Channel 20something by Amy Patrick


Plot summary:

22-year-old Heidi Haynes is almost one year into her “real life”. She has her first reporting job, her first apartment, and a comfortable relationship with her college sweetheart. But for some reason she’s not as eager to talk about walking down the aisle as he is.

Heidi secretly longs for big cities, big-market breaking news, and real independence from her way-too-close-by helicopter parents. Problem is, the last time she left the security of home for new places and new people, things didn’t go so well. Disastrously, in fact, and she came running back to a local college and a “safe” boyfriend.

Aric Serrano is definitely not safe.

He’s six-feet-four-inches of missing-Hemsworth-brother-hotness and plans to stay in small-market-Southern-Hell just long enough to grab a cup of coffee and put together a kick-ass “escape tape”. He’ll serve his one-year contract, then he’s taking off for a higher rung on the TV sports ladder—alone—the way he likes it. Then he meets his new co-anchor.

Heidi would be so much more comfortable if she could simply ignore Aric—he’s just her type—the type she’s so careful to avoid these days. But that becomes impossible when she’s forced to work closely with him on the weekend news. Now the attraction between them is growing even faster than the ratings, and what happens behind the scenes is the real news.

*** Three Stars
I was super excited to read the synopsis for this book and to be approved for an ARC on NetGalley. Being a journalist myself, there aren’t enough romance heroines in journalism – we live exciting lives!

So I delved into this book with maybe some high expectations and overall, this was a nice book. Nice was a good word to describe the plot, the heroine, the hero, everything. Sometimes it felt too nice – at least, halfway through, everyone seemed too good to be true. Even Heidi, with her relationship hangups and loveless “on a break” relationship with Hale (what a name!) was ultimately innocent and didn’t seem to have too much depth.

I think I would have liked to see Heidi be more feisty, especially for a news reporter. It’s a tough job where you’re chasing some unpleasant stories sometimes with some unpleasant people to deal with. I think in the real world Heidi would get eaten alive in the news industry. I was never quite sure why Aric was so drawn to her except for that he thought she was beautiful – and her reasons for resisting him were hard to grasp for half of the book since the details of her previous relationship that broke her heart were vague. (The reveal does make her easier to sympathize with). As for Aric, he was Mr. Perfect – I kind of pictured a Ken doll when picturing him. Did he have a single flaw?

Despite the qualms I did have, this was well written, the characters are likable, and the romance is sweet. It is very, very light reading and great for a day when you don’t want something heavy, just a mindless romance.

Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally


Plot summary:

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

**** Four Stars

Another Miranda Kenneally book, another book read in practically one sitting. I love the Hundred Oaks series and enjoyed this installment. It didn’t go too deep, though it dealt with a couple of sad themes. My favorite book in this series remains #3 about Matt and Kate, so I was excited that this book featured him in some way and the love interest was his womanizing younger brother Jeremiah. I have run two marathons so I could completely relate to the marathon training details – it was obvious MK has run a marathon before too, as on-point as she was with these details, and she confirmed that in the acknowledgments.

I liked Annie’s reconnection with some girls from school leading to her roommates in college, and her relationship with her brother was nice too. Her past with her deceased boyfriend was fleshed out just enough to give a glimpse of how Annie viewed it – we got some sweet memories, some sad memories, and I believed Annie’s feelings to be realistic and natural. Her initial start to the relationship with Jeremiah was a bit much, but they settle into a nice friendship which was nice to read about.

The great thing about all of Miranda’s books in this series are the friendships the love interests develop before they become a couple. I like reading those building-up details and getting invested in the couple before the payoff.

Harder by Robin York


Publisher’s plot summary:

Caroline still dreams about West. His warm skin, his taut muscles, his hand sliding down her stomach. Then she wakes up and she’s back to reality: West is gone. And before he left, he broke her heart.

Then, out of the blue, West calls in crisis. A tragedy has hit his family—a family that’s already a fractured mess. Caroline knows what she has to do. Without discussion, without stopping to think, she’s on a plane, flying to his side to support him in any way he needs.

They’re together again, but things are totally different. West looks edgy, angry at the world. Caroline doesn’t fit in. She should be back in Iowa, finalizing her civil suit against the ex-boyfriend who posted their explicit pictures on a revenge porn website. But here she is. Deeply into West, wrapped up in him, in love with him. Still.

They fought the odds once. Losing each other was hard. But finding their way back to each other couldn’t be harder.

**** Four Stars

** spoiler alert ** I had mixed feelings as I went along the journey of this book, finding myself very frustrated with the characters and at the same time invested and intrigued by their story. I loved “Deeper” and was so excited to get this book.

Sometimes in books I will hate how characters act, what they do, and it will cause me to throw the book down, but in this case, I had to keep going to see how things would turn out. Perhaps I am not a romantic enough to fully accept unconditional and undeserved love in a story, because I want to see both people in the relationship really give to each other. When West takes off and Caroline goes to help him in his time of need, he pushes her away as much as he can, pulling a completely terrible move to try and get her out of his life permanently. Why does he do this? Of course, because he doesn’t feel good enough for her. Caroline finally does leave, only to be reunited with West a few months later when he returns to school. At this point, I wanted to see West win the right to love Caroline again, not to see Caroline immediately give herself up again because her love is so unconditional. She was mad at him, she felt betrayed, but West doesn’t have to lift a finger really to apologize. She immediately forces her way back into his life again until he will accept her. And while he does feel guilt about what he does, and she isn’t just magically over it, I still never felt like, OK, West had to work to get Caroline back and now he deserves her.

There are some subplots with West’s sister and Caroline’s lawsuit against her ex-boyfriend, but the messed up relationship between C&W takes center stage and I just found myself frustrated with how it progressed most of the time. Maybe I am too traditionalist, wanting the guy to fight for the girl, not see the girl continually throw herself at the guy no matter how much he pushes her away. Again, she does this in love, knowing that he loves her and feels he is not good enough for her. But in my opinion, West only proves that point with his actions.

A copy of this book was provided free via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Only with You by Lauren Layne


Publisher’s plot summary:

Cocktail waitress Sophie Dalton doesn’t exactly have a life plan. She’s perfectly happy being everyone’s favorite party girl. But when a Las Vegas bachelorette party goes awry and an uptight businessman mistakes Sophie for a prostitute . . . well, Sophie wonders if it’s time to reevaluate her priorities. Swearing off her thigh-high boots for good, Sophie slinks back home with damaged pride-and a jackpot of a hangover.

Yet what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there. On a trip to Seattle to open a new office, Grayson Wyatt meets his latest employee-who turns out to be the same woman he recently called a hooker. Wealthy and gorgeous, Gray is a man used to getting what he wants. And it doesn’t take long to figure out that smart, sassy, sexy Sophie is everything he’s been looking for. As their late nights at the office turn into hot morning-afters, they realize their Vegas misunderstanding may lead to the real thing . . .

**** Four Stars

Another great Lauren Layne romance – this woman can do no wrong in my eyes. I find that each and every one of her books keeps my interested and entertained and enjoying the couple, no matter what the differing personalities of her characters may be.

Here we have fun-loving and directionless Sophie matching wits with the dull and focused Grayson as she goes to work for him following him mistaking her as a hooker in their hotel elevator. (Hilarity ensues). The slow-building friendship and love-hate interactions between Sophie and Gray were both funny and touching. I love that Layne never writes insta-love romances, which are the hardest for me to enjoy or invest in. Instead, Sophie and Gray’s attraction builds up throughout almost the entire book before they finally act on it, and of course even then, the happy ending is not immediate. I am very excited for the next book in this series featuring Sophie’s sister and best friend.

ARC provided courtesy of NetGalley

Yours For Eternity: A Love Story on Death Row by Damien Echols and Lorri Davis


Publisher’s book description:

From one of the greatest legal injustices of our time sprang one of the most unlikely—and unforgettable—love stories. Damien Echols was just eighteen years old when he was condemned to death for a crime he didn’t commit. His case—that of the infamous “West Memphis Three”—gained notoriety after a documentary, Paradise Lost, exposed the biased nature of the trial and Echols as the precocious, charming—and tragic—figure at its center. Lorri Davis was a landscape architect living in New York City when she surreptitiously wandered into a showing of the film, and she left forever changed. She, too, was from the South, accustomed to being the outsider in a small town. She saw much of herself in Echols, understood how he could easily have been swept up in a witch hunt, and she couldn’t get him out of her head. So she wrote him a letter—and when it arrived in Echols’s penitentiary cell in April 1996, hers were some of the first kind words of support he heard.

Over the course of a remarkable sixteen-year correspondence, Echols and Davis grew to know each other, fall in love, and marry—all without ever being able to touch each other freely or be alone together. In Yours for Eternity, their extraordinary letters provide a singular portrait of their marriage, from the first, heady days of discovery to the final, painful months before Echols’s release. Through postscripts and footnotes, Echols and Davis describe how they overcame the enormous challenges and heartbreaks throughout the years—personal setbacks, legal complications, and much more. Yours for Eternity reveals a relationship unfolding in the most exceptional of circumstances. Powerful and incredibly intimate, it is a modern-day love story for the ages.

**** Four Stars

I have been intrigued by the West Memphis Three case for a few years, having seen the 48 Hours episode regarding the case before the three were freed, then reading tons of media coverage when they were released from jail in exchange for the Alford guilty plea in August 2011. Since then, I have watched four documentaries and read three books on the case. Maybe it’s because I am a woman, but one of the most intriguing aspects that I wanted to know more about was the relationship between Damien Echols, who had been on Death Row, and his wife Lorri, who met and married him after he went to prison. Typically you think women who would do such a thing are desperate or a little crazy or just want attention. Lorri appeared on 48 Hours and seemed so normal and lovely and not-crazy. How did this relationship develop? What kept them together for the 15 years it took to get him out of prison after she started writing him letters?

This book serves to show the progression of their relationship through the countless letters Damien and Lorri wrote to each other while he was in prison. There is not much information about the WM3 case, so I would recommend this book mostly to people who are already familiar with that and want to know more about the personal life of the inmate who undoubtedly got the most attention of the three. I don’t think someone who has never heard of the case would be able to pick this up and feel connected or invested or super interested in it, UNLESS they are someone who particularly likes reading correspondence between interesting people in an interesting setting. This definitely shows the interesting dynamic of a prisoner/free woman relationship, but to me, knowing all the background and already being familiar with who these people are is what stoked and kept my interest the entire time.

In between the letters there are some present-day comments from Lorri and Damien along with a few footnotes and a few pictures of the actual letters. I am not sure if the final version of the book will include more photos or anything like that – in my ebook, which I received as an ARC via NetGalley, there were only a couple.

I think what I would have liked, already knowing the WM3 case and not needing that explained to me, would be to have been provided more information about how Lorri and Damien have handled life post-prison. I can tell from some of what Lorri wrote in the book that she was pretty hesitant about sharing their private writings with the world, so I can understand that sharing their private dealings together now might be too much. While Damien is on Twitter and seems pretty active online, he doesn’t talk too much about his personal life, and Lorri doesn’t seem to have an online presence at all. So this is a good way to get more insight into their relationship and how this crazy-seeming relationship actually began and thrived in what seems like a miserable, barren time.

I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends by Courtney Robertson


Book description:

Courtney Robertson joined season 16 of The Bachelor looking for love. A working model and newly single, Courtney fit the casting call: She was young, beautiful, and a natural in front of the cameras. Although she may have been there for all the right reasons, as the season unfolded and sparks began to fly something else was clear: She was not there to make friends.

Courtney quickly became one of the biggest villains in Bachelor franchise history. She unapologetically pursued her man, steamrolled her competition, and broke the rules—including partaking in an illicit skinny-dip that sealed her proposal. Now, after a very public breakup with her Bachelor, Ben Flajnik, Courtney opens up and tells her own story—from her first loves to her first moments in the limo. She dishes on life before, during, and after the Bachelor, including Ben’s romantic proposal to her on a Swiss mountaintop and the tabloid frenzy that continued after the cameras stopped rolling.

For the first time ever, a former Bachelor contestant takes us along on her journey to find love and reveals that “happily ever after” isn’t always what it seems. Complete with stories, tips, tricks, and advice from your favorite Bachelor alumni, and filled with all the juicy details Courtney fans and foes alike want to know, I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends is a must-read for every member of Bachelor nation.

***** Five Stars

I was super thrilled to be granted a digital review copy of this book by It Books/HarperCollins via Edelweiss. I have been a fan of The Bachelor/Bachelorette since high school, when I remember watching Trista get proposed to by Ryan, feeling thrilled that she picked him because I had read on the Internet that she had picked Charlie. Nowadays, Internet articles and blogs and spoilers regarding the show are all over the place, and my interest hasn’t waned. One particular tabloid favorite was Courtney Robertson, the villain of Bachelor 16 who won Ben’s heart even though all the girls in the house – and America – hated her guts. Ben didn’t come off looking too great either. They of course eventually broke up, and now she is telling all in this new book due out next month.

I wish there were more Bachelor tell-alls out there, but the contestants do sign confidentiality agreements, so there are some limitations. Because of that I was a little worried that this book wouldn’t actually be all that forthcoming, but Courtney spends a lot of the book on her journey filming the show.

We start off with a prologue detailing her engagement to Ben, before the media storm started and she realized she’d be this season’s villain once the shows started to air. Then we go back in time to how she got into modeling and time spent dating some sort of notable names in Hollywood. She talks about the process of getting on The Bachelor, filming the show and how she felt about the girls there (she didn’t really hold back on TV and she doesn’t hold back here), plus how she felt about Ben. It would seem she really did have genuine feelings for Ben, even if they were fueled by a desire to win the show. She throws out some juicy details that you wouldn’t know just from watching the show (like what happened in the Fantasy Suite), and their life after the show ended. Courtney was definitely no angel, but I could buy that she was ostracized by the other girls pretty quickly which wouldn’t have inspired her to be any nicer to them. I also completely buy everything she says about how Ben acted in their relationship after the show, because he started to come off as insensitive and sort of thoughtless as the season went on anyway. She definitely doesn’t hold back on much of anything (who knew how much she hated Trista Sutter?! Yikes).

We also get the deets on her relationship with Arie after she broke up with Ben, and a fun epilogue that gives us updates on various people mentioned in the book.

All in all a very funny, entertaining and interesting read, that I finished in one evening. Fans of The Bachelor who have watched for the past few years will definitely want to pick this up.

Here are some highlights of Courtney on the show, if you need a refresher:

Stupid Girl by Cindy Miles


Publisher’s plot summary:

Only fools fall in love…

After her senior year of high school leaves behind nothing but heartache, Olivia Beaumont is sure of this: She’s no stupid girl. She sets out for Winston College, promising herself that she will remain focused on her first and only love – astronomy. But all it takes is cocky sophomore Brax Jenkins and an accidental collision with a football, to throw her entire year off course.

A quick-tempered Southie who escaped the inner city streets of Boston to pitch for Winston, Brax is known to play way more fields than just the baseball diamond. So, when his name is drawn to take part in his fraternity’s hazing dare, Brax eagerly accepts the mission to take Olivia’s virginity. But he doesn’t plan on falling hard for the sweet and sassy Texas girl who sees right through his bad-boy persona.

As Olivia and Brax battle their feelings for each other, echoes of the past year begin to surface. A boy who once turned Olivia’s whole world upside down reappears, and “harmless” pranks wreak havoc. Pretty soon the aspiring astronomer is on the verge of revealing her most difficult, heartbreaking secret. All the while, Brax must wrestle with the irrevocable dare, and Olivia struggles against all logic as she does the one thing only a stupid girl would do: fall in love.

**** Four Stars

Olivia has just arrived at college when she is bowled over by baseball star Brax. He’s got the worst reputation as far as his past, his behavior with girls, everything, but despite warnings from her roommate, Olivia lets herself start to fall for him. He seems different with her, totally smitten despite his typical MO as a player. Meanwhile, the guy who sexually assaulted Olivia (the book opens with her coming to after it happened) has magically gotten away with facing any consequences, attends the same school and even has a class with her.

Besides having to avoid this criminal who gets to walk around free amongst her and everyone else, something isn’t quite right with Brax – a secret he’s keeping from her that will only end up hurting her even more.

I enjoyed this book for the most part, though one thing that got on my nerves was the emphasis on Brax’s Boston accent throughout the book. I get that the author didn’t want to have to write his accent into every line of dialogue, but the italicized words after a lot of sentences just kind of got in the way after awhile. I also thought Olivia, for someone who had been raped, was insanely stupid for not telling her brothers right away or a teacher or someone what this guy had done to her. I understand he got away with it and that must have made her feel powerless, but no way in you-know-where am I sticking around the same zip code with him without some back-up from someone who knows what happened.

I received a free ebook via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

ImagePublisher’s plot summary

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be?

**** Four stars

I had been looking forward to this book for awhile and really ended up enjoying the story of a girl who uses “The Art of War” tactics to win back her ex-boyfriend.

Of course, the reader can see right from the start that Lainey’s ex-boyfriend is a complete tool and so not worth the effort. I really wanted to strangle Lainey at times in the beginning as she lists the most shallow reasons for needing to get back with Josh.

While I don’t quite know if Lainey ever grasps that Josh is an insensitive idiot jerk and she deserves better, thankfully she does somewhat come to see the light in that at 16/17, chances are you aren’t going to marry the person you’ve been dating since freshman year.

Lainey’s friend Bianca was a wonderful sidekick, while Kendall was more stereotyped. I loved Micah, though like Lainey felt a little confused about his motivations, but I’m sure he felt confused by hers too. All in all, a fun little read and good way to pass some time with a nice romantic entanglement to enjoy.

Breakable by Tammara Webber

ImagePlot summary:

As a child, Landon Lucas Maxfield believed his life was perfect and looked forward to a future filled with promise — until tragedy tore his family apart and made him doubt everything he ever believed.

All he wanted was to leave the past behind. When he met Jacqueline Wallace, his desire to be everything she needed came so easy…

As easy as it could be for a man who learned that the soul is breakable and that everything you hoped for could be ripped away in a heartbeat.

**** Four Stars

Oh man. I was looking forward to “Breakable” for so long that I thought the anticipation was going to kill me. Then I received an email letting me know I would receive an ARC in the mail, and those few days waiting for that package were like all the previous months of waiting combined. I realized at some point that the anticipation of the book might have given me too high of expectations, since I fully believe in Tammara Webber’s ability to give us a second POV of a book without it being monotonous and unoriginal. I even thought I might be enjoying the anticipation of the book more than I would enjoy the actual book.

Well, it finally arrived in the mail and I started it immediately, trying to temper my expectations to a reasonable level.

Webber definitely gives us a book that is different from “Easy” in many ways, interspersing the timeline of “Easy” with Lucas’ past, specifically the years following his mother’s death, his high school antics and transformation into kind of a rebel, as well as the first girl that really broke his heart. We see how Dr. Heller swooped in and helped set Lucas back on the right path, which leads us to how he became the man Jacqueline meets, the guy who has ten odd jobs and knows martial arts and makes it his mission to protect her.

I liked seeing his viewpoint in several of the scenes with Jacqueline from “Easy,” and I liked getting to see how he first noticed her and his thoughts about her before the first night he rescued her from Buck. I also liked how we got a few extra scenes with her, specifically a couple of romantic ones, and see how he was telling her he loved her in his head, but couldn’t get the courage to say it aloud. I loved how we saw at the end when Jacqueline meets his father and they finally tell each other they love each other, along with his plotting to find a job in the same area as her new school. There were many new pieces to the “Easy” timeline of the story, and those were nice little treats to discover, especially as someone who has read “Easy” several times.

You definitely need to have read “Easy” before hand, and maybe even skim it or re-read it before reading “Breakable,” because unless you have certain scenes like memorized from Jacqueline’s point of view, you’ll miss the fullness of those scenes in Lucas’ POV because Webber does not waste precious text with word-for-word repeats of what they said in “Easy.” In many cases whatever has been said between them is summarized.

I think the reason I have to give it 4 stars rather than 5 is because I did not fully get invested in Lucas’ “past” story that takes up half of the book. I did like seeing his growth some of the characters from that time, but because I love “Easy” so much and that relationship with Jacqueline, her obvious absence from his past made me care less about those parts. We find that Lucas was used by another “perfect” girl who only wanted him to be her rebound, which provides explanation for why he would be sensitive about Jacqueline possibly using him as a rebound from Kennedy. That was good insight. I just didn’t necessarily get emotional about any of those past scenes, as well written as they were.

Ultimately this is a must read for fans of “Easy,” and “Easy” is a must read for anyone who wants to read this book, if you haven’t done so already. I love Webber’s work and this is no exception.

I received an ARC from Penguin in exchange for my honest review. Thank you Penguin!


Pivot Point by Kasie West


Plot summary:

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

***** Five Stars

I have only read a select few novels with this type of storyline, where the main character has some special power or gift, and maybe that is why I shied about from reading this for so long even though I adored Kasie West’s book “The Distance Between Us.”

But once I settled in to “Pivot Point,” I could not stop reading and was happy to find a great mix of romance, intrigue and uniqueness as Addison sees two different futures which hinge upon which parent she decides to live with.

About 3/4 of the way through, I was thinking I’d give the book a 4, but when I finished I was exhilarated and immediately had to pick up “Split Second,” so that definitely bumped it up to a 5 for me. Kasie West is definitely a must-read for me from now on.

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