Review: The Book of Ivy (The Book of Ivy #1) by Amy Engel

the book of ivyTitle: The Book of Ivy
Author: Amy Engel
Series: The Book of Ivy #1
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: post-apocalyptic/ dystopia
Links:

Blurb:
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

My Review:
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. While the story is quite simple, the beauty is in the exceptional execution. This is a slow-burning character-driven plot which centers around Ivy Westfall and her new husband Bishop Lattimar.

Bishop is instantly endearing, even more so as the plot develops. Ivy was immature at times, but like-able all the same. Her sister and father are despicable human-beings who manipulate Ivy and try to turn her into a pawn in their political game. I hated both of them with a passion.

I was conflicted by events at the end – how Ivy could believe her actions were the only way to save Bishop was beyond me. However, she is only 16 and I understand that she felt trapped.

I enjoyed Amy’s writing style and the book flowed smoothly.

I can’t wait to see how this progresses in the next book. Well worth a read.

Blog Tour: And Then Forever by Shirley Jump

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Today is my stop during the blog tour for And then Forever by Shirley Jump! I’ll share my review and there’s a tour wide giveaway!

shirleyjump_AND_THEN_FOREVER_1600Title: And Then Forever
Author: Shirley Jump
Series:
Rating: 4 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
Welcome to Fortune’s Island, where the only rule is to follow your heart.

Love is an extravagance Darcy Williams can’t afford. She prefers the simple life, which includes waitressing at The Love Shack on Fortune’s Island and avoiding temptation. But when a forbidden part of her past steps off the ferry, her safe, guarded existence is turned upside down.

Kincaid Foster has never gotten over his first love. When he sees the wild, beautiful blonde again, dancing her way around The Love Shack, the memories of Darcy’s soft skin, gentle touch, and heated kisses come rushing back. As the privileged son of a wealthy family, Kincaid was too young to stand up to his overbearing father when he and Darcy were together. Now, he’s back on the island—free of the family shackles—and the chiseled, big-time lawyer wants a second chance.

But, Darcy made a promise to keep a secret from Kincaid—a secret that is now a six-year-old girl who looks just like her daddy. If Kincaid finds out about their daughter, Darcy could lose everything. But, she can’t resist the man who stole her heart all those years ago. And it doesn’t take long before both of them realize that anything can happen at The Love Shack on a hot summer night.

My Review:
This is a well-written quick read that will appeal to fans of contemporary women’s fiction.

I absolutely loved the island setting of this book and the close-knit community. Darcy and Kincaid met and fell in love when they were just out of high school but fate (and a nasty, manipulative father) was working against them. Both came from dysfunctional family backgrounds though it was on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Kincaid’s father has always tried to control him and direct his path in life, and he took it upon himself to get rid of Darcy seven years ago. When Kincaid reappears on Fortune’s Island, it’s immediately clear that both he and Darcy never got over one another.

Kincaid is pretty relentless in his pursuit of her and the life he has always dreamed of. Darcy caves pretty quickly despite her concerns over her daughter Emma. She is a little sweetheart and Darcy is a fantastic mum.

When everything inevitably comes out into the open, big decisions have to be made. Misunderstandings threaten to tear Darcy and Kincaid apart, but it all works out in the end.

I enjoyed this book and it was very well written and well paced. I liked both Darcy and Kincaid, but Emma stole the show for me. Adorable.

While the plot isn’t overly original, and it’s pretty predictable, it’s still a decent story that is solidly built. Recommended for fans of contemp romance.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Inkslinger PR in exchange for my honest review.

shirley_jump_headshotAbout the Author:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing romance so she can avoid the towering stack of dirty dishes, eat copious amounts of chocolate and reward herself with trips to the mall. Look for her all-new novella in the anthology ASK ME WHY (with Marie Force, Virginia Kantra and Jodi Thomas), as well as the Sweet and Savory Romance series, including the USA Today bestselling book, THE BRIDE WORE CHOCOLATE, on Amazon, and her Sweetheart Sisters series, starting with THE SWEETHEART BARGAIN.
Visit her website at http://www.shirleyjump.com/ for author news and a booklist, and follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/shirleyjump.author for giveaways and deep discussions about important things like chocolate and shoes.

Links:

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Review: Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown

golden sonTitle: Golden Son
Author: Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising #2
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Dystopia
Links:

Blurb:
With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation.

Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

My Review:
It is difficult to identify the appropriate words to describe this book. Simply stating it is amazing just doesn’t do it justice. I was totally blown away by Golden Son, and I am in awe of Pierce’s ability to weave such a compelling, complex story.

This book hooked me instantly, and though it’s quite long, it held my attention all the way through. I did feel some parts were overly described, and there were some pages that I skimmed without missing anything, however it’s a really minor complaint.

This book is much more than YA sci-fi, in fact I’m not sure I’d even describe it as YA anymore, because I feel the themes are much more mature in this book. There is so much suspense and so many twists and turns in this dark tale: political subterfuge, betrayal, and secrets and lies were all par for the course.

I never knew what was coming next, and the plot developments were totally unexpected. Ordinarily I only like these type of action-adventures if there is a good dollop of romance thrown into the mix. The romance theme is very much a minor plot in Golden Son but that didn’t dampen my enjoyment.

I think Pierce is an exceptional writer, and he truly has a way with words.

That ending left me in pieces. Aahh!! I need to know what happens next, and I hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next installment.

A fantastic read.

Review: Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

Red risingTitle: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising #1
Rating: 4 stars
Genres: Dystopia
Links:

Blurb:
The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

My Review:
A scintillating debut from a very talented author.

Red Rising tells the story of Darrow and his wife Eo, as they struggle with life as lower class citizens on Mars. The action ramps up pretty early on in the book, and there were plenty of twists and turns; some predictable, some unexpected.

Darrow’s world is turned upside down in a heartbeat, and everything he thought he knew about their society is shattered almost overnight. The depth of the government’s deception was horrific.

Darrow readily signs up to fight back and this involves significant personal change for him – both physical and mental. Then we enter a part of the story that has plot-lines reminiscent of The Hunger Games. I particularly enjoyed this section of the book.

Initially I struggled to get into the story. I felt there was a lot of information dumping pretty early on, and it was heavy on the descriptions. However, after a while that became a non-existent issue and I got really sucked into the world that the author has created. The world-building in this book is outstanding, and I could easily visualize Mars and all the various places.

I liked the writing style and it flowed really well.

I’ve already started Golden Son, and I can’t wait to see how the story develops from this point.

An excellent read and a very promising series.

Review: Tempting the Player (Gamble Brothers #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

tempting the playerTitle: Tempting the Player
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: Gamble Brothers #2
Rating: 4 stars
Genres:
Links:

Blurb:
A sexy category romance from Entangled’s Brazen imprint…

He’s a player on and off the field…

Chad Gamble, all-star pitcher for the Nationals, is one of the best players on—and off—the field. And right now, the notorious bad boy wants Bridget Rodgers. But with her lush curves and snappy comebacks, the feisty redhead is the kind of woman a man wants to settle down with…and that’s the last thing Chad needs.

When the paparazzi catch them in a compromising position, Chad’s manager issues an ultimatum: clean up his act or kiss his multi-million dollar contract goodbye. To save his career, his meddling publicist says he’ll have to convince everyone Bridget isn’t just his flavor of the week, but his girlfriend.

Being blackmailed into a fake relationship with Chad Gamble isn’t easy, especially when the sizzling physical attraction between them is undeniable. With a month to go on their arranged pretense, it’s going to take every ounce of willpower they have not to fall into bed together…or in love.

My Review:
I enjoyed this a little more than the first book, in particular I liked the story-line around the ‘fake romance’ and how the plot developed. I didn’t like Chase at first but he grew on me. Brigid is a sweetheart from the outset.

I did feel the end was a little unrealistic, but it didn’t dampen my overall enjoyment of this book.

Blog Tour: His Wicked Desire by Dawn Chartier

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I am glad to be part of the blog tour for His Wicked Desire by Dawn Charties. I’ll share my review with you and a tour wide giveaway!

His_Wicked_Desire_500_CS-FinalVersionTitle: His Wicked Desire
Author: Dawn Chartier
Series: Vieux Carré Witch Sister #2
Rating: 3.5 stars
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Links:

Blurb:
He’s found himself a wicked witch…

Brye Morgeaux is a half-witch, half-warlock who always relied on her beauty—especially when it came men. After a run-in with a particularly vicious warlock, Brye’s face is left scarred, forcing her to look to who she is on the inside. And what Brye finds is darker than anything she’d imagined…

Then she’s handed a terrible ultimatum—join the warlock clan, or watch her family die.

Josh Copeland has known the Morgeaux family for years, and has been waiting for the time when Brye would see him as something—anything—more than a friend. As she battles darkness from within and without, he realizes the woman he loves might just be her own worst, wicked enemy. Now Josh must find a way to show Brye who she really is…before she kills him.

My Review:
I received an ARC of this book from the publishers via Inkslinger PR in exchange for my honest review.

Brye is waging an inner war in the aftermath of a brutal warlock attack. Always defined by her beauty, she struggles to deal with her disfigurement and she feels lost and unsure of herself. Embarking on a road to self-discovery, she reconnects with her old friend and childhood crush, Josh. Both have harbored romantic feelings for the other though they are reluctant to admit it for fear of being hurt. Timing and circumstances have kept them apart thus far.

I must confess that I didn’t read the first book in this series because I didn’t actually realize it was a second installment. However, it wasn’t an issue in terms of the story because the author did a fantastic job of backfilling essential elements and clearly explaining key plot points and I never felt confused or that I missed out on anything important. So you could read this as a stand-alone read. That said, I may have been more invested in the characters if I had read the first book. I really liked Storm and Nate and I’ll most likely pick up a copy of the first book now to see how their relationship developed.

I liked the fantasy world that the author created and I loved all the paranormal elements – witches and warlocks, familiars, spells, special gifts etc. There was a strong good vs. evil theme and plenty of suspense and intrigue. In the main it was fast paced and there was a decent amount of action mixed in with the romance, exactly as I like it.

While I liked Brye and Josh as a couple, for me the relationship lacked depth. I find this a lot with books of a shorter length – there isn’t enough time to allow the reader to form a genuine emotional connection with the characters, and that is what I felt with this book. Brye also goes through a significant metamorphosis and it just happened too quickly to be believable. A few more chapters to flesh this out would have been beneficial in my opinion.

At times, some of the dialog felt stiff and unnatural though in the main the writing is decent.

In summary: I enjoyed this book though I wasn’t blown away by it. If you are a fan of paranormal romance you should check it out. Thank you to the author, publisher, and PR company for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

Actual rating 3.5 stars.

Dawn ChartierAbout the Author:
Dawn might occasionally have a gator parked in her front yard there on the bayou, but it’s the snakes that really scare the bejeezus out of her. So instead, she tends to hole herself up with a good romance book, chocolate by the pound, or marathon tv viewing of Game of Thrones, Hell On Wheels, Downton Abbey, various home renovation shows and Supernatural—oh Dean. *swoons*

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Review: Tempting the Best Man (Gamble Brothers #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

tempting the best manTitle: Tempting the Best Man
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: (Gamble Brothers #1)
Rating: 4 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
A sexy category romance from Entangled’s Brazen imprint…

She’ll make him lose control…

Madison Daniels has worshipped her brother’s best friend since they were kids. Everyone thinks she and Chase Gamble would make the perfect couple, but there are two major flaws in their logic. 1) Chase has sworn off relationships of any kind, and 2) after blurring the line between friends and lovers for one night four years ago, they can’t stop bickering.

Forced together for her brother’s wedding getaway, Chase and Madison decide to call a truce for the happy couple. Except all bets are off when they’re forced to shack up in a tacky 70’s honeymoon suite and survive a multitude of “accidents” as the family tries to prove their “spark” can be used than for more than fighting. That is, if they don’t strangle each other first…

My Review:
I was saving this series for the flight to Australia and I managed to read all three books on the plane.

I enjoyed this book, and it is full of all the favorite things I love about JLA’s writing. Maddie is instantly likeable and I could feel her frustration with Chase, and his apparent lack of regard for her. I was rooting for them from the start.

The only issue I had with this book is the length – it was just far too short and I felt it lacked a bit because of it.

Overall though, a decent read.

Review: Tempting the Bodyguard (Gamble Brothers #3) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

tempting the bodygaurdTitle: Tempting the Bodyguard
Author: by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: Gamble Brothers #3
Rating: 4 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
A sexy category romance from Entangled’s Brazen imprint…

He can protect her from everyone except himself.

Alana Gore is in danger. A take-no-prisoners publicist, her way with people has made her more than a few enemies over the years, but a creepy stalker is an entirely different matter. She needs a bodyguard, and the only man she can ask is not only ridiculously hot, but reputed to have taste for women that goes beyond adventurous.

Chandler Gamble has one rule: don’t protect anyone you want to screw. But with Alana, he’s caught between his job and his increasingly hard libido. On one hand, Alana needs his help. On the other, Chandler wants nothing more than to take the hot volcano of a woman in hand. To make her writhe in pleasure, until she’s at his complete mercy.

She needs protection. He needs satisfaction. And the moment the line is crossed, all hell will break loose…

My Review:
It took me a little while to get into this book as I didn’t like Alana from the outset – as a result of how her character was portrayed in Tempting the Player. But as the story progressed I came to understand her more fully, and began to feel sympathy for her. Overall this was a good read, if predictable.

While I enjoyed reading this series, it is not one of Jennifer’s best in my opinion.

Blog Tour: Cowboy Valentine by Mia Hopkins

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Today is my stop during the blog tour for Cowboy Valentine by Mia Hopkins. I’ll share my review of this book with you and there’s a tour wide giveaway!

CowboyValentine_300finalTitle: Cowboy Valentine
Author: Mia Hopkins
Series: standalone
Rating: 3.75 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
Forget chocolate and flowers. This homegrown honey is all the sweetness he craves.

Small-town life is nothing but a waiting room for eighteen-year-old honor student Corazón Gomez. Work and school leave little time for love, but with a full-ride Ivy League scholarship and a one-way ticket out of the boondocks, who needs it?

The answer appears on Valentine’s Day when her old cowboy crush ambles into the ice cream parlor where she works, inviting her to go on a late-night ride in his truck. For the first time she wavers between staying on the straight and narrow, and going off-road with the handsome heartbreaker.

After four years working on ranches all over the country, Caleb MacKinnon is back on the family farm helping out his mom and brothers while his father fights cancer. The one bright spot: smart, funny, and wickedly sexy Cora.

From the start, they both know this blazing-hot love affair can’t last. But when autumn comes and Cora has to leave for the East Coast, Caleb must find a solution to keep himself—and his heart—from falling apart.

Warning: Contains hard, cherry-poppin’ sex in a pickup truck and a cowboy charmer who talks dirty in two languages.

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My Review:
This was a short, sexy read and it will appeal to readers who enjoy the NA genre.

Cora is an intelligent, driven young women with a defined career path in mind. To date, she’s had no time for boys, but all that changes when her old high-school crush, Caleb, walks back into her life. Cue lots of fun, sexy times, and then inevitable heartbreak.

I didn’t realize that this was a novella-length story because, in most cases, I find stand-alone books of this size too short to feel a real emotional connection with the characters. I love novellas and shorts when they are part of a series as they usually add an extra dimension or much-needed back-story.

While I definitely enjoyed reading Cowboy Valentine, and it’s very well written, it lacked substance and depth. We don’t get to see Cora and Caleb’s relationship develop as we skip from first meeting to six months later and then six months after that. We never got to see them go out on dates, it’s just all about the sex. I would have liked more ‘story’ to the story.

I would have liked to see the cultural differences sub-plot adding some conflict to the development of their relationship. This was hinted at, but no more. Personally, I believe this to be a missed opportunity.

That said, I did like both main characters even if I couldn’t fully understand what drew them to each other. And I love this author’s writing style; her prose is beautiful, and I can definitely see myself checking out her future work. I’m wondering if Caleb’s brothers will feature in future books?

If you are looking for a fun, quick read then I would recommend Cowboy Valentine, and it easily holds its own against other similar sized NA titles.

Actual Rating: 3.75 Stars

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HEADSHOTAbout the Author:
Mia Hopkins writes lush romances starring fun, sexy characters who love to get down and dirty. She’s a sucker for working class heroes, brainy heroines and wisecracking best friends.

When she’s not lost in a story, Mia spends her time cooking, gardening, traveling, volunteering and looking for her keys. In a past life, she was a classroom teacher and still has a pretty good “teacher voice” and “teacher stare.” She lives in the heart of Los Angeles with her roguish husband and two waggish dogs.

Links:

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Review: Champion (Legend #3) by Marie Lu

ChampionTitle: Champion
Author: by Marie Lu
Series: Legend #3
Rating: 4.5
Genres: Dystopia
Links:

Blurb:
He is a Legend.

She is a Prodigy.

Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position.

But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything.

With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

My Review:
Actual Rating 4.5 Stars

Wow. This book was a fast-paced roller-coaster-ride of a read from start to finish. I found it extremely difficult to put this book down, and it was a real page turner.

My heart bled for June and Day as circumstances conspire, yet again, to keep them apart. I could really feel the emotional turmoil that both characters felt. Day is also dealing with the impact of his health problems and grows increasingly frustrated with the limitations it imposes on him.

Day is caught in the crossfire between the Republic and the Colonies and no matter what decision he makes someone he cares about will suffer. Definitely stuck between a rock and a hard place, if you can forgive my blatant cliché.

I loved the power struggle, and the story-line was epic; full of twists and turns, moves and counter-moves, as June, Day, and Anden, battle to stay ahead of their enemies.

The battle scenes at the end were incredibly well written; nail-biting and genuinely explosive. My heart was in my mouth the whole way through.

Then we come to the last couple of chapters, and the book lost some of it’s appeal for me. (view spoiler)

Overall though I really enjoyed this book and I would highly recommend this series. I note in the acknowledgements that she talks about film rights, so I’m wondering if the movie has come out yet, or is it still in the planning phase? I’ll have to check it out as I’d definitely be interesting in seeing this series on the big screen.