Review: Exploited (Zero Day #1) by A. Meredith Walters

Title: Exploited
Author: A. Meredith Walters
Series: Zero Day #1
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Links:

Blurb:
In this pulse-pounding novel from the bestselling author of Butterfly Dreams, a vigilante hacker plays a seductive game with the agent who’s chasing her online—and sharing her bed in real life.

At first glance, I’m nothing out of the ordinary. I am a daughter. A sister. A friend. When you look at me you won’t see anything that warrants suspicion. I don’t look like a criminal.

My name is Hannah Whalen, but most people know me as freed0mov3rdr1v3, or “Freedom Overdrive”—one of the world’s most prolific and notorious hacktivists. My goal—my purpose—is to shed light on the evil that lurks behind the corporate and government lies we have been force-fed for too long.

My story begins with the best possible intention. Devoting my life to exposing the corrupt. The dishonest. The unethical. For that, they label me a cyber-terrorist. Wanted by the FBI, I’ve always been one step ahead.

Until I fell in love.

Because I’m sleeping with the man who’s hunting me. And he has no idea that I am his prey. Now I have to decide what’s more important: my freedom or my heart.

Note: Exploited ends on a cliffhanger. Hannah’s story continues in Aftermath.

My Review:
I got very excited when I first came across this novel and even more excited when I was approved for an ARC and I had been itching to read it. I finally managed to squeeze it into my reading schedule last weekend and it was so worth the wait.

Occasionally, I come across books that I feel were written specifically for me and Exploited is one of those books. Man, where do I start? I loved the perfect blend of mystery, intrigue, and romance. I loved the tech/hacker backdrop that had just enough detail to add substance without bogging the plot down in unnecessary or boring passages. I ADORED Mason, the hot, rugged, FBI agent who was ignoring his gut instincts and falling for a girl who was deceiving him. I thought I would struggle to connect to Hannah but I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong – I hated that she was betraying him in the worst way but her heart was in the right place and her initial motivations were pure.

I was suspicious of Toxicwrath from the get go and couldn’t understand how Hannah aka Freedom Overdrive was so trusting. I knew it was all going to end badly. I love books that keep me guessing over the villain’s identity like Exploited did. The end seems to be implicating a certain person from her past but I think that’s too obvious. My money’s on Kyle or Madison or maybe they’re working together. Either way, I can’t wait to read Aftermath to find out.

The romance was great between our couple and it was a nice build up with a fair amount of toing and froing which I love. Hannah was really battling her feelings but in the end, she caved. I was so rooting for Mason and Hannah but I don’t know how the author is going to pull back from that cliffy ending (LOVED it! Pure torture of the best kind!) All I know is I can’t wait to find out!

I’ve read books by this author before and her writing is as sublime as I remembered it.

If you enjoy well written romantic suspense with swoon-worthy romance and complex characters and a mysterious, intriguing plot then you MUST check this one out. Highly recommended, and one of my top reads for 2017 so far.

Thanks to the publisher for supplying an ARC which I have voluntarily reviewed.

Review: Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Coming Up for Air
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks
Rating: 4 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic tryout, so Maggie feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to sacrifice in the water to win at love?

My Review:
Combine high school romance, best friends turned lovers, and a competitive sports environment and you have one heck of a great read!

I chose to read Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker just before I read this book as I wanted to familiarize myself with the Hundred Oaks series and with Miranda’s writing. While I enjoyed both those books, I felt they were lacking on the romance front and I didn’t like the fact that our couple only got together at the end. Coming up for Air was a vastly superior read, for me, because the romance was much better written and I loved how our couple got involved at a much earlier point in the story.

I adored both Maggie and Levi and was rooting for them from the start. Both are very focused on a future career in swimming and very dedicated to their craft with one key difference. Levi has regular hook-ups to alleviate stress where Maggie has barely even kissed any boys. When she proposed that Levi “coach” her so she was better prepared for college it was obvious the way this was going to go. I didn’t mind that though, and I enjoy that trope so I happily went along for the ride. What I didn’t like was how Levi used that evil witch to help push Maggie away and I was screaming at my Kindle in blind rage at that scene. Maggie was the more mature of the two even if she was way more inexperienced than him. She knew better than to treat her best friend that way.

Miranda seems to excel at abrupt ends that leave you scratching your head, and this book was no different to the others I’ve read in this series. I hated that it ended so suddenly and I don’t feel like I have proper closure which is the only reason this is a four-star rather than five-star review. I did enjoy the epilogue in Sam Henry’s narrative and it explained a little more but I wish the ending wasn’t so rushed.

Overall though, this was a superb read. It gave me all the feels and I adored the setting, the characters, the best friends to lovers trope, the writing and the pacing was spot on.

I look forward to reading other titles in this series at some stage.

Thanks to the publisher for supplying an ARC of this book via Netgalley. I have voluntarily reviewed same and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Review: Hollywood Dirt (Hollywood Dirt #1) by Alessandra Torre

Title: Hollywood Dirt
Author: Alessandra Torre
Series: Hollywood Dirt #1
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
Cole Masten. Abandoned by his superstar wife, Hollywood’s Perfect Husband is now Hollywood’s Sexiest Bachelor: partying hard and screwing even harder. Watch out Los Angeles, there’s a new bad boy in town.

Summer Jenkins. That’s me, a small town girl stuck in Quincy, Georgia. I cook some mean chicken and dumplins, can bluff a grown man out of his savings in poker, and was voted Most Friendly my senior year.

We were from different worlds. Our lives shouldn’t have collided. But then Cole Masten read a book about my small town. And six months later, his jet landed on our dusty airstrip, and he brought Hollywood with him.

From the start, I knew he was trouble. For our town. And for me.

Sometimes, opposites just aren’t meant to attract.

My Review:
Absolutely loved it. A fantastic enemies to lovers story with real heart. And The Rehearsal Dinner from Hell – ha, ha, loved it, not sure what that says about me! Can’t wait to see this one on Passionflix soon.

Review: Catching Jordan (Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Catching Jordan
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks
Rating: 4 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
ONE OF THE BOYS

What girl doesn’t want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn’t just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that’s just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she’s ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he’s also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan’s feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart’s on the line?

My Review:
I really enjoyed this although the ending let it down. Characterization was superb and it was full of witty banter and laugh out loud moments. It was a little light on the romance for me and I wanted more of a grand gesture/more swoony moments at the end but still a really good read. Recommended.

Review: Moonshot by Alessandra Torre

Title: Moonshot
Author: Alessandra Torre
Series: standalone
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
Baseball isn’t supposed to be a game of life and death…

The summer that Chase Stern entered my life, I was seventeen. The daughter of a legend, the Yankees were my family, their stadium my home, their dugout my workplace. My focus was on the game. Chase… he started out as a distraction. A distraction with sex appeal poured into every inch of his six foot frame. A distraction who played like a god and partied like a devil.

I tried to stay away. I couldn’t.

Then, the team started losing.
Women started dying.
And everything in my world broke apart.

My Review:
Wow, I freaking LOVED this book so much, and that cover is to DIE for – seriously it’s a work of beauty.

I’m still chock-full of emotion after reading Ty and Chase’s story. How do I even attempt to gather all my thoughts in a way that will do this book justice? I’m not sure, so I’ll just say that this book ticked all my favorite boxes:

Forbidden love – check.
Second chance romance – check
Sports romance – check
Mystery/Suspense subplot – check
Hot male lead – check
A relatable, likable heroine – check
Sizzling hot chemistry and swoon-worthy romantic moments – check
Fantastic character development – check
Well paced plot – check
Sublime writing – check

I just gobbled this one up. My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough Chase in the latter third of the book and I wanted more at the end and a dual POV epilogue but other than that it was absolute perfection on a page.

I read a complimentary copy of this book and I have voluntarily reviewed same.

Review: Boys South of the Mason Dixon (South of the Mason Dixon #1) by Abbi Glines

Title: Boys South of the Mason Dixon
Author: Abbi Glines
Series: South of the Mason Dixon #1
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
The only thing hotter than the weather South of the Mason Dixon line are the boys. Worn, faded blue jeans, slow Southern drawls, and those naughty moments in the back of pickup trucks a girl never forgets.

Welcome to the world of the Sutton boys.

Five brothers who fight, party, drink a little too much, but more importantly, they love their momma. Nothing can tear them apart… until the girl next door wins more than one of their hearts.

My Review:
Oh em gee, I freaking LOVED this book! Honestly, it felt as if Abbi took everything I love and created this book especially for me. I’m a sucker for a love triangle and a forbidden romance theme, and with the additional complexity of the boys being brothers, I was in literary heaven. All five Sutton boys are hot and intriguing and I cannot wait to read more in this series. The angst and drama levels were exactly to my liking and the pacing and writing were spot-on. And Asher, oh my, how perfect is he? Totally swoon-worthy and so selfless and I loved him from page one.

Roll on book two, please 🙂 I hope we don’t have to wait too long and I’m dying to know which of the brothers it will be about. Would love to read Bray’s story next as he is so troubled and out of control and I just know it will make for riveting reading.

Awesome job, Abbi. I don’t even mind the fact I have massive dark circles under my eyes this morning from staying up half the night reading.

Review: Gus (Bright Side #2) by Kim Holden

Title: Gus
Author: Kim Holden
Series: Bright Side #2
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
The journey that began in top-rated, best-selling Bright Side, continues …

This is the story of Gus.
Losing himself.
Finding himself.
And healing along the way.

“ … but the honest-to-God truth is I don’t even know how to function anymore. Bright Side wasn’t only my best friend; she was like my other half … the other half of my brain, the other half of my conscience, the other half of my sense of humor, the other half of my creativity, the other half of my heart. How do you go back to doing what you did before, when half of you is gone forever?”

My Review:
Loved it. Gus is AH-MAZING and it was great to see him getting his well deserved HEA. While this was heartbreaking and it definitely tugged at my heart strings, it was more uplifting than anything. A real feel good story. Would love to see Kellar get his own story so I know he’s okay too.

Review: Bright Side (Bright Side #1) by Kim Holden

Title: Bright Side
Author: Kim Holden
Series: Bright Side #1
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
Secrets.
Everyone has one.
Some are bigger than others.
And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

Kate Sedgwick’s life has been anything but typical. She’s endured hardship and tragedy, but throughout it all she remains happy and optimistic (there’s a reason her best friend Gus calls her Bright Side). Kate is strong-willed, funny, smart, and musically gifted. She’s also never believed in love. So when Kate leaves San Diego to attend college in the small town of Grant, Minnesota, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with Keller Banks.

They both feel it.
But they each have a reason to fight it.
They each have a secret.

And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

My Review:
I’ve sat at my laptop for the last ten minutes attempting to structure my thoughts into some type of coherent form so I can write a review that will do this book justice. But the truth is I’m still struggling to come to terms with this story and get over the epic-and I mean EPIC-cryfest I engaged in during the latter part of the book. The last time I sobbed my heart out like that was after reading Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma and even that pales in comparison.

I picked up this book months ago on the recommendation of one of the readers in my Street Team and it kinda fell by the wayside as I have so many ARCs to read that I tend to one-click books and not get to them for ages. Then, I recently saw this advertised on Bookbub and it reminded me that I had to read it. My husband was out last night so I decided I’d quit work early and start reading this. I had to put it down at 3.30 a.m. purely because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I finished it a little while ago and I swear, I don’t think my heart will be the same.

I can’t believe this is a debut work because it’s absolutely magnificent. This is very much a character driven story-don’t expect any major plot twists or turns because there aren’t any; it isn’t that kind of book. Character development is superb and the authenticity and uniqueness of Kate’s voice are wonderfully refreshing. Kate is an amazing MC – funny, warm, loyal, open, caring, honest, and she pushed those around her to be the best version of themselves. She lit up the pages of my kindle like she lit up the people around her. Gus and Kellar were both wonderful too and the other characters weren’t just relegated to the sidelines either.

The connection between Gus and Kate was uber special. In real life, I think two people like that would be a couple but I was okay with them remaining friends because it works here. They adore one another, support one another and know one another inside and out. Gosh, I just loved them! Kellar was fantastic too and I was rooting for him and Kate and dying for them to get their act together.

Ms Holden sure knows how to pack a mighty emotional punch behind her beautiful prose. I felt everything these characters were feeling especially at the end. God, I’m welling up again just thinking about it.

This book contains some important messages about self-love and self-worth and being true to yourself and always making the best out of life. While the story itself is tragic, it was also uplifting.

I think this review is probably rather rambly and all over the place but it just goes to show where my head and my heart is at in this moment. I may come back to rewrite this as I want to do it justice. This book deserves the hype. This author is phenomenally talented and she deserves to have a very long, very successful career. I will most definitely be checking out more of her work and I have just, in fact, downloaded a copy of Gus courtesy of my KU subscription.

Absolutely breathtaking. Grab a copy of this book, you won’t be sorry.

Review: Stripped Bare (Vegas Billionaire #1) by Heidi McLaughlin

Title: Stripped Bare
Author: Heidi McLaughlin
Series: Vegas Billionaire #1
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
They don’t call it the Strip for nothing. . . .

In this sinfully sexy Las Vegas romance from bestselling author Heidi McLaughlin, a man who has it all reunites with a woman who takes it all off.

Living in Sin City, Finn McCormick is no stranger to one-night stands, but the last person he expects to find losing big on the casino floor is a former high school fling. Even though Macey Webster’s clearly down on her luck, she’s still a knockout, and she’s dressed like a stripper—because she is one. Drunk off an unfamiliar cocktail of lust, pity, and compassion, Finn offers to pay Macey’s debts if she cuddles up to him around town . . . and does whatever he wants between the sheets.

Macey came to Vegas for one reason only: money. She’s got a young daughter to support, and the tips really are bigger in Vegas. But when she blows her earnings on blackjack, her guardian angel is the rich boy who once stole her heart and never called her back. Although Macey would love to turn the tables on Finn, she can’t afford to refuse his proposition—and soon she’s enjoying herself much more than she cares to admit. Macey’s used to baring her flesh, but baring her soul will take far more courage.

My Review:
Macey has been raising her ten-year-old daughter, Morgan, under very difficult circumstances, and doing the best she can. Needing to get her away from her dysfunctional mother, she takes a stripping gig in Vegas to make a chunk of cash and in doing so she crosses paths with her old highschool crush, Finn McCormick. Finn is a very successful casino and hotel owner who watches Macey lose big on the table and decides on a whim to proposition her.

Macey was an admirable character and her love for her daughter shines throughout this story. Morgan was a little sweetheart who wormed her way into my heart without difficulty. Finn is your typical asshole alpha with commitment issues to start off with but he was compassionate behind the rough exterior.

Brandy was an annoying whiny ex who I couldn’t stand.

The romance plays out quite predictably and the plot twist isn’t a surprise but from the way it’s written I guess that the author intended it to be so. It didn’t in any way dent my enjoyment because I really enjoyed reading this book. Initially, I was attracted to read this one as I’d read a similar story with the same title previously and enjoyed it so I had a feeling I would like this one too, plus I’ve read some of Heidi’s other work and I know she’s an accomplished author so I knew the writing would be stellar, and it was.

This is quite a quick read and the pace is consistently fast. No filler. Character development is decent and I loved the dual POV. The romantic/sex scenes were hot and the chemistry very believable.

The only thing I didn’t like is how we’re expected to believe Macey wouldn’t seek financial support from the father given her dire circumstances, but, hey, it’s fiction so I gave it a pass.

In summary, this was a great, entertaining second chance romance with a happy ending and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. Good job, Heidi, and thanks for the great read.

Actual rating: 4.5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for supplying an ARC of this book via Netgalley. I have voluntarily reviewed same.

Review: Fame (Hollywood Love #1) by Jillian Dodd

Title: Fame
Author: Jillian Dodd
Series: Hollywood Love #1
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
From USA Today bestselling author Jillian Dodd comes the eighth book in the addictive Keatyn Chronicles series. Discover a breathless fairy-tale romance with swoon-worthy characters set in a glittering celebrity world. Fans of reality TV will devour this pulse-pounding, sexy Hollywood drama.

Follow the lives and loves of those who work at Captive Films:

Riley Johnson — Captive Films’ CEO and millionaire playboy is hot, privileged, and seriously single. He’s got it all–a brand new jet, exotic cars, a luxury penthouse, and a different aspiring actress (or two) in his bed every night. His life is perfect until the only girl he ever loved walks back into it, causing him to wonder if he truly has it all.

Keatyn Douglas — Hollywood’s sweetheart and owner of Captive Films leads a chaotic, glamorous life. But running a successful film studio, writing scripts, and her own acting career leave little time for the things she dreams of, like marrying the man she loves and having babies. When drama starts at work, she may decide to give it all up for life out of the fast lane.

Dawson Johnson — The dark and dreamy marketing consultant joins Captive to escape his past. For the last two years, his sole focus has been on caring for his adorable daughters after tragedy struck their lives. He comes to Captive looking for a fresh start and, if all goes well, he might find a lot more than that in Hollywood.

Knox Daniels — Considered the sexiest man alive by a certain magazine, the sentiment is echoed by the actor’s adoring fans. While romance abounds in the roles he plays, he’s convinced he’ll never find his own happily ever after–until he meets a woman who just might change that.

Shelby Benson — The beautiful cocktail waitress and wanna-be actress struggles to make ends meet. A chance encounter with Riley Johnson is her lucky break and the golden ticket to everything she’s ever dreamed of–fame, power, money, sex, and love.

Written soap-opera style with multiple points of view, you can expect lots of drama, sex, and tabloid-worthy events.

My Review:
Well, damn you, Jillian Dodd. Now you’ve gone and sucked me into another one of your worlds and there’s no way back. Knew this would happen! I freaking LOVED this book. I loved all the different pov’s, loved catching up with my fav characters from The Keatyn Chronicles now that they are older and (supposedly) wiser. Riley disappointed me a lot but he is still so heartbroken so I cut him some slack. That ending was brilliantly awful and there’s no way I can’t continue. I need Riely and Ariela to get their HEA as they so deserve it. Knox is a scream. Still love, love Aiden, and it was great to catch up with Dawson and Dallas too. Aw, I have all the feels.

I really liked how this was structured into different scenes and love the Hollywood setting.

If you have read TKC then this is a must read. If you haven’t I recommend starting with that series first.