Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Christmas Wishing Tree by Emily March ~ Review

Title: The Christmas Wishing Tree (Eternity Springs #15)
Author: Emily March
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance, Holiday Romance
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Sometimes life's most magical journeys bring you back to where it all began...From USA Today bestselling author Emily March comes The Christmas Wishing Tree, an enchanting account of the magic and miracle of Christmas.

A man who loves adventure and the open sea, Devin Murphy returns for a short Christmas trip to his small hometown of Eternity Springs. Immersed in the joy and magic of the holiday season all around him, he doesn't hesitate to play along when a young boy phones Santa to ask for a very special wish. Devin never guesses that a wrong number has the potential to make everything in his life so right.

Jenna Stockton adopted Reilly when he needed a mother and she intends to keep him safe. A small town across the country called Eternity Springs seems like a good place to hide from their past without any complications --until sexy Santa himself discovers her secrets. When Devin proposes a daring plan to face down the danger together and defeat it once and for all, she is tempted. Maybe Devin really is capable of making wishes come true? Perhaps in a Christmas wish they'll both find the miracle they've been looking for all along...

The Christmas Wishing Tree is a great romance. I fell in love with the town of Eternity Springs, Devin Murphy, and Celeste Blessings. When Celeste gives Devin a replacement cell phone for one that is broken, the story begins with a call from a little boy looking for Santa. This call is what takes Devin on a long and interesting trip to connecting with Devin's mother, Jenna. A connection that is in danger of being ripped away when she comes under attack from several deadly "pranks."

The relationship was really great for me because it didn't happen overnight. Devin and Jenna circled each other for a long time before finally reconnecting on accident one summer in Eternity Springs. But Jenna is on the run, and Devin doesn't know if he wants to settle down. They are both adults thought, which was a great thing because there was no needless drama or arguing.

The one thing I was disappointed in was the resolution to the deadly prankster. It is such a driving force throughout the whole book, and then it just goes away in the span of a couple pages. Yes, it is resolved, but I didn't feel like it was given the attention it really needed.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Wife by Alafair Burke ~ Review

Title: The Wife
Author: Alafair Burke
Genre: Adult, Thriller
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Source: Amazon Vine
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

His scandal. Her secret.

When Angela met Jason Powell while catering a dinner party in East Hampton, she assumed their romance would be a short-lived fling, like so many relationships between locals and summer visitors. To her surprise, Jason, a brilliant economics professor at NYU, had other plans, and they married the following summer. For Angela, the marriage turned out to be a chance to reboot her life. She and her son were finally able to move out of her mother’s home to Manhattan, where no one knew about her tragic past.

Six years later, thanks to a bestselling book and a growing media career, Jason has become a cultural lightning rod, placing Angela near the spotlight she worked so carefully to avoid. When a college intern makes an accusation against Jason, and another woman, Kerry Lynch, comes forward with an even more troubling allegation, their perfect life begins to unravel. Jason insists he is innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry disappears, Angela is forced to take a closer look at the man she married. And when she is asked to defend Jason in court, she realizes that her loyalty to her husband could unearth old secrets.

Holy cow! The Wife was a mind-blowing story. I didn't see any of it coming, and I loved each and every little or big surprise. Angela has a dark past that she has never really recovered from, preferring to stay behind the scenes and not take part in the spotlight of her husband's amazingly successful career. But when women make accusations against him for sexual harassment, Angela sees her life starting to fall apart.

But when these women disappear, Angela is forced even closer to the spotlight she has been trying to avoid. And here's where things get really really interesting. I had a least a dozen "say what?" moments that just led to yet another one. Nothing turned out the way I expected, but all made perfect sense in the end.

There were some moments in the story that really dragged though. I'm still not sure if they were just lying more groundwork or just in there to take up a little space and spread out the story a little. I feel like if I read this book a second, third, fourth time, that I'd see more and more every time. That's how deep things are layered, and maybe there is more hidden in the dragging scenes than I gave them credit for.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

In Truth & Ashes by Nicole Luiken ~ Review

Title: In Truth & Ashes (Otherselves #3)
Author: Nicole Luiken
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Length: 358 pages
Publisher: Entangled TEEN
Release Date: January 2, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

What she can’t remember could ruin her life.

The Mirror Worlds are but dull reflections of the True World, where magic and technology blend together…

On the True World, Belinda Loring has known from childhood that she must Bond with the son of another noble First Family. Uniting the families ensures hers will hold onto its powerful position, and so she’s always pushed down the tender feelings she has for her best friend—gorgeous, steadfast Demian, who isn’t noble. 

But when the ceremonial magic goes disastrously wrong, Belinda becomes a national disgrace. Scorned as Broken, she turns to Demian for help getting revenge on the man who ruined her: the radical Malachi.

But the seeds of Malachi’s murderous plans lie buried in Belinda’s past, in the dark days of her kidnapping—a period of which she has no memory. And Demian may hold the key to recovering all that she’s lost—and saving the worlds.

In Truth & Ashes was a bit different from the previous books in the Otherselves series. It really focuses on one world - the True World. The True World sits at the "center" of the Mirror Worlds and somewhat exerts control over them, playing matchmaker to ensure the True World selves have matching selves on the Mirror Worlds. It was all a bit creepy and really relegated that elemental worlds to nothing much more than a source of resources and prestige.

Belinda is the center of our story and matching self for the characters in the Mirror Worlds. And at first, I hated her. I never really truly liked her, but she did earn my respect. The final book in this series tries to draw all the cords together into one place, but that means I really missed seeing more of the Mirror Worlds that I had really loved. Fire is the only one that really manages to take center stage other than the True World.

Things do come to some rather startling and unexpected conclusions. There is far more heart-pounding excitement in the final book than the others, and the way the day is saved was amazing. A few times we went over the top, but if you're going to go there, an explosive ending is the way to do it.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*

Monday, September 10, 2018

Come Back to Me by Sharon Sala ~ Review and Giveaway

Title: Come Back to Me (Blessings, Georgia #6)
Author: Sharon Sala
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

After a crime pitted their families against each other, high school sweethearts Phoebe Ritter and Aidan Payne were forced to say a tearful goodbye. Phoebe stayed behind in Blessings, Georgia, while Aidan and his father left town for good.

Twenty years later, after the death of his grandfather, Aidan comes home to Blessings--only to discover he has a nineteen-year-old son. Aidan is hurt, but thrilled to meet Lee. And as Aidan and Phoebe spend more time together, they realize their old feelings are as strong as ever. But with a complicated past riddled with drama and betrayal, can they truly forgive and forget?

I have really enjoyed books by Sharon Sala in the past, but this one just didn't work as well for me.  The beginning starts off with a high-adrenaline fire at the store Aiden's father runs. And so begins a very sad and upsetting story as the fire spreads to kill he girlfriend's father in the shop next door. While this was a horrible tragedy, the fallout of the town's emotions set the stage and conflict between our couple in such a detailed way that made me feel so much for these two.

But then we get back to "now" and things didn't go as well as I had hoped. While I'm not a huge fan of the secret-baby, there are times that it is both appropriate and believable that will not lead me to dislike the heroine. Unfortunately, this book did not do well in that area. Not only did Phoebe not tell Aiden about her son (for 19 years), but the whole town knew, including his grandfather, and no one seemed to think it might be a good thing to let him know. I instantly disliked all of them. That is not a cool thing to do to someone.

Aiden's reaction to finding out about his son, Lee, was a very underplayed. I wanted him to go through the stages of grief and anger. He lost an entire childhood with his son, and he seemed to just be a little annoyed about it. Lee also didn't quite act like I expected a nineteen-year-old to. I kept thinking that he was much younger because of the phrases he used and some of his behaviors.

There were some really good spots woven amongst this, and if you enjoy the secret-baby stories, then this will be a great read for you. The mystery of who set the fire threads through the story, and I enjoyed how it came to its conclusion and the way the town reacted once the truth finally came out.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*

Aidan was carrying a suitcase to their car when he heard the sound of running footsteps. He looked up to see Phoebe coming toward him. Her face was red like she'd been crying and her long brown hair was in wild disarray. The sight of her appearance now, after all he and his family had endured alone, both hurt and angered him. He shoved the suitcase into the trunk and headed back inside.
                "Wait, Aidan, wait."
                He stopped, then slowly turned to face her.
                "What are you doing here?"
                Sunlight momentarily blinded her as she looked up. She blinked rapidly to clear her vision, then looked up again, searching his face for a sign that he was glad to see her, and saw nothing but hate and disgust.
                Her heart sank.
                "Please don't go."
                Aidan's body language was one of defiance. The tone of his voice held nothing but disdain.
                "The only thing that matters to me here, is that I'm leaving my mother behind. Her death broke what was left of my father's heart, and your family destroyed his reputation. We can't get out of Blessings soon enough for me. Go home."
                Phoebe started to shake. This was really happening. She was losing Aidan forever.
                "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," she said. "Please don't be mad at me! I know your father is innocent."
                He turned his back and walked into the house.
                Despite the sweat running down her back, she suddenly shivered. She'd never seen him like this - cold and shut down, but she couldn't leave. She stood on the sidewalk waiting, half-blind with tears as he and his father come out of Preston Williams' house together.
                Preston gave each of them a last hug, and then stood on the porch as they headed to the car.
                Preston saw her, but didn't acknowledge her.
                George glanced at her, started to speak, and then shook his head and slid into the driver's seat.
                Aidan put the last of their things into the trunk and slammed it shut.
                "I'm sorry, Aidan," Phoebe said.
                He didn't look at her as he got into the car.
                George started the engine.        
"Please! You have to forgive me," Phoebe cried.
                George put the car in gear and backed out of the drive.
Phoebe started running down the driveway after them. "Come back! Come back! Please, Aidan, come back to me!"
                Aidan glanced in the side mirror outside his window, startled to see her running behind the car. But they were going faster, and her image was growing smaller and smaller. The last sight he had of her before they turned the corner, she was on her knees in the street, her hands covering her face. The pain in his chest was so great he thought he would die.
                He took a slow, shaky breath and looked away.


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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Cowboy SEAL Christmas by Nicole Helm ~ Review and Giveaway

Title: Cowboy SEAL Christmas (Navy SEAL Cowboys #3)
Author: Nicole Helm
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance, Holiday
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Three former Navy SEALs
Injured in the line of duty
Desperate for a new beginning...
Searching for a place to call their own.

Single mom and Revival Ranch's on-site therapist Monica Finley has dedicated her life to helping brave servicemen and women, but former Navy SEAL Gabe Cortez is the one man whose shell she just can't crack. Yet with the holidays fast approaching, she may finally have a plan. In a bid to get Gabe to open up, she'll ask for as much help as possible―cutting down the Christmas tree, stringing lights, the whole nine yards.

Who could possibly be a Grinch with so much holiday cheer in the air?

Gabe has always hated Christmas―the holiday never fails to remind him just how alone he truly is. But the more time he spends with Monica and her young son, the more he finds himself drawn to their cozy little family...and the more he begins to realize his long-suppressed Christmas dreams may finally be coming true.

I had not previously read any books in the Navy SEAL Cowboy series, but I think I may need to go pick them up ASAP. The men and women of Revival Ranch are a close-knit group of friends that have become family. But Gabe Cortez holds himself apart emotionally. He has never really let anyone get close, and he doesn't plan on letting the first one to do so be the ranch's therapist Monica Finley.

Monica and Gabe's relationship was incredibly emotional. Both had to let go of things in their past in order to open their hearts. But it isn't easy, and there is Monica's son, Colin, to factor into any relationship equation as well. I really enjoyed how Gabe opened up to Colin and became a part of his life - long before he actually opened up to Monica.

I'm not always a fan of the "snowed in and we fell in love" scene, but these two were in love long before they got snowed in. Nature just forced to the face it - and it didn't go exactly as nature planned. But that's how life is, and this is a romance that wasn't all happy sunshine. There were some not-so-happy moments that really gave the characters depth.

I know this happened over the holidays and all, but it seemed like the ranch wasn't doing what it was built to do. There were no guests or patients, and the only people you really got to see were the staff members (which I'm assuming were couples from the previous books). While they were great characters and a good driving force to help push these two reluctant lovers together, I wonder how and when they manage to help service members when no one seems to be there for it.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book* 

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Maverick by Cheryl Brooks ~ Excerpt and Giveaway

Title: Maverick (Cat Star Legacy #1)
Author: Cheryl Brooks
Genre: Adult, Paranormal Romance
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Zetithians are back. And they're hotter than ever...

Having the Zetithian feline gene gives Larry Tshevnoe awesome beauty, fearsome strength, sensuality and sexual prowess unmatched by any other males in the universe. But it can make the quest for true love...complicated.
Enter childhood friend and fellow Zetithian Althea Banadänsk. Her empathic powers make her the only one who can show Larry what he truly desires, and she'll do anything to help...even if that means hiding her desperate craving for him.
But when a distress call sends them off course—and into danger—they find more than their hearts are at stake. Now it's up to them to become the champions of truth and justice throughout the galaxy...or risk losing it all.
“You have got to be kidding me.”
Larry was prepared for Althea’s reaction. After all, that was pretty much what everyone said when they first laid eyes on his ship. “Don’t worry. She’s got it where it counts.”
“Uh-huh,” she drawled. “Sure she does.”
“Come on now, Al. You know Mom wouldn’t let me fly around in a no-good ship. In fact, she’s the one who found it for me.”
Jack had also taken it to the same Delfian mechanic who’d outfitted the Jolly Roger, which could outfly damn near any ship in the quadrant—a distinction Jack was not only very proud of, but went to great lengths to maintain and seldom missed an opportunity to demonstrate. Larry’s vessel, being smaller with less room to accommodate the supercharged stardrive components, came in a close second.
“Hmm…” Althea studied the exterior, her gaze ultimately landing on the name painted above the main hatch. “The Three Stooges? Seriously? I mean, I get the reference, but what kind of a name is that for a ship?”
Larry had heard that comment before too. “Did that before Moe and Curly decided they wanted ships of their own. Never got around to changing it, especially since I’d already had it registered. I tend to refer to it as the Stooge, but I’m probably the only one who does.”
He stepped up to the hatch and keyed open the palm lock, then waited while two sections of the battered hull slid up like a pair of gull’s wings. “I’d thought of calling it the DeLorean, but that name was already taken. Guess Mom isn’t the only ship’s captain with a fondness for antiques.”
This time, Althea didn’t even rise to the bait, which had Larry more than a little concerned. He’d always been able to make her laugh. Something was different. Something even a Zetithian with the occasional prescient vision couldn’t figure out.
His concern was short-lived, however, because the other oddity of his starship chose to put in an appearance.
“Mother of the gods,” Althea whispered. “You might have warned me.”
To her credit, she hadn’t screamed, which was what most people did when they met his Scorillian navigator—or sidekick as Brak preferred to be called, a preference he seldom failed to mention.
After a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure the coast was clear, Larry beckoned to his partner. “Hey, Brak. C’mon out and meet Althea.”
With a wave of his fluffy antennae, Brak minced down the gangplank, holding out a barbed appendage as he approached. “I am pleased to meet you, Althea. I’ve heard so much about you.”
Althea chose to tap the joint above Brak’s terminal pincer rather than shaking hands with the huge insect, a move that Larry considered to be quite prudent. “Nice to meet you, Brak. I haven’t heard one damn thing about you.”
Brak’s antennae flattened as he rotated a bulbous eye toward Larry while keeping the other eye aimed at Althea. “There are times when I believe him to be ashamed of me.”
“Not ashamed,” Larry said. “Just careful. If the Baradans had known you were on board, they might not have let us land.”
Brak thrust his mandibles forward in a gesture Larry had only recently identified as a pout. If Althea could read Scorillians—and Larry honestly wasn’t sure she could—having her along for the ride would go a long way toward deciphering his shipmate’s moods. Although some of Brak’s emotions were probably best left in the dark.
“You know I am not a carrier of the plague,” Brak whined. “Why does this unjust stigma persist?”
Larry shrugged. “I can’t help you, Brak. Maybe if it was called something other than the Scorillian plague, you might be able to escape the connection, but it isn’t, so I guess you’re stuck with it.”
“So annoying.” Brak nibbled the tip of his pincer like a nervous Nellie biting her fingernails. “Particularly since we Scorillians have so many other redeeming qualities.”
“Yeah. So I’ve heard.”
Brak displayed his annoyance with the usual crunching of his mandibles. “I’ll be in my quarters if I’m needed.” With a flutter of his translucent green wings, Brak did a quick about-face and retreated up the gangplank.
Scorillians might have other attributes, but Brak’s ability to navigate a ship was Larry’s particular favorite. Brak claimed he could plot a course through a black hole and come out less than ten meters from his intended target on the other side. While that was an obvious exaggeration, he’d certainly never been lost—at least not to Larry’s knowledge.
Larry’s own expertise was in deep space communications, and he was amassing a fair fortune by upgrading outdated comsystems. Since most manufacturers would rather replace a system than upgrade it, he was able to save his clients a considerable amount of money, and his popularity had grown along with his bank account. He didn’t even have to advertise. Word of mouth got him all the work he could handle.
He’d been doing the same type of work even as a teenager aboard his parents’ ship, and while he could have set up shop somewhere, he wasn’t one to sit around and wait. So, like the tinkers in days of old, he traveled to wherever his services were needed, which was how he’d met Celeste.
If he’d met her on the street in Rhylos’s brothel district, where sex pheromones were continuously pumped into the air, he would’ve discounted the attraction entirely. But they’d met when he’d stopped off at the orphanage to visit Onca and Kim. Since there were no airborne pheromones inside the Palace, the only enticement was Celeste’s own personal scent, which was alluring, if somewhat baffling.
She was pretty too. Lush, curvy figure. Long, softly curling blond hair. Sparkling green eyes. Captivating smile. Yeah. She was very attractive, not to mention intelligent, witty, and charming. He just couldn’t decide whether he loved her. Perhaps he was wrong to go running off to find Althea—after all, hardly anyone consulted an empath before choosing a mate—but since he’d known Althea all his life, he saw no reason not to make use of her abilities. The truth was, with everything he’d seen and heard about how much trouble the sexual prowess of Zetithian males could cause, he didn’t trust himself. Or Celeste.
“He is kinda moody,” Larry whispered as Brak disappeared through the hatch. “Think you can handle that?”
Althea slung her oversized duffel bag over her shoulder and started up the gangplank. “I’m sure we’ll get along fine as long as I don’t have to share a bunk with him.”

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Friday, August 31, 2018

Amid Wind & Stone by Nicole Luiken ~ Review

Title: Amid Wind & Stone (Otherselves #2)
Author: Nicole Luiken
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Length: 410 pages
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release: March 7, 2016
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Behind the mirror lies your otherself...

There is one True World, and then there are the four Mirror Worlds: Fire, Water, Air, and Stone.

Audrey and Dorotea are “ otherselves”—twin copies of each other who live on different Mirror Worlds.

On Air, Audrey has the ability to communicate with wind spirits. As war looms, she’s torn between loyalty to her country and her feelings for a roguish phantom who may be a dangerous spy.

Blackouts and earthquakes threaten the few remaining humans on Stone, who have been forced to live underground. To save her injured sister, Dorotea breaks taboo and releases an imprisoned gargoyle. Brooding, sensitive Jasper makes her wonder if gargoyles are truly traitors, as she’s always been told.

Unbeknownst to them, they both face the same enemy—an evil sorceress bent on shattering all the Mirror Worlds.

I really enjoyed learning more about the Air and Stone worlds. Each has their own particular weaknesses and strengths. And each Otherself is the same in so many ways, but also shaped by their unique environment into a unique person. The battle to save the Mirror Worlds is heating up, with Qeturah trying to sabotage the worlds for her own gain.

Air and Stone world really stood out to me. The fun steam-punk feeling of air with their dirigibles and technology, with the very almost sci-fi/fantasy feel of Stone with gargoyles and a more dystopian culture. As each Otherself meets their mate - in unexpected forms - I began to see the pattern. A pattern that was familiar without being repetitive.

I would have liked to see a little more from Fire and Water, but they just didn't have as large a part in this one. I'm curious to see how the game Qeturah is playing ends up. The powers of the Mirror Worlds are beginning to align against her.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*