t like that he had to basically become a different person for a few chapters to create the necessary drama to move the plot forward. However, he does redeem himself and I’ll love him forever. (And that’s not a spoiler, because this is a Romance and we all know how it’s going to end.)

While I did very much enjoy the relationship between Marlee and Gavin, there was one aspect I was really missing. They had a one-night stand several years before when Marlee was on a break from her relationship with longtime boyfriend, Chris. We’re told a lot about how great all the physical parts of that night were (yes, I know this is a Romance, but I would’ve liked a little less graphic content), but I would’ve loved a flashback to what brought them to that. How did they meet? What was their initial connection like? When they meet again and Gavin starts pursuing her pretty hard once she breaks up with Chris it made it feel like it was just based off of physical attraction. Which didn’t make sense either because Gavin kept talking about how amazing Marlee was, so obviously he knew more about her from their one night together and I just would’ve liked to have seen that.

Overall, I just really enjoyed Intercepted. It’s been awhile since I had so much fun reading a Romance. I liked Martin’s writing style and even all the hashtags. Not all of them were golden, but for the most part I thought they added a good bit of humor. I also liked Marlee’s journey to becoming her own person and being able to recognize that being in a relationship can’t “fix” you. It was refreshing to have a Romance portray being in love as a good part of your life and not being your whole life. I recommend this one to Romance fans and I will definitely be reading more from Martin in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: The Similars (The Similars #1) by Rebecca Hanover

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

When six clones join Emmaline’s prestigious boarding school, she must confront the heartbreak of seeing her dead best friend’s face each day in class.

The Similars are all anyone can talk about at the elite Darkwood Academy. Who are these six clones? What are the odds that all of them would be Darkwood students? Who is the madman who broke the law to create them? Emma couldn’t care less. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer and all she can think about is how to get through her junior year without him. Then she comes face-to-heartbreaking-face with Levi—Oliver’s exact DNA replica and one of the Similars.

Emma wants nothing to do with the Similars, but she keeps getting pulled deeper and deeper into their clique, uncovering dark truths about the clones and her prestigious school along the way. But no one can be trusted…not even the boy she is falling for who has Oliver’s face.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Similars will be available January 1, 2019. 

I thought that the concept for The Similars had potential. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to it for me.

I think the idea of cloning is very interesting. It brings up so many ethical questions. Some of those issues were brought up in the course of the book, however I didn’t think it was handled well. Instead of actual discussions and honest questions, it was treated like so many hot button topics are these days: with the two sides yelling their opinions at each other and not having an open mind about it at all. I get enough of this in real life, I don’t really want it in my entertainment. The author also tried to draw parallels between cloning and illegal immigration that I felt was a bit of a stretch.

I didn’t really love any of the characters. The story is told through Emma’s first person POV, so I felt like I got to know her pretty well, but character development was really lacking for everyone else. Emma was likable most of the time, though. The Similars are easily the most interesting characters of the book, but only a little bit of time is spent getting to know any of them. I didn’t really get on board the romance. Even though it was obvious what was going to happen, I still felt like it just kind of happened out of the blue.

There are two reveals towards the end of the book that I felt were supposed to be twists, but they were both things I suspected pretty early on in the story. Even though they didn’t surprise me at all, I think they have potential to provide some interesting paths in the coming books.

Overall, The Similars was just not for me. Despite an intriguing premise, the lack of character development, somewhat messy writing, and forced political overtones made this a book I was just getting through, rather than enjoying. As of right now, I’m not interested in continuing the series. I am by no means the target audience for this book, though, so those that are may find this a much better read than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

This is a suggestive romance (love scenes are not graphic). Sweet tea, corn bread, and soup beans—everyday fare for eight-year-old Alix French, the precocious darling of a respected southern family. But nothing was ordinary about the day she met ten-year-old Nick Anderson, a boy from the wrong side of town. Armed with only a tin of bee balm and steely determination, Alix treats the raw evidence of a recent beating that mars his back, an act that changes both of their lives forever.Through childhood disasters and teenage woes they cling together as friendship turns to love. The future looks rosy until the fateful night when Frank Anderson, Nick’s abusive father, is shot to death in his filthy trailer.Suddenly, Nick is gone—leaving Alix alone, confused and pregnant. For the next fifteen years she wrestles with the pain of Nick’s abandonment, a bad marriage, her family and friends. But finally, she’s starting to get her life back together. Her divorce is almost final, her business is booming, and she’s content if not happy — until the day she looks up and sees Nick standing across the counter. He’s back…and he’s not alone.Once again Alix is plunged into turmoil and pain as Nick tries to win her love, something she resists with all her strength. Only one thing might break the protective wall she’s built around her emotions—the truth about Frank Anderson’s death. But when that truth comes out and those walls crumble, neither Alix nor Nick is prepared for the emotional explosion that could destroy as well as heal.

First of all, I want to say thanks to Brandie for putting this book on my radar! I never would have picked it up if I didn’t know how much she loved it.

-Almost all of my GoodReads friends that have read this either marked it as 5 stars or 1 star, so I wasn’t really sure what to think going into it. After reading it, I think I understand. It’s incredibly easy to get sucked in by the lovely writing, strongly developed characters, and overwhelming emotion of the story. However, if you start to pick apart some of the little things with it, I can see how quickly that rating might go down. For me, the good outweighed the bad, but of course I still have to point some things out.

-There is a lot of cheating in this book and it was handled so oddly. With little exception it was met with either apathy or almost instant forgiveness. It just didn’t feel very realistic. And cheating in books always brings my enjoyment level down a tad.

-There was also a lot of sex. None if it was graphic, which I appreciated. But, it just felt like a little much. There were passages like, “We made love. And then we made love again. And then we made love again. Oh, and then we made love again….” Like, it just didn’t add anything to the story.

-The story is told in Alix’s first person POV in an omniscient style. (It’s eventually revealed she’s writing all this in a journal.) I didn’t mind this for the most part, but almost every chapter ended in some type of ominous warning about the next chapter which I thought was kind of cheesy. Especially because most of the time, things didn’t really play out as ominously as expected.

-Lack in communication caused pretty much every conflict in the book and that’s kind of one of my pet peeves.

-Ok, I’ll focus on the positive things now. The characters in this book were pretty great. They are real and flawed and relatable. Yes, they all made stupid decisions from time to time, but they all found some redemption, as well, which I really liked. I especially loved Alix’s grandfather, The Judge.

-I really enjoyed the small town, southern setting. It was jut the right amount of descriptive writing for me. And speaking of the writing, it really was quite beautiful, as well as addicting.

-The romance was kind of epic. I loved seeing Alix and Nick grow from childhood to adulthood. I really believed in their love and wanted them to be together. They had a ton of obstacles they had to overcome, most of them of their own making, but it was such a wonderful slow burn to them actually being together. I liked that it wasn’t easy and that they had to work at it. After everything they went through I would’ve been disappointed if their happily ever just simply happened.

Overall, I really did enjoy The Sweet Gum Tree. It was completely addicting and I could hardly put it down. While I did obviously have some issues with it, I thought it was beautiful and emotional and I can’t stop thinking about it. I will definitely be reading it again in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Hard Sell (21 Wall Street #2) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

He’s a Wall Street wolf. She’s been hired to tame him. From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes a wildly sexy novel of business and pleasure.

Twenty-eight and filthy rich, Matt Cannon is the youngest broker on Wall Street. He may be a “boy wonder,” but he’s every inch a man. Ask any woman—any night. But when Matt’s latest fling makes scandalous headlines, his clients get anxious, and his bosses at Wolfe Investments level an ultimatum: keep his assets zipped, get a “real” girlfriend, and clean up his act. Only one woman can help Matt with something this hard.

For PR genius Sabrina Cross, the best fixer in Manhattan, playing Matt’s steady is going to be a challenge, even if it’s just for show. They already have an explosive history, she can’t stand the cocky party boy, and worse—she can’t stop thinking about him. So who’ll dare to break her “no touching” rule first? Because when that happens, Matt and Sabrina’s game of let’s pretend will get so hot it could set both their reputations on fire.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Hard Sell will be available September 4, 2018. 

I love Lauren Layne books. They are always the perfect choice to get me out of any reading slump. Hard Sell is the second book in the 21 Wall Street series and I think I enjoyed it even more than the first.

I love both Fake Relationship and Hate-to-Love stories and this book utilized both. In the first book of the series Matt and Sabrina were side characters and I wasn’t really sold on the idea of them being in a relationship, but I did end up really liking them together here. They’ve kind of had this dysfunctional thing for a few years and it was a slow burn to actual love and romance and I was here for it. I thought they were really well suited for each other and I liked how their friendship evolved, along with the romance.

Like all of Layne’s books there were a couple of scenes that were a little more graphic than I like, but other than that I enjoyed pretty much every moment of the book. I like the cast of characters and I am really looking forward to getting a book focusing on Kennedy and Kate. One thing I would’ve liked to have seen a little more, though, is Kate’s job. She’s a “fixer” so I felt like there were endless possibilities for a little extra fun or drama, but there’s really not much done with it.

Overall, I really enjoyed Hard Sell. Layne is easily one of my favorite Romance authors and I just love her more with each book I read. I definitely recommend this to Romance fans. While it is part of a series, it can be read as a standalone, as well.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Most men can’t handle Hazel. With the energy of a toddler and the mouth of a sailor, they’re often too timid to recognize her heart of gold. New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (RoomiesBeautiful Bastard) tells the story of two people who are definitely not dating, no matter how often they end up in bed together.

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating will be available September 4, 2018. 

I’ve had some mixed reviews with the Christina Lauren books I’ve read so I’m never really sure what to expect when I pick one up. However, I do know that there will be some addicting writing that will make the book hard to put down and Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating was exactly that.

Hazel. I’m having a hard time deciding on my feelings towards her. Since I have recently been binging old New Girl episodes on Netflix, I’m going to compare her to Season 1 Jess. They really leaned into the whole “adorkable” angle and sometimes she was a little unbearable. In later seasons she was still quirky, but in a more endearing way. In some parts of this book Hazel was kind of aggressively quirky in a Season 1 Jess kind of way. But in others, she was just a little odd and cute. I didn’t find her character all that consistent throughout the story. Even though she often stated that she knew she was a lot to handle and she wasn’t going to change for anybody, I also got the feeling that she felt kind of sorry for herself about it and wished she could? There were times I felt like she was trying to be different for the sake of being different. Then there were other times where she seemed pretty normal. As you can see, I still feel a little conflicted about it. Overall, I think she could be a little unbearable at times, but I mostly enjoyed her.

I was a much bigger fan of Josh. He was so funny and sweet and I just adored him. I liked how protective he was of Hazel. Even though he could come off uptight about a lot of things, he seemed to be the perfect amount of laid back to be able to go with the flow with Hazel. I liked his relationship with his sister and his parents, as well. We get a little bit of information on Korean culture from him, but I would’ve liked a little more.

I’m a fan of the Friends-to-More trope so I shipped Josh and Hazel. However, I wish it would’ve taken a little longer for them to really fall for each other. We get both their POVs which means we find out basically right away that Hazel has always had a thing for Josh and then Josh pretty quickly starts to like her, too. However, they both think they’re wrong for each other and they’re both unsure how the other feels and by getting both POVs it kind of takes away all the tension. It just kind of made me annoyed with both of them. There were still some really cute and romantic scenes, though (and several graphic scenes I could’ve done without, but I’m sure other readers will appreciate).

Overall, I enjoyed Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating. It was cute, funny, and I shipped the romance. However, Hazel was kind of hard to take at times and there wasn’t a moment where I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next. While the story utilized one of my favorite romantic tropes, Friends-to-More, it also employs one of my least favorites (I’m not going to say which since it’s too spoiler-y) and I have to say that dampened my overall enjoyment a bit. I do definitely recommend this one to Romance fans, though, especially Christina Lauren fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Catch Him If You Can (Accidentally Yours #2) by Jennifer Shirk

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Veterinarian Wade Roberts is done with love. But try convincing the elderly folk of Cape Harmony who are determined to play matchmaker. Now the young single women in town are bombarding him with baked goods and love notes, and being “taken” is the only way to stop the meddling grannies—which is why he needs a fake fiancée. Fast.

Arden Pearson loves planning weddings. Other people’s weddings, that is. After her own engagement ended in disaster, she prefers to live vicariously through her work. But when she needs to persuade a big client that she’s capable of planning the celebrity wedding of the year, she’s willing to go as far as pretending to be engaged herself to her best friend’s older brother.

Soon their ruse has everyone in town believing they make the perfect couple—including Arden. She’s always been nothing more than a kid sister to Wade, and it might take a village to convince him otherwise…

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Catch Him If You Can will be available August 13, 2018. 

This book was so cute! After reading a number of mysteries/thrillers lately I was really in the mood for something light and sweet and Catch Him If You Can was exactly what I needed. I found myself smiling through the whole book.

I love a good fake relationship story and Jennifer Shirk always does a good job with them. I thought the circumstances leading up to the relationship were humorous, especially the small town matchmakers that were driving Wade crazy. I would’ve like maybe a couple more awkward, fake-dating moments before the relationship started to become more real, but overall I thought it developed at a good pace.

I thought Wade and Arden were both really likable characters. They both had a good sense of humor and I enjoyed all their scenes together. The secondary cast of characters were all likable, if not exactly memorable. I also really liked seeing Kinsley and Damon from the previous book.

Overall, I really enjoyed Catch Him If You Can. I always enjoy fake relationship stories and this one was so cute and exactly what I wanted it to be. It was humorous and sweet and the perfect weekend read. I definitely recommend it to fans of Sweet Romances.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: One Small Thing by Erin Watt

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems a small thing, just for her.

Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…

Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.

Now Beth has a choice to make—follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

One Small Thing will be available June 26, 2018. 

After a number of so-so reading experiences lately, I really needed an Erin Watt book. This duo’s writing is always so addicting and One Small Thing was no exception.

It says in the synopsis that Chase played a part in Beth’s sister’s death and I think it’s pretty obvious what that is. It doesn’t take long for the book to reveal it, either, but I’ll still try not to spoil it. I have to admit that this particular kind of trope is usually not one I go for. However, it worked for me here. I liked the conversations it brought it up. How differently people grieve. How people move on. How people judge. The topic of forgiveness. There was a lot more depth to this book than I expected there to be.

Though some of Beth’s behavior drove me a little crazy, I did find her a likable character. I wish she was more honest and she definitely made a lot of misguided decisions, but once she realized how poorly she was behaving she took steps to change it. And I loved Chase. I just loved him. I know he has some pretty obvious flaws, but I still thought he was pretty perfect. He was just so sweet and smart and a little tortured. I definitely shipped them and their moments together were my favorites of the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed One Small Thing. Though it was a little heavier than I was expecting, I thought it had a good message. I liked the main characters (especially Chase) and the romance. I did find everything to be just a little too predictable, though. Pretty much every development I guessed far ahead of time, so even though the writing was addictive and kept me turning the pages, the plot itself seemed a little drawn out and then things wrapped up very quickly at the end. However, the positive message and my love for Chase makes up for those aspects for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars