Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: Beautiful Redemption (Maddox Brothers #2) by Jamie McGuire

If A Maddox boy falls in love, he loves forever. But what if he didn't love you, first

No-nonsense Liis Lindy is an agent of the FBI. Deciding she is married only to her job, she breaks off her engagement and transfers from Chicago to the field office in San Diego. She loves her desk. She is committed to her laptop. She dreams of promotions and shaking hands with the director after cracking an impossible case.

Special Agent in Charge Thomas Maddox is arrogant, unforgiving, and ruthless. He is tasked with putting away some of the world’s toughest criminals, and he is one of the best the Bureau has to offer. Though, as many lives as he’s saved, there is one that is beyond his reach. Younger brother Travis is faced with prison time for his involvement in a basement fire that killed dozens of college students, and the media want a conviction. Travis’s only savior is his unusual tie to the mob. In a deal that will spare his brother, Thomas has agreed to recruit Travis into the FBI.

Liis is stubborn, defiant, and yet somehow softens Thomas’s rough edges, making her the perfect agent to accompany him to the ceremony. Posing as a couple, they must travel to Travis & Abby’s beach vow renewal and give him the news, but when the pretending ends, she finds herself wondering if they were pretending at all.

In the second installment of the Maddox Brothers books, experience firsthand the mysterious world of the elusive Thomas Maddox, and how good love can be when you’re not the first, but the last.
~My Review~

I absolutely loved the Beautiful Disaster books.  As in, I read them multiple times.  Both Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster were great.  When Beautiful Oblivion came out, I was a little disappointed and I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with Beautiful Redemption, too.  Good, yes, but not entirely what I was expecting.

Thomas Maddox is in the FBI.  He has climbed the ranks quickly and is now the Special Agent in Charge in the San Diego Office.  He is arrogant, unforgiving, and ruthless.  While he has put away some of the biggest criminals, he's currently faced with the dilemma of saving Travis, his youngest brother who is facing jail time as a result of the deaths in the fire on campus.  Since Travis has an in with the mob, a recruitment into the FBI is the only thing that will save him from jail time.  Liis Lindy is the one person who has been able to get under Thomas's skin since he had his heart broken by Cami (Trent's girlfriend:  See Beautiful Oblivion).  Liis is new to the San Diego office after transferring from Chicago and running from a past relationship.  She is completely married to her career and is instrumental in helping Thomas recruit Travis without any blow-back.  Liis is stubborn and defiant, and she challenges Thomas at every possible turn.

While Special Agent in Charge Thomas Maddox is feared by most of his co-workers, he is particularly ornery with Liis.  Their relationship is antagonistic and filled with sexual tension.  While Thomas comes across as a big bully, Liis has a no-nonsense personality that challenges Thomas, and fuels the dynamic between them.

Just like in Beautiful Oblivion, I felt like Beautiful Redemption focused to much on what happened in the previous stories instead of having it's own story-line. There was a lot of focus on the relationship circle of Thomas-Trent-Cami, and there was a lot of focus on Travis and the mob.  I almost felt like Thomas and Liis weren't given a chance on their own.

While working together, Thomas and Liis's relationship is very push and pull and at times it was just too much.  It was clear that Thomas was still hung up on Cami, but it was also clear that he was falling in love with Liis.  At the same time, Liis was too obsessed with his previous relationship with Cami.

While working through their personal relationship, Thomas and Liis are also working to not only bring down Benny and the mob (we learned about Benny in Beautiful Disaster), but they are also working to save Travis from jail time.  I felt like more explanation about this aspect of the story could have been expanded on.  Considering this connection had such a huge presence in the story, I didn't think it was well explained.  There were a lot of scenes that were rushed, and those scenes were the ones that would have really given Thomas and Liis their own story instead of just being the connection between stories.

The entire book had conflict, but I was confused as to the resolution.  A lot of the scenes seemed rushed, and those scenes were the ones that would have really given Thomas and Liis their own story.  Yes, there was resolution, but it felt rushed and ultimately I came away with a lot of unanswered questions.  I felt like things just came to a close without giving it the proper attention that it needed.  The epilogue was really surprising to me.  I can't give away the details, but it was totally surprising!!

At the end of the day, I liked Beautiful Redemption, but it lacked in a lot of areas.  I still love the Maddox brothers, and since we don't know much about Taylor and Tyler, I look forward to their stories!!

Link to Amazon
Link to Nook

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: Falling for Jillian (Love Under the Big Sky #3) by Kristen Proby

New York Times bestselling author Kristen Proby comes the third romance in the Love Under the Big Sky series, featuring a veteran struggling with PTSD and the one woman who can help him recover—and learn to love again.

Jillian thought she was a city girl through and through; the fast cars, high fashion, and glamour—she loves it all. But when her ex tells her he’s having a baby with his new wife (after Jillian struggled for years to get pregnant), she hightails it back to Montana to cry on the shoulder of her best friend, Cara.

But in truth, Jillian would rather be comforted by someone else…specifically Zach, Cara’s brother-in-law. Zach is a veteran of the Iraq War who came back to the family ranch to raise his preteen son after the boy’s mother took off. He’s struggling to re-establish a relationship with his son, and warding off the demons of PTSD, which still haunt him. The last thing he needs is bold, brassy Jillian…but why can’t he keep his hands off her?

~My Review~

I love Kristen Proby.  I haven't read a book of hers yet that I haven't enjoyed.  I loved her Seattle series, and that's what ultimately let me to this series.  When I first starting reading this series, Loving Cara and Seducing Lauren were already released, and then came the waiting game for Falling for Jillian.  I'm not a patient person, but I managed to survive.  I starting reading this book as soon as it got sent to my Kindle and I couldn't put it down.  I loved just about every single possible minute of it!

Both Jillian Sullivan (Ty's sister - Seducing Lauren) and Zack King (Josh's twin brother - Loving Cara) have both been featured quite a bit in the past stories so we already know a bit about them.  After a one-night-stand that ended in a huge misunderstanding, Jillian is ignoring Zack, and Zack has finally decided that enough is enough and it's time to set the record straight.  Aside from their past together, they are also dealing with their own baggage.  Jillian is still struggling to deal with the fact that her cheater of an ex-husband and his new wife are having a baby after she experienced so many years of unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant.  Zack is struggling with post-war PTSD after returning home from years in the Army and is trying to raise his pre-teen son. I absolutely loved them both and will put this book on my list of those that need to be re-read!

The book had great character development and a great story.  Since we were introduced to the main characters in the first two books, they were expanded upon in this book and very well put together.  Jillian is really strong and fierce and stands up for herself when things get tough.  She had a tough childhood, and because of that, as well as everything that happened with her ex-husband, she doesn't beat around the bush with what she's looking for in a man, nor is she quick to trust a man.  Zack is amazing.  Sweet, sexy, super hot Alpha Male, and true to his feelings, Zack has mended his relationship with his son, Seth, after his ex-wife almost ruined everything.  After a bad marriage due to an unexpected pregnancy, his marriage was never easy, and since the divorce, Zack struggles to realize that not everyone is like his crazy ex.

Zack had to fight really hard for Jillian to understand that what happened in Loving Cara was never supposed to be a one night stand.  Once Jillian and Zack finally acknowledged their feelings for each other and got together, I loved not only Jillian and Zack together, but also the relationship that Jillian built with Seth.  Knowing that Zack and Seth were a packaged deal and knowing that she couldn't have children of her own, Jillian accepted Seth and everything that happened between them was truly heartwarming.  Seth seemed to be the heart and soul of the book.  I loved him in Loving Cara, and he once again brought so much to this story.  He is really an amazing kid, and the family time spent between him, Zack, and Jillian is just great.

There is definitely conflict in this book.  With everything that they have both been through in the past, there are definitely some bumps in their relationship.  The resolution is good, and it's not totally rushed, but it did come on pretty quick.  Given the circumstances, however, it fit the story perfectly.  The only things I really would have loved to have seen was a bit more at the end.  Yes, there was an epilogue (and yes, I loved it!!), but I still felt like it all came to conclusion just a bit too fast.  I would love to see something else to round out this series that gives us a clue as to everything that has happened with all three couples, Cara and Josh, Lauren and Ty, and Jillian and Zack, and their families would be awesome.

Overall a fantastic read, and if you're in the mood for an Alpha Male and a great love story, definitely read this series!!

Link to Amazon
Link to Nook

Other Book in the Series
Loving Cara (Love Under the Big Sky #1)
Seducing Lauren (Love Under the Big Sky #2)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: Withering Hope by Layla Hagen

Aimee’s wedding is supposed to turn out perfect. Her dress, her fiancé and the location—the idyllic holiday ranch in Brazil—are perfect.

But all Aimee’s plans come crashing down when the private jet that’s taking her from the U.S. to the ranch—where her fiancé awaits her—defects mid-flight and the pilot is forced to perform an emergency landing in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.

With no way to reach civilisation, being rescued is Aimee and Tristan’s—the pilot—only hope. A slim one that slowly withers away, desperation taking its place. Because death wanders in the jungle under many forms: starvation, diseases. Beasts.

As Aimee and Tristan fight to find ways to survive, they grow closer. Together they discover that facing old, inner agonies carved by painful pasts takes just as much courage, if not even more, than facing the rainforest.

Despite her devotion to her fiancé, Aimee can’t hide her feelings for Tristan—the man for whom she’s slowly becoming everything. You can hide many things in the rainforest. But not lies. Or love.

Withering Hope is the story of a man who desperately needs forgiveness and the woman who brings him hope. It is a story in which hope births wings and blooms into a love that is as beautiful and intense as it is forbidden.

~My Review~

Withering Hope is a standalone romance about Aimee, a young woman who is on her way to Brazil by private jet to marry Chris, the man she loves and has been best friends with since childhood.  When the plane crash lands in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, all her plans go to the wayside as she and her pilot, Tristan, try to survive with limited supplies, no way of communicating to anyone back home, and no hope of a quick rescue.  As they spend more time together, they slowly fall in love. This book is totally different than any other book I've read - and that's a good thing...A really good thing.  I read this book in one sitting and really enjoyed such a unique read that was so well written.

I have never read a "survival" type romance before, so when I saw someone post about Withering Hope on Facebook, I took the opportunity to read something new.  My interest was piqued reading about what Aimee and Tristan had to do in order to survive not only their time in the depths of the rainforest, but also survive the pasts they are both struggling to hide.

The characters are very well developed throughout the story.  Aimee is a very straightforward character and I totally understood how she was feeling throughout the book.  Tristan, on the other hand, is a very mysterious character.  While Aimee talks to fill the silences, Tristan doesn't talk much at all, except when Aimee drills him with questions...And even then, he gives a lot of one-word answers.  Even the chapters that are in his POV are very short.  We learn that this flight isn't the first time that Aimee and Tristan are together - he has been an employee of Aimee's fiancé Chris for quite a while, and when he's not flying the plane, he's Aimee's driver.  They'd been in each other's presence quite a bit, but at the same time, they kept a respectable distance from each other.  As they're forced to keep each other company and depend on one another, they both uncover each other's pasts, and help each other to overcome their fears and troubles.

The book is mainly in the POV of Aimee, with a few short chapters in Tristan's POV, so we only know what's going on with the two of them.  We have no idea if anyone (specifically Aimee's fiancé Chris) is out looking for them, or if they have just been assumed to be dead.  As we read, we learn what they have to do in order to survive, and we hope just as much as they hope that they'll soon be rescued.

Overall, the story is slow moving, which is understandable given the fact that Aimee was initially engaged to another man, as well as the fact that they are in such a terrible situation.  The main conflict of the entire story was that their plane crashed and they're stranded in the middle of the rainforest.  Each day was a hurdle for them.  As they struggle to survive the situation they've been placed in, Aimee also struggles with her feelings for both Chris and Tristan, and starts to understand the different kinds of love she has for different people  All in all, it's all written very well.

There was only one thing that I didn't like about the book.  The epilogue - Specifically the second one.  I will readily admit that the epilogue was a beautiful description of the love that Aimee and Tristan had for each other.  I just don't necessarily enjoy reading about the characters so many years later.  I understand that I'm totally contradicting myself - it really was a beautifully written epilogue but I didn't enjoy it and I almost wish that it wasn't even there.  It really just made me disappointed that I missed so much of the story that wasn't told.

Overall, Withering Hope was a great read and a fabulous love story and I highly recommend it!!

Link to Amazon
Link to Nook

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: The Game Plan, A Neighbor From Hell by RL Mathewson

Spend the next 40 years in prison or break her lease early?

Normally she’d be able to say that this one was a no-brainer, but things have definitely changed since she was forced to move in across the hall from Danny Bradford.

A lot of things……

She wanted to get through one day, just ONE day without Danny Bradford doing something to test the limits to her control, but with that damn smile of his and his habit of leaving her contemplating manslaughter, she didn’t see that happening anytime soon.

He loved his family, but some days…….

It was too much, but that was okay, because his small neighbor living across the hallway provided him with endless hours of entertainment. Not on purpose of course, but did it really matter as long she made him smile?
~My Review~

It's quite possible that of all the books I've read, the Neighbor From Hell Series may be my favorite.  There's something about the humor that is written into the characters and storyline that just sucks me in and makes me want to read and reread all of the books in this series.  I started reading them when Playing For Keeps came up as a recommendation on Goodreads, and once I read that book, I was hooked.  Since reading that book, RL Mathewson has become one of my favorite authors and I've read not only the NFH series, but also her Pyte / Sentinel Series, which will get it's own blog post soon enough.  The Game Plan was a great addition to the NFH series, and I loved every minute that I read of it.

I'm pretty sure that Danny Bradford now has the number one slot in a 3-way tie with Jason and Trevor as my favorite Bradford.  The Bradford family is this absolutely HILARIOUS family where all of the men (and I supposed the women, too) are completely OBSESSED with food.  I wish I had the Bradford metabolism and could eat whatever the hell I could get my hands on without gaining a single pound.  Their obsession with food is one of the most original things I've ever read in a contemporary romance book, and it really makes this series stand out as an original.  While Danny doesn't seem to have the curse as strongly as some of his brothers or cousins, there are still a lot of scenes where the food is the main dish in the story, and I loved every moment of it.

The relationship between Danny and Jodi is great.  Yes - it's a typical Bradford relationship in that Danny absolutely torments Jodi with his Bradford antics, but they still have great banter and great individual assets.

Danny is an ex-Marine with a past that he's still trying to deal with.  He is treated with kid gloves by his family because of the injuries that he sustained in the war and because of the difficult relationship he has with his family, specifically his father.  His life has taken a completely different course than his original plan, all because of one mistake in High School.

Jodi is a single woman who was wronged by her ex-fiance who not only left her at the altar right before the wedding, but also left her with nothing but an empty bank account and a huge pile of debt.  She lives across the hall from Danny in one of Trevor's buildings, and is ready to tear her hair out by his Bradford antics.  Danny seems to have targeted her as the one woman he wants to torture in life, but since she was left by her ex, every man she has dated has automatically been friend-zoned. I loved reading about how Danny was able to break though to her.

The story flows well, and the characters are well developed and mold into the Bradford family perfectly.  We see a lot of Jason and Trevor, and I love them both.  We even get a scene with one of Trevor's devil spawn, and it absolutely hilarious.  We also get to know more of the Bradfords outside of Jarod's family, and it's a fun branch of the family to get to know.  I love that Danny calls Jodi Tinkerbell (Tink)...It was a unique nickname that hasn't been used in any other book I've read, and I thought it totally fit the bill for Jodi.  I also loved that aside from Danny's craziness (he really can be a bit of an a-hole), he had a softer side that we didn't see as much as from the other Bradfords.  Also, Jodi added to the story with her nutty reaction to medication.  It was absolutely hilarious and it made me laugh so hard.

I loved that at every turn, Danny's "Game Plan" didn't go the way he wanted it to, and he was forced to reevaluate.  It seems to be the definition of his life, and it even carried over into his love life.

All in all, I absolutely loved The Game Plan.  It was similar to the other books in the series (It's about another Bradford so I expected certain things to carry over), but it also brought a lot of different things to the table, and was really enjoyable.  I did think that the end of the book was a bit rushed, and could have been expanded on a bit, but it was still overall a great read.

I'm thinking that with more NFH Books (Darrin & Maryanne are next!), and all the Chronicles that are posted online, we'll eventually learn more about the hows and the whys the Bradfords get banned from certain places.  We got to see the family on Vacation in this book, but they seemed to be somewhat on their best behavior.  I guess I'll just have to wait for the next story to learn a bit more about the family.  I'll admit - I'm not disappointed that there will be more NFH in the future!!!

Link to Amazon:  The Game Plan
Link to Nook:  The Game Plan

Other books in the series:
Playing for Keeps (Neighbor From Hell #1) (Jason and Haley) 

Perfection (Neighbor From Hell #2) (Trevor and Zoey) 
Checkmate (Neighbor From Hell #3) (Connor and Rory) 
Truce (A Historic Neighbor From Hell #4) (Robert and Elizabeth) 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: Uncover Me (Men of Inked #4) by Chelle Bliss

Spiraling down the rabbit hole, I lost myself and became one of them. Living undercover within the MC, the days bled together as I became absorbed in a life of excess and violence.

Becoming consumed was easy.

Was I Thomas Gallo, good guy and respected cop or Blue, Sergeant-at-Arms of the Sun Devils MC?

Before, I could answer with certainty. But now, there’s a darkness that has settled deep in my soul, fusing with my heart and altering my reality forever.

The road I’ve traveled has been paved with danger, death, and deception.

Roxanne grew up as part of the MC, a victim of her birth. Her life has been treacherous, setting her on a course of torment and destruction.

When our worlds collide, secrets are revealed. Trying to save us from damnation, I fight for redemption and the woman I love.
~My Review~

So I absolutely L.O.V.E the Men of Inked Series.  I feel like Chelle Bliss does an amazing job of promoting her books, so because of her updates and teasers on Facebook, I waited not so patiently for Uncover Me to be released.  I'm late on writing my review, but I read Uncover Me the minute it was released from Amazon.  I'm pretty sure that as soon as it got pushed to my Kindle, I started reading and ended up going to sleep at 2am on a work night just so I could start learning more about Tommy and Roxy.  While I have to admit that my first love is City, I think that Tommy might just take the Number 2 slot right after him as my favorite Gallo Men.

One of the things I really liked about this book is that it was grittier than the others.  By grittier I mean that it had the MC life attached to it.  I happen to be somewhat obsessed with MC books, so this fit right in.  It was a nice change thrown into the mix of the Gallo Family.

We really don't know too much about Thomas but overall, I wasn't disappointed with Uncover Me.  This book was so different from the rest of the books, and while I know Chelle Bliss mentioned Tommy was really difficult to write, I applaud her for what she wrote.  Unlike all of the other books in there series, we started this book knowing next to nothing about Thomas.  In Hook Me, we already knew a little bit about Mike and in Resist Me, we already knew a little bit about Izzy.  Those books started and were able to compound information off of what had already been introduced in the previous books.  In this book, we know very little about Thomas other than the fact that he's undercover DEA and the little bit of information that we had in Resist Me with Izzy and Flash at Bike Week, and the resulting scene with Rebel.  I can tell it wasn't an easy task to basically start from scratch and write his story, but the it was still well developed, and the characters were well developed as well.

I really felt like I understood Thomas's struggle to figure out who he is.  He has been posing undercover with the Sun Devil MC for so long, that he really can't figure out if he is still Thomas Gallo or if he has actually turned into Blue, the Sergeant at Arms who's immersed into the life of drugs, sex, and illegal dealings.  On top of that, he's fallen in love with Roxy, who has grown up in the MC environment, and he's conflicted as to whether he is going to be able to keep her or not once he's finally able to leave this secret life.  At the same time, he has also been struggling with the fact that for all the time that he has spent with the Sun Devils, he has been missing out on spending time with his family.

Roxy, aka Angel, is another story.  She grew up in the MC environment, completely neglected by her mother.  While the MC life is the only life that she knows, she doesn't want to lead that life any more, and while she's ready to get away from her past and start over, she doesn't want people learning where she is (there's always the fear that Thomas's enemies will come after her), and she doesn't want her past as a stripper bleeding into the new life that she's making with Thomas.

I enjoyed reading the portion of the book that Blue and Roxy spend with the MC but I was honestly happy it was short lived and we could get into the heart of both of them getting reacclimated into the real world and fitting into the folds of the Gallo family.

Just like all of the other men in the series, Thomas exudes that Alpha Male tendency, strength, and determination in everything he does, but takes it is on a whole different level because of the situation he's in with the MC and that of a law enforcement agent.  Just like in all the other books, there is crazy sexual tension between Tommy and Angel, and none of the scenes they're in together disappoint.  They completely sizzle together and I loved every moment of it.

There were two big things that I didn't like about this story.  Flash and the conflict/resolution.  I didn't like Flash's involvement past what we read in Resist Me.  I really couldn't tell if he was a good guy or a bad guy, even though we know he's FBI and is undercover just like Thomas.  There was just something about him that I didn't like, and he just made the hair on the back on my neck stand up.  I also felt like the story could have moved on without him in it, and I was confused as to why he was brought in once the bust happened with the Sun Devils.

As for the main conflict:  It seemed to be resolved too quickly and without enough information.  I really can't get into it without spoiling everything, but I knew something was going to happen once Thomas and Angel were settled into their new lives together, and I felt like it deserved a bit more attention. Yes, there was a defined conflict and resolution, but the buildup was a bit short and out of the blue and the resolution lacked a bit.  Everything just happened too fast.  However, the resolution to the conflict produced a stronger bond between while it lacked, it also added to the story.  So it is what it is.

Overall, I liked Uncover Me.  It wasn't my favorite of the series, but it was still a very entertaining read and I enjoyed it.  I'm excited to read Anthony's story next, but I'm afraid that with his story, the end of the Gallos will come, and I'm really not ready for that.

Link to Amazon
Link to Nook

Other books in the series:
The Gallos (Novella) (The Beginning)
Throttle Me (Men of Inked #1) (City and Suzy)
Hook Me (Men of Inked #2) (Mike and Mia)
Throttled (Novella) (City and Suzy)
Resist Me (Men of Inked #3) (Izzy and James)
Resisting (Novella) (Izzy and James, the prequel)