Review: Beautiful

Review: BeautifulBeautiful (Beautiful Bastard, #5) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #5
Published by Gallery Books on October 4, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A satisfying conclusion to the Beautiful series with a new couple who made me laugh and smile. Jensen and Pippa are perfect together despite their differences but Jensen and Hanna definitely have similar work obsession problems!

THE STORY: Times are changing for the Beautiful crew with the addition of a number of children and a group have decided to take a wine tasting tour. Included is one of Ruby’s friends, Pippa and Hanna’s brother, Jensen. As the unmarried couple in the group, the two are naturally matched together. Both are recovering from failed relationships and the lure of a holiday romance is irresistible. But what happens when the holiday is over.

OPINION: This book is elevated by the appearances of the Beautiful crew. The story is good, but it doesn’t compare to the first three couples in the series. On the other hand, I enjoyed this story more than Niall and Ruby’s.

Pippa and Jensen made me laugh. The two are such opposites and it was wonderful to see how these two end up melding so well together. There was something really beautiful about how Pippa expects Jensen to be judgmental about her, but he truly falls for her for herself.

I also really liked the symmetry of this story (won’t give spoilers here). Even if the events are a bit unlikely, there was something in how it came together that made my heart warm.

What I didn’t like as much is how these two are a bit stupid with miscommunication, or more accurately, lack of communication. The troubles between Jensen and Pippa is all about not talking to one another. I’m not a person that hates that plot device, but the excuses here made me roll my eyes at times.

But ultimately, the strength of the connection between Jensen and Pippa made up for the plot device keeping them apart.

And the ending of this book was simply wonderful and a great treat for anyone who has followed the entire series.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are appearances here from Bennett and Chloe, Max and Sara, Will and Hanna, and Niall and Ruby. I love the relationship between these characters and this book feels like a big homecoming for everyone.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL is the fifth and final book in the Beautiful series. The romance here is self-contained and can be read as a standalone, but this book is filled with the other couples in the series and serves as a conclusion for the series so it is better after reading the other books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Wicked Sexy Liar

Review: Wicked Sexy LiarWicked Sexy Liar (Wild Seasons, #4) by Christina Lauren
Series: Wild Seasons #4
Published by Gallery Books on February 2, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this story, but I ultimately needed more to accept Luke’s quick transformation. (I believed he would be faithful, but I needed as a reader more time to pass before this couple felt right to me).

THE STORY: London Hughes knows better than to get involved with the men who come into the bar where she works. But feeling knocked off her game, she decides “why not” and takes up the offer with the serious player Luke Sutter. But London is determined to keep it sex only. Luke, however, can’t stop thinking about this woman who breaks through his endless parade of women and makes him question himself.

OPINION: I liked a lot about this book, but the central part of the book which is Luke turning away from his years of having sex with numerous women and not having any relationships with them just didn’t work for me as well as I needed it to.

Luke was devastated by the end of his relationship with the girl he expected to always be with (Mia from SWEET FILTHY BOY). He has spent the years since keeping his distance from any serious relationship with a variety of women.

London is a woman who doesn’t trust the words of a man who can slip from one woman’s bed to another. But London also sees something more in Luke. And Luke begins to see something in himself as well.

There was so much that I liked about this book. London and Luke have a really good relationship and connection. I enjoyed seeing both London and Luke challenged in their personal viewpoints. Their relationship was smart and modern and funny and sexy hot.

My complaint is that Luke’s endless sexual partners are a big problem for London and is in fact the central issue in the story. As such, I needed something more dramatic in his transformation or more time to elapse to see his transformation. This was especially true for me because Luke violates one of my big romance no-nos. He has sex with another woman after he and London first start up their relationship. No, it’s not cheating, but it really bothered me. So, he needed to do something more to prove that he will be faithful to her. Maybe this book needed an longer view epilogue, but for whatever reason, I finished this book not yet convinced.

WORTH MENTIONING: My book included the short story A NOT-JOE NOT-SO-SHORT SHORT. I really, really liked this story and I wanted more. There was a sweetness and a reality to the story. Not-Joe takes a liking to Ansel’s ex, Perry. I could have read a whole book about these two and I had a thought that this would be a great start to a serial series about Not-Joe and Perry. A good addition.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED SEXY LIAR is the fourth book in the Wild Seasons series. The romance here is self-contained and thus can be read on its own. There are overlapping characters, however, and the relationships are more significant after reading all the books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Dark Wild Night

Review: Dark Wild NightDark Wild Night (Wild Seasons, #3) by Christina Lauren
Series: Wild Seasons #3
Published by Gallery Books on September 15, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 341
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of this series by far. I loved Lola and Oliver. Their friends to lovers story was complicated and emotional and difficult. These two are perfect for one another but have to find a way to be together.

THE STORY: Lola and Oliver are the final couple of the three that met and married impulsively in Las Vegas. But Lola and Oliver see themselves as the wise couple. Instead of engaging in sex, the two spent the evening walking Las Vegas and talking before their quickie divorce the next day. In the months since the two have become good friends. But there are deep undercurrents to their friendship as each is intensely attracted to the other but fear destroying their friendship by reaching for more.

OPINION: This is the first book that I really loved in this series. Lola and Oliver felt much more relatable to me. They are proud nerds, Oliver owns a comic book store and Lola writes graphic novels. Both have issues arising from parental abandonment when they were children. But each has a different sensitivity because of their past — and that causes complications.

Lola and Oliver have built a special friendship with one another. I loved their relationship which felt real and connected. When so often romance books concern couples meeting and falling in love in days, I really enjoyed this story where Lola and Oliver have an obvious rapport with one another. By the time their relationship becomes something more, there is a deep emotional significance. And that made the sex scenes hotter and more emotional.

I adored Oliver who is much more understanding and tolerant than many would be of Lola’s quirks, insecurities and naivete. I might have believed him too tolerant until he finally took a stand. I loved that he retains all his strength but loves Lola and wants her to be her best self as well. I also really love a hero with glasses.

Lola is the more difficult character in this book. She was sometimes hard for me to feel sympathy for, but I loved how this book unravels her fears and shows her development. Things are messy with her and imperfect and I enjoyed seeing how she grows as an individual.

I was really into these characters. I truly felt that these two had a basis for which to love one another. Their issues are many, but I think this is one couple I can see making it long term.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book sets up the couple for the next book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DARK WILD NIGHT is the third book in the Wild Seasons series. This story can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters and their relationships span the entirety of the series so far.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Dirty Rowdy Thing

Review: Dirty Rowdy ThingDirty Rowdy Thing (Wild Seasons, #2) by Christina Lauren
Series: Wild Seasons #2
Published by Gallery Books on November 4, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Better than the first in the series, I really enjoyed how these two traveled in their relationship. Getting both characters points of view helped with understanding when they acted like jerks to one another. Fun and really hot.

THE STORY: Harlow Vega and Finn Roberts can’t get along except their hot sexual escapades. Married for less than a day in Vegas (after a drunken wedding and a quickie divorce), the two seem like oil and water and yet they keep circling back to one another. Both hard headed and fiercely independent, perhaps they are both too alike for their own good.

OPINION: This antagonistic relationship to something completely different was much better than the first book in the series to me. Perhaps because we get the thoughts of both characters, I understood them both even when they were pretty much jerks to one another.

Both characters are at crossroads in their lives and only slowly reveal themselves to one another. The sex in this book is definitely scorching and as the two draw closer, readers can see their fears of true intimacy. Their sexual encounters become more intimate emotionally and they both have fears.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is told in alternating first person points of view.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DIRTY ROWDY THING is the second book in the Wild Seasons series. The book can be read as a standalone although the characters from this book appear in the prior book and the events where the two have a Vegas wedding are in the first book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Consumed

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: ConsumedConsumed (Firefighters, #1) by J.R. Ward
Series: Firefighters #1
Published by Gallery Books on October 2, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Wow, this book has one of the most heart pounding and shocking introduction to characters and their situation as any book I have read. I really enjoyed this book. The characters are flawed and complicated; the story kept me interested and I left this book wanting more.

THE STORY: Anne Ashburn is a woman with something to prove. The daughter of a revered firefighter (who wasn’t who he seemed) and the sister of the current fire chief, Anne is fighting for her own identity in a profession dominated by men. Brash, opinionated, independent and strong, Anne loves being a firefighter. The thorn in her side is Danny McGuire a fellow firefighter. There is a blazing hot attraction between them that Anne acted on once, but never again. One fire changes everything.

OPINION: While I’ve always read and thoroughly enjoyed and sometimes outright loved Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I think I might enjoy her recent contemporary series even more. Her BDB series is sprawling in scope with a huge set of characters. Her contemporaries take her ability to write overarching stories with compelling characters and compress them into smaller bites.

Whereas her Bourbon Kings series was a lush soap opera, the Firefighters series has a compelling sense of action, drama and urgency that is reminiscent of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but exhibited in a totally different context. This is not the BDB and may disappoint those looking for a similar series, but I loved the complexity of the characters, their flaws and individuality, the connection between Anne and Danny, and the intriguing plot which propels the characters.

Anne is a woman who struggles with love, connection and trust after finding out the truth about her father. She loves the same profession that is the family calling but has difficultly reconciling being respected, being open and being driven. She is stubborn and reckless and good at her job. When her life is turned upside down, she has to find in herself the ability to go forward and reform her life into something worth living. I especially liked that Anne doesn’t fit traditional ideas of femininity. Like many of Ward’s heroines in the BDB universe, she is physically strong and unwilling to be the victim. And yet, she struggles with ideas of her own attractiveness and where she fits. She is flawed, arrogant and difficult and I liked her all the more for it.

Danny is excellent at his job, but terrible at following orders. But the realities of the job and its costs weigh on his soul. The dramatic events which occur at the beginning of the book tip him toward self-destruction. But through it all, he has a connection to Anne that marks him as a passionate hopeless romantic — even if he would never agree to that characterization. He can’t forget her and while he accepts her wishes for a while, I cheered when he finally decided that he was going to go for what I wanted.

At times I didn’t like the characters very much. They are at times, angry, foolish, annoying and arrogant. They are flawed. And ultimately, that is what made me fall for them. They felt raw and real. By the end of the book, I didn’t want their story to end and I hope that we get to see more of them in future books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a slight overarching storyline that isn’t completed here. This book is a complete story, but there are threads that I expect will be picked up in the next book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CONSUMED is the first book in the Firefighters series. There are two prequel vignettes (and one prequel that is in fact the beginning of this book) but those are not necessary to read although you get some background on the characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-half-stars

The Wedding From Hell, Part 3: Excerpt from Consumed

The Wedding From Hell, Part 3: Excerpt from ConsumedExclusive Excerpt of Consumed (The Wedding From Hell, #3; Firefighters, #0.7) by J.R. Ward
Published by Gallery Books on August 28, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 34
Goodreads
five-stars

This final “part” of the three part prequel to the novel CONSUMED is not really a part at all, but rather the first four chapters of CONSUMED.

This book picks up three weeks after the prequel story of the prior two parts. Of course, this book is merely the beginning of the novel and thus is incomplete in itself. That being said, the beginning of this book is powerful, action packed and suspenseful. It might even work better as a book after getting to know the characters in the prior story.

 

five-stars

Review: The Wedding from Hell Part 2: The Reception

Review: The Wedding from Hell Part 2: The ReceptionThe Reception (The Wedding From Hell, #2; Firefighters, #0.6) by J.R. Ward
Published by Gallery Books on August 7, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 39
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This is a short story told in several parts. This is the second part. The story is not complete either here or with the additional parts as the story serves as an introduction to the novel CONSUMED which is the first book in the Firefighters series.

The prior part introduced firefighters Anne Ashburn and Danny Maguire. There is a simmering attraction between the two which comes even more clear as the two participate in the wedding for a fellow firefighter. This part picks up right where the prior installment left off. Anne and Danny take their relationship to a new level, but the story also sets up the conflict at the beginning of CONSUMED as Anne competes in the male world of firefighting.

I very much enjoyed both this and the prior installment. The characters are so strong that I look forward to seeing how their relationship evolves in CONSUMED.

four-half-stars

Review: Josh + Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Josh + Hazel’s Guide to Not DatingJosh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on September 4, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Quirky and sweet contemporary romantic comedy. I read this one on a whim and ended up loving the story between two opposites. It was cute and fun and just perfect for a couple hour’s escape.

THE STORY: Hazel Bradford is a lot to handle. Chaos follows her everywhere, she doesn’t have a filter and she has a habit of doing or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. She met Josh Im in college when she vomited on him at a party. Ten years after college, the two meet again and Hazel is determined to be Josh’s best friend. After a bad breakup, Hazel convinces Josh to agree to go on a blind date with Hazel. Well, they would each set the other up with someone and they would double date.  The two have no interest in one another, but somehow their dates don’t work out and the attraction between Hazel and Josh keeps growing.

OPINION: Some books you just have to approach with an open mind and an open heart. Not that everyone would love this book if they did, but I know that I had to be open to this book to enjoy it.

Hazel is a lot to take in. She is a whirlwind — chaotic, intemperate, brash. But she also is completely open to loving other people. She cares deeply. The chaos and her inability to censor herself would be something that might annoy me greatly — until I saw how caring she is. She wants to love so much that she opens herself up and is hurt again and again. And yet she keeps caring for others. And that is what makes her who she is.

She is desperately aware that people are attracted to her, but that she becomes too much and people expect (or want) her eventually to tone down. But she doesn’t. Although Hazel is confident in herself, she also doesn’t believe that she has any chance with Josh.  She dubbed him “Perfect” as in the model for the perfect guy. Her caring for him makes her want to be close to him, but because she doesn’t believe he can be for her, she instead wants to be his best friend.

Hazel and Josh begin a friendship that is funny and sweet at the same time. She brings color and imperfection into his life. Josh brings some order into Hazel’s. Josh, however, is always completely accepting of Hazel. He may not understand how her mind works, but he doesn’t criticize her or try to make her into someone else. Hazel is a force of nature and Josh is the calm in the storm.

The two end up on a series of terrible dates (with other people) which end up being an odd courtship between them. I loved the humor and the pure acceptance between these two.

This is the first Christina Lauren book I’ve actually read. I have a bunch on my TBR list and own a bunch, but I have always set those aside to read something else. Why did I decide on this one? Because the hero is Korean American. I thought the interracial romance was handled well.

My only complaint about the story was the ending and the epilogue. I’m not a fan of leaving obvious story points unfinished and them coming back in the epilogue to give answers. I love epilogues, but personally prefer that the story be complete without it and then have the epilogue as a bonus. But that is a quibble with what was a wonderful, light and fun romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: The story is told in alternating first person points of view.

CONNECTED BOOKS: JOSH + HAZEL’S GUIDE TO NOT DATING is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to help prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Sweet Filthy Boy

Review: Sweet Filthy BoySweet Filthy Boy (Wild Seasons, #1) by Christina Lauren
Series: Wild Seasons #1
Published by Gallery Books on May 13, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 385
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: The story was okay, but didn’t grab me. I got tired of the characters who seemed to be stuck in a neutral position for most of the book. Just an okay read overall.

THE STORY: A crazy weekend in Vegas celebrating college graduation becomes something more when Mia Holland ends up following her one night stand to Paris. The summer spent with Ansel Guillaume is completely different from what the dutiful Mia is expected to do. But as the weeks of summer count down, Mia has to ask herself whether there is something between them that is worth fighting for.

OPINION: I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Christina Lauren until this book. This one was only okay for me. Both the beginning and ending of this book were good, but there was too much time in the middle when the characters didn’t seem to be going anywhere in their relationship.

And ultimately, I don’t know that the characters problems were really resolved. Instead, I felt like this book could have benefited greatly with an epilogue. Instead, I couldn’t help but feel that too much was left unsaid by these characters and replaced by sex. While sexual exploits are something I expect from a Christina Lauren book, I think in this book the sexual relationship was a diversion rather than something that brought the characters closer together. Perhaps because we never got Ansel’s point of view, I also felt that he remained too distant and unknowable throughout the story.

I did enjoy Mia’s journey and I was intrigued by the glimpses of her friend’s possible stories. I also liked Mia and Ansel growing in their relationship by the end.

WORTH  MENTIONING: This book sets up the next two books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SWEET FILTHY BOY is the first book in the Wild Seasons series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Beautiful Player

Review: Beautiful PlayerBeautiful Player (Beautiful Bastard, #3) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #3
Published by Gallery Books on October 29, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this one because I simply adored Will. Hanna annoyed me more than I would have liked, but watching Will completely fall for Hanna was worth my annoyance.

THE STORY: Hanna Bergstrom’s brother is concerned that she has become too obsessed with her work and doesn’t have a social life. He makes her promise to get out more and to call his best friend, Will Sumner, for help in getting into the dating scene. What Hanna’s brother doesn’t know is that Will starred in Hanna’s teenage fantasies and he is even more attractive now.  Will now finds a woman he can’t seem to get out of his mind and who tempts him to something more serious at the same time she doesn’t believe that anything with him can be permanent.

OPINION: I enjoyed this one primarily because I thought that Will was adorable. I loved how his stumbles and struggles with moving from a man who is happy to have relationships only about sex to wanting a relationship that is all about emotion and connection while the woman is keeping her distance.

This book continues the humor and sexiness of the series, but I got annoyed with Hanna for portions of the book. (Perhaps because the reader is privy to Will’s inner thoughts, Hanna’s actions seem harsh at times). I also don’t really like it when women won’t say what they want. Be a grown up and say what is on your mind!  On the other hand, I really loved the goofy side of Hanna who says the most inappropriate things.

The book was a really good read, but not up the excellent standards of the first two book in the series for me. But just by a little bit. The quirky and natural interaction between these characters was enjoyable and emotional.  The uncertainty and the fears that both characters give the book a sense of honesty that I especially enjoyed.

WORTH MENTIONING: My favorite moment in this story actually has to do with Max and Sara. Fans of the their book should definitely read this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL PLAYER is the third book in the Beautiful series. The romance here is a standalone, but there are overlapping characters from the other books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars