Review: Starlight Nights

Review: Starlight NightsStarlight Nights by Stacey Kade
Published by Forge on January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“I’d never understood why people called it ‘falling’ in love. You either love someone or you don’t, like an on/off switch. End of story. But in that second, I get it. Because suddenly it’s not the floor tilting anymore, it’s my whole world. And I’m sliding helplessly toward feelings that are way bigger than I am.”

FINAL DECISION: Choices, mistakes, second chances. Calista and Eric do not have an easy uncomplicated path to one another and I loved it. They are flawed and struggling and they don’t figure everything out by the end of the book and that was perfectly okay with me. I loved this book almost as much as 738 DAYS.

THE STORY: Calista Beckett has lived a lot in her twenty-three years. After a wildly successful stint as a teenager on the show Starlight, she fell into a heroine addiction. Now sober, she is trying to build a new life for herself as a student at a midwestern college. Eric Stone comes back into her life wanting her to star in his new web series based on a book that Calista loves. Eric played Calista’s brother in Starlight but there has been something between them since Eric gave Calista her first kiss at her audition for Starlight. She fell in love with him that day but their relationship has ended up giving her nothing but pain.

OPINION: Sometimes books and characters just capture my attention despite flaws that might otherwise make me dislike them. Eric and Calista are definitely flawed characters. Their romance is rocky and before the epilogue, I was barely convinced that they would be able to overcome the years of mistakes that they had made with one another.

For people so young, history weighs heavily on these two. This book is all about second chances. About how choices and mistakes can overwhelm and how love is not always something positive. Yet by the end of this book, I felt the distance the characters had traveled and the welcome epilogue shows that they finally found a way to deal with one another in a positive affirming manner.

Calista is a young woman who has already made many mistakes and is threatened by an overbearing mother who uses her love to keep her under her thumb. Calista has become the breadwinner for her family and the mother is desperate to keep things together. Torn between wanting to live her own life and her responsibilities to her mother and sisters, Calista has to learn to assert herself even when she will disappoint others.

Eric also has family problems. Abandoned by his mother, dealing with a father who wants to control and crush him, Eric struggles with abandonment issues. These are a pair that seem destined to be at cross purposes: Calista fears control; Eric fears loss.

These characters are flawed and make very human mistakes. They backslide. They succumb to their fears and the easy way out. They are definitely not perfect. Some readers might find this a difficult read because the flaws and failures of these characters are on full display. They struggle and sometimes flail in their relationship with one another and with others. Yet this is the very reason that I ended up loving this book. The journey of these characters gave me a sense of their accomplishment by the end of the book.

As I began this book, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to like these characters. Eric, especially, seemed at times arrogant and a jerk; Calista seemed weak. But as I got to see these characters change and fail and succeed and determine their path, I found myself liking not only them but the possibilities of their relationship.

This is a book that will be on my keeper shelf and along with 738 DAYS be one that I will revisit again and again.

 

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of 738 DAYS, the epilogue of this book is definitely worth reading.

CONNECTED BOOKS: STARLIGHT NIGHTS is the sequel to 738 DAYS. It is not necessary to read that book first as this operates as a standalone. However, readers of 738 DAYS will get to see what is going on with Amanda and Chase.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

five-stars

Review: The Crown Prince’s Bride

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

Review: The Crown Prince’s BrideThe Crown Prince's Bride (Royal Duology #2) by Donna Alward
Series: Princes of Marazur #2
Published by Swerve on January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 250
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Lovely, lovely story of two adults working through their relationship. I loved how these two talked and addressed the difficulties of their relationship as adults. Sweet and sexy read.

THE STORY: Stephani loves her job as the assistant to the Crown Prince of Marazur. But she also has a secret — she has been in love with Raoul for years. Stephani was able to live with her unrequited love when Raoul was married to Stephani’s cousin. Now that Raoul is a widower, however, Stephani realizes that she cannot spend the rest of her life pining for Raoul. Raoul doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone, but falling in love again seems impossible. But a chance kiss with his assistant is something that he cannot stop thinking about.

OPINION: I loved this book which is a friends to lovers story and the story of how someone can learn to love again after loss. The story is about mature people making mature decisions and (apart from one dramatic plot twist) is mostly about these two talking through their problems.

In a characterization that gives one relief about who is running the governments of the world, Raoul is a mature, serious heir and father. Indeed, his problem is that he is too responsible and too concerned about things being figured out and right. Although he is attracted to Stephani, he worries a lot about every move they make in their relationship.

Stephani is also a mature adult who has a career that she is good at (her job as Raoul’s assistant isn’t just an excuse for these two to be in close contact). The book takes seriously both of these characters concerns about getting involved in a relationship.

I liked these characters and their exploration of their relationship. My one complaint is that I wish we had gotten more with Stephani and Raoul’s children. Most of the story is getting the kids of out of the way in order to progress their relationship, but I wish we could have seen more of them together rather than being told how good Stephani’s relationship is with his kids.

Enjoyable without getting too dark and serious, this book also satisfies a romantic heart.

WORTH MENTIONING: The romance is on the sweeter side as most of the sex scenes occur behind closed doors (and between chapters).

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE CROWN PRINCE’S BRIDE is the second book in the Princes of Marazur series. The books operates as a standalone but because of the overlapping characters it reads better after the first book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: More Than Need You

Review: More Than Need YouMore Than Need You (More Than Words Book 2) by Shayla Black
Series: More Than Words #2
Published by Shelley Bradley, LLC on June 13th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 477
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A second chance at love with an messed up jerk of a hero who has to reveal everything about himself to reclaim the woman that he loves and hurt.

THE STORY: Griffin Reed has just learned that he has a son. Three years ago, he made a mistake in thinking that his brother had betrayed him and that Griffin’s girlfriend was complicit. He tossed her away. Now he wants a second chance but Britta Stone has moved on and just gotten engaged to a reliable man. Griffin has only a few short weeks to convince Britta that he is a changed man who loves her and wants her and their son to be a family.

OPINION: I overall enjoyed this book and I really like the trope of the jerk hero who has to chance everything to win back the woman he loves. I just felt, however, that the book went on too long without much changing in Britta and Griffin’s relationship. In the first half of the book, I got tired of pages and pages of him desperately wanting her and her not responding. I think I would have liked the book better if I got Britta’s point of view as well (We do get a glimpse at the end).

Once the two move in together, however, and they really started to develop their relationship, the book got much better for me. I liked that Griffin has to accept responsibility for his behavior. By the end of the book, I was totally on their side.

As the two begin to communicate, the book gets much better because Britta’s feeling are more transparent. I also really liked how Griffin is determined to make grand gestures for Britta to show his love.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book’s timeline overlaps slightly with the first book in the series MORE THAN WANT YOU.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN NEED YOU is the second book in the More Than Words series. These books are connected by overlapping characters but can be read as standalones.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: A Distant Heart

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

Review: A Distant HeartA Distant Heart by Sonali Dev
Series: Bollywood #4
Published by Kensington Publishing Corp. on December 26th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A challenging and beautiful story of love and loss and living life. Kimi and Rahul are destined for one another but life is complicated and sometimes the fear of loss prevents one from living.

THE STORY: Kimi and Rahul meet as children. Kimi, the only of eight children to survive birth has medical issues which require her to be isolated. Rahul comes to Kimi house when his father in murdered while protecting Kimi’s father. In order to pay the debt of his and his siblings education, Rahul insists on working. While cleaning the mansion’s windows, fourteen year old Rahul meets Kimi. The two begin a friendship that lasts to adulthood. Then things get complicated.

OPINION: This is a beautiful book that takes place in India but centers on the universal human themes of loss and love and living. A companion to A CHANGE OF HEART, this book tells the story that readers of that book got glimpses of. The book is told in varying points of view and also takes place over time and asks for some commitment from the reader. In return, the reader gets a book that is part romance, part suspense, part life drama.

Kimi and Rahul are a classic friends to lovers story mixed in with impending loss at every turn. The characters are strong and vivid. The story has a strong sense of time and place detailing the complexities of the cross-class romance in India.

I knew where the story was headed on the mystery front early on (there are quite a few clues in A CHANGE OF HEART) but I was enthralled by the intense connection between Kimi and Rahul and how their past is slowly revealed.

The depth of the story comes from how the characters deal with the possibility of loss and about letting go and when not to let go. This is not a fairy tale HEA, but rather a HEA about living ones life no matter what the outcome might be.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is told in varying points of view over a period of years.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DISTANT HEART is the fourth book in the Bollywood series. The books generally are loosely connected and can be read as standalones, but this book is closely connected with A CHANGE OF HEART and I recommend reading that book first (it is fabulous) because they are almost companion books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a 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: Now That You Mention It

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

Review: Now That You Mention ItNow That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins
Published by Graydon House on December 26th 2017
Genres: Commentary
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was a good book and I enjoyed reading Nora’s story. The romance, however, was slim in this book (not surprising because this is NOT a romance genre book) and I couldn’t help but wish for more romance less personal drama.

THE STORY: Doctor Nora Stuart has a personal crisis when she is hit by a car, ends up in the emergency room and has her boyfriend flirt with another doctor over her unconscious body. Deciding that her “near death” experience was a sign, Nora returns to her hometown to recover. Nora has to confront her bad relationship with her mother, her non-relationship with her niece, bad memories from high school that just won’t let her go. Confronting the pain from her past, Nora tries to build a new future.

OPINION: This is Nora’s story. A success by all external measures, she still lives with incidents from her past that have left her scarred and which she has never gotten past. She has trouble with personal and when she goes home, so many people blame her for “ruining” the chances of the town’s golden boy. Her personal “time out” gives her time to deal with and put in perspective events in her past.

While there is a romance here, it isn’t the focus of the story and honestly, while it was a sweet a romance at times, it also left me unsatisfied. Although at times I have enjoyed greatly the romances in Higgins women fiction books, I wouldn’t read this one again for the romance.

There is a lot of self-reflection and dealing with high school stuff. At times, I got annoyed with Nora because honestly a lot of people have drama in their lives and at some point you have to stop whining about high school and people being mean to you. Also, her self-flagellation about her getting a scholarship in high school was pretty ridiculous at times.

But I did enjoy watching her build a relationship with her mother and niece. It was her growing up and understanding the past and accepting people for who they are. Even though I only reluctantly read these women fiction books at times, I thought this was pretty good as a story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a chick lit or women’s fiction book not a romance, but there is a romance involved although it is a side story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

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

three-half-stars

Review: Crystal Cove

Review: Crystal CoveCrystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #4
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on February 5th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite book of the series because it works as a complete story and the magical elements blend perfectly with the romance. The intense focus on the couple made me really enjoy this one.

THE STORY: Justine Hoffman, the owner of a successful Bed and Breakfast hotel in Friday Harbor, has known that her life is missing love. What she never understood is why she can’t feel love. Then she discovers that someone cast a spell upon her to stop her from loving. When she breaks the enchantment, she doesn’t realize that something more dangerous might be in the offing. Jason Black, a successful video game creator has come to Friday Harbor to build a retreat complex — and also for his own mysterious purposes related to Justine.

OPINION: This book avoids the main issue I had with the other books in the series (apart from the first novella): this book manages to marry the personal journey of the heroine, the romance and the magical elements.

The magical elements work because the series goes full-blown into the paranormal without apology. Jason is a man without a soul and Justine is a hereditary witch. There are no conflicts between the straight contemporary story and the magic. This book goes for the magical elements with a whole heart and the book is better for it.

This book also focuses primarily on the romance between Justine and Jason and takes part in the personal journey of Justine only as a part of that story. So there are not chapters and chapters about her personal problems that have no impact on the romance. Here everything is well integrated and connected. Justine’s drama comes from her relationship with her mother and while this story is a part of this book, the focus remains on the romance.

And I loved the romance. The story was so different than what I expected when I read that Justine was going to be involved with a man without a soul. The story was well worked out and things fit in nicely that I got to focus on the characters relationship which was the highlight here. Jason had depth and humor and a sweetness that I didn’t expect.

The book goes a little stronger into the bedroom habits of the couple (and I never expected to end up reading two book about Japanese rope art in the same year) than I usually read with Kleypas’s books, but it works because there is less internal drama with the characters, so things are kept a little more spicy with the external parts of their relationship.

I had only a few small complaints about the story. First, I really thought that Justine would have made Jason pay more for his actions in the book. Or maybe, I wanted her to be more angry and make him grovel a little more. Second, this book and the series really needed something to conclude it. An epilogue or another book. I believe that there was intended to be more of the series, but since there isn’t I really missed seeing how everything worked out for all the couples.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book seemed to set up another book in the series that was not written.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CRYSTAL COVE is the fourth book in the Friday Harbor series. While there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a complete standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Dream Lake

Review: Dream LakeDream Lake (Friday Harbor, #3) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #3
Published by Piatkus Books on August 7th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 336
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I struggled and struggled with how to rate this book because I loved the couple, but ultimately felt that the story didn’t do them justice. I would read parts of it again because some interactions were amazing, but it didn’t work for me as well as a whole.

THE STORY: Alex Nolan is the youngest son of a pair of alcoholic parents and that has made him cynical and jaded and on his way to following in his parents’ footsteps. After his divorce, Alex recognizes that he will be alone. And then he is not alone when he finds that a ghost searching for his identity and his past attaches himself to Alex. Zoe Hoffman is gentle and sweet and everything that Alex knows he will destroy if the two get involved. Zoe, however, sees something good in Alex that calls to her even as her own life has challenges dealing with her elderly grandmother.

OPINION: Some books are challenging to read and some are challenging to decide what I think of them. This book started out really slow for me and I thought it might be worse than the second book in the series which was okay but not fantastic.

But when we got into Alex’s struggle with his drinking and his relationship with Zoe begins to develop, I just fell in love with these characters and their relationship. The gentle way that Zoe overcomes Alex (who doesn’t recognize or want to acknowledge that he longs for commitment and love) was just magical. I loved their interactions which felt real and frank and some really amazing character development.

That middle third to half of the book was amazing.

But the resolution was too quick and too contrived for me. Zoe and Alex deserved something better. I just didn’t buy it. And that might have something to do with the ghost story which didn’t work that well for me.

This book was a mixed bag for me, but the characters are ones that I will continue to think about and those middle pages are ones that I will re-read. But ultimately, the whole of the book meant that I couldn’t give it more stars. I liked the book, but while the characters were amazing, the overall story was only okay.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book takes place at the same time as the second book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DREAM LAKE is the third book in the Friday Harbor series. It is not really necessary to read the other books in the series to enjoy this one although the overlapping characters and timeline make this book better after reading the other two.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Rugged Texas Cowboy

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

Review: Rugged Texas CowboyRugged Texas Cowboy (Cowboys and Captives, #1-2) by Lora Leigh
Published by St. Martin's Press on December 5th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
three-stars

This is an anthology of two separate novellas that have overlapping characters although the stories are separate.

COWBOY AND THE CAPTIVE: Melina is the “good” twin who is constantly seeking her parents approval in the face of their preference for the “bad” twin who is always in trouble. Now Melina has been kidnapped by Luc Jardin who is seeking revenge against Melina’s twin — and doesn’t realize that Melina is not her.

This is a very sexy story. I enjoyed the relationship between the main characters, but I have to admit the story of Melina being intimidated to taking punishment in place of her sister is a thin story in a modern context. I also was a bit annoyed with Luc in his continued willful ignorance of Melina’s identity.  I wish he had had to grovel more for his treatment of Melina. But this was a quick and easy read.

Rating: 3.5 stars.

COWBOY AND THE THIEF

Angel Manning is furious when the family heirloom that is supposed to lead her to the man for her is sold by her father to Jack Riley. She is determined to get back what is her destiny and certainly has no intention on becoming attached to a playboy like Jack. She’s been that way before and knows to protect her heart.

This story felt a bit disjointed and I never really became attached to the characters. For me, I felt there was something missing in their interaction and not enough drama. I didn’t feel the emotional connection and even the sexual tension wasn’t that exciting. I certainly didn’t think that this book was as good as the first in this anthology.

Rating: 2 stars.

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

three-stars

Review: Rainshadow Road

Review: Rainshadow RoadRainshadow Road (Friday Harbor, #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #2
Published by Piatkus Books on February 28th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 308
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was a fine story and parts were really good, but I thought the first half was better than the conclusion and nothing about it was really memorable.

THE STORY: Lucy Marinn discovers that her live-in boyfriend of two years has dumped her for her younger sister. Lucy asks herself why she keeps getting involved with the wrong kind of man. When she meets Sam Nolan, owner of a local vineyard, she knows she bad man streak continues. Sam is a nice man but he is upfront that he never intends to marry and any relationship with him can only be physical. The two cannot seem to avoid one another, however, as accidents, matchmaking and coincidences keep bringing them together.

OPINION: I wanted to really love this book, but I only ended up liking it and that was primarily because of the characters. In some ways this felt like a book made up of jumbled genres. Contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and paranormal just didn’t work together in this book.

I loved the characters and wish this was more like a true contemporary romance. Instead, this book has a women’s fiction feel where the story is more about Lucy’s personal growth than the romance. We don’t get enough about Sam and Lucy together. In fact, much of their story ends up taking place in the space of a couple of paragraphs noting that they spent months together as a couple.

I liked the characters and the story, but I thought the romance ended up a bit disconnected even though it had great potential.

The book also has paranormal elements that seemed to have no real purpose in the story. They were weirdly placed and didn’t really contribute to the story. They were neither fully integrated into the characters nor significant enough to the story to make their placement worth breaking the contemporary romance rules.

Parts of the book were really good. I loved the parts where the deep emotions between Lucy and Sam are allowed to be the focus, but those moments were only enough to make the overall book likable.

The book feels like an experiment that I didn’t find entirely successful.

WORTH MENTIONING: I think the blurb for this book doesn’t really describe the story in this book as it suggests that Sam and Lucy get together because of her ex’s interference. That is just not true.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RAINSHADOW ROAD is the second book in the Friday Harbor series. It can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor

Review: Christmas Eve at Friday HarborChristmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor, #1) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 26th 2010
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 221
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: A good Christmas story if a bit simplistic and lacking the emotional depth and humor of other Kleypas books. I enjoyed this book but I’ll keep it in my holiday reads rather than my keepers.

THE STORY: The last thing Mark Nolan expects is to take on raising his niece Holly, but when his sister dies in an accident, Mark realizes that no one else will do it. Even as he and his brother take on caring for Holly, Mark realizes that Holly wants and needs a woman’s presence so he thinks about getting engaged to the woman he is dating, but he can’t stop thinking about Maggie Collins. Maggie has come to Friday Harbor after the death of her husband and she plans never to love so much again because it almost destroyed her before. But the sweet Holly and her uncle are something she can’t resist.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book, but it certainly reads more like a shorter holiday novel than the complex romance I expect from Kleypas. This story started out incredibly well but just at the time that Mark and Maggie recognize their feelings for one another, the remained of the story becomes simple and easily resolved.  The truth is that there is not enough conflict between these characters or the situation in the beginning. So when the situation with Mark’s current girlfriend is resolved, there is really nothing keeping them apart and all that is required is the happy ending.

I thought the book was well written and enjoyable as a simple holiday read. The characters are well constructed and I enjoyed seeing Mark become a father to Holly. There was nothing that I didn’t like about this book, it just wasn’t a particularly deep or complex story.

WORTH MENTIONING: There was a television movie made of this book entitled CHRISTMAS WITH HOLLY.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CHRISTMAS EVE AT FRIDAY HARBOR is the first book in the Friday Harbor series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars