Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Secret Sister by Emelle Gamble

Title:Secret Sister
Author:Emelle Gamble
PublisherSoulMate Publishing
Publication Date:July 2013
Publisher's Description"If you're looking for a typical women's fiction/romance, don't look here... this story has a twist of the paranormal that will have you willingly stretching your belief in order to enjoy the plot. Emelle Gamble has created a story that will tear your heart out." LONG AND SHORT REVIEWS, AUGUST, 2013

What if everything about you changed in an instant...
Nick & Cathy and Roxanne. Two best friends. One husband. An extraordinary twist of fate.

How much do you really know about your husband? Your best friend? Yourself? Cathy Chance knows she loves her husband, Nick, with the same passion she had when she married him seven years ago, and he adores her. She also knows that she and her best friend, Roxanne, are closer than most sisters. But on a sunny summer day, these three are hurled into an astounding new reality which forces each to reconsider everything they thought was true about themselves, and one another.
My rating:***.5


Secret Sister is an enjoyable novel about a woman who is killed in an automobile accident, then wakes in the hospital in the body of her friend, who’d been driving the car. Although she initially has no memory of who she was before the accident, she knows that she’s different than all of her visitors expect her to be. She also knows that she’s grieving for someone, despite the fact that she can’t remember anybody. When the accident survivor, who everybody addresses as Roxie, realizes that she’s actually Cathy, she has to figure out how to get her old life back. How does she convince her husband who she is? How does she deal with Roxie’s life?

I liked Cathy. She’s smart and has good instincts, although she doesn’t know that she can trust them until she’s made a few missteps. She doggedly pursues the truth, even when she’s not sure what she’ll learn. Roxie, from the little of her that we see and from what we learn after the accident, is a lost soul who clings to Cathy, even while resenting her doting husband. Nick is a bit of a dark horse; one can’t say for certain where his head is at any given time. I’d give more than a penny to know his thoughts at the end of the book.

The rest of the characters were more hit or miss for me; although I remembered enough about them to spot the red herring (there are some mysteries surrounding both Nick and Cathy’s marriage and also the last year of Roxie’s romantic life), the people in Cathy and Roxie’s school orbit don’t make much of an impact on the story. The secondary characterizations seemed a bit spotty to me; Michael and Zoe were more stereotypical and less interesting than they ought to have been, considering their roles in Roxie and Cathy’s lives. Bradley’s main purpose seemed to be to reveal facts or spout dialogue that the author couldn’t figure out how to introduce in any other way; he’s a bright spot in his scenes, but he functions more like a plot device than a character. Roxie’s mother is great; it seems that every scene she’s in has a much greater emotional impact than the scenes of any other tertiary character.

The ending of this book is interesting and I appreciate that Ms. Gamble felt comfortable with having at least one of her characters living in uncertainty.

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Out of Tune by Michelle D. Argyle

Title:Perfect Summer
Author:Katie Graykowski
PublisherSelf published
Publication Date:October 2013
Publisher's DescriptionHigh school teacher Summer Ames is trapped in the nightmare morning from hell. Her alarm clock didn’t go off, she accidentally backed over the rosebush her grandfather gave her grandmother right before he accepted defeat against prostate cancer, she’s wearing clothes she picked up off the floor, and when she opens the door to her classroom, the lights from the TV cameras nearly blind her. She's won Teacher of the Year. But unlike the past winners, she doesn't get a new car or a Hawaiian vacation or even new school supplies, she wins an over privileged quarterback with a bright smile and questionable intentions.

Clint Grayson is an NFL quarterback in need of a reputation makeover. If he has any hope of landing a hundred million dollar endorsement deal, it will take some pretty impressive PR for the public to forget the photos of his battered and bruised ex-girlfriend. In an attempt to polish his tarnished reputation, Clint agrees to be a high school class mentor.

When these two get together all hell breaks loose and they both learn that all is fair in love and football…and winning is just the beginning.
My rating:***.5

michelle-d-argyle-out-of-tune-cover-web (1)This book has a lot of things going for it. First, Maggie is completely believable as a 20 year old protagonist. She’s not impossibly sophisticated, even considering that she is raised by this universe’s answer to Faith Hill and Tim McGraw (so maybe keep it zipped, Tim, mmmkay?). Second, country music is not a genre that is overly represented in fiction in general, and it’s nice that no character in this book is actively trying to be Taylor Swift. Third, this is one of the least trigger-inducing New Adult novels that I have ever read. I appreciated that Maggie has to overcome several real things that don’t involve blunt force trauma or parental death. There’s a lot of hard stuff happening in Maggie’s life, but it feels manageable for her and for an audience of readers to deal with. Fourth, Maggie is kind of a brat. That doesn’t seem like a compliment, but really, it’s all tied into my first point, and it helped me believe that this is a story about a young woman who is growing up and experiencing any number of life-changing events in a brief amount of time. Even when I wanted to shake her and then put her in time out, I believed in the pettiness and immaturity at the heart of her actions and words. Fifth, I love the role that words play in this novel. I mean, duh. Yes, the books that I review here generally feature a lot of words, but for these characters, expression is especially important. They can’t always do it, either through language or music. What is not said is often at least as important as what is said.

I have to cover snark a bit, since I kept waiting for the part of the book where Maggie was going to hitchhike but 1) she lives in Colorado, and the months in which this book takes place are definitely not the ones in which you want to stand on the side of the road in that outfit and 2) I don’t believe that anybody would hitchhike with a vintage guitar is worth $10K without at least putting said guitar in a case. Please, music people, tell me this is true.

I wish that the author had given more resources on understanding what amusia is, but I already feel like I learned a few new things from this book. The author bills this as a clean book, and it is, but BONING DOES HAPPEN, and it’s generally not regretted. FYI.

I received this book free from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review and my firstborn child.

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The Dream Unfolds by Barbara Delinsky

Title:The Dream Unfolds
Author:Author - Barbara Delinsky
Narrator - Erin Yuen
PublisherDreamscape Audio
Publication Date:Audio - November 2013
Print - 1990
Publisher's DescriptionBuilder Gideon Lowe and interior designer Christine Gillette share a dream--to develop the Rice estate into the most elegant comdominium community on the Atlantic seaboard. But that dream is all they share--they mix like oil and water. He calls her a spoiled prima donna and she pegs him for an arrogant chauvinist. But good old-fashioned lust can circumvent misconceptions like nothing else.
My rating:***


I enjoyed this book. Although it was written in 1990, which really doesn’t feel that long ago to me, it avoided so many of the things that make me cringe about older books. Christine and Gideon’s conversation about why neither of them felt the need to get “car phones” (they didn’t want to be accessible at all times) was hilarious to me, but that and their frequent use of landlines were what dated this book; otherwise, this novel could be situated in 2013 and have turned out pretty much exactly the same.

Something that I appreciated was that when Gideon was a bit of a macho Neanderthal, Christine called him out on it, instead of accepting it as normal. Likewise, when  I felt that, regardless of the things that I didn’t like below, there was more story to tell here and the author ended things a bit abruptly for my tastes. Erin Yuen’s serviceable narration neither added to nor detracted from the flow of this audiobook.

What I didn’t like (click on blurred area to reveal hidden text):
Christine’s daughter, Jill, is not mentioned until more than halfway through the book. It made Christine’s internal dialog from before the revelation feel false, since all of her subsequent thoughts relate to her daughter. Jill is such a huge part of the book once her existence is revealed that hiding it felt needlessly gimmicky to me.

Gideon fell in love with Christine so quickly that it was unbelievable. It seemed to me that he goes from finding her obnoxious to wanting to date her to loving her in the course of two or three chapters. Seriously? I appreciated her more cautious approach, because it seemed to me that, as soon as he decides not to hate her or treat her like some iteration of that woman who annoys him, he’s like 85% on the way to loving her. Nice, but possibly a little overwhelming/creepy if thought about for too long.

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Faster Longer by Colleen Masters

Title:Faster, Longer (Take Me... 3)
Author:Colleen Masters
PublisherHearts Collective
Publication Date:December 2013
Publisher's DescriptionTwo star crossed lovers racing together at breakneck speeds, barreling along at 200 miles per hour willing to destroy everything and everyone in their path.

Siena can't escape.

She's trapped now.

How did she fall so helplessly, recklessly in love with the one man who could single handedly turn her life upside down?

Harrison has her wrapped up in his strong, muscular, tattooed arms. Right where he wants her. Right where she wants to be.

Even as the championship is decided and fate comes crashing down around them—betrayal, blackmail, death...all seem like nothing compared to Siena's ultimate secret.
My rating:***/***.5

18809594I’m glad that I came to this series late enough that book 3 was available immediately after I’d finished books one and two. I hate having to wait a long time between books in a series, and I’m always reading so many things that it tends to be a struggle to remember pertinent details of previous outings if any significant amount of time passes between when the books are published. Since I read book three in the same week that I read books one and two, I actually remembered lots of details. Details, for example, that the author did not. In the third book, Siena is said to have been born in the United States, even though she definitely states in the first book that she was born in Italy. I can barely remember what I email my staff from one week to the next, though, so I have very little room to talk.

While things that worked for me really worked for me, the things that didn’t really really didn’t.

The good:

  • Harrison and Siena continue to have smoking chemistry and make for some dynamic scenes.
  • I loved how supportive Harrison is of Siena. He believes that she is good at her job and tells her so.
  • I am always a fan of heroes who want the world to know of their love for the heroine, but who are willing to allow her to set their pace.
  • The scenes at Siena’s family home (excluding Enzo) worked for me. I liked seeing the Lazio family interact, and it was nice to see Harrison integrated further into Siena’s life.

The bad:

  • How fast do Charlie and Bex move? I mean, really. I would have liked to see a bit more of them as a couple, so that their trajectory in book three made more sense to me. Aside from sneaking out of hotel rooms and then having Bex ditch Charlie on a couple of occasions when Siena needs her, I didn’t get much sense of their relationship.
  • The scenes where Bex and Siena reconnect after a seemingly long time of barely talking felt repetitive and seemed like they barely worked within the book’s timeline.
  • What crawls up Enzo’s culo? It was annoying in the extreme that he is completely okay with being a hypocritical juicebox to his sister, seeing as how he is dating a member of Team McClain (who’s a total cow to his sister). Ugh. This kind of behavior is bad enough in Harlequin Presents novels, but I didn’t expect to see it here. [I believe that this is a legitimate character choice, do it’s you bad writing, I just dislike Enzo.]
  • Some members of the press’ lines of questioning at the press conferences in these books have seemed unbelievably unprofessional to me, but the one at the Lazio home seems particularly egregious. I don’t believe that other journalists would find some of the questions asked to be okay. It seems to me that such a vindictive/gossipy reporter would be more likely to stir up interest in himself, than in the answers that he receives.
  • The “mystery” in this book is not well done at all. I suspected the eventual culprit from book one, but definitely knew who it was by the second book. It disappointed me not that none of the characters suspect this person even briefly, especially considering his or her behavior in book two. The scene where it finally all adds up for Siena is only missing a neon downward arrow that says, “Bad Guy Here.” The title of this third book should have been A Bunch of Red Flags. Look, Ma! I stuck with the racing theme.

This video sums up how I felt about people in this book not recognizing the culprit.

(Click blurred text to reveal hidden text.)

Why in the world doesn’t anybody give Marques a second thought after he frames Siena with that doctored video? Even if they are ultimately swayed by the fact that his car has been “tampered with,” they still should discuss, then dismissed him as a possibility. The fact that none of these supposedly intelligent people pick up on what a ruthless creep Morales is made me think less of them as characters, and this book as a form of entertainment.

I guess what I’m saying is that I found this book to be a bit of a mess, aside from Harrison and Siena. I’m going to regard this more as a table-setting book, since the way that Faster Longer ends means that book 4 should be awesome and insane. If you’ve stuck with this series for this long, I recommend this book and that you give book 4 a chance, but I didn’t love this novel as I’d hoped that I would. I keep going back and forth on the rating, but I would say that it’s more of a 3.5 star book than 3.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Faster Harder & Faster Deeper by Colleen Masters

Title:Faster, Harder (Take Me...1)
Author:Colleen Masters
PublisherHearts Collective
Publication Date:October 2013
Publisher's DescriptionHow does a responsible, intelligent, career-driven girl find herself half-naked and hooking up with a bad boy Formula One driver in a Barcelona night club bathroom stall?

Siena Lazio is a lot of things but reckless isn't one of them.

She's only in her mid-twenties and already Team Ferrelli's Director of Public Relations and heiress to the top Formula One racing team. The esteemed daughter of Alfonso Lazio, the greatest driver F1 has ever seen, Siena seems to have it all figured out. All she has to do is uphold her family's honor and ensure her brother Enzo's public image is pristine while he rises to fame and clenches the title as Formula One's new champion.

Everything is perfect...

...Until she's swept mercilessly off her feet by the one man she can never be with. The one man who can fuck it all up.

Harrison Davies is Team McClain's secret weapon and he's the only driver who threatens to steal the championship from Enzo. The tattooed British bad boy knows how to get what he wants. And always gets what he wants.

Harrison and Siena fall deeper and deeper with each secret tryst. Passion flares, reality fades, and the lines between right and wrong begin to blur. Driven by lust and ambition the couple delves into a world of treachery, deceit, lies, and ultimate betrayal. Is Siena ready to place her fragile heart into the hands of a speed demon and will the thrill of falling for him be worth it when they wreck?

Book #1 in the Take Me... Series
Full Length New Adult Contemporary Romance Novel
READERS 18+ ONLY - Contains adult themes and explicit sexual content.
My rating:***.5

fhLet’s just get this out of the way: these titles are so on the nose that they’re hilarious. It’s like the author gave a 14-year-old naming rights to her works. That being said: it doesn’t matter what you call these books, they’re entertaining. The separation of books one and two in this series felt arbitrary and artificial to me; the action in these books take place over a portion of a single F1 season, which is still taking place going into the third book (I gather, from book 2’s epilogue). I will never understand the compulsion to break into three parts stories that should be two or even one book. What is gained in revenue will probably be lost in poor reviews from readers who don’t appreciate the tactic. The revelation at the end of the second book felt like a fitting place to pick up the action in this series, and would have made for a more natural break from the first part of the story.

Another thing: this is a very enjoyable series, but these books should not be considered “new adult”. This is a contemporary romance novel featuring adult characters, period. The protagonists aren’t on the brink of adulthood, they’re full-fledged adults of 25 and 28(ish) with demanding jobs, extensive social support networks, and only semi-tragic parents. Having determined what I think these books are not, let me tell you now what they are: hot, enjoyable little escapes from reality.

I appreciate that Ms. Masters gave us a bit more character development than people might think to expect from erotic romance titles. I liked seeing Siena embrace with both hands what she wants out of life; when hot, sexy Harrison is who she’s embracing, so much the better. In a few well-executed scenes, Ms. Masters was able to show that pre-Harrison, Siena typically balanced familial duty with her own wants in such as way that her own desires always took a backseat to everything F1-related (sorry for the car metaphor; totally unintentional). Likewise, although there’s less of Harrison’s backstory and none of his perspective, he seems to change for the better once he becomes involved with Siena.

Title:Faster, Deeper (Take Me...2)
Author:Colleen Masters
PublisherHearts Collective
Publication Date:November 2013
Publisher's DescriptionFast Cars.

Beautiful Women.

Sexy Drivers.

Pain, Lies, Deceit, Tears, Violence, Anger, Blackmail, Passion, Love, Lust...


Siena wants Harrison, needs him, more than anything in the world, but she's falling in love with a man she can't have—Not without losing everything and everyone she's ever loved.

Harrison's set his sights on Siena and nothing can stand in his way—He's going to get her, or die trying.

Book #2 in the Take Me... Series.

A Contemporary Romance/New Adult Romance Novel.
My rating:***.5

fdAlthough their romance is undeniably hot, seeing Siena become her own person, instead a cog in the Ferrelli machine or a supporting player in the Enzo show, was what I found to be most rewarding about these books. I liked how she and Harrison have to figure out how to navigate their relationship, and that they both make realistic missteps. I am anxious to learn of the resolution to their problems, and can’t wait to read book three.

I gave this book a 3.5/4 star rating, because I’m annoyed that I had to pay for a second book when this should have been one $3.99 title, but this is why Jesus invented Kobo coupon codes (50DEC).

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