Monday, March 31, 2014

ARC Review: The Day He Kissed Her

The Day He Kissed Her (Bad Boys of Crystal Lake #3)

by Juliana Stone 


He can’t wait to leave…
Mac Draper finally has everything he’s always wanted: An amazing career. A New York City apartment. He’s this close to being free of his past forever. But a mind-blowing encounter with the sexy yet tough-as-nails Lily St. Clare has him delaying his plans to put Crystal Lake in his rearview mirror for good.
She’s finally found a place to stay…
For Lily St. Clare the charming small town of Crystal Lake is her haven – a place she can hide from her famous, back-stabbing family. It’s as close to happy as she’s ever been. Until an unforgettable night with tall, dark and tortured Mac Draper gives her a glimpse of what true happiness feels like.
Lily can’t help but melt a little under the sizzling heat of Mac’s touch. But Mac’s scars run deep, and Lily’s afraid she may be falling for the one man who can never return her feelings...
Themes: contemporary
Rating: 3.75 stars
Heat Rating: 
Wow what an emotion packed ending to a pretty great trilogy. Two of the three Bad Boys have met their matches and settled down in love, but the holdout, Mac, never imagined he would be able to, much less actually want to, give in to love and family.  I loved the previous two stories in this series, and enjoyed this story quite a bit too.  If you have read the others, you will recognize that there are some heavy emotions going on for both the H/H and their families.  While I enjoy a lighthearted romance as much as the next girl, this series is more like reality and that’s one of the reasons I love it so much.  Picking up right where we left off in the last book, the finale to the Bad Boys of Crystal Lake takes you on a  journey through the courtship of two deeply wounded and distrustful individuals, both fighting their feelings for one another, but each one changing for the better before all is said and done.  Though I am sad to see the series end, it was worth it to get to see Lily and Mac get their HEA.
Lily has been avoiding any situation that might bring her into contact with Bad Boy, Mac Draper, the man she turned to months ago in a need for human connection, one that she never planned to see again.  But sometimes fate has other ideas and she is no longer able to hide from him.  Confronted with the seductive Mac, Lily puts every obstacle she can think of in his path, but that just seems to tempt him more and when he decides to stay for the summer to stage a full scale campaign to get her back into his arms, Lily is no longer able to resist the pull between them.  Mac has never felt such a pull to a woman and the intrigue and desire to be with her is too much to deny.  Though he has no intention of ever settling down, being with Lily brings too much joy to his life to keep away from her.  But the past and his own fears cause grief that seems impossible to overcome. In the end only true forgiveness and the connection of two people deeply in love and determined to make changes in their lives, can allow them to get past the pain they have caused each other and find a chance to be happy together. 
Lily is an odd duck to me.  She comes from a family of people that are famous just for being famous, and not in any way that would be considered honorable.  She didn’t handle the death of her beloved brother well at all, but finally settling in Crystal Lake and cutting herself off from the negativity of her family is her shot at having a normal life.  She certainly has her fair share of insecurities and fears about having a  relationship with Mac, but when he becomes too persistent to resist, she focuses on enjoying their time together, never realizing she is falling deeper and deeper for him,  until it is too late.  The love she feels for him leads her to make some decisions that leave her hurting, digging to find her inner core of steel and determined to not let him break her heart.  But once again fate is not fair to her and she is left with a broken heart, hurt pride, and the anger of an ultimate rejection.  I found myself crying right along with Lily several times and came to really relate to her as a woman and a great character.
Mac on the other hand is an asshole about 90% of the time.  Though I know he certainly has his reasons, his past and relationship with his family being key, I felt like he wallowed in that too much instead of embracing the man he truly could be standing on his own.  To this point the only healthy relationships he has had are with his youngest sister and his two (once three) best friends.  With a mother that chose her abusive husband over her children, a drunk bastard of a father, and the pain of losing himself in his fears, Mac has a lot to overcome to be a man that is deserving of Lily.  I wanted so many times to reach into the book and slap him for being a selfish dick, but thankfully he gets his shit together in the end and is able to step up and be the man that he was always meant to be, a man that needs and deserves the love of his life.  There was a moment in the story that was like that slap in the face to him, finally waking him up from the nightmare of his past and allowing him a chance to see the possibilities of a future with the woman he loves.
I  was a bit surprised at times by the direction the story was taking, but eventually I found  myself so hooked that I couldn’t put it down and had to find out what was coming next.  The challenges thrown at Mac and Lily both internal and external were numerous, and I honestly thought Mac would never wake up and find the courage to reach for the future he wanted.  Lily was a woman I can see myself liking and I admired her ability to put her own needs aside to try to help Mac at every turn, but when it came down to it she stood up for herself and demanded all of his heart or nothing.  Mac finally comes to see that he is worth the love Lily is offering him, that he is nothing like his father and never will be, and that settling down with a woman that he loves and respects will never lead to anything like his parents’ relationship.  I was thrilled to see them finally overcome their frailties and come together in love with a promise of a chance at a life together.  I wish there had been a better ending for Mac and his mother, but in the end he couldn’t change her and finally accepting that gave him a measure of peace at least.  Getting to see the changing lives of the other two Bad Boys was awesome and I hope to one day see them again. In the meantime, this trilogy was a deep, sometimes dark, realistic and wonderful series about the loses that can lead to changes in a life and the ability of love to build bridges, close gaps, and overcome even the most difficult of pasts.  If you haven’t read the other books in this series, you will not be lost, but you are certainly missing out because the entire series is great and Mac and Lily’s story rounds everything out and ends the series with a bang.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

ARC Mini-review: Sweetest Surrender


Sweetest Surrender (The Serafina: Sin City #3)

by Katie Reus


A woman on the run…
Angel has been on her own for two years, moving from place to place to outrun her past. With no family and few friends to lean on, she’s managed to keep her secrets and stay safe. But when her past suddenly catches up to her, she has a choice to make. Run or stay and claim her life once more.
He’ll stop at nothing to protect her…
Vadim has never let anyone close to him—until Angel. From the first time he met her, everything changed. As a private consultant for Wyatt Christiansen, he’s good with computers and he’s got connections to unearth people’s deepest, darkest secrets. When Angel’s life is threatened Vadim steps in and uses all his resources to end the threat once and for all. As the danger closes in, he lies to her in an effort to protect her, not realizing that even once the threat is eliminated, he might lose her anyway.
Themes: contemporary
Rating: 3.75 stars
Heat Rating: 
A love story between a socially awkward but incredibly sexy ex-marine turned computer geek and the sweet but secretive woman that has captured his interest and heart… what could be better? Not much in my opinion.  I have been looking forward to learning more about and getting to know Vadim since we met him in previous stories in this series.  The story of a past catching up with one of the main characters is one that we have seen a bit, more than once even from Katie, but she always gives each person their own unique spin on the theme and allows them to not ever become exactly the same.   I was happy to see Vadim come out of his comfort zone and ultimately let his emotions and desires lead him into Angel’s arms.  Even if you haven’t read any of the other stories in the series, I can say with a level of surety you will enjoy this story. 
Vadim has finally decided it’s time to take a chance and ask Angel out, being prodded by his friends, and just as he tries to make that leap Angel’s life becomes infinitely more complicated.  Thankfully Vadim is good at keeping people safe and solving problems.  With only a small amount of persuasion and manipulation he is able to get Angel right where he wants her, but when the truth of her circumstances come to light, Vadim immediately sets out to protect the woman he is coming to care for.  Angel has had enough with controlling men though and is determined to stand on her own two feet, even if her ugly past has finally caught up with her.  Deciding to embrace the relationship with Vadim, she gives herself the chance to find happiness with a man, even though he is infuriating at times and impossible to get a read on at other times. Ultimately there is no fighting their need for one another and getting past the small misunderstandings makes their happiness that much more deserved.  When the ultimate test of trust comes, Vadim and Angel overcome beautifully and are able to finally have the life they both desired, together.
Angel is a bit of a sad character, having fate working against her in the past, but ultimately I think it led her to Vadim, right where she needed to be. Though she is emotionally scarred by her past, she is willing to get past her insecurities for a chance to have Vadim all for herself, though she never imagines he will actually want her as much as she has always wanted him.  Obviously they are both clueless since all their friends and coworkers could see their feelings for each other while they couldn’t see it for themselves. When Angel finally decides to stand up for herself and work with Vadim to change her life, I liked her even more than when she was running from her past.  Seeing that backbone come out, seeing her demand her due from Vadim, and finally seeing her get her justice makes me even more happy that I got to meet Angel.  Vadim on the other hand is a strong silent guy, one with some serious kickass skills hidden under his placid exterior.  His ability to blank his emotions from his face leaves Angel a bit lost at time, but thankfully he lets his guard fall in the end so she can see the love he feels for her.  His protective streak is one that is wider and more deadly than the river Styx to those that threaten his loved ones, especially his woman. Though he is socially awkward, when he makes friends or develops relationship they are deep and lasting, as evidenced by his friends and the depth of love that Angel feels for him.  I loved Vadim on a couple of levels, but one that should not be forgotten is his obvious soft spot for his German Sheppard Charlie, because as much of a scary dude as he is to others, he is a squishy teddy bear around Charlie, showing us the true man that lurks inside him.
This story certainly lives up to its name.  In the end angel has to let go of her fears and surrender to Vadim and the love that develops between them, a bit unexpectedly, but it really is the Sweetest Surrender and the most rewarding move she has ever made in her life.  Vadim is a sexy, alpha, protective, and dedicated man who will go above and beyond every time to make Angel’s life safer, better and filled with love. Angel is a bit stubborn, but when she finally gives in to him and lets their love bloom, the result is wonderfully fulfilling for them both.  The plot of her past catching up with her, while a common enough theme, certainly came with its own plot twist that I never saw coming.  I have enjoyed this series and the original it spawned from (Red Stone Security) from the very beginning and Vadim’s story was right up there with my favorites.  I am looking forward to more in the series, but I must continue to reiterate I would love for them to be even the tiniest bit longer. Keep up the great work Katie.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

ARC Review: Bite Me

Bite Me (Pride #9)

by Shelly Laurenston


Livy Kowalski has no time for idiots. When you shapeshift into a honey badger, getting through life’s irritants is a finely honed skill. Until she gets stuck housing her nutso cousin and dealing with her dad’s untimely and unexplained demise.
That’s where Vic Barinov comes in—or his house does. Vic can’t step outside without coming back to find Livy devouring his honey stash and getting the TV remote sticky. It gets his animal instincts all riled up. But he’ll have to woo her at high speed: all hell is breaking loose, and Livy is leading the charge…
Themes: shifters, paranormal
Rating: 4.5 stars
Heat Rating: 
For those of you out there that have not been following along with the Pride series from the very beginning, my review might seem a bit strange, but for the rest of us Pride and Laurenston lovers you’ll get exactly where I’m coming from when I say: “holy shit, these honey badgers are scary!” Laurenston has thrilled readers with all the different intermingled breeds of shifters in her world, and more recently the hybrids that are coming out of the woodwork with their freakish differences to make life even more amazing. From the very first book of Laurenston’s I read, I have been in love with all her writing, with the hilarity of her characters and the shit they find themselves in, and ultimately with the world she creates that sucks readers right into her imagination.  In this newest installment we get to see a whole new faction coming into the forefront, one that is terrifying and side-splittingly funny all at the same time.  I loved Livy and Vic individually and together and would love to see just what their cubs will be one day!
Livy’s life is in a tailspin that she can’t seem to recover from, but meeting Vic and trying to understand the new dynamic in her life is just too much for her.  As Vic tries more and more to be nice to Livy, she becomes stranger and stranger, only intriguing him more, creating a bit of a vicious and comical cycle.  Honestly there were moments in this story that I thought I would wet myself because I was laughing so hard. Livy, being a honey badger, but one that is even strange to her fellow honey badgers, is one woman that I would love to meet, briefly and only if I was on her good side on a good day….bearing several jars of honey.  She seems to genuinely care about her friends and family, though at times she certainly doesn’t understand their actions.  When she needs them, though, they are all there to rally around her.  I can honestly say that Livy scared me a bit, she was such a terrifying character, the ultimate predator: sweet and unassuming looking, with a hair-trigger temper and the ability to pretty much rip your face off without breaking a sweat.  Thankfully Vic is a steadying influence on her. 
Vic is a strange guy in his own right.  While I would say he has his moments of temper, strange behavior, and violent overreaction, overall he was pretty stable and a good guy to those around him.  Being a hybrid tiger/bear he has a certain tendency toward laziness, but once riled is a dangerous creature to be in the line of fire.  Defending shifters in general, his friends in particular and protecting Livy with his every breath, Vic is a man that uses all his considerable skills and advantages as a hybrid to get shit done when the need arises.  And just wait til you read all about his hybrid form! Vic obviously has feelings for Livy, though they confuse him as much as her, but the more time her spends with her it becomes obvious that the desire and passion are there, even if he is afraid of losing control and having her reject him.  But once she fully accepts him in all his hybrid freakish glory, there is no keeping Livy from his arms, bed, or heart. 
Bite Me was an wonderful continuation of a series that has gone in so many directions over the years, getting to meet new shifters, see old faces, and wrap up old story arcs all while having two unique and wonderful shifters come together in love.  Though there were a few lulls here and there in the story and sometimes the weirdness got even a bit much for me, in the end I can say I really enjoyed Livy and Vic’s story.  Seeing two creatures that have previously been reviled by others of their kind for their differences find love together was a wonderful reminder of the power of love to overcome all obstacles. While I would certainly have loved a bit more relationship time between Livy and Vic, I think the story was well written, progressed smoothly, and the love in the end was there for all to see.  It was great getting to share in the antics of the HB clans and seeing them taking care of business, as well as seeing some of the other badasses that have fallen in love during this series. If you haven’t read any of the series, you might find yourself asking WTF a lot, but otherwise I think you will love this amusing and entertaining look into the world of predators and the world they keep hidden from us.  I am dying to know whose story will be next and getting to read more.  I’m hoping for one of the Reed boys, but I guess we’ll see.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mini-Review: Twisted

Twisted (Dark Protectors #5.5)

by Rebecca Zanetti


Maggie is a wolf shifter who was captured and experimented on by the Kurjans. Now that a cure has finally been found for shifters (although not for vampire mates or witches), she can concentrate on creating a new life for herself and finally accepting that her memories are gone forever. Most memories, that is. Sometimes in the hazy world between dreams and dawn, she hears a Scottish voice, dark and deep, that sounds suspiciously like wolf-shifter Terrent Vilks. A man she happened to anger by kidnapping a few years back. Hey, it was for a good cause.
Terrent Vilks knows more than he’s let on for the past several years. After digging for answers, he knows exactly why the demons want Maggie dead. And he remembers his past with Maggie…very well. She is finally where he wants her. Now all he has to do is discover what exactly the Kurjans did to her, beat the demons into so much submission they leave her alone, and get her to fall in love with him. Again. Good thing he’s used to wrangling monsters.

Themes: Shifters, Werewolves, Vampires, Demons, Paranormal

Rating: 3.5 stars

Heat Rating: 


Fans of the Dark Protectors series have finally gotten what they have been salivating for since almost the beginning of the series:  Mysterious Maggie is finally unveiled.  I have been dying to find out the truth of Maggie’s past and the reason behind the connection she felt to Terrent since their very first meeting. I never imagined just how complicated their pasts were. This series has kept me intrigued for many years and I cannot wait to find out where the next story will take us.
Maggie’s on a mission from the king, trying to uncover the culprit behind the contamination of several vials of vaccines distributed to the national wolf packs and her prime suspect is council leader Terrent Vilks.  But never did she imagine that being with Terrent would bring the truth of her long forgotten past to light again.  She’s lived for over a decade with no real idea of who she was, suffering from traumatic amnesia, and she’s willing to even deal with Terrent’s arrogance if he can give her some answers.  And boy-oh-boy does he have the answers.  Terrent has loved Maggie for over a decade and has been trying to find a way to keep her safe from the monsters who stole her memories and all others that might hurt her.  But with war heating up around them again, pack infighting, and the fears she has of controlling men, will Terrent ever be able to convince Maggie to return his love or will they be forever forced apart by her broken memory?
Terrent is the supreme alpha wolf, a sexy shifter with all the arrogance of a man who knows what he wants and will go to any extreme to get it.  I loved seeing him finally reveal his true self to Maggie, showing her the vulnerable inner wolf that just wants his mate and the wounded man who wants her love in return.  I can’t imagine having the love of your life stolen from you, her memories erased, and having to hide your love from her for a decade, but Terrent has managed to survive it while he works to make the world safer for Maggie.  Maggie is obviously a kick-ass female, one to match Terrent in every way, but the past ten years have reshaped her into an even more challenging woman as she lived and fought alongside the vampire royal family.   Even without her past, she knows the woman she is and will let nobody, no man especially, tell her she needs to change. The connection between these two very strong personalities was palpable from the second they met in a previous story, but when they are finally alone the heat and desire they both feel is astounding.  When Terrent allows his guard down, finally letting Maggie see his true feelings for her there is no denying the love and connection they both feel, even if Maggie’s brain still hasn't caught up with her heart or her inner wolf.
I very much enjoyed this short novella, though I honestly would have loved if Maggie and Terrent has gotten a full length novel because they just had so much to work through, both as a couple and with the world around them. I loved the little plot twists about the vaccine and the issues with that, as well as the way pack politics affected Terrent and Maggie’s new life.  The sensual wolf bonding between Terrent and Maggie was a conflagration that I imagine blurred the world around them and wrapped them in their own private oasis.  I relished seeing Terrent bare his soul to Maggie and knew that she would protect him and his heart at all costs.  When they finally worked together they defeated all comers and that strength of bond will keep them together forever, a perfect match and a love for eternity.  I am very much looking forward to the next story in the series, Jase’s story, which has been a long time coming and will no doubt be full of danger, drama, heartache, and passion.  If you haven’t started this series, get to reading, so you’re caught up and can enjoy with along me. 
*ebook provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided.