Book Review: School Ties by Tamsen Parker

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Photo via Goodreads.

Just when you think Tamsen Parker has reached her peak, she introduces a new forbidden fruit that left me breathless.

Title: School Ties
Author: Tamsen Parker
Date Read: August 21st-September 6th, 2016
Date Reviewed: September 11th, 2016
Spoilers Ahead?: Yes!

Introduction: I love Tamsen Parker (and that’s no secret) and every time she writes another book I am grasping desperately to try to get a hold of it. So when I was able to get my hands on School Ties (since Tamsen is totally amazing!!) I almost fangirled myself to death. And then I read the book, and I was silently begging Tamsen to stop (and by stop, I mean stop giving me a heart attack with her super sexy stories!). She stepped her game up with this novel! A pinch of BDSM and sexy time, a few splashes of ex drama, a handful of strong characters and then she added dump truck of forbidden romance.

Quick Summary: Erin Brewster begins to teach at a boys boarding school – Hawthorn Hill. She notices a certain student, Zach Shepard, and instantly sparks flash. Their eyes linger over the school year, and feelings flutter. Flash forward three years after Zach’s grad, and here is he back to tempt Erin. They haven’t forgotten each other, and soon enough they’ll be begging for each other’s company…

Evaluations: I had no words when I first finished this novel. I had to wait a few days to even write this because my brain couldn’t wrap around how Tamsen stepped her game up. Not only did she include her typical, hot, sexy BDSM time, but she added a flicker of forbidden romance as well? Tamsen is doing what most writers don’t – she’s growing!! And that makes my inner fangirl super happy and desperate to get her writing more! Or at least get her books more recognition!!

The book was told in both Erin and Zach’s point of view. This gave an added umph to the story since we got to see both of their thoughts and not just one. It opened up the readers to the thoughts of the characters, and we understood what was going on inside of their head. I typically don’t like multiple POVs in past books, but in this story it fit perfectly!

I also enjoyed the realistic aspects of the story – Erin starts a new job and actually feels self conscious! I can’t list enough books where the characters are glowing and perfect the first day on the job. Every time I’ve done something new (new job, new school, etc) I am definitely not glowing with self confidence! Tamsen does a beautiful job showing this, and this makes Erin so much more relatable!

The angst, drama and love in this story is just overall fantastic. Tamsen opens up more and explores! While there isn’t as much crazy BDSM/sexy time like some of her past books, it’s still great! Erin deals with drama before she meets Shep and that makes her grow as a character, so when the story finally progresses and we see more of adult Shep, we understand the struggles our main woman has dealt with.

Overall, I loved it! It’s a step up in the plot and character building department!

Plot: Tamsen’s plot building skills have definitely improved. While I love all of her old books (and their plots are uber sexy) there seemed to be more plot than sexy time in this novel! While I do love some great sex scenes, I love a wicked plot as well!

Erin Brewster’s troubles before Shep are a bit drawn out and I wanted more Zach in those scenes, but it gave a beautiful insight into the character. We saw her struggles and into her mind. I liked understanding her instead of just sex scene after sex scene. To me, it made her more relatable than Tamsen’s past characters. I felt for Erin and I understood how she saw the world.

When we got to Zach’s scenes, I felt like it was a little to late. I kept yearning and yearning for Zach and Erin to have some kind of fling or flirty scene before he left, but it didn’t happen. Yet Tamsen didn’t disappoint! When Zach was brought back, the sex scenes were super sexy and hot. The long, drawn out wait made those scenes even better.

When Zach explains his life in a sex club (and how he’s a virgin? That was a strange twist) I wanted to read more about it. I wanted to see maybe a flash back chapter or an insight into that part of his memory. His explanations were so interesting, and I felt like his back story could have been a novel all on it’s own!! If anything, his back story felt out of place without the chapters to back it up, but Tamsen still made it work! I would love for Tamsen to make an ebook or side story explaining that, similar to how she made more books in India’s series to see other aspects of that world.

Characters:
Erin Brewster – She’s a realistic and relatable character, which is great for a sexy, BDSM book. She gets nervous and has second thoughts and deals with real issues. I loved that! She wasn’t just some sex toy in the book for the man. The woman tries her best when dealing with her issues in the first half of the book. While I’ve seen other reviewers put down this aspect of the story, I felt like it fit her character. She married a man to keep her job, because she’s young and wants her job. I know many people who are in new jobs and let themselves get pushed around because they need their job. She then stays with the man she marries so she can keep the job. While in real life I would have kicked that guy to the curb, she’s young and she’s really trying.

Zach Shepard – Zach was an interesting character, and for a romance and BDSM book it was odd to read his POV, but that also made this book stand above the others. I didn’t expect to see his side of the story, but we did! As stated earlier I would have loved some more chapters relating to his back story. Him being a changed man was interesting, and makes sense since he went away to another school, but I would have liked to see more of it. He was definitely a hot character, and I could place his personality on a few guys I know, so relatable-ness was met on this character! Seeing Erin and Zach both work through forming a relationship was also nice, so I thoroughly enjoyed his character development.

Themes/Creativity: I wouldn’t say there were any distinct themes in this novel (it’s a romance, BDSM type book) but there was creativity for days in this book! Seeing Erin’s issues before she meets Zach is definitely creative compared to other books. I’ve read many romance novels where the main character complains about her past issues, but I’ve never seen the book actually display them. I also really enjoyed seeing both Zach and Erin’s POV in this novel. I liked seeing Tamsen step up her game with adding forbidden romance with BDSM in this novel and I would love to see her experiment more with these different topics in future books!

Uniqueness: I’ll combine the uniqueness with creativity together. Most of the unique aspects of this novel were also the most creative aspects.

Strengths: Character growth, the plot, the realism of the situations in the story – these are all wonderful strengths in my eyes. I enjoyed Tamsen’s growth in writing, and I can’t wait to see more!
Weaknesses: The lack of Shep’s background story felt like the biggest weakness. I would have liked to read more on that! It wouldn’t have added anything crazy to the novel and it wasn’t a necessity, but I would still like to read it!

Score: 5 out of 5. Despite the little issues here and there, I loved the book. I didn’t really see any weaknesses while reading the book, it was only after when I thought about it and compared it to other novels that are somewhat similar that I started coming up with “problems”. Tamsen did a fantastic job, and I’ll be reading this book over and over again! Tamsen stepped her game up and did a wonderful job with this book! It’s an addicting read that I read in one sitting, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s rare for me to literally sit down and finish a book all in one sitting, I can name only two other books I’ve done that with – Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and Hamlet by Shakespeare. That definitely puts Tamsen high in my books, when I literally restart the book on one day and finish it in that same sitting.

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Book Review: Happy Ever After in Christmas by Debbie Mason

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Title: Happy Ever After in Christmas
Author: Debbie Mason
Date Read: July 27th-September 10th, 2016
Date Reviewed: September 11th, 2016
Spoilers Ahead?: Yes!

Introduction: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. I love a good romance, and Debbie Mason did not let me down! It took me a while to really get into this book since I haven’t read the rest of the series, but once I was in I was hooked and couldn’t get out!

Quick Summary: Jill Flaherty is almost thirty, and won’t admit to herself that she is hopelessly in love with her brother’s best friend Sawyer Anderson. Deputy Jill has to hop through some hoops to finally admit her feelings for the bar tender. Jill will have to be quick, because other women’s eyes are looking to woo Sawyer…

Evaluations: For a romance novel, this book was incredible! There’s no cheesy love triangles, there’s nothing that seems out of place or unrealistic. The book focuses on friendships, family, and love. It is definitely worthy of high marks, and I want to read the rest of the books.
Is it cheesy and a total Nora Roberts sort of romance? Yup. Did it say it was anything but that? Nope. The book is exactly what you expect from it, and that’s great! Debbie Mason knows how to make a good, realistic romance with a bit of drama, tensions and tiny twists!

Plot: The plot is pretty straight forward – Deputy Jill has to do her job, and admit her feelings for bar tender Sawyer. They find it hard to admit their feelings for each other, but over time they grow and grow. There are some minor hiccups at first, and then a few major ones. These major hiccups make the two grow as a couple, and eventually we get the happily ever after that these characters deserve! Each aspect of the plot are realistic, you can see them happening in real life: issues at a nursing home, custody issues, pregnancy issues, etc. Nothing seems out of place!

Characters: Jill is a strong character who sometimes has her issues as a character, but for a romance novel she fits the trope. She is headstrong and does not let people tell her what to do, but she keeps putting the possible relationship off so many times it’s pathetic. In real life, a guy would probably have given up on her by the time her and Sawyer actually get together. But, this is a romance novel and every woman wants a man falling all over her. This might be unrealistic, but it makes for a good book!
Sawyer also seems to not be your typical, everyday guy. He falls for Jill hard, he chases after her, and he even seems to have a bit to close of a relationship with Brandi. I can’t place his personality on any of the guys I know, so he isn’t totally realistic. But, again, this is a romance novel and he fits the role perfectly.

Themes/Creativity: Family and friendship is a strong theme in this book and you can tell. Family sticks together and friends help each other. Friendship and family always comes first! I like this theme, seeming as there are rarely themes in romance novels. But, this theme is very easy to see!! A+ on theming in a romance novel Debbie! Great job!

Uniqueness: It’s not totally unique for a romance novel. There’s your typical love story, headstrong female, man chasing after her, possible love triangle, big issue that sets the couple apart, they get back together, happily ever after. The only uniqueness I can point out is the theming. Other than that, typical romance!

Strengths: Themes. Themes. Themes. Again themes. Have I mentioned the themes enough?
Weaknesses: It’s your typical romance. While it’s written beautifully, it can easily be compared to other romances.

Score: 5 out of 5. While it is a common romance novel, it was well written and wow-ed me! I was hooked and couldn’t put it down, and many romance novels get put down in my household. I love Debbie Mason and I’ll be reading the rest of her books as soon as I can get my hands on them!

Recommendations: I would love Debbie Mason to try to write an out of the box romance novel. Her writing is fantastic and clearly she is the expert on the common romance, but I would love to see her try something different!!

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Quick Book Review: Perfectly Flawed by Shakeerah Oatis

Perfectly Flawed was an interesting take on a soap-opera like family.

I enjoyed Perfectly Flawed for it’s story, but it definitely had it’s “flaws” (sorry, the puns are to hard to hold back on this one) that left me feeling cheated as a reader.

The story itself focuses on the African American Community and some of the stereotypes and flaws within these stereotypes – teenage mothers, mental illness, etc. It’s taboo to discuss these topics, so children grow up and end up repeating the same mistakes. We follow Adrian and her daughter Aaliyah, and discover where secrets can lead a family.

The story is realistic – a teenage mother who didn’t want a child but ended up in a bad situation. It opens my eyes to a world I don’t know about, and the plot was a great idea!

But – there is a but – my print version of this had many grammatical errors. These errors had words missing, the wrong word choice/spelling, and run-on sentences. The errors made it super hard to read, and it made me feel like this book hadn’t gone through the editing process. I may have an ARC, which means the final version of the book would have all of this fixed, but I honestly don’t know if it’s the ARC or a real copy. If these errors were fixed, the book would be perfect and flawless. I love the idea of this story, but it just feels like it wasn’t well written in word choice.

Overall, I’m not totally impressed with my copy of the book. It could have been a spectacular story!

Three out of five stars.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Quick Book Review: Night of Nyx by Karpov Kinrade

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Photo via Goodreads.

 

Night of Nyx is an excellent companion to the Nightfall Chronicles.

This little novella gives a great insight into Zorin. It gives a great deal of information alongside the novel series (of course, you don’t need to read this novella to understand the series, but for readers who are obsessed with this series, it definitely doesn’t hurt!). I think it would be best to read it after House of Ravens.

Zorin’s motivations and Danika are discussed in this novella, and it won’t disappoint the readers. The insight into this character is fantastic, and written in a beautiful perspective! The alternate POVs also makes this novella even better!

Karpov Kinrade wow-ed me yet again! I can’t wait to get my hands on the next novel in the Nightfall series!

Jewell by Tina DeSalvo

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Photo gallery from Goodreads.

 

Jewell by Tina DeSalvo was a cute, romance-mystery mix!

This book has a very slow start, and at first seems rather boring. Tina DeSalvo introduces the book well, but it drags on quite a bit. Once you get about 1/4th into the novel, it suddenly speeds up and gets exciting – there’s mystery, there’s potential romance, there’s comedy! It’s such a great book! You just have to get through the first little bit of the book and suddenly it’s fantastic!

It’s not your typical romance book – the main characters have to build their relationship over the course of the book, and they do. They also have to deal with realistic situations – Jewell’s professional reputation is being threatened, her Grandmother has Alzheimer’s, and then there is family drama to deal with.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Despite the slow start, the book is beautifully written! There’s the perfect mix of mystery, drama, comedy and romance all wrapped into this book!

Four out of five stars – due to the slow start.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Quick Book Review: Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren

 

 

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Photo Courtesy of Goodreads.

Most of this book is really, really hot – and the other half is…well, not.

This book is essentially pure erotica – which some people enjoy! If you want a book that is mainly the two characters going at it constantly, then this book is for you! If you were hoping for a dramatic novel mixed with sexy scenes, well, you are outta luck!

When I heard about this book, it was explained to me as mainly a drama mixed with the “romance” scenes…alas, they were wrong. Perhaps they picked up the wrong book?

Now, don’t get me wrong. This book is well written for a steamy book! This soap opera like novel is definitely a great book if you want to turn your brain off and not deal with complicated issues – just steamy romance, the odd dramatic moment, and then more sexy time!

I did enjoy this book – mainly for the time that I could turn my brain off and just read. It’s not complicated, it’s quite easy to read, and the book keeps moving along!

Would I have liked more drama? Yes. But, this book was a turn-your-brain-off-and-relax sort of book!

Would I have liked the main characters not to be the stereotypical “they hate each other but oh wow let’s get busy”? Yes.

It seemed like another novel made as a Twilight fan fiction into a book…but hey, it was hot!

Three out of five stars!

Quick Book Review: Opal Summerfield and the Battle of Fallmoon Gap by Caldwell Jones

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Photo courtesy of Goodreads.

 

Opal Summerfield and the Battle of Fallmoon Gap was an interesting read by Mark Caldwell Jones.

Opal Summerfield left me feeling a little confused – the book seemed like it was trying to go for a young reader vibe (like 8-12) but it was written for a Young Adult age group. It was still an incredible book, but I couldn’t figure out where it sat.

There was lots of action, but it didn’t keep a lot of my attention. It was beautifully written and it was truly incredible, but it wasn’t my kind of book. I feel like I am a bit above the age group for this book – it didn’t connect with me like other young age grouped novels (like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter).

Nonetheless, it was still an amazing book. Opal is a well developed character who would sit beautifully with young female readers. She’s strong and stands for herself, and she’s very heart warming. I would definitely read this book to a child!! It’s morale boosting!! It gives you a feeling like you can do anything!

The book is very imaginative and it original. Many books seem to follow the same path over and over, but Opal Summerfield was a breath of fresh air. It’s not based on some ooey gooey romance – it’s action based and has fantasy aspects. If you want a different read that is clearly original, pick this up! It feels like a young reader’s Indiana Jones!

There are constant twists and action and adventure at every turn! It’s truly breath taking!

For a debut, it was great! It just didn’t have me personally hooked. A younger reader base would love this!!

Three out of five stars – it didn’t get me hooked, but I’m looking forward to Mark Caldwell Jones making more books – he’s an amazing writer!

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.