July 31, 2014

2014 Audiobook Challenge Update


When I updated last in mid-June, I had made some decent progress on my rather ambitious audiobook challenge. It's the end of July, so it seemed like a good time to give an update on my progress.

Challenge Level:  My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) - 30+

1. Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
2. Unbroken (Beachwood Bay #1) by Melody Grace
3. The Perfect Game (The Perfect Game #1) by J. Sterling
4. The Game Changer (The Perfect Game #2) by J. Sterling
5. Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
6. Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts #1) by Stacia Kane
7. Unholy Magic (Downside Ghosts #2) by Stacia Kane
8. City of Ghosts (Downside Ghosts #3) by Stacia Kane
9. Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8) by Patricia Briggs
10. Through the Zombie Glass (White Rabbit Chronicles #2) by Gena Showalter
11. The Naturals (The Naturals #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
12. Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink #1) by Mindy McGinnis
13. Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs (Jane Jameson #1) by Molly Harper
14. Sacrificial Magic (Downside Ghosts #4) by Stacia Kane
15. Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson #6) by Darynda Jones
16. Winter's Heat (Titan #1) by Cristin Harber
17. Real (Real #1) by Katy Evans
18. Mine (Real #2) by Katy Evans
19. Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men (Jane Jameson #2) by Molly Harper (currently listening to)

New (To Me) Narrator Love

Amanda Ronconi - A few months ago I listened to Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs by Molly Harper, which is the first book in her Jane Jameson series. It takes place in the tiny hick town of Half Moon Hollow, Kentucky where Bubba is a popular name and there's a Shenanigans on every corner. I think it would be very easy to overdo the southern drawl to the point of cringe-worthy ear pain. Amanda Ronconi's adaptation, though, couldn't be more perfect. She is exactly as I imagined Jane would sound - southern but not twangy. Sarcastic but not caustic. And, her delineation of characters is done so nicely. I never have trouble figuring out who is speaking. Best of all, her delivery of Molly Harper's classic one-liners is absolutely incredible. I will definitely be seeking out more of her work, although in my head, she's always going to be Jane.

So, how are you coming with your audiobooks? Listen to any good ones lately?

July 30, 2014

REVIEW: Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss #2)

Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss #2), by Stephanie Perkins
Published September 29, 2011
Publisher: Dutton Books
Format: paperback, gifted
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion...she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit--more sparkly, more fun, more wild--the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket--a gifted inventor--steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.


It was past time for me to get caught up on this series. I had read Anna and the French Kiss months ago, and just hadn't gotten around to reading Lola and the Boy Next Door. With Isla and the Happily Ever After set to come out in only two weeks, I decided it was time. 

Lola is dating Alex and trying to forget her next door neighbor Cricket who left town two years earlier after hurting her terribly. Suddenly, Cricket returns along with his sister Calliope, and now Lola is forced to stop and examine her feelings, which turn out to not be as black and white as she thought they were. 

Cricket was just the absolute best book boyfriend in YA contemporary fiction I've ever met. He was funny and awkward and adorable and sweet. He cares about Lola so much and has so many different ways of showing it. Cricket is, by no means, perfect, which is actually, pretty perfect. He made mistakes in the past with Lola, and now he wants to set them to rights. He knows she now has a boyfriend, and despite his best efforts at remaining platonic, he soon realizes that's just not possible. He's honest with Lola about how he feels, which can't be easy for him. 

Lola, by contrast, is pretty much the opposite of Cricket. It was hard for me to relate to her in any way. I don't really understand her incredible desire to hide what she looked like underneath crazy clothes, gaudy accessories and wild wigs. It's obvious she has a wicked talent for design, which I actually loved. But, to me, design isn't covering yourself in so much stuff that you can't see the girl underneath.

On top of that, she spends most of the book in denial, stringing Cricket along, as well as Alex. Turns out, Alex was a jerk of the highest order anyway, but that's besides the point. I get that Lola was confused - that she was convinced that Cricket was her past and Alex was her future, despite every blaring warning inside her head to the contrary. Lola was not brave. She was definitely not perfect. 

I did love the ending very much. As Lola finally comes to realize who she really is and what she really wants, she makes the first mature decisions of the entire book. It was then that I built the first traces of respect for her. She gives of herself to help someone who had only ever done things to tear her down. She comes clean to Alex and finds closure. She also comes clean to Cricket and puts the ball firmly in his court, and is okay with that. And, she realizes that quirky is okay as long as you can continue to shine through it all. Now THAT is the kind of heroine I can get behind. 

I loved so much that we saw a lot of Anna and Etienne in Lola and the Boy Next Door. They are both back state-side, and it turns out that Lola and Anna work at the same place. They forge a solid friendship, and Etienne and Cricket do the same, as they are staying on the same floor of the dorm at Berkley. Things were also set up quite nicely for all four of them to go back to Paris for Isla and the Happily Ever After. Stephanie Perkins is a fantastic writer and the stories she invents are compelling and interesting. I can't wait to see how it ends for all these beloved characters.  

July 29, 2014

BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Teaching Roman (Good Girls Don't #2)


I'm so excited to be a part of the TEACHING ROMAN blog tour, organized by Inkslinger PR! Read on for my review, and don't forget to check out the other tour stops for more fun stuff!

Teaching Roman (Good Girls Don't #2), by Gennifer Albin
Published June 26, 2014
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-book, provided by the author and Inkslinger PR
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 3.5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Jessica Stone has her life in perfect order until her perfectly boring boyfriend Brett puts things in perspective. So when she receives a call to action from her heartbroken best friend Cassie, she ditches her plans for Winter Break in gloomy Olympic Falls and sets off to Mexico for some fun in the sun.

Determined to use her oceanview to prep for her MCATS, she doesn't plan to run into anyone from Olympic State, least of all the cute communications prof she's been crushing on for a year. When he unexpectedly saves the day, the two are thrown together in a distinctly extracurricular activity.

Roman Markson doesn’t expect to run into anyone he knows from Olympic Falls while visiting his family in Puerto Vallarta, especially not a former student. Although Jess Stone has a way of catching men’s attention, a relationship with her is strictly off-limits. However, the rules feel less strict in Mexico, so they agree to a plan: one week in paradise and nothing more.

But avoiding each other back on campus is harder than they anticipated, especially when they can’t stay away from one another. Neither is sure what they have to learn—and lose—before life teaches them a lesson they’ll never forget.


Teaching Roman is all about that forbidden quasi-teacher/student romance that seems to work in some instances and not-so-much in others - for me, at least. The romance between instructor, Roman, and former student Jess actually worked well for me. There was tons of delicious sexual tension and the big secret of their forbidden relationship to ensure that stress and drama is always there. 

Jess is always planning her next move. She has big plans to go to med school, and when her lukewarm boyfriend proposes, she turns him down and runs away on vacation to Mexico while on break. It's there that she coincidentally runs into Roman Markham, an instructor and PhD candidate from her school. They start up a whirlwind romance that is easy in the tropics and near impossible when they return to reality. 

Roman's and Jess' relationship is pretty wonderful. Roman is attentive and sweet and a little mysterious. He seems to breathe life into Jess, which she really needed. Jess was so uptight and straightlaced. Roman convinced her to be crazy and let go. If he hadn't, she wouldn't have entertained the idea of starting something up with him. Kind of ironic, right?  Jess was reluctant to hook up with Roman because she was afraid she'd lose herself in him. Then, in the end, it was Roman who had second thoughts. 

Honestly, I had a bit of a problem with the beginning of Teaching Roman. It was obvious in the previous book, Catching Liam, that there was an instant attraction between Jess and Roman. When they see each other in the airport on the way to Mexico, you can tell that attraction is still there. Twenty-four hours later, they're falling into bed together and a week after that professing their love for one another. It seemed to happen so fast. It wasn't quite believable. 

We saw a lot of Liam and Jillian from the previous book, which made me happy. They are dealing with Liam having to return to Scotland and leave Jillian behind. I enjoyed the friendship between Jess and Jillian as much in Teaching Roman as I did in Catching Liam. They are the best of friends who do things that might initially piss off the other, but only because it's in her best interest. That is a real friend. 

The ending of Teaching Roman was left wide open in some aspects. The drama between Roman and Jess (and yes - of course there's drama. Happily ever afters never come easy, do they?) comes to a satisfying resolution (albeit a bit out of character for Jess), there are other aspects of the story that weren't really wrapped up as well as I would've liked. Presumably, we'll see the conclusion of those story lines come to an end in Cassie's book, which is next. 

Although the romance developed too quickly and the ending didn't wrap up as tightly as I would've liked, the story was sweet, the sex was hot and the characters were interesting. I can't wait to see how all three girls' stories come to an end. 

BLOG TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Blood Games (Chicagoland Vampires #10)


Can you believe that we've arrived at the 10th Chicagoland Vampires book? Once again, I'm honored and super excited to be a tour stop for Chloe Neill's BLOOD GAMES (Chicagoland Vampires #10), and once again, I have two great giveaways for you, in addition to my review. Read on for all the deets!

Blood Games (Chicagoland Vampires #10), by Chloe Neill
To Be Published August 5, 2014
Publisher: NAL
Format: e-ARC, provided by the publisher
Genre: adult paranormal romance/urban fantasy
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) While Merit didn’t choose to become a vampire or Sentinel of Cadogan House, she vowed to fight for her House and its Master, and she’s managed to forge strong alliances with powerful supernaturals across Chicago. But even though Merit has had wild adventures, this may be her deadliest yet...

A killer is stalking Chicago, preying on humans and leaving his victims with magical souvenirs. The CPD hasn’t been able to track the assailant, and as the body count rises, the city is running out of options. Vampires and humans aren’t on great terms, but murder makes for strange bedfellows. Can Merit find the killer before she becomes a target?


It's pretty incredible to think about the fact that 10 books in, the Chicagoland Vampires series is still going strong. Each new addition continues to be amazing - I'm always looking forward to the next one. It seemed like my wait for Blood Games was exceptionally long, given the ending of Wild Things. But, finally, the wait is over.

Ethan is moving forward with his challenge for the right to rule the GP, and Merit continues to do what she does best - protect the citizens of Chicago from all the bad things. In this case, there's a serial killer on the loose and the killings have a paranormal ring to them. About the time Ethan, Merit and Jonah are called in by the CPD to help, things in the race for the GP start getting weird. Darius is acting strangely and Ethan is being blackmailed and he refuses to talk to Merit about any of it. Just when Merit thought they had their relationship figured out, she realizes that centuries of stubbornness can't be fixed that quickly. 

Blood Games had everything I love about this series. There was not one but two fantastic mysteries to be solved - first is that of who is killing the citizens of Chicago and displaying them in curious positions. Second is that of who is manipulating Darius into acting out of character. Chloe Neill does everything right in regards to the secrets and subterfuge. It was hard for me to figure out who the real culprits were and what drove them to their actions, and I love it when I can't see the ending coming until it's smacking me in the face. Details and clues are slowly brought to light around the ops room table and in off-site meetings between the Ombuddies and the vampires. The pacing is perfect. 

One of my favorite parts about Blood Games is that we got to see into the inner workings of Cadogan House more than we have in quite awhile. A lot of time is spent in the house as Ethan prepares for the response to his challenge of Darius' rule. We see Margot, Helen, Malik, and all the other vampires that make up Cadogan as they all rally around their Master. We see a lot of Luc and Lindsey in Blood Games too. Their relationship has also come a very long way since the beginning, and I love seeing them together now. 

But, Ethan and Merit are really why we all keep coming back, right? It's their relationship that has catapulted us through ten books now and keeps us begging for more. The fact that Merit - this vampire of barely a year - has completely changed this 400-year-old master is the stuff of romantic legends. It's clear at this point how much they both love and respect and adore each other. And, thankfully, those things don't negate relationship troubles. Ethan can still act like an ass. Merit can still be overbearing. And that makes me love them even more.  And, just because they are both now comfortable with their place in each other's lives doesn't mean that Chloe Neill skirts around the sexy times. There's this one scene... well, let's just say that Merit and Ethan don't do sleepy morning sex. Everything about them is passion and intensity, and thankfully it doesn't seem to be fading in the least.

We also see a lot more of Jonah in Blood Games. Ethan reluctantly relinquishes some of his partnering duties to Merit's RG partner, so the spotlight shone on Merit's and Jonah's working relationship, as well as on more of the inner workings of the RG. They've fallen into a very comfortable place where they work in synch with each other and don't shy away from snarking and teasing. Jonah's become one of my favorite side characters, and I hope we see more of him moving forward. I anticipate we will, since the absolutely CLV WORLD-SHATTERING ending to Blood Games will have foundation-shaking repercussions to the RG and all the vampire houses.

No, Blood Games didn't end like I thought it would, but wow. It was so much better than I had imagined. It's clear that Chloe Neill is writing for the long haul, as the world these amazing characters live in continuously shifts and changes, all for the better. If you were worried about the stories becoming flat and stagnant, have no fear. Chloe Neill knows just how to rock you and keep you eager for the next book so you can see what happens next. Ten books in, and I assure you, there is absolutely no sign of me ever abandoning this series.

Giveaways

Chloe Neill has graciously provided me with some awesome prizes to award to one lucky US winner. Fill out the Rafflecopter for a chance to win
  • A signed copy of WILD THINGS (Chicagoland Vampires #9)
  • A limited edition Cadogan House keychain
  • Chicagoland Vampires bookmarks, pens, and lanyard
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The fun doesn’t stop here. Want more chances to win? You can also enter the Blood Games Grand Prize Giveaway, which runs July 28  through August 8 on Chloe’s web site.

What is the Grand Prize Giveaway prize?
  • An engraved Cadogan House medal necklace
  • A Kindle Paperwhite
  • A complete set of Chicagoland Vampires Audiobook CDs (graciously provided by Tantor Audio)
  • A limited edition Cadogan House keychain
  • Chicagoland Vampires bookmarks, pens, and lanyard

Tour Schedule

Check out all the stops on the tour for chances to win other prize packages!

Monday, July 28 – Booklovers For Life | Finding Sanity In Our Crazy Life
Tuesday, July 29 – Nocturne Reads | Fangs, Wands & Fairy Dust | Krista’s Dust Jacket
Wednesday, July 30 – Reading on the Rocks | A Book Obsession
Thursday, July 31 – Professional Fangirls | Reading & Writing Urban Fantasy, Paranormal & Romance | Cere’s Book World
Friday, August 1 – Meredith’s Rambles & Babbles | Fallen for Books

Monday, August 4 – Tru Bookie’s Review
Tuesday, August 5 (Release Day) - Saucy Wenches | Literary Escapism | Vampire Book Club 
Wednesday, August 6 – Book Suburbia
Thursday, August 7 – Nomi’s Paranormal Palace | Between Fantasy & Reality
Friday, August 8 – Team Nerd Reviews

July 28, 2014

NEW ADULT MONDAYS: Lick (Stage Dive #1)


The New Adult genre - their bad boys and big problems and epic loves make them engrossing tales that are so easy to lose yourself in. What's not to love about that? And, now, thanks to the cool chicks at Bewitched Bookworms, we can show these books the love they deserve in a weekly feature - New Adult Mondays.

Lick (Stage Dive #1), by Kylie Scott
Published July 1, 2013
Publisher: Momentum
Format: e-book, purchased
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Waking up in Vegas was never meant to be like this.

Evelyn Thomas’s plans for celebrating her twenty-first birthday in Las Vegas were big. Huge. But she sure as hell never meant to wake up on the bathroom floor with a hangover to rival the black plague, a very attractive half-naked tattooed man, and a diamond on her finger large enough to scare King Kong. Now if she could just remember how it all happened.

One thing is for certain, being married to rock and roll’s favourite son is sure to be a wild ride.


When I read the description of Lick, I was intrigued. First of all, it's the first book in a rocker series. Those who have been reading my reviews for any length of time know that I adore the rockers. They're my favorite type of "bad boy." But, a rocker who doesn't blink at getting married in Vegas to a good girl he barely knows? That's definitely out of character. 

When Evelyn wakes up from a nigh in which she got black-out drunk, she finds herself married to a hot hunk of a rock star, with no memory of ever meeting him. After the paparazzi gets a hold of the story, Ev's life is flipped upside down. David whisks her away until the annulment papers can go through, but in that time they spend there, Ev starts to get used to the idea of being David's wife. And she likes it. When they have to return to LA and the real world, though, Ev finds that her new resolve to be David's wife might not be enough to keep him in her life. 

David was awesome. I really was not a fan in the beginning. He acted like a complete jerk to Evelyn. He said and did some pretty awful things. Ev was convinced he hated her. I love relationships that start out rocky. There was no illusion of insta-love. David and Ev had to become friends before they could be spouses. Which was no small mountain to climb since David effectively torpedoed things from the get-go. 

But, Ev was even more awesome than David. She initially paints this picture of a meek door mat. But, when she is backed into a corner, Ev comes out swinging (sometimes literally). She doesn't care about fame or money, which is one of the biggest reasons why David was so attracted to her in the first place. And when things get hard, Ev tries to hold things together so badly. I felt for her so many times as she tried to maintain herself in all the weirdness that is David's life compared to her own. 

I liked how Lick introduced all the members of Stage Dive since we know they are what this series is going to be all about. There's Mal, the drummer, who is David's BFF and a total goof. He's the only other one who treats Ev well and seems to be David's voice of reason. There's also Jimmy, lead singer and David's brother, who is absolutely horrible. And finally Ben who is the bassist and a scary moody dude.

Lick was a quick read for me with lots of fun, steamy parts. It set things up nicely for the rest of the series, which I now cannot wait to read. Any series that starts off this good and features rock stars in each book cannot be a bad thing.

July 25, 2014

REVIEW: Hudson (Fixed #4)

Hudson (Fixed #4), by Laurelin Paige
Published July 8, 2014
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-book, purchased
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) "I can easily divide my life into two parts—before her and after."

Hudson Pierce has led a life few others could even imagine. With money and power at his fingertips, he's wanted for almost nothing. He's never experienced love, however, and he's seen few examples of it in his dysfunctional family. The ridiculous notion of romance has always intrigued him. He's studied it, controlled it, manipulated it, and has yet to understand it.

Until he meets Alayna Withers.

Now, the games he's played in his quest for comprehension can finally come to an end. Or are they just beginning?

Told from his point of view, Hudson fills the holes in his love story with Alayna Withers. His past and relationship with his long-time friend Celia is further revealed and light is shed on his actions during his courtship with Alayna. 


I freaking love companion books. Particularly from the guy's POV. I ate up Walking Disaster. Trust In Me. Unbreakable. When I learned about Hudson, I knew I had to have it. I loved the first three Fixed books, but there was a lot that I felt like I missed out on. Hudson was very much an enigma. So, the chance to get inside his head was a definite draw for me. And, I wasn't disappointed. 

The really awesome thing about Hudson was that it wasn't simply a retelling of the first three Fixed books from his POV. Hudson always claimed that he didn't have the ability to love someone. It seemed as if that was drilled into his head by his evil mother. And then there was his destructive relationship with Celia. Hudson switches from pre-Alayna to post-Alayna, and when you put the two halves together, we get a whole picture of who Hudson really is. 

Despite his destructive "games," when the reader gets Hudson's full backstory, it's hard to not feel a lot of empathy for him. It's clear that his parents were not nurturing and loving toward him. His mother tried to convince him that he was emotionless and loveless in an attempt to make herself feel better about her constant downward spiral. Although my opinion of Hudson had already risen by the end of Forever With You, by the end of Hudson, I was convinced the man could do no wrong. 

Celia, however, I didn't really think I could hate more. I was wrong. Hudson can claim all he wants that he made her who she became. It became clear when we see their history that there was always a kernel of wrongness about her that only became amplified after her failed relationship attempt with Hudson. Hudson merely encouraged what was already there. And seeing how she hatched plan after plan to drive other people - Alayna included - to the brink of despair was pretty infuriating.

On the other side of the story, though, I loved watching Hudson's and Alayna's relationship unfold through his eyes. There was a lot that was very surprising to me. When the story was told from Alayna's POV, I got the impression that Hudson was dragged along kicking and screaming for awhile before finally succumbing to the realization that he was in love with her. 

What is actually the case is a bit of instalove - crazy, right? It seems almost as if Hudson fell in love with Alayna from the moment he saw her. He seemed in it for the long haul. And, even more surprising, he admitted to himself that he loved Alayna long before he ever clued her in. It was shocking and delightful. It appeared that he only kept that nugget to himself so that he could more effectively manage Celia. Which, of course, ended up a big, fat fail. 

The epilogue was absolutely wonderful. It gave me the perfect sense of closure to this couple's story. Thank you, Laurelin Paige for giving we fans something I know I was clamoring for. This peek inside the complex and beautiful mind of Hudson Pierce was the absolute best way to finish his and Alayna's story. 

July 24, 2014

COVER REVEAL: Burying Water

I am absolutely thrilled to bring you the cover reveal for K.A. Tucker's BURYING WATER! BURYING WATER is a New Adult Romantic Suspense novel scheduled for release October 7th! This book will blow you away. Get. Ready.

Burying Water

Add BURYING WATER on Goodreads!

Burying Water, by K.A. Tucker
To Be Published October 7, 2014
Publisher:
Atria Books
Genre: 
new adult suspense
Buy Links: Amazon * Barnes and Noble * iTunes
 
(Synopsis)
The top-selling, beloved indie author of Ten Tiny Breaths returns with a new romance about a young woman who loses her memory—and the man who knows that the only way to protect her is to stay away. 


Left for dead in the fields of rural Oregon, a young woman defies all odds and survives—but she awakens with no idea who she is, or what happened to her. Refusing to answer to “Jane Doe” for another day, the woman renames herself “Water” for the tiny, hidden marking on her body—the only clue to her past. 

Taken in by old Ginny Fitzgerald, a crotchety but kind lady living on a nearby horse farm, Water slowly begins building a new life. But as she attempts to piece together the fleeting slivers of her memory, more questions emerge: Who is the next-door neighbor, quietly toiling under the hood of his Barracuda? Why won’t Ginny let him step foot on her property? And why does Water feel she recognizes him? 

Twenty-four-year-old Jesse Welles doesn’t know how long it will be before Water gets her memory back. For her sake, Jesse hopes the answer is never. He knows that she’ll stay so much safer—and happier—that way. And that’s why, as hard as it is, he needs to keep his distance. Because getting too close could flood her with realities better left buried. The trouble is, water always seems to find its way to the surface.

About the Author

Author Photo K.A. Tucker was born in small-town Ontario, Kathleen published her first book at the age of six with the help of her elementary school librarian and a box of crayons. She is a voracious reader and the farthest thing from a genre-snob, loving everything from High Fantasy to Chick Lit. Kathleen currently resides in a quaint small town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.      

Website ** Twitter ** Facebook ** Novel Goodreads ** Author Goodreads ** YouTube ** Pinterest ** Instagram

July 23, 2014

REVIEW, EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: Come Back (Dirty, Dark & Deadly #2)


JA Huss is back with a new series and holy crap. It's hotter, grittier, and more dangerous than anything she's written before. Want to know more? There's lots of stuff here. Read my review, check out an excerpt and some teasers, and don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end. Oh yeah. And then go buy Come and Come Back.

Come Back (Dirty, Dark & Deadly #2), by JA Huss
Published July 21, 2014
Publisher: Science Future Press
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author
Genre: adult suspense romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(From Goodreads) “Secrets keep the darkness alive,” Harper tells me. But that’s not how I see it at all. Secrets keep me alive. The truth is overrated. Honesty is never the best policy. And everything you know absolutely can hurt you.

The contracts I fulfill are just agreements. Death is a business deal. Secrets are currency in my world. I pay my debts with them. I feed on them. They ground me in the present and they promise me a future. I’ve lived a life filled with secrets for so long—I forgot what it’s like to… feel.

Until I saw Harper. Until I saw how beautiful she’s become. How perfect, and pure, and innocent of all the ugly that goes on around her. And that dirty promise I refused the night her father turned me into a killer twelve years ago is suddenly on the table again.

Harper can be mine. No—Harper will be mine. All I have to do is complete the mission.

Death is a business deal.

And I just shook his hand.


I'm learning that the Dirty, Dark & Deadly series is like an onion. Just when you think you get it - you know what's going on and who's on who's side and what everyone's motives are - JA Huss peels back another layer of OMG, and you realize, you didn't know squat.  



We met James Fenici, a.k.a. Six, a.k.a. Tet, in Come (or perhaps we met him earlier in some other book...???!!!) when he showed up at the beach claiming to know Harper and swept her off her feet and blew her mind. Then, he skipped out and didn't come back. In Come Back, Harper seeks out to find James, and find him she does. But not before he finds 13-year-old Assassin Smurf, Sasha. The three of them have individual goals that seem to intersect at different places. The question on all their minds is, are they all on the same side, fighting for the right things?


James is a stone cold assassin - one of The Company's best. At first glance, it doesn't seem as if anything can take him down. That nothing could penetrate his tough exterior, both literally and figuratively. Through the course of Come Back, we see that there are many facets to James Fenici. Yes, he is hard enough to threaten to kill a young teenager - repeatedly - and mean it. But, he's also soft enough to make the sweet life-altering promises to Harper that girls need to hear. James is an enigma, and I found myself wanting to learn more about him. I was (and still am) curious as to whether we were seeing the real James. He wears many faces, and it's hard to tell which one is true and which ones were masks. I'd like to think that he's the realest when he's with Harper.


Harper is a tough nut to crack. But, really, who can blame her? Her father had planned to hand her over to a man in exchange for his services, like she's a commodity. When she objected to that plan in her own special way and ran away, she effectively placed a price on her head too. It's no wonder that it's hard for her to trust James. We see Harper fighting her own mind and experience throughout Come Back. What she has seen and knows about The Company tells her that she shouldn't trust James when he says he loves her and wants to protect her. But, what she is feeling is a different story entirely. She just might love him too, and that scares the crap out of her because it throws her off her game. She's looking for her twin brother, and she didn't plan on anything or anyone getting in the way. Harper waffles between vulnerable and stalwart, and honestly, I loved both sides of her. It shows that she's strong but not unaffected by what's going on around her. 



And then there's Sasha - the Smurf, as James calls her. Sasha's the toughest for me to figure out. She doesn't act like a typical 13-year-old kid. She's more ruthless and brutal than James in some ways. Which makes her creepy and deadly. Even when she shed some tears and appeared affected by what's going on around her, it was hard to believe it was genuine. This girl is TOUGH. It made it hard for me to like her in any way, although she did crack me up from time to time. She didn't fear James at all, which is insane. And, her role in whatever it is she has going on was the most confusing and shrouded in the most amount of mystery. 

There's a lot going on in Come Back. A lot of secrets and lies and plots within plots - stories within stories. It's exciting and keeps you on the edge of your seat pretty much constantly. It may make your head explode as you try to decipher everyone's true motives. This isn't your typical love story. But, when so many stories are so very similar, that's okay. It's a welcome change. There might not be as many pretty words in Come Back, but it's still super hot. And, it's told in dual POV, so we get both James' and Harper's views on what's going on around them.

It would be best if you read Slack, Taut and Guns before starting the Dirty, Dark & Deadly series, although it's not essential. Those books will give you a lot of extrapolation on Sasha's back story, especially, and a little bit of James' too. It's an incredible story - what are you waiting for?

Excerpt


Merc picks up on the second ring too. I love consistency. “Jasus fucking Christ, where the hell have you been?”

“Traveling. You think I have hidden wormholes I can pop in and out of to get places or what?”

“Yeah, well, Twifter is not happy, asshole.”

“Twifter can kiss my ass. None of that shit this morning was me. But anyway, we’re here. Thanks for the beer.” I take a swig and let out a long, “Ahhh,” trying to piss off Merc, but that’s when I see the Smurf watching me from the jail cell up on the foyer terrace. “Call you later,” I say, and then I press end on the phone. “What the fuck you doing up there?”

“Who the hell were you talking to?” she snarls back.

“Merc.” I hold up my beer and give her a pretend cheers.

“Obviously that phone call was Merc. Before Merc, who the hell were you talking to?”

“My secretary.” She stares at me and then gets up and walks to the jail cell door. That little shit was sleeping up in that jail cell. What a freak. “Why? I ask her. “You got a problem with me making calls?”

She walks towards the steps and stops at the top. She’s all sweaty and flushed from the heat, and her hair is still wet from her earlier shower. The scratches from the thorn run-in this morning are still there, but now that the dried blood has been properly washed away, they are not so bad. She looks better and worse all at the same time. She looks unstable.

“When you make a call to an associate from a phone that’s supposedly not secure, a phone that had some cryptic message you tried to blame on me, then yeah. I have a big fucking problem.”

“Watch your fucking mouth around me, kid. Or I’ll smack the shit out of it.”

She reaches behind her and pulls out a gun and points it at me. “Is that right?”

“You better shoot me right the fuck now. Because if you don’t, I’ll kill you just for pointing that weapon at me.”

She reevaluates her target and decides on a spot above my head. Smurfette is clever. “Who were you talking to?”

I eye the diameter of the chamber on her weapon and guesstimate .40. “You sure you can handle that thing? It’s got a nice kick to it. And if you miss me, I won’t miss you.”

“I don’t miss. And I’ve been shooting this Glock for a while now. So I’ll happily take my chances. Now, who were you talking to?”

“I already told you. My secretary, checking for messages. And Merc, returning a call.”

“You were checking in. Who’s running this operation?”

“I thought you knew?”

She thinks about this for a few seconds. Gives it some consideration before she answers. “I know who I’m working for. I know who sent you to get me. And I don’t think we’re on the same side anymore.”

“That’s too bad then,” I tell her with a shrug of my shoulders. “I was just beginning to like you. I was starting to hope I wouldn’t have to kill you.”

“Funny,” she says with a coolness that sends a chill up my arm. “I was thinking the same thing.”

About the Author

JA Huss is the USA Today best-selling author of the Rook and Ronin series, the epic science fiction I Am Just Junco series, and hundreds of kid-friendly science books in subjects such as biology, physics, anatomy and physiology, astronomy, and forensics. She has an undergraduate degree in equine science and a master's degree in forensic toxicology. She has never taken a creative writing class and she hopes she never will.



Learn more about JA --> Website / Twitter / Facebook  


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(2) $50 gift cards plus signed copy of COME BACK and swag
(3) $25 gift cards plus signed copy of COME and swag
(5) $5 gift cards plus signed limited edition character cards

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July 22, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This is one meme I can get on board with - I LOVE lists! I'll show you mine if you show me yours!

Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me 
On A Deserted Island

1. Guy from Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott - Guy is a survival man. He's spent years learning how to stay alive in all types of climates and conditions. This is definitely a guy I would want on my team.

2. Sydney Sage from The Bloodlines Series by Richelle Mead - Sydney is freakishly smart. No doubt her intellect, powers of deduction, and of course, her witchy abilities would definitely come in handy.

3. Ruger from Reaper's Legacy by Joanna Wylde - I would imagine if I was stuck on an island somewhere that there might be some heavy lifting to do. And Ruger would be perfect for the job. And, he would, of course, do it without a shirt on. I would insist.

4. Cole Holland from the White Rabbit Chronicles by Gena Showalter - Cole knows how to fight all types of big bad things. And those violet eyes are just an added bonus.

5. Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer - If I happened to retain anything from the ship I was on before I crashed on the island, I'd definitely want Cinder there to help fix it any time it broke. And this super cyborg queen can fix ANYTHING.

6. All the Merrick brothers from The Elementals series by Brigid Kemmerer - On a deserted island, these four cuties would come in very handy. Michael can make things grow. Gabe can start fires. Nick could blow some wind in the sails of a makeshift raft. Chris can find clean water. I definitely want them on my team.

7. Percy Jackson from the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan - When stuck on a deserted island, who better to help you out than the son of Poseidon?  His kind of divine intervention would be kind of perfect in this situation, don't you think?

8. Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - If all other attempts at escape fail, you could always have Harry bewitch a few pieces of driftwood and have them carry you out of there.

9. Jamie and Claire Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon - Jamie is like the 18th century equivalent of MacGyver and his wife Claire has wicked awesome medical training. They'd be a good pair to have if you got stuck somewhere.

10. Charley Davidson from the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones - I would want Charley around purely for comic relief. Sure she has some interesting powers and a super duper smokin' hot boyfriend. But this chick cracks me up. I'll need her around to lighten the mood.

July 21, 2014

RELEASE DAY & GIVEAWAY: Uninhibited (The Callahans #1)


I'm so excited to help Melody Grace and Book Enthusiast Promotions and Mark My Works Publicity celebrate the release of Melody's new  Beachwood Bay spin-off series, The Callahans! The first book in the series, UNINHIBITED, is out today, so what are you waiting for? If you're still on the fence, check out the FREE prequel to Uninhibited, UNREQUITED, which gives you an enticing peek at the beginning of Dex's and Alicia's story.

Uninhibited (Beachwood Bay #4, The Callahans #1), by Melody Grace
Published July 21, 2014
Publisher:
self-published
Genre: 
new adult contemporary romance
Buy the Book: Amazon * iBooks
 
(Synopsis) 
He’ll teach her a pleasure beyond her wildest dreams…

Alicia Wright isn’t the kind of girl to make out with a stranger in a dark alley. She’s spent years playing it safe, pining after the perfect man – who’s about to marry someone else. She doesn’t know how to move on, until a sexy stranger turns her world upside down with a wickedly tempting proposition…

She’ll rescue him from the edge of oblivion…

Rock star Dex Callahan swore his days of fame and debauchery were behind him, but the spotlight keeps calling his name. Determined not to fall into his old life, he goes looking for distraction -- and finds an intoxicating red-head with a mouth made for sin. One kiss could never be enough, so Dex offers her a deal: spend one week with him, and she’ll forget her old flame ever existed.

Together, they’ll ignite a passion that will change them forever…

No rules. No limits. As the whirlwind week of pleasure unfolds, Alicia discovers a desire she never knew existed – and the tortured heart Dex hides behind his charming smile. But can old loves so easily be replaced? And when the week is over, will their bond be strong enough to weather the storm?




Giveaway

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About the Author
  
Book-lover and author of USA Today & international bestselling Beachwood Bay series. I'm 28, a SoCal transplant and sexy new adult romance junkie. ;)

Learn more about Melody --> Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

July 18, 2014

Books By Name

Can you take the books on your shelf and spell your name with the first letter of the titles? My friend Amber at Grown Up Fangirl told me about the #BooksByName meme, and I had to try it. I thought it would be impossible. I didn't think there were any 'K' books on my shelf, and I thought it would be impossible to pick one of my many, MANY 'S' books.

Turns out I had a few cool 'K' books after all. But my 'S' book really was hard to pick. But, here it is - my Books By Name.


Killer Frost, by Jennifer Estep
Reaper's Legacy, by Joanna Wylde
Into the Still Blue, by Veronica Rossi
Sentinel, by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas
All Lined Up, by Cora Carmack

So, how about you? What books would you pick off your shelf to spell your name?

July 17, 2014

REVIEW: Winter's Heat (Titan #1)

Winter's Heat (Titan #1), by Cristin Harber
Published September 25, 2013 (audio released June 6, 2014)
Publisher: Mill Creek Press
Format: audiobook, provided by Inkslinger PR for review
Genre: adult suspense/military romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 3 STARS

(From Goodreads) A WOMAN ON A MISSION
After putting her life on the line to protect classified intelligence, military psychologist Mia Kensington is on a cross-country road trip from hell with an intrusive save-the-day hero. Uninterested in his white knight act, she’d rather take her chances without the ruggedly handsome, cold-blooded operative who boasts an alpha complex and too many guns.

AND THE MAN SENT TO STOP HER
Colby Winters, an elite member of The Titan Group, has a single objective on his black ops mission: recover a document important to national security. It was supposed to be an easy in-and-out operation. But now, by any means necessary becomes a survival mantra when he faces off with a stunning woman he can’t leave behind.

MUST PARTNER TO SURVIVE
When Titan’s safe houses are compromised, Colby stashes Mia at his home, exposing his secret—he’s the adoptive father of an orphaned baby girl. Too soon, danger arrives and Mia lands in the hands of a sadistic cartel king with a taste for torture. As hours bleed into fear-drenched days, Colby races across the globe and through a firestorm of bullets to save the woman he can’t live without.


Reviews like this are hard for me to write. I listened to Winter's Heat on a business trip out to Pittsburgh last month. It was an audiobook, and I do find sometimes that it's hard for me to separate my feeling about the book from my feeling about the narration. If you're an audiobook fan, do you have the same problem? If the narrator doesn't do it for me, it sort of taints the whole thing a bit. 

In Winter's Heat, we meet Colby Winters who is a member of The Titan Group, a bunch of beefy military-esque secret operatives who go out on dangerous and near-impossible missions. Colby's mission is an easy one - take possession of an envelope before the bad guys get it. Except Mia Kensington gets it first. So, Colby takes both Mia and the envelope, and now he has to protect them both. As they are holed up in his house, they connect on many levels, and when Mia is taken, Colby enlists the help of his whole team to get her back. 

The narration of Winter's Heat was performed by Jeffery Kafer. I don't listen to many books read by male narrators. It's not done on purpose - it just seems like, since most of the books I read have a female MC, the narrators of the audiobooks are usually female. Mr. Kafer's voice is deep. I'm talking Barry White deep. It's extremely manly and sexy and perfect for how I picture Colby. 

The problem is, when you have a very deep voice, it's got to be difficult to inflect enough to tell the different characters apart. All the guys in the Titan group sounded exactly the same, so when they were all in a room together talking, it was confusing and hard for me to tell who was speaking. And, a guy with such a deep voice trying to sound like a female... honestly, it made me giggle more than once. Not the desired effect, I'm sure. Especially during the super sexy parts. 

Overall, I found the narration rather flat. 

As far as the actual plot went, the first 75% of the book was great. It was exciting, and I enjoyed learning more about what was in that envelope and how Mia came to have it in her possession. I liked Colby's alpha protectiveness toward Mia. Although I think the love and sex between them came on really fast - it was very instalovey - the sexual tension between them was really good. 

The last 25% of the book was just a little far-fetched for me. Admittedly, military type romances like this are not books that I read a lot. Perhaps they are all like this? But, the parts that took place in Colombia just had me scratching my head a bit. It felt like, it was pathetically easy for Mia to be taken from this supposedly impenetrable home, then equally as easy for her to be rescued. 

My dislike of the audio version seems to be affecting my ability to objectively review the book. I'm wondering if I would have a different opinion if I read the PB version instead. Perhaps for book #2...

July 16, 2014

REVIEW: The One (The Selection #3)

The One (The Selection #3), by Kiera Cass
Published May 6, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: hardback, provided by the publisher
Genre: young adult fantasy/romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) The highly anticipated conclusion to Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series, The One will captivate readers who love dystopian YA fiction and fairy tales. The One is the perfect finale for fans who have followed America's whirlwind romance since it began--and a swoon-worthy read for teens who have devoured Veronica Roth's Divergent, Ally Condie's Matched, or Lauren Oliver's Delirium.

The Selection changed America Singer's life in ways she never could have imagined. Since she entered the competition to become the next princess of Illéa, America has struggled with her feelings for her first love, Aspen--and her growing attraction to Prince Maxon. Now she's made her choice . . . and she's prepared to fight for the future she wants.

Find out who America will choose in The One, the enchanting, beautifully romantic third book in the Selection series!

Series enders have not been kind to me lately. I get it - finales are tricky for both the readers and the author. In all the previous books, dramatic situations, love triangles and bad decisions can all be put aside in our minds because the final book is still ahead, so everything has a chance still to be put to rights. But, once that last book comes out, you realize you're down to only 350 pages to clear everything up. The author has to answer to fans while maintaining their professional integrity. Authors - you are rock stars.

Perhaps this is why there are several series in which I've read all but the last book. I'm simply scared to finish it all up in case things don't go my way. I don't want it to taint the rest of the series, particularly if I've enjoyed all the previous books. So, it was with great trepidation that I cracked the spine on The One. And, when I was done, the main thought in my head was...

THANK YOU, KIERA CASS. THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU.


I have to admit - given the state of affairs in the Maxon/America/Aspen love triangle at the end of The Elite, I was nervous. America seemed pretty screwed either way you looked at it. The king was pissed at her. Maxon was pissed at her. The public was pissed at her. And, she couldn't get a minute to talk to Aspen about any of it. The Selection was down to only four girls and rebel attacks were escalating.

I loved that the excitement started pretty much immediately. America is anxious to get back in the game, so she's stepping up her seduction skills, and the claws come out among all four girls still left in it because of it. For Maxon's part, he seems like he does still prefer America, yet it's obvious that he's also still keeping his options open, particularly with Kriss.

Thankfully, America seems to make up her mind what she REALLY wants fairly early on in the book. Where the stress and angst for me came in was when she decided it was a good idea to not tell anyone about it. ARGH! She doesn't even tell her ultimate choice, which was just... ARGH! The fact that America couldn't get outside of her own head for even a short while so that she could think objectively about her situation made me stabby.

The two guys, on the other hand, keep seeking out opportunities to come to a final decision about their feelings for America and to figure out her feelings for them. Her moments with Maxon were so sweet. The sexual tension between the two of them was off the hook, too. America's moments with Aspen were rushed and nostalgic. It was obvious they still cared about each other quite a bit. Both guys love America and would do anything for her. Lucky girl.

"Break my heart. Break it a thousand times if you like. It was only ever yours to break anyway. I'll love you until my very last breath. Every beat of my heart is yours."
Finally we get a lot more information about the two camps of rebels in The One. We've been dancing around their motives and actions through two books, so it was awesome to get more insight into both the northern and the southern rebels, and even meet some of them. In addition to the bride wars going on in the castle, there's quite a bit of subterfuge and military strategy involved in this book. I loved how America threw herself into the thick of things without hesitation. She was really brave and selfless.

And, in the end, there's a final showdown between the Illeans and the rebels, and WOW. It did not disappoint. Characters were injured. Characters died. And yes. There was a wedding. I was so blown away by how everything ended up being tied together - I didn't see a lot of it coming, even though it had been building since book 1.

The One is a perfect example of exactly how a series finale should be done. Not everything goes smoothly. Many aspects of the plot aren't ironed out until the very VERY end. Not every character makes it. But, I can honestly say, it's been a long time until I've felt this satisfied when it was all over.

July 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This is one meme I can get on board with - I LOVE lists! I'll show you mine if you show me yours!

Top Ten Favorite TV Shows

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer - I have seen every episode of this epic show at least eleventy-billion times. I own them all on DVD. I LOVE Spike.


2. Supernatural - What can I say? I have an affinity for shows built around hellmouths. And getting to look at Sam and Dean for an hour every week is just a bonus.


3. The Fringe - The freaky Fringy stuff that happened was right up my supernatural alley. The romance between Olivia and Peter was icing on the cake.


4. Little House on the Prairie - This is the only other TV show of which I own all the episodes on DVD. Little House is my favorite show from childhood, and I loved watching Laura grow up from a feisty kid to a strong woman.


5. Star Trek The Next Generation - I had a crazy obsession with Wil Wheaton as a young teenager. Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart weren't so bad either.



6. Friends - In my opinion, this was the last truly funny comedy on TV. All six main characters were loveable, endearing and hysterical. I still sing Smelly Cat in the shower.


7. ER (until Anthony Edwards left, anyway) - Thursdays used to be the best TV day ever. It started with Friends and ended with ER. In the beginning with Noah Wylie, George Clooney and Anthony Edwards all together, it was golden.


8.  The Walking Dead - Zombies, murderous psychopaths, Daryl Dixon... Perfection.


9. Glee - I could watch the first three seasons of Glee over and over again. The songs were incredible, the drama was intense at times, and the episodes were always super funny. Finchel will always hold a special place in my heart.


10. Property Brothers - I am ADDICTED to HGTV. House Hunters, Love It or List It, Flip or Flop - I love them all. But, my current obsession is Property Brothers. Twin tall drinks of water Drew and Jonathan Scott find a dump and fix it up. Color me jealous.

July 14, 2014

NEW ADULT MONDAYS: Business As Usual (Off the Subject #3)

The New Adult genre - their bad boys and big problems and epic loves make them engrossing tales that are so easy to lose yourself in. What's not to love about that? And, now, thanks to the cool chicks at Bewitched Bookworms, we can show these books the love they deserve in a weekly feature - New Adult Mondays.

Business As Usual (Off the Subject #3), by Denise Grover Swank
Published April 10, 2014
Publisher: Createspace
Format: paperback, provided by the publisher
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 3.5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Lexi Pendergraft has given up on finding love after a disastrous encounter with her last boyfriend. Instead, she focuses on two things: One, setting up a summer program for underprivileged middle-school aged students. And the second, getting to the bottom of her brother Reed’s recent strange behavior. His secret is destroying his relationship with his fiancée Caroline, and Lexi will do anything to help him save it. Especially after he gave up his dream to give Lexi a chance at a semi-normal college experience, something her parents threatened to steal from her after her rape a year ago.

Ben Masterson is determined to make it through his final semester of his senior year at Southern University. After recently losing his full ride scholarship, he’s suffering from sleep deprivation while trying to keep up with his mechanical engineering courses and working three part time jobs. He thinks he’s lucked out getting a job in the university math lab. The only problem is his boss—Reed Pendergraft.

As part of a role in a community theater play, Lexi wears a black wig and feels a confidence she hasn’t experienced in over a year. When she wears it to a bar close to the theater, she doesn’t think Ben, a bartender there, recognizes her. While Ben’s intrigued about what she’s up to, he’s smart enough to stay far away from his overprotective boss’s sister. Until fate forces him to help her, but why won’t she tell him her real identity?


I'm glad Lexi's story was told. I had been curious about her since she was introduced in the second book in Denise Grover Swank's Off the Subject Series, Redesigned. Although I took issue with a few things in Business As Usual, there were other things that were done perfectly, and for that I was very thankful. 

Lexi is trying to move on from a tragedy that befell her a few years ago. Her residual emotional scars coupled with her overbearing brother's constant smothering are making that nearly impossible, though. Then, she meets Ben and for the first time and begins to think that she has a shot at a normal life and a normal relationship. 

What happened to Lexi is awful. It's awesome that her brother Reed has made it his mission to protect her and see that nothing like that ever happens again. But, honestly, his "protectiveness" grew very tiresome after awhile. And, it's part of the story - I get that. Lexi too is fed up with Reed's smothering nature. At least, she says she is. Her lack of action on the matter was as frustrating as Reed's behavior in the first place. Granted, she's dealing with some serious guilt issues. She feels personally responsible for him not doing what he wants to be doing as far as his career goes. But, honestly, enough is enough. Lexi needed to tell Reed to back off and really mean it. 

Reed's secrets and how it affects his relationship with Caroline was almost as much of the story as Lexi's efforts to overcome her trauma and forge a real relationship with Ben. I was intrigued throughout the entire book as to what Reed was up to and how it was worth him treating Caroline as he did. This didn't seem like the same Reed I grew to love in Redesigned. He wasn't sweet and caring and kind. He was... well, Reed was pretty much an ass. And I knew there had to be a reason why, and I couldn't wait to find out what that was. 

Thing is, when Reed's secret was revealed, it was kind of a letdown. So much of the book was spent leading up to this big moment, and in the end, there really was no big moment. It left me scratching my head a bit. 

Lexi's relationship with Ben was the best part of the book, and thankfully, it really was the main focal point. I loved watching Lexi figure out her triggers and what to do about them. It was great seeing her take control of this horrible situation and using it to make her stronger. And I loved the incredible support and love that Ben gave her back. Their chemistry was sizzling hot and totally believable. 

One other anomaly in Business As Usual was Tina. Tina showed up in the previous book as Caroline's roommate after Scarlett moved out. Tina was your typical overbearing, annoying party girl which contrasted with Caroline's softer nature. The Tina that presented in Business As Usual was an absolute NIGHTMARE. She was mean and vindictive and cruel and self-destructive. She treated Lexi, Ben, Reed and Scarlett like garbage. She encouraged and orchestrated the public humiliation of Lexi, and even went so far as to support her being roofied. I'm not sure what happened to Tina between the last book and this one, but this was definitely not the same person we saw before. 

Admittedly, I preferred After Math and Redesigned better than Business As Usual, but the hallmarks I usually go for - good, tight writing, a quick-moving plot, engaging characters and sweet and steamy love - were all there, as I would expect from Denise Grover Swank. I hope she keeps writing books in this series. I will certainly continue reading them.