Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Sweetness (The Sweetest Thing, Book 1) by Sierra Hill

Title:Sweetness (The Sweetest Thing, Book 1)
Author:Sierra Hill
PublisherCreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date:July 2016
Publisher's DescriptionI’m the girl from the school of hard knocks.
Nothing has ever come easy for me. So forgive me if I’m a bit reluctant about Kincaid Griffin – born-with-a-silver-spoon in his mouth, conceited college hoops player. A guy who could get any girl he wants, and yet, is suddenly everywhere I am trying to woo me. The more I protest, the more persistent he becomes.
I’m a lucky bastard.
Let’s face it. As a college athlete, I don’t chase girls – they come to me. I’m as arrogant and cocky as they come, getting nearly everything I want, whenever I want. But there is nothing sweeter than a girl who plays hard to get. And Ainsley Locker is so full of confidence that she knocks me off my feet from the moment I meet her. She’s a challenge. And I like challenges. So I go full-court press to win her over. But when a stupid mistake turns viral, slam dunking all over my life in a media frenzy, my spot on the team may be in jeopardy, along with my shot at winning the girl.
My rating:**


Checking out this book’s sample didn’t make me feel the need to read it immediately, so I left it on my Kindle for a bit. I’ve been on a fantasy kick lately, so I thought that maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to read this. When I came back to it a month or so later, I found myself more interested in the character and so decided to buy the book. Unfortunately, this author’s writing just didn’t work for me. She was all over the place in terms of tenses, but I could have looked past that if I’d found anything in this story to hold my interest. Cade was a one-dimensional d-bag, and aside from being a big, cute jock, nothing about him seemed particularly special. Poor Ainsley had had a rough life, and seemed way too busy to put up with his self-involved, rich jock nonsense. I just couldn’t bring myself to stick around long enough to witness the lowering of her standards that would make Cade seem like her dream man.

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Almost Matched A. O. Peart

Title:Almost Matched
Author:A. O. Peart
PublisherThree Graces Publishing
Publication Date:November 2013
Publisher's DescriptionWould you take another shot at love? Or just settle on a friend with benefits?


Twenty-five-year-old Natalie Davenport lugs substantial baggage. One boyfriend after the next has been a total disaster, leaving Natalie distrustful toward the male population in general. So when Colin Hampton crosses her path, she’s cautious. Her heart (and some other body parts!) nudges her to go for it, while her head wants her to run for the hills.

Colin is one of those gorgeous guys who attract women, no matter the age or marital status. With a successful career at a popular Seattle radio station, hard body, and charming personality, he is the complete package. But something dark lurks in the corners of his soul; some murky experience that has changed him—maybe for the better, but maybe for the worse.

Will he steal her heart and stomp over it like other guys did?

Will she let him into her heavily fortified world despite herself?

Or will they settle somewhere in the middle—establishing the emotional boundaries to protect them from falling in love?

This contemporary romantic comedy blends humor, sensuality, and angst, with zany characters and witty dialogue.

***Warning: contains sexual situations (some quite vivid!), profanity, and a high dose of sarcasm. Oh, and there is a lot of appletini and beer drinking.
May not be appropriate for readers under 18 years old. Not intended for prudes and killjoys with no sense of humor***

The Almost Bad Boys series are the stories of four feisty twenty-something women who refuse to let their past drag them down.
My rating:**


Although there were parts of this book that I enjoyed, it just didn’t gel for me. I liked that Natalie was a successful entrepreneur at 25, and that she didn’t apologize or excuse her success. I liked that she had strong friendships with several other women. I appreciated that she and her friends were so sex-positive, and could be honest with one another about what they thought or knew themselves to want from men. I appreciated that Colin genuinely adored Natalie, and that neither of them were into playing games. Those were the good parts of this book for me.

I found the dialog by turns artificial and stilted, but not even all of the descriptive text worked for me. Ms. Peart had a habit of not using contractions where almost every native English speaker would, which I found jarring and annoying. I didn’t like how Natalie had to contrast herself with her idea of feminism, in order to contrast herself with those men-hating feminists (how many women really hate having doors opened or chairs held out for them? not as many as romance novels would have you think, I’d bet). Dear Ms. Peart: You wrote a book about a sexually confident, young entrepreneur who excels at her job. Nothing I read in Almost Matched convinced me that Natalie wouldn’t like to have open to her any opportunity that would be open to a man of equal qualifications, so guess what: you wrote a book about a feminist.

I didn’t find Colin’s angst to be very compelling,  but that may be because the substance of it wasn’t revealed until what felt far too late in the book for me. I was annoyed by how whenever he did talk about his past, he just had to mention that, although he’d never loved in the intervening years since his tragedy occurred, he’d been with many women. Okay, dude. We get it. You were an emotionally unavailable baller.

I didn’t love how Natalie wanted to be supported by her friends but organized a shaming committee when Caroline confided in Natalie. None of the friends really had a storyline that didn’t somehow go back into providing an object lesson for Natalie, so I didn’t connect with much that happened to to (except that weird intervention that they staged on Caroline; that was cold).

I didn’t feel that this book delivered on the high levels of emotion promised in the blurb, and didn’t connect with this book enough to move onto the sequels.

I received this book for free from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage series

Note: I wrote this nearly a year ago and don’t remember anything about this series, but I’m going to take my word for it that this review still reflects my feelings.

I’m a fan of Ms. Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series, so I decided to give this, her earlier series, a try, too. I read the first and second books in this series, but gave up when I got about 40 pages into the this one. I never really got into this series, but kept reading, expecting that something would happen to make me like these characters and their world. It never did. I’m not saying this series is bad, it’s just not to my taste.

Ms. Hunter was rather parsimonious with explanations that would have enhanced (my enjoyment of) the first book, doling it out in the second and even third entries in this series. I’m aware that authors often explain the worlds they create throughout the books, but waiting until the second book to describe how the world even came to be is a bit much for me. By the time I got the background information on this world that might have deepened my enjoyment of these books, I was already beyond that.

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A Blood Seduction by Pamela Palmer

Title:A Blood Seduction
Author:Pamela Palmer
Publication Date:May 29, 2012
Publisher's DescriptionVampires live only for lust and pleasure in the eternal twilight of Vamp City. But the city’s magic is dying. The only person who can restore it? A beautiful woman from the mortal who knows nothing of the power she wields.

Quinn Lennox is searching for a missing friend when she stumbles into a dark otherworld that only she can see—and finds herself at the mercy of Arturo Mazza, a dangerously handsome vampire whose wicked kiss will save her, enslave her, bewitch her, and betray her.

What Arturo can’t do is forget about her—any more than Quinn can control her own feelings for him. Neither one can let desire get in the way of their mission—his to save his people, hers to save herself.

But there is no escape from desire in a city built for seduction, where passion flows hot and blood-red. Welcome to Vamp City...
My rating:**

I chose to review this book because it seemed like something that I would really like. A lot of the action takes place in a world parallel to our own, and I’m always interested to see how authors handle a world that is at once familiar and new. In Ms. Palmer’s case, I would say, not well. I was horrified by so much that happened in this book. Vampires as a story element are certainly au courant, but the gender and power dynamics of this novel could easily have come from any less progressive bodice ripper of the 70s or 80s. “What the…” was a common refrain as I read this.

First of all, Quinn was ENSLAVED and end up feeling all gooey and warm toward her captor. Almost immediately! The phenomenon of Stockholm Syndrome was named after a course of events that unfolded over six days. Quinn was already making an ass of herself over Arturo on day one. Second, and maybe I’m just sensitive about this, I really hate how acts of mental and even physical cruelty toward women in this book are seen as negligible, because at least they’re not sexual violence (although there was plenty of that to go around, as well). Really???

I understand what an anti-hero is, but I think that Arturo’s really just a jerk. The source of his conflict was inane, and Kassius served as an embodiment of why Arturo’s supposed unshakeable loyalty was even dumber than it initially appeared to be. Then again, maybe Arturo is perfect for Quinn, because she’s an idiot. She’s supposed to be intelligent enough to be a scientist, but seems pretty slow on the uptake. She gives her trust too easily, to a person she should not, who (rather sportingly) warns her against doing so, then betrays her; to get an idea of the rest of the book, lather, rinse, and repeat. Even after he proves himself untrustworthy and admits to lying when it is expedient to do so, she still continues to take Arturo at his word! What does it take to get her to wake up and realize that the only person she can depend on is herself (answer: I don’t know, she does’t reach this conclusion by the somewhat hilarious end of this book). Furthermore, Quinn observes the speed and strength of vampires relative to that of humans, and still manages to completely underestimate them. What does it take to get through to this woman?

I didn’t feel at all invested in Quinn’s emotional connection to Arturo, which I was really glad for as I reached the end of this book. Maybe I’m just not in the target demographic for this book, because I didn’t get or enjoy it at all.

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Erotic Amusements by Justine Elyot

Title:Erotic Amusements
Author:Justine Elyot
Publication Date:August 2011
Publisher's DescriptionIn Goldsands, there are many amusements to be had for those willing to give in to their deepest desires...

The seaside resort town of Goldsands is a place of dreamers and transients who wash in and out like the tide. But its picture-postcard prettiness conceals some sinister realities. Coldhearted mogul Charles Cordwainer owns most of the local businesses, both legitimate and illicit, and more than a few of its residents.

Michelle, Cordwainer's submissive: despite her loyalty, he plans to turn her over to another man. Flipp, the new girl in town: she has a dark past and a penchant for bondage. Rocky, Cordwainer's right-hand man: a sexy biker with eyes for Flipp. Laura, Goldsands's carnival queen: an über-bitch with her sights fixed on Rocky.

Secrets, betrayals, lovers all become intertwined-and when someone starts digging up the dirt on Cordwainer's empire, nothing will ever be the same...
My rating:**

This book was nearly incomprehensible to me. Too much happened in it, and while trying to provide decent erotic romance and compelling mystery, Ms. Elyot really provided neither. What was the deal with Flip and Rocky? I get that they liked to have sex with one another, but I never really believed in their romance. I read this entire book, and didn’t come out of it liking even one character. Well, maybe Flip. Rocky seemed irredeemable. He was the enforcer for a thug, and we’re to understand that he did some awful things in the name of work, so how was he better than any other crook in this novel? I don’t believe in love as redemptive, so to me, he’s just the same scum, only with somebody who knows and (possibly) loves that scumminess. Um, yay?

Also, regardless of how much I didn’t like this book, I do not see how this title was chosen for it. There was an amusement area in the town, but I wouldn’t say that it really factored hugely into what happened in this book. And what happened in other parts of this book is so far away from my idea of amusing that I’m having trouble reconciling the discrepancy. A woman with low self-esteem who allows herself to be owned and traded by men is not something that I find erotic or amusing. So why the title? This may be the only mystery related to this book that I would like to have solved.


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