Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review: "Love Me For a Reason" by Angela Britnell (Contemporary Romance)

Love Me For a Reason
by Angela Britnell

Publisher:Choc Lit
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: March 24, 2016

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Description from Publisher: When Daisy Penvean meets Nathaniel Dalton whilst visiting a friend in Nashville, it seems there are a million and one reasons for them not to be together. Nathaniel’s job as a mergers and acquisitions manager means sharp suits and immaculate hair, whereas Daisy’s work as a children’s book illustrator lends itself to a more carefree, laidback style. And, as Daisy lives in England, there’s also the small matter of the Atlantic Ocean between them.

But when Nathaniel’s job takes him to London to oversee the merger of a small publisher with a large American company, he and Daisy meet again under very different circumstances. Because Daisy works for the publisher involved in the deal, and if Nathaniel does his job, it could mean she loses hers …

My Rating:
Sexiness Rating:
I received a digital ARC from the publisher through for an honest, unbiased review. My opinion is my own.
This was a bit of a difficult read for me and I almost stopped reading several times throughout. The first half felt very dry and slow and I didn't get a real sense of any sexual tension between Daisy and Nathaniel.

At almost exactly 50% through, the tone changed quite a bit and felt much more comfortable and normal. I still didn't really care for Daisy, though I did enjoy everything to do with her being an illustrator. Nathaniel felt like a deeper character, though his stuffiness never really let up.

The "hippie" angle was interesting, though I didn't care for the implications that eating unprocessed foods was always tasteless or bad. People who prefer growing their own food are generally people who care enough to know how to cook well. At least, in my experience.

The "bad guys" moments didn't feel very realistic, or necessary, and they kind of came from nowhere and went away just as quickly. One such run-in could have been fine, but two pushed it too far.

I thought the seriousness of the characters was very sudden and rushed. There were definitely some sweet and cute moments, however. The story was one that felt fresh, especially since it even jumped continents and locals, while believably staying consistent.

Overall, this was fine, though I don't know that I would necessarily recommend it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Review: "As Good As New (Something New, #4)" by Jennifer Dawson (Contemporary Romance)

As Good As New (Something New, #4)
by Jennifer Dawson

Other Books in Series: Take A Chance On Me (#1), The Winner Takes It All (#2), The Name of the Game (#3)
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotica
Publication Date: March 29, 2016

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Description from Publisher: At the tender age of six, Penelope Watkins fell for her best friend's brother, Evan Donovan, future hunk. By the time they were teenagers, they were having heart-to-hearts…and hot and heavy top secret make-out sessions. All that changed when Evan's father suddenly died. Abruptly, Penelope lost him to grief—and to his true love: football. But now an injury had ended Evan's NFL career. The notorious bad boy was in a depression no one could penetrate, except maybe the one woman who still knew him best—and still wanted him most…

Penelope is the last person Evan wants to witness the wreck he's become. So when she shows up at his door he's less than welcoming—even though the sight of her brings back the same old rush of desire. As a teenager, the emotions overwhelmed him. Now, when he wanted to be overwhelmed, Penelope wasn't playing. She was telling the golden boy it was time to man up. It may have taken a concussion for Evan to realize it, but that's exactly what he wants to do—starting with her…

My Rating:
Sexiness Rating:

I received a digital ARC from the publisher through for an honest, unbiased review. My opinion is my own.

This was written well, with believable dialogue and a variety of characters. It didn't take more than about 8% in before I got the feeling this book wasn't really for me, however. I'm a "rated R" type romance novel reader, and this is definitely more of an NC-17.

I hadn't read any of the series before and this was the 4th installment, which is generally fine. Books written in a series where they focus on different characters are generally very standalone. I didn't quite feel that with this one as much though. I hadn't actually realized it was the 4th book in the series when I started reading, but it was very, very obvious by halfway through, to the point that I felt that I was missing something. This didn't necessarily bring Evan and Penelope's story down as it was still enjoyable, but it just seemed less standalone than others I'd read.

At the start of this, you like Penelope and Evan is basically just an a-hole. The exposition of their past is done well and the pacing feels right. As the story unfolds, I started to like Evan more and more, but unfortunately, Penelope less. We are supposed to see Penelope as this strong woman, but she really just isn't. At all. In fact, she's incredibly submissive to the extent that I wanted to smack her. But I think that is likely what's intended, since the story feels like it's supposed to be a fantasy for those who are into Alpha males and submissive females. If that's your thing, then this would be great for you. I'm just not a "50 Shades" kind of girl.

Which brings me to the most obvious D/s parts of the story: the sex scenes. There are a lot of them, and they are filled with Penelope literally begging Evan to do things to her, Penelope whimpering, Evan commanding her "Tell me what you want," Evan putting his hands on her throat, Evan commanding "You're mine! Say you're mine!", talk of "being marked", Penelope telling him to stop but not actually wanting it so he ignores her... It was one thing for 15/16-year-old smitten Penelope to be so submissive, but she's supposed to be a grown woman now with more self-confidence than that (at least enough to communicate "I like it when you dominate me, but if I say 'peas and carrots' I want you to stop"). There were several scenes that made me actually cringe a bit. But, as I said, "50 Shades" just isn't my thing.

I considered tossing this book into the DNF pile about 5 times throughout, especially the first 60%. By that point, I did like enough of the story to keep going, but the amount of sex throughout was a bit over-the-top. We're supposed to believe that Evan and Penelope have more going for them than sex, but I think less sex scenes would better sell that idea.

Overall, this was okay and, for the right person, might be great. Just not my cup of tea though.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: "The Wedding Date" by Jennifer Joyce (Chick Lit, Contemporary Romance, Womens Literature, Sweet Romance)

The Wedding Date
by Jennifer Joyce

Publisher:Carina UK
Genre: Chick Lit, Sweet Romance, Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: March 28, 2016

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Description from Publisher: Delilah James, singleton and smoothie-addict, has six months to find a date for her oldest friend’s wedding. Oh, and to prove to her ex, best man Ben, that she has totally moved on since he dumped her out-of-the-blue nine months, eight days and seventeen hours ago…

So, with her two BFFs playing Cupid, Delilah launches herself into the high-tech, fast-paced and frankly terrifying world of dating. Luckily there’s the hot new guy at work, Adam Sinclair, to practice her flirting on – even if, as a colleague, he’s strictly off-limits!

Yet time’s running out and date after disastrous date forces Delilah to tell a little white lie – and invent a fake boyfriend! But will her secret crush on Adam ruin everything? Does she even care about Ben anymore? And is it too late to untangle her web of lies and take a real date to the wedding…?

My Rating:
Sexiness Rating:
I received a digital ARC from the publisher through for an honest, unbiased review. My opinion is my own.

This was a cute story that reminded me a lot of stories by Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk. Lighthearted and funny, with a relatable heroine that you can't help but like. The storytelling first-person perspective was quirky and felt like you were listening to a friend, which isn't your usual style for a romance and added something fun. As did the sprinkling of pop culture references (Westlife, McFly/McBusted, and Dawson's Creek all get mentions).

Delilah's many dates that go horribly, though amusingly, wrong are great. Almost unbelievable, but in that way that it's like hearing people talk about their worst dates and you think "Really?! I can't believe there are people out there like that," but there really are people that kooky. The way she gets herself into some of the various situations is comical in an "I Love Lucy" way that will make you smile.

It's a story not without some heart though, and I found myself appreciating Delilah's denial and rose-tinted glasses when it came to her ex-boyfriend. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I have definitely been there. The arc of "moving on" was well-done.

The story had me wondering practically from the beginning, whether she would fall for Ryan or Adam. And it continued to keep me guessing throughout the bulk of the story. I won't tell you how things go though, you'll need to read to find out!

Overall, I thought this was a good fast read that you can read leisurely, even being interrupted by a kidlet, as I was a few times. :)

Review: "Fair Play" by Tracy A. Ward (Contemporary Romance, New Adult)

Fair Play
by Tracy A. Ward

Publisher: Barclay Publicity
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Publication Date: March 28, 2016

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Description from Publisher: Who knew love could bring a playwright so much drama?

Writing three plays for a nationally acclaimed theater in Phair, Texas, was never supposed to put Ashlyn Carter’s inheritance at risk or make or break her future. And it certainly wasn’t supposed to force her into constant contact with the very guy she’s avoided since her teenage crush-gone-bad days.

Noah Blake. He's Ashlyn’s enemy, for good reason. As her older brother's best friend, he seems hell-bent on interfering with nearly every aspect of her life. So how then does he also seem to be her muse?

When Ashlyn reluctantly agrees to act out scenes with Noah from the play she’s writing in order to trigger her creativity, the spark of passion she’d felt for him as a teenager flares up again. But there's more at stake than just her future as a playwright or the inheritance she never cared about in the first place. Finding out the theater she loves is in danger of closing puts everything she thought she knew and felt about Phair…and the test. Will there be a standing ovation for Ashlyn Carter, playwright, or will the curtain drop and fade to black? Only by facing their biggest fears together will Ashlyn and Noah learn to trust in themselves and each other.

My Rating:
Sexiness Rating:
I received a digital ARC from the publisher through for an honest, unbiased review. My opinion is my own.

Characters, writing style, and plot would be a solid 3 to 3.5, but overall I have to go with 2.5.

The tone for this felt very "film noir" throughout, which I enjoyed. It's very different than many of the romance novels I've read in that way and I loved the overlap between Ashlynn and Noah's story and "Caroline and Andy's" story. There were good splashes of humor, at times in the banter and at others Noah's reactions to the "improv" scenes.

I've since been advised by Tracy Ward that this continuity issue is being corrected.
This book left me feeling a bit confused though. I suppose it's because it's an ARC, but there were some glaring continuity issues that pulled me out of the story, which makes me feel the need to address them in my review (generally, I overlook editing issues in ARCs). Ashlynn met Noah when he was a freshman at Columbia for his undergraduate degree, and she is 24, almost 25. Both of these things are mentioned multiple times in the beginning. However, halfway through both of them start talking about how they have known one another "most of their lives" or "half of their lives" and there even being "sixteen years of friendship" between Ashlynn's brother, Quinn, and Noah. If Ashlynn was 17 while Noah was in college, there would be a maximum of 5 years between them, making present-day Noah 29 or 30. But for "sixteen years" to be accurate, Noah would need to be in his mid 30s, which would have made him a "late bloomer" college-wise.

Aside from that, this was a very quick read and the pacing was a bit slow at first, but ramped up as it went. To the extent that it did feel a bit quick the last chapter or two. I was surprised at 94% that things didn't seem to be that close to being resolved, in fact.

For about 45% of this, I was still unsure as to whether or not Ashlynn actually liked Noah. Sexual tension was there, but I wasn't really feeling a basis of friendship that could turn into romance. By the end, I did get more of a sense of an emotional connection between the two, but it took awhile to actually build.

I liked Ashlynn and Noah and the side characters seemed to work well. I was curious to figure out exactly what had happened to Ashlynn years prior, so that kept my interest for awhile. The weaving in of her playwriting was well-done, though I was also a bit in disbelief that she not only hadn't noticed the parallels between her own life and her play, but insisted there weren't any for awhile. The character of Kyle felt like it fit the "film noir" feel, but he was a bit too sleazy and one-dimensional for my taste.

Writing this review, I still feel a bit unsettled. I enjoyed this and see a lot of potential in it, but it felt disjointed and the first half and second half didn't necessarily line up. I will be keeping my eye on Tracy Ward as I liked most of what I read.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

­čîčREVIEW: "The Rainbow Fish" by Marcus Pfister (Childrens Fiction)

The Rainbow Fish
by Marcus Pfister, J. Alison James (Translation)

Publisher: North-South Books
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Publication Date: 1992

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Description from Publisher: The Rainbow Fish is an international bestseller and a modern classic. Eye-catching foilstamping, glittering on every page, offers instant child-appeal, but it is the universal message at the heart of this simple story about a beautiful fish, who learns to make friends by sharing his most prized possessions, that gives the book its lasting value.

My Rating:
I received a digital ARC from the publisher through for an honest, unbiased review. My opinion is my own.

I bought this for my son because I liked the illustrations. Honestly, I wish that I hadn't. Like others have already noted, the message in this story is horrible as written. That message being that everyone should be the same and that you should give something that you hold dear to others simply because they want you to.

That is the exact opposite of what I want my son to learn. I want him to revel in his uniqueness and have no fear of being proud of things that others may jealously tear him apart for (modesty is good, but recognizing ways that your special is also good!). I do not want him to ever feel like he needs to give in to the demands of others. And I want him to share because he WANTS to share and not because he fears repercussions. In fact, someone who feels entitled to something he has is someone who doesn't deserve it.

So, since I have this book and honestly don't even want to gift it to someone else, I tell my own story using the illustrations. When the little fish gets angry that the Rainbow Fish won't give him a scale, my version is that it makes the Rainbow Fish sad and he doesn't understand why the little fish and all the other fish are being so mean to him. He seeks out the starfish and then the octopus (squid?), who tells him that sometimes people react poorly when they see that someone else has something they want and that Rainbow Fish should explore the ocean for fish who will be nicer to him. RF does this and finds a friend who admires his shiny scales and invites RF to play with his friends. The friends all have single scales and don't make demands of him and RF is no longer lonely. I don't really acknowledge how RF only has one shiny scale at the end, though I'll probably just say that he offered some of his scales to some of the other fish if it comes up. (BY CHOICE, not pressure!). Obviously, this isn't a perfect rewrite... I'd prefer the fish at the end be varied and not all fish with a shiny scale, but that's not what's drawn.

I really couldn't recommend this book to anyone as I really don't like what it's saying. Which is really a shame because it's pretty!