2 Year Anniversary Celebration: Review and Sweepstakes: Mai Tai’d Up (Book #4: Cocktail Series) by Alice Clayton

 

Title: Mai Tai'd Up Series: Book #4: Cocktail Series Author: Alice Clayton Format: ebook, 272 pages Published: December 2, 2014 by Gallery Books  ISBN: 1476766746

Title: Mai Tai’d Up
Series: Book #4: Cocktail Series
Author: Alice Clayton
Format: ebook, 272 pages
Published: December 2, 2014 by Gallery Books
ISBN: 1476766746

Purple GoodreadsSynopsis:

 The gossip mill in the seaside community of Monterey is churning about Chloe Patterson, the newcomer who is starting a sanctuary for rescued pit bulls. It’s rumored that she’s a former beauty queen (true) who ditched her fiancé the morning of their wedding (also true). And that while she’s not looking for a new man, the good-looking local veterinarian has his eye on her. Absolutely, positively true. When Lucas Campbell isn’t at the family veterinary clinic, he’s paddle boarding in Monterey Bay. Recently single, he’s definitely not in the market for a new relationship, but he still can’t resist taking a second, third, and fourth look at the recent arrival of Miss Golden State. Neither Lucas nor Chloe has any interest in being tied down. Being tied up, however—now there’s a thought. But are a few Mai Tais, a moonlit night, and the music of Frank Sinatra enough to allow them both to forget their past? Let’s hope Ol’ Blue Eyes knows what he’s doing. Mix one part tiki, one part kinky, and a splash of old black magic matchmaking, and it’s time to be . . . Mai Tai’d Up.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Review:

Chloe Patterson has the life every girl dreams of: plenty of money, tiara-earning good looks, a wonderful fiancé and, a perfect life mapped out for her by her wonderful fiancé and her mother. All she has to do in order to make nearly everyone happy is go through with the fairy tale wedding planned by her mother. All is in order, the day has arrived and, if Chloe Patterson were every other girl in the world, all would be right with the world. Chloe Patterson isn’t every girl and though she does love the money and appreciates her good-looks, her wonderful fiancé just doesn’t do it for her (at all!!!) and the map of her future is pointing in a direction Chloe has no interest in going. Everything about her life that is displeasing to Chloe comes to her via a box of donuts in her mother’s kitchen in a moment of pure panic and so, on the day of her wedding, she runs away.

Lucas Campbell is doing exactly what he loves to do. He has spent his life in the service of others, others who have loads of fur and four legs, of course. He is a third generation veterinarian in his family’s practice, he travels to economically depressed countries to provide veterinary care and, he helps out when and where he can in his small, close-knit community. The only thing that would make Lucas’s life absolutely complete is a family of his own. He was well on his way until his fiancé dumped him at the altar and left him wary of women and relationships. Oh, Lucas is no monk but he certainly isn’t looking for the ONE either. Lucas is happy with his life and with the freedom being single affords him and is in no way prepared for the crazy that is Chloe Patterson that is about to descend upon his life.

Chloe’s escape to Monterey is courtesy of her father and though she initially sees the trip as a smallish getaway to regroup, she quickly realizes Monetary is just the place to put some of her own life plans into action. As a tiara-wearing beauty queen, Chloe was expected to participate in philanthropic pursuits and one of her favorites included working with dogs. With a few phone calls, some serious training, loads of permits and, the help of the totally-hot local vet Chloe begins to build a sanctuary for rescued pit bulls. For the first time in her life, Chloe is standing on her own two feet and doing something she wants to do and not what is expected of or has been planned for her. Damn! Independence sure feels good J

As the weeks go by and Chloe’s sanctuary gets ever closer to opening, Lucas stops by more and more often to help out. Chloe is feisty, determined, passionate, funny and, so not what Lucas should be focusing on. Having his heart-broken on the day of his wedding was a huge blow and though Lucas certainly isn’t pining over his lost love, he is wary of Chloe, his growing feelings for her and, the possibility of being hurt again. But, the heart wants what the heart wants and if Chloe would just open up and tell Lucas whatever it is she is holding back, they just may have a future together. Chloe and Lucas together are just a fine pair, sharing a love of the Rat Pack, mixed drinks, a bit of naughtiness and, caring for their four-legged companions. On paper, Chloe and Lucas make perfect sense but in real life, they both have some baggage that needs to be handled (see what I did there?) before they can truly make a go of a real relationship.

The Bottom Line: At the end of Screwdrivered, I feared the Cocktail series may be slipping a bit but Mai Tai’d Up proved me wrong. Chloe and Lucas are so much fun and the emphasis on animals and their care in this book really pulled me in. I am absolutely glad the fallout from Chloe’s wedding runner didn’t dominate the book and the lion’s share of the read focused on her future in Moneterey. Don’t get me wrong, the runner still bites her in the butt from time to time but it isn’t the dominate theme of the read. I found I liked Chloe instantly and continued to like her as the story progressed; she is a genuine character who, like everyone, has made some mistakes and is doing her best to make amends and move on with her life. Lucas is mostly likeable character and though I understand his motivation for the moments I don’t like him, he is pretty unlikeable in those moments. The scenes with the dogs are some of the best and most heart-breaking of the entire read and serve to enhance the overall experience. In all, Mai Tai’d Up offered me exactly what I hoped it would, solid characters, excellent naughty bits, great humor, animals and, the return of a few older characters that serve to connect the entire series. 

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2 Year Anniversary Celebration: Review and Sweepstakes: The Butterfly and the Violin (Book #1: Hidden Masterpiece Series) by Kristy Cambron

 

Title: The Butterfly and the Violin Series: Book #1: Hidden Masterpiece Series Author: Kristy Cambron  Format: Paperback, 329 pages Published: July 8, 2014 by Thomas Nelson  ISBN: 1401690599

Title: The Butterfly and the Violin
Series: Book #1: Hidden Masterpiece Series
Author: Kristy Cambron
Format: Paperback, 329 pages
Published: July 8, 2014 by Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 1401690599

Purple GoodreadsSynopsis:

 A Mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz–and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan. Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl–a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes. In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover–the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul–who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron. A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire. As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Review:

For more than two years, Sera James has lived a half-life. Sure, her Manhattan gallery is doing well and her assistant is top-notch but there is something missing from Sera’s life. After being abandoned at the altar, Sera has closed off her heart to anything and anyone that doesn’t involve her work. Her passion is her work and one particular painting has held her interest since she was a child. As an art dealer/gallery owner, Sera is in a unique position to track down the one painting that has eluded her for years. Sera’s search takes her to William Hanover’s doorstep and the journey the two embark on to unravel the mystery of the painting is steeped in history, sorrow and, unbelievably, hope.

In 1942, Adele was many things: the daughter of a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Austria’s premiere violinist, a young woman in love and, a dissident determined to help Jews safely escape Austria. In so many ways, Adele is protected by her father’s position and her position as a professional musician and this not only emboldens her but creates a false sense of security. As such, Adele follows her love into the night and on a perilous mission to evacuate a Jewish family; the mission ends in tragedy and exposes Adele and her actions to both the authorities and her father. Sure her father will protect her, Adele is shocked when her family turns their backs on her and allows her to be taken into custody. Even more shocking is the realization that Adele will not just be slapped on the wrist and allowed to go back to her family but sent to Auschwitz. Though she is justifiably terrified, Adele is naively certain her punishment will be short-lived since she is not a Jew. Adele’s train ride to Auschwitz is just the beginning of the horrors she will experience until both she and Auschwitz are liberated by the Allies in 1945.

Immediately upon her arrival at Auschwitz, a completely terrified Adele is forced to play in order to prove her ability and determine her placement within the camp. Adele’s innate skill comes to her aide and she is, in turn taken to a small building where she will become one of many members of the Auschwitz orchestra. For much of her life, Adele has found comfort in her abilities and her music but at Auschwitz, all she has always held dear is warped and ugly and used to terrible ends. Adele and her musical companions are forced, on a daily basis to play as new prisoners are marched into the camp from the trains, herded to their daily labors or, led to their death in the gas chambers. Though the orchestra is afford more comfort than most in the camp, their lives are still abysmal, their fear is palpable and, each abhors what something so beautiful has been turned into by the evil that rules their world.

Throughout her years at Auschwitz, Adele is horrified by the tortures she both witnesses and endures. She plays on as innocents are starved to death, tortured and, executed. She fears for her life every second of every day and knows that it is her ability to play that keeps her alive and so, she plays on. Despite all of the horror, there are moments of hope amid the despair like the time Adele is shown the hiding place of the beautiful works created in secret by camp members. Among the secreted works are of passages of literature and art including a portrait of Adele painted by one of the orchestra members. Those these treasures are certainly bright spots and reminders of what once was for so many, they are also secrets that must be closely guarded and protected at all costs. After the fall of the Nazi regime, the fate of these treasures was tracked almost as closely as the fate of the survivors.

Since her childhood, Sera has been obsessed with finding out the fate of the portrait and with the help of William, they not only track down the original work but discover the fate of Adele, her love and, the family the two attempted to help escape that fateful night so many decades ago. During the process of tracing Adele’s life and the fate of painting, William and Sera discover a true and abiding love for one another that is strengthened by their faith in God and Adele’s story. Each understands that the unfolding of Adele’s story, her fate and the fate of her portrait is of the utmost significance and to be a part of the discovery is a gift.

The Bottom Line: The Butterfly and the Violin is a tragically beautiful piece of historical fiction. The novel shifts from chapter to chapter between the past and the present with Adele recounting her own story as William and Sera piece together the mystery of her life and her portrait. In truth, this haunting tale would have been just as good if it were simply Adele’s story and there was shifting between the past and the present. Sure, William and Sera’s story is interesting but it is Adele and her story that are the most gripping. There is nothing light or easy about this read; this is, well and truly a horror story played out in real life. Cambron does a fantastic job of dealing with truly tragic events in both an objective and sensitive manner. Cambron doesn’t sugar coat anything but she also doesn’t glamorize the events, she weaves a tale that is as terrifying as it is interesting. Cambron’s writing style enhances the read and moves the story along smoothly and easily. In all, The Butterfly and the Violin is a thoroughly consuming read that will most certainly appeal to a wide variety of readers and in particular, those interested in historical fiction.

P.S. Shortly after I finished this read, I went to Amazon and pre-ordered book two in the A Hidden Masterpiece series, A Sparrow in Terezin which is due in April 2015.

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About the author and where to find her:

Kristy CambronKristy’s been fascinated with the WWII Era since hearing her grandfather’s stories of his experiences as a B-17 co-pilot in the war. She writes WWII and Regency Era historical Christian fiction titles. THE BUTTERFLY AND THE VIOLIN, Book One in the ‘A Hidden Masterpiece’ series on the prisoner camp art of Auschwitz, will release from Thomas Nelson Publishers in July, 2014. 
She’s a proud Hoosier, living in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good Christian fiction read.

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2 Year Anniversary Celebration: Review and Sweepstakes: The Boy in the Cemetery by Sebastian Gregory

 

Title: The Boy in the Cemetery Author: Sebastian Gregory Format: Kindle Edition, 120 pages Published: October 29, 2014 by Carina  ASIN: B00O28MHSY

Title: The Boy in the Cemetery
Author: Sebastian Gregory
Format: Kindle Edition, 120 pages
Published: October 29, 2014 by Carina
ASIN: B00O28MHSY

Purple GoodreadsSynopsis:

This is the story of a girl who didn’t want to live… Carrie Anne is desperately unhappy. Tangled in a web of abuse, she seeks solace in the cemetery that backs onto her garden. But something creeps between the gravestones. Carrie Anne is not alone …and a boy who cannot die. The cemetery is home to a boy. He has guarded these forgotten bones since meeting a gruesome end two hundred years ago. Neither dead nor alive, he has been watching for a long time. And now, he finally has the visitor he’s been waiting for…

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review:

For more than 200 years the boy has guarded his cemetery. Over the decades he has seen ever so many come and go, come and go and never have any been able to sense his presence. In the beginning the cemetery was a welcome change, a solace in the face of his own sorrow and miserable life but as the years passed, the boy became very lonely. Assuming his half-life will continue on as it always has, he is surprised and excited to meet Carrie Anne. Though he has only limited means of communication, he conveys to Carrie Anne that she is welcome in his world and he is glad to have her company.

Carrie Anne is not just desperately unhappy, she is monumentally unhappy and there is absolutely nothing she can do to change her situation. Carrie Anne’s father is a monster of the highest order and in order to protect his dirty little secret, he has moved his family to a remote location. Carrie Anne’s mother is just as much a monster as her husband but in a very different way. Carrie Anne’s mother is aware of what her daughter has experienced at the hands of her husband but is too weak to do a damn thing about it. Protecting herself is far more important than protecting her daughter and so, she allows the nightmare to continue. Carrie Anne’s only solace is the comfort and peace she feels when exploring the cemetery near her new home.

The meeting between the boy and Carrie Anne is certainly unsettling but Carrie Anne understand immediately that the boy will not hurt her and in fact, should the need arise, he will protect her. Both see in the other a deep-seated sadness that has no simple solution. For the time the two have together they provide not only friendship but a measure of comfort and as Carrie Anne’s life continues to spin out of control, the boy becomes far more important to her. In fact, Carrie Anne’s life doesn’t just spin out of control, it tilts completely off its axis and Carrie Anne finds herself in the middle of a missing persons and double murder case.

The Bottom Line: The Boy in the Cemetery is a seriously dark read that I really didn’t see coming. From how the boy came to be the guardian of the cemetery to the story of Carrie Anne’s life is just one tragedy after the other. Both the boy and Carrie Anne have experienced things in their respective lives that no child should ever experience and in each other the two find a mate that is uniquely positioned to understand the other’s pain and desperation. Be aware, dear reader, this is neither a happy nor hopeful story but one that is very dark and quite good. Be prepared for the sadness, be prepared for the anger and, above all else be prepared for a read that will draw you in and not let you go until the bitter end. The Boy in the Cemetery is a sort of morbidly fascinating read that is set to continue and I must say, I think I’m on board with another trip to the dark side.

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2 Year Anniversary Celebration: Review and Sweepstakes: The Melody of Light by M.L. Rice

Title: The Melody of Light Author: M.L. Rice Format: Paperback, 264 pages Published November 18, 2014 by Bold Strokes Books ISBN: 1626392196

Title: The Melody of Light
Author: M.L. Rice
Format: Paperback, 264 pages
Published November 18, 2014 by Bold Strokes Books
ISBN: 1626392196

Purple GoodreadsSynopsis:

 Siblings Riley and Aidan Gordon are survivors. Together, they survived an abusive childhood, and when a fiery accident incinerates all they have—except for each other—they survive that, too. The tragedy leaves them with burdens and pain beyond their years, but it also sets them free to forge their own paths. Aidan’s road to happiness seems smooth and carefree. But Riley continues to struggle, her only saving grace being a passion for music that helps soothe her damaged soul. As their paths diverge and college looms, Riley will have to depend less on Aidan and more on herself. Fear of failure drives her, but will finding love derail her single-minded determination to succeed, or will it open the door to the family she’s always wanted?

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review:

On average I see a post a week on Facebook from an author who is in synopsis Hell. The synopsis is critical to drawing in readers and if it isn’t done well then a reader will likely bypass a book. As we all know, there are far too many books and far too little time J I was totally attracted to The Melody of Light based on its synopsis and beautiful cover but found that the synopsis didn’t come anywhere close to conveying the awesome that is this read.

Riley and Aidan Gordon have only ever had themselves to rely on. As young children their parents were tragically taken from them and unbelievably, that wasn’t the worst thing that happened to them. The Gordon children’s nightmare moved into full-blown night terrors when they were placed with their aunt and uncle who saw the children as targets for their anger and addiction issues. Between the beatings, the burnings and, the general lack of care, it is a miracle the two survived up to the moment their “caregivers” were killed. For the next decadeish, the Gordon children spend their lives at a state-run home and though it isn’t ideal, they are together and find ways to make the best of their situation. For Aidan that means excelling at sports, making a load of friends and, looking forward to a likely college scholarship. For Riley, making friends is not at all easy as her continuing nightmares and scars make it difficult for others – especially kids – to accept and/or understand her. Riley is never really a happy person but when she discovers the cello and her innate skill is recognized, her life becomes bearable and music becomes her escape. As the years pass, Riley understands that music is her way out and if she works hard and focuses she will be able to go to college on a music scholarship.

Aidan is slightly older than Riley and as his eighteenth birthday approaches, he and Riley know they are going to be separated for the first time in their lives. What neither knows is the path they each have planned will be radically altered by forces well beyond their control. For Aidan, that means enlistment with the Marines after a career-ending injury derails his college plans and for Riley, it means the once-thought impossible, a life in Austin after receiving a HUGE scholarship to UT. The only time Riley has any real confidence is when she is playing her cello and without Aidan by her side, Austin is a damn scary prospect but she is willing to take the risk. Riley has worked hard for her scholarship and though she has a heavy course load and a part time job, she is committed to keeping her scholarship and making all the sacrifices worth enduring. For Riley, this means laser-focus and allowing nothing to divert her attention. Funny though, life has so many other plans for Riley. Within weeks, Riley discovers her roommate is a heinous bitch, she acknowledges her sexual identity, one of her regular customers, Beth has a crush on her, Riley develops a crush on an upper class symphony member, Tori and, Riley finds she can survive without Aidan by her side but the worry over his safety is sometimes overwhelming.

As the weeks continue to pass, Riley finds that for the first time in her life, she can find ways to be happy outside of music. She avoids her roommate at all costs, she develops a true friendship with Tori who helps her navigate the UT Music Department, she begins a very new and exciting relationship with Beth and, Aidan calls her and/or emails her every chance he gets in order to alleviate some of her concerns. Though the pressures on her time and abilities are often strained, Riley actually begins to flourish and though she still has a high level of insecurity and her past still plagues her, she is learning to truly live her life and accepts that there may, in fact be a happy future for she and her brother. Then, the world shifts horribly off its axis and in the span of just a few weeks, everything Riley has built crumbles around her. The heinous roommate finally plays her hand, her relationship with Beth is threatened and, Aidan’s safety is called into question. Each event in and of itself would be enough to derail Riley and her future but taken all together in such a short amount of time and Riley’s sanity and life are both horribly called into question.

The Bottom Line: Make no mistake about it, The Melody of Light is not an easy or happy read but it is a very good read with an incredibly strong message. Riley and Aidan Gordon have had very, very little in their lives that have brought them true and lasting pleasure. For Aidan, the Marines offer him a career, stability and, friendship beyond anything he has ever known. Riley’s life has paralleled Aidan’s in so many ways but her relationships and stability have not come nearly as easily but she has always, always found a way to move forward. No matter how bleak her circumstances (and they get pretty bleak!), Riley always finds a way to push through the pain and work toward her goals. Additionally, as the story progresses and Riley begins to develop some true and real relationships she finds that she is not truly alone but has support even in her darkest moments. At the end of the day, the overriding message found in The Melody of Light is multi-faceted: there is the message of friendship, true and abiding love, strength and, the power of music and its ability to heal. Don’t let the wimpy synopsis fool you, dear reader, The Melody of Light is so much more than the small paragraph lets on and is certainly worth the time. 

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2 Year Anniversary Celebration: Review and Sweepstakes: Riding Steele by Opal Carew

Title: Riding Steele Series: Novellas 1-6: Riding Steele Author: Opal Carew Format: Print Length: 288 pages Expected publication: March 17, 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin  ASIN: B00N04PCJ2

Title: Riding Steele
Series: Novellas 1-6: Riding Steele
Author: Opal Carew
Format: Print Length: 288 pages
Expected publication: March 17, 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin
ASIN: B00N04PCJ2

Source: Netgalley/Purchase

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review:

Many girls dream of man who loves her fiercely, is proud to show her off and, showers her with attention. In the beginning, Laurie was sure that was what she had found with her boyfriend, Donovan. As time has worn on however, the dream has turned into a nightmare and what Laurie actually has a domineering coward with a desire to get through fear, intimidation and, violence. Laurie has already decided to extricate herself from the situation but when she tells Donovan she wants out he turns violent and comes within moments of raping her. Good thing there is a beefy biker nearby just waiting to sweep in and rescue the damsel in distress.

The last moments with Donovan are some of the most terrifying of Laurie’s life. Once the biker, known as Wild Card to his friends, steps in, Laurie is sure all will be right with the world. Everything is right for about a second but when Wild Card scoops her up and whisks her away to an unknown location, Laurie discovers a whole new level of fear. Though Wild Card assures her no one, himself included is going to hurt her, he still handcuffs her to a bed before leaving her alone. Before she has time to even collect herself, the room and bed is occupied by a very large and disturbingly attractive man.

Steele has led his crew for years and though they aren’t quite hardened criminals, they aren’t quite law-abiding citizens either. Steele demands and receives respect and loyalty from his crew but he also expects a certain level of honor as well. Though he is thoroughly surprised by Laurie’s presence in his room and bed he has no intention of violating her or her trust. Laurie has been through more than enough and though holding her against her will isn’t ideal, it is a way to protect her and fulfill a promise to a trusted friend.

If Laurie thought her life with Donovan was scary her life with Steele and his crew is equally as scary but in a totally different and exhilarating kind of way. Laurie hates being held against her will but life with Steele and his crew is something to behold. Everything each has is shared with the other and that includes their bodies. Though Laurie has never engaged in anything so all-inclusive she knows, without doubt that she won’t be forced and the activities are, to say the least, exceedingly stimulating. Her willingness to experiment with the group is overshadowed only by her desire to be with Steele.

If you’ve ever read Opal Carew then you know the road for her characters is paved with two things: 1) lots of mind-blowing sex and; 2) enough drama for a lifetime. Both are absolutely present in this read and believe me, everyone gets in on the action J Donovan is an evil man and has no intention of giving up his “property” and it isn’t until Laurie is gone that Steele realizes exactly how he feels about her. It takes Steele, his crew and, a few well-placed friends on the police force to get Laurie back but once he does, Steele has no intention of ever letting her go.

The Bottom Line: Riding Steele starts off with big drama and it continues on through each and every installment of the series. Laurie’s life is all kinds of screwed up and when she tries to right things for herself it only gets worse. Sometimes though, even a really dark cloud has a silver lining and for Laurie, that silver lining is Steele. Steele is a hard yet caring man who has a great sense of honor and loyalty. Though Laurie starts out as nothing more than an obligation to a friend, she quickly becomes someone who can reign in the beast that is Steele and give as good as she gets. Steele is by far my favorite of the entire cast of characters and though he makes a few missteps along the way, he always seems to find a way to redeem himself. Carew keeps the action going from start to finish and mixes it up with some seriously hot naughty bits including two group sessions and some killer one-on-one moments. Though the sex is slammin’ it doesn’t ever overshadow the plot or the characters but fits in nicely with every aspect of the story. In all, Riding Steele is a fun, sexy, fast-paced read that I am hoping is just the first in a series about the rest of Steele’s crew.

Full novel is available March 17, 2015; read this series as a serial. Serial order:

#1: Kidnapped Amazon

#2: Untamed Amazon

#3: Collide Amazon

#4: Wanted Amazon

#5: Crossroads Amazon

#6: Aftershock Amazon

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2 Year Anniversary Celebration: Double Review and Sweepstakes: Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales and Scars from a Memoir by Marni Mann

 

Title: Memoirs Aren't Fairytales Series: Book #1: Memoirs Series Author: Marni Mann Format: Paperback, 254 pages Published: December 13, 2011 by Booktrope Editions ISBN: 1935961292

Title: Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales
Series: Book #1: Memoirs Series
Author: Marni Mann
Format: Paperback, 254 pages
Published: December 13, 2011 by Booktrope Editions
ISBN: 1935961292

Purple Goodreads

Synopsis:

“I could feel my chin falling towards my chest, my back hunching forward. My body was acting on its own, and my mind was empty, like all my memories had been erased. There was scenery behind my lids. Aqua colored water and powdery sand that extended for miles. I was never going back to coke. I wanted more heroin. And I wanted it now.” Leaving behind a nightmarish college experience, nineteen-year-old Nicole and her best friend Eric escape their home of Bangor, Maine to start a new life in Boston. Fragile and scared, Nicole desperately seeks a new beginning to help erase her past. But there is something besides freedom waiting for her in the shadows–a drug that will make every day a nightmare. Heroin. With one taste, the love that once flowed through Nicole’s veins turns into cravings. Tracks mark the passing of time, and heroin’s grip gets tighter. It holds her hand through deaths and prostitution, but her addiction keeps her in the darkness. When her family tries to strike a match to help light her way, Nicole must choose between a life she can hardly remember, or a love for heroin she’ll never forget.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review:

The addictive personality is a scary thing. The memoirs of an addict, a scarier thing. The author who knows how to bring both the personality and the stories together into a series of reads, brilliantly terrifying. Marni Mann’s Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales is one of the scariest, totally based on reality reads I have encountered in quite some time and is very much like reading the transcript of an episode of A & E’s Intervention.

At just nineteen year old, Nicole has survived a horrifying experience – one so awful that she should have immediately immersed herself in therapy in order to learn how to deal with what she survived. Instead, Nicole leaves college and with her best-friend, Eric leaves her home and family in Bangor, Maine for what she hopes will be a fresh start in Boston. From the moment the two arrive, they are at a disadvantage with little education, very little in the way of marketable skills and, a penchant for smoking pot. Neither Eric nor Nicole have any desire to change their ways and it doesn’t take either of them long to move beyond smoking pot and into harder drugs.

Nicole’s descent into full-blown addiction is startlingly swift and no matter how bad her life conditions become, she can’t make herself even consider seeking help. For Nicole, she has everything she needs: the drugs help her forget her horrifying past, the work she does contributes to the drugs she and Eric buy and consume and, she has her best-friend by her side to enable her behavior. The high Eric and Nicole chase is so alluring that each are willing to experiment and in no time, each is lost in heroin. For Nicole, the situation is perfect right up to the moment Eric dies from an overdose. Nicole is devastated by the loss of her best-friend but the heroin is stronger than her grief.

Over the next months (and years!) Nicole sinks further and further into her addiction and becomes the poster child for drug addiction. Nicole lies, steals, prostitutes herself, anything she has to do in order to fuel her addiction. Nicole attaches herself to whomever will supply her and debases herself in ways that are near-inconceivable. The scenes from this time in Nicole’s life are some of the read’s most graphic and horrifying. From allowing her body to be abused by strangers, by drugs, by herself to the moments when she can’t afford drugs and her body begins to detox are truly disgusting. At every turn and with every new disaster, you think Nicole can’t sink any further and yet, she finds new and improved ways to harm herself and those around her. Her rock bottom is the bottom of a chasm and when she hits, the effect reverberates through not only her life but her family’s as well.

The Bottom Line: I clearly had very little respect for sleep and my schedule the following day because I stayed up all night in order to read this book cover to cover. Nicole’s story is truly terrifying and the allure of the read is not just in the journey she takes into madness but in how raw the read is. Mann pulls no punches and lays bare precisely how ugly addiction is and how it impacts not just the user but those around him or her. Nicole’s life is her addiction and this novel is her life. I warn you, dear reader this is not a happy read but it is fascinating, well-written and, a study in addiction. It is also not the end of Nicole’s story . . . .

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Title: Scars from a Memoir Series: Book #2: The Memoir Series Author: Marni Mann Format: Paperback, 285 pages Published: August 1, 2012 by Booktrope Editions ISBN13: 9781935961642

Title: Scars from a Memoir
Series: Book #2: The Memoir Series
Author: Marni Mann
Format: Paperback, 285 pages
Published: August 1, 2012 by Booktrope Editions
ISBN13: 9781935961642

Purple Goodreads

Synopsis:

I could make up a story to cover the last eight years, but the scars on my arms told the truth. So did my ankles, the skin between my toes, even the veins that had burst on my breasts. Did my battle wounds really prove I was a survivor? Or was I too damaged to be glued back together?” Nicole had only one skyline to remind her of the freedom she’d lost-a tattoo of inked buildings dotting the skies of Boston, crisscrossed by scars. Heroin had owned her, replaced everyone and everything she’d once loved. The past was supposed to be behind her. It wasn’t, but that was the price of addiction. Two men love her; one fills a void, and the other gives her hope of a future. Will love find a way to help her sing a lullaby to addiction, or will her scars be her final good-bye?

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review:

**This review is spoilerish for Book #1: Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales**

Scars from a Memoir opens with Nicole and her family dealing with the fall out of her poor-decisions ridden life and the choices she made in the years prior to this moment. Nicole’s addiction led her to rock bottom and as she fell, she took her brother (and many others, to be completely fair!) with her. The loss of her brother, the activities she was involved in prior to his death and, her time in jail taught Nicole the value of life and for the first time in years, Nicole is legitimately clean and ready to move beyond the nightmare that has come before.

Sobriety wasn’t easily achieved for Nicole given the depths she had sunk to and the hold heroin had on her. In fact, even though she is sober and ready to move into a sober-living home, heroin still has a tight grip on her mind and each and every day is a struggle. The difference? Nicole’s desire to live her life and ensure that her brother didn’t die in vain has a tighter grip on her brain than the heroin does. Committed to her path and determined to re-establish a true relationship with her parents, Nicole moves into the sober living facility in Boston and embarks on a whole new existence. As the facility demands, Nicole keeps to the house curfew, she attends meetings and, she is gainfully employed at a local coffee shop. Though her life certainly isn’t easy, Nicole is standing her own two feet and learning how to live a normal life again.

In her first few weeks of freedom, Nicole slowly begins to settle in and finds support among her fellow sober living residents and many of her co-workers who are also recovering addicts. Though romantic relationships are frowned upon so quickly after leaving treatment, Nicole meets Asher, a young man who is both interested in her and in helping her heal from her traumatic past. In a most unusual turn of events, Asher also happens to be connected to Nicole’ s brother and is most interested in helping her find closure regarding his death and her role in it that event. Though Asher is true in his feelings toward Nicole, he is young and very often has a hard time helping her deal with both her past and her present. In the moments she is without Asher and needs support, Nicole turns to Mark, a man from her past. Mark is an unusual character in that, he may be from Nicole’s past but he is not one of the big bads and is very, very interested in his role in Nicole’s future.

On many levels, Nicole thrives in her new life but her past isn’t quite done with her. On several occasions, Nicole is quite literally confronted by her past and/or people from her past who are most interested in Nicole’s failure. To be precise, there are several among the group that want to see Nicole pay for her role in putting them in prison or simply want to drag her back into the hell that was her world for so many years. Nicole fights her demons at every turn but life in Boston is hard for her and as events become to come to a head Nicole faces several challenges that truly threaten both her life and her sobriety. Though not in the way you might expect, Asher betrays Nicole, one of her “friends” from her past dies of an overdose and, the house mother at her sober living facility begins to spiral out of control. At every turn, Nicole fights to hold on to her sobriety and clings to Mark to help her through the new wave of madness that has washed over her life. Against all the odds, Nicole rises from the ashes once again and when she finds her wings, she is finally able to fly.

The Bottom Line: Though this read isn’t quite as dramatic or dark as the first in the series, it is still a roller coaster ride. What this book very much does is reminds the reader that an addict’s story is far, far from over once they get sober. Nicole may have conquered one of her demons but staying in Boston means her other demons are not ever far from her doorstep. The things that Nicole experiences in this read are, to her way of thinking the natural results of her bad choices and things she must endure in order to continue to atone for her past. Mann is completely fearless in approach to this read and doesn’t let up at any point. Through Nicole’s life and story, Mann drives home the point that addiction is a life-long issue and has far-reaching consequences. To say that Mann drops a bomb at the end doesn’t even come close and I found myself gutted by this read. As I have come to expect from Marni Mann’s reads this book is emotional and dark with moments of hope and light. It is also well-written, strong and, has a clear voice that is so very common in this modern world. In all, and excellent, cautionary tale.

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About the author and where to find her:

marni mannBest-selling author Marni Mann, knew she was going to be a writer since middle school. While other girls her age were daydreaming about teenage pop stars, Mann was fantasizing about penning her first novel.  She crafts sexy, titillating stories that weave together her love of darkness, mystery, passion, and human emotion. A New Englander at heart, she now lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband and their two dogs who subsequently have been characters in her books. When she’s not nose deep in her laptop working on her next novel, she’s scouring for chocolate, sipping wine, traveling to new locations, and devouring fabulous books.

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Release Day Review and Excerpt: Something Wild and Something Reckless by Lexi Ryan

Title: Something Reckless Series: Book #1: Something Reckless and Real Duet Author: Lexi Ryan Age/Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance Format: ebook, 248 pages Published: December 22, 2014 by Lexi Ryan

Title: Something Reckless
Series: Book #1: Something Reckless and Real Duet
Author: Lexi Ryan
Age/Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Format: ebook, 248 pages
Published: December 22, 2014 by Lexi Ryan

Purple Goodreads

Synopsis:

He talks dirty to me, but I don’t know his name.  He wants to tie me up, but I don’t know his face.  He turns me on, but I couldn’t point him out in a crowd.  I’ve fallen for an anonymous stranger, and now the anonymity ends. I want more than typed secrets and texted promises. I want something reckless. Heat. Passion. The thrill of being entirely possessed.  Because I suspect this anonymous stranger isn’t a stranger at all.

Lizzy Thompson met riverrat69 online through a service promising to deliver meaningful relationships by forbidding its users to share names or photos until they’ve reached a certain benchmark. She was looking for love. He was researching an investment. They hit it off. Talked and flirted, hid behind screen names and cartoon avatars.  Now they’re breaking the rules and meeting in person. But Liz is prepared. She’s picked up hints and followed clues. She’s nearly convinced she’s discovered the identity of her dirty-talking online friend.  She wonders if her ex-lover Sam Bradshaw knows her identity too.  When she rolls the dice on one reckless night, her chance at something real could crumble.

Source: ARC from author

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review:

**SLIGHTLY SPOILERISH!!**

Lizzy Thompson’s life is sort of a mess: she’s in love (and in complete panty-melting lust) with a guy who likely hates her, her once good friend definitely hates her thanks to a moment of weakness and, she has no idea what she wants to be when she grows up. Her only consolation are the moments she spends online talking with her new “friend” known only as Riverrat69. The “relationship” with Riverrat69 started out as two singles looking for possible companionship but over the course of their time together the conversations have become decidedly less friendly and far, far naughtier. The online community Lizzy and Riverrat 69 belong to is a very small, closed group and Lizzy believes she knows who her suitor is even though they have never exchanged photos, real names or, met in person. If Riverrat69 is in fact her sort-of ex, Sam Bradshaw then Lizzy is both terrified and intrigued. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves . . .

Lizzy and Sam have known one another for most of their lives since Lizzy has long been friends with Sam’s sister, Della. For most of her life, Lizzy has lusted after Sam but after a failed attempt in college to seduce him, she has kept her distance. Mostly. There was that one wedding and that one night . . . . That one wedding and that one night was one of the most memorable for both Sam and Lizzy and though Sam doesn’t generally do attachments and entanglements, Lizzy is a woman he feels differently about and if he could just muster up the courage to tell her he’s willing to give something other than a one-night stand a try, he just might find a willing partner. As fate would have it, one of Sam’s other non-entanglements reappears at a most inopportune time and before he knows it, Lizzy is out of his life and he is left at a complete and total loss.

In the years since Lizzy and Sam last tangled with one another things have gone decidedly downhill for each. Sam’s job is about the only stable thing in his life, his father’s political campaign is limiting his extracurricular activities and, he’s recently begun dreaming about Lizzy, the one woman who once made him think about something more. Lizzy’s life hasn’t been much better. In the wake of leaving Sam, Lizzy turned to her friend, (and most unfortunately Della’s boyfriend) Conner for comfort and things went horribly wrong causing Lizzy to become all but a pariah in her hometown. With little to no direction in her life and most of the people she once held dear shunning her, Lizzy turns to online dating and “meets” Riverrat69. In one of the few strokes of luck she has, Lizzy also manages to be hired on as an aide to Sam’s father’s political campaign. Essentially, the only two things in Lizzy’s life that are even remotely considered bright spots are going to cause her a whole lot of darkness in the very near future.

For weeks, Lizzy does her best to navigate her new world. She loves her new job and is very good at it but she is also working with Conner, Della’s now-husband and constantly comes into contact with Sam. Della isn’t just cold, she is downright vicious in her hatred of Lizzy, Conner is stuck in the middle and wants nothing more than to put the whole sordid mess behind him and, Sam keeps acting decidedly interested in Lizzy. With each passing day, Lizzy grows more attached to Sam and becomes further convinced that he is indeed, Riverrat69. As events begin to unfold, Lizzy and Riverrat69 decide to meet in the real world, Sam and Lizzy share more than one amazing night together and, Sam’s past once again comes back to haunt him. The family drama reaches an all-time high and by the time you run out of pages, the shit has well and truly hit the fan. In fact, the shit has hit multiple fans and Lizzy once again finds herself and her life in shambles.

The Bottom Line: Something Wild and Something Reckless are exactly as advertised!! I very much enjoyed having the Something Wild prequel as I am a BIG fan of backstory and this prequel gave me a lot of good information about Sam and Lizzy and their shared history. Quite frankly, the shared history very much helped me understand the actions, reactions and, motivations of each character (not just Sam and Lizzy!) as I made my way through Something Reckless. Something Reckless really is just that, something reckless. Sam and Lizzy are both just floating through life and neither is happy being away from the other but old hurts and misunderstandings have kept the two of them apart. Their reuniting occurs under stressful, somewhat illicit and, somewhat misguided circumstances that totally backfires on them yet again. The sex is wild and dirty (just the way I like it!), the family drama is at just the right level so as not to be obnoxious (though Della is an obnoxious brat!) and, the ending is just cliffhangery enough to piss me off but only because I ran out of pages to read. I like that this series is intended to and will be short and sweet and am very much anticipating loving the conclusion of Sam and Lizzy’s story.

Something Reckless Teaser 4

Excerpt from Something Reckless (Book #1: Something Reckless and Real Duet):

“You look amazing in this dress. I’ve been pretending all night that there’s something I want to do more than get you out of it.”

“What would you do with me if you got so lucky?”

“I’d keep you up all night, for starters.” He slides a hand into my hair and traces the side of my neck with his thumb. His groan rumbles through me. “Tell me what you came here for.”

I thought that was pretty clear. “I’m wearing extremely slutty underwear. What do you think?”

His nostrils flare and his breathing goes thready. “I think I’m going to have to up my game, because now I want to see it.”

I have to bite back a smile. “Good,” I say. My heart thumps out a beat, probably Morse code for please and thank you.

“How slutty is this underwear of yours?”

I lick my lips. “Oh, it’s damn near whorish.”

“Let me see it, Liz.”

I lift my chin and prop my hands on my hips. “Seriously? That’s all the seduction I get? Let me see it?”

He steps closer until I have to crane my neck to look at him, and holy hell he smells good. “What game are we playing here, Rowdy?” he murmurs against my ear. “Is this the one where we pretend we don’t want each other and sleep alone . . .” His fingers skim down my shoulder and my eyes float closed. “Or is it the one where I make you come so hard you scream my name and tomorrow you act like you want nothing to do with me?”

“Are those my only choices?” I ask, but I keep my eyes closed, focusing on the feel of his rough fingers dancing across my skin. The truth is, I don’t want to play either game. I’m done playing games when it comes to Sam. I’m done pretending I don’t want him when I do, and I’m done pretending our annual one-night stand is enough for me.

“Tell me you aren’t going to run away in the morning. Promise me you won’t shut me out again.”

I don’t know what that means, and I’m too scared to analyze it. My eyes are still closed when he takes my chin in his fingers and tilts my face up to his, still closed when he brushes his lips over mine and when I open under him because I’m helpless to this man’s kiss.

“Promise me,” he repeats.

“I won’t run away.” Then I unzip my dress and let it fall to the floor in a puddle, and my boldness is rewarded. Sam’s lips part and his breath escapes him in a rush.

He steps back and takes me in. The bra is strapless, black lace demi-cups that lift my breasts until they threaten to spill out. The panties—what there is of them—are a thong in matching black lace. Their fine lace straps sit in a sharp V high on my hipbones.

A ringlet of hair escaped my up-do, and he takes it between his fingers and twirls it around. I deserve a medal for not melting right here at his feet.

He hooks his index finger under the black bow between my bra cups. “Did you wear this for me?” His voice is a husky whisper that I can’t deny.

“Yes.”

His fingers skim my belly, trace over my hip, following the lace of my thong behind me to where the straps meet at the small of my back. My breath catches as he takes the fabric path over the curve of my tailbone and down, his fingers bringing every nerve ending to life as they pass. Electric pleasure whips through me.

“Fourteen months since I’ve touched you,” he says. “Fourteen months since I’ve gotten to hear the way you breathe when you’re turned on, since I’ve gotten to listen to you scream as I make you come. Tell me you haven’t thought about it.”

“I’d be lying.”

“Don’t lie,” he says, eyes hot and intense. “Just tell me you want me.”

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Title: Something Wild Series: Prequel to the Reckless and Real Duet Author: Lexi Ryan Format: Kindle Edition, 75 pages Published: December 8m 2014 by Ever After, LLC  ASIN: B00QSAWMKC

Title: Something Wild
Series: Prequel to the Reckless and Real Duet
Author: Lexi Ryan
Format: Kindle Edition, 75 pages
Published: December 8m 2014 by Ever After, LLC
ASIN: B00QSAWMKC

Purple Goodreads

Synopsis:

“You need a good guy. A long-term guy. One who does dates and romance and emotional strings…I’m just an asshole who wants to tie you up, make you come, and walk away.”

Samuel Bradshaw is a man with a reputation—the kind of reputation that should have me running the other way. Instead, it has me searching for the shortest distance to his bed. I won’t be the starry-eyed girl who thinks she can change a man like Sam, and despite what he thinks, forever is not what I need. I need the things he makes me feel, the way he turns me on, and the promise of pleasure in his eyes. This promises to be SOMETHING WILD.

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About the author and where to find her:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author Lexi Ryan’s novels have been described as intense, emotional, and wickedly sexy. A former college professor, she now writes full-time from her home in Indiana, where she lives with her husband, two children, and a neurotic dog. Find her on Facebook or Twitter to chat about books, TV, and her children’s latest antics.

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