Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Flying by Megan Hart

Title:
Flying
Author:Megan Hart
PublisherHarlequin MIRA
Publication Date:April 2014
Publisher's DescriptionEver hear of wanderlust? Every other weekend, Stella buys a ticket on the next flight out of town and leaves her life behind. Home is a place with too many memories, and departure is the sweetest possible distraction. As soon as she arrives at her destination, Stella visits the airport bar. She orders a drink and waits for the right guy to come along. A bored businessman, a backpacker, a baggage handler just off shift. If he's into a hot, no-strings hookup, he's perfect. Each time is a thrilling escape from reality that gives the term layover a whole new meaning. When Stella meets the enigmatic Matthew in Chicago one weekend, she hits some serious turbulence. Something about him tells her she's not the only one running from the past. The connection between them is explosive, and for the first time, one taste is not enough for Stella. But returning to find a gorgeous man waiting for her is the easy part& facing the reason she's there is a whole other matter.
My rating:***.5

flying

I really liked some of Ms. Hart’s earlier books, but couldn’t connect with her more recent offerings. Flying returns to what I liked best about her earlier books: her richly drawn worlds and the sense that everything about her characters, including their sexuality, is about them trying to make sense of the world. I like you learn about what Stella does before you learn why she does the things that she does, because by the time you get to the explanation, you realize that you knew the essential truth about her long before the “what”. Likewise, you understand a lot about Matthew before he reveals the specific reasons and events that keep him tethered to his old life.

If you’re looking for a happily ever after type of book, this probably isn’t going to be for you; Matthew and Stella have a lot to work through, and their story is far from over at the end of the book. Still, I found the sense of hope that I felt at the end of this novel to be more honest and satisfying than a lot of happily ever afters I’ve read.

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The Resistance by S.L. Scott

Title:
The Resistance
Author:S. L. Scott
PublisherSelf-published
Publication Date:April 28, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionYou don't choose when.

You don't choose where.

And you don't get to choose who you fall in love with.

The minute he opened his sexy mouth, Holliday Hughes should have known Jack Dalton was trouble. His smooth pickup lines, broad shoulders, and ridiculously handsome face charmed her right out of her clothes. She gave into her desires, the instant attraction blinding her to the obvious.

One night. That was all it took for Holliday’s world to be flipped on its axis. Jack Dalton was cocky. Smug. Volatile. Demanding. He ignited something deep inside her like no other, but there was something more to this brooding bad boy. There was a dark side to him she couldn't help but be drawn to.

Torn between what she knew about him and a mysterious side he tried to hide, could she walk away or was he simply too hard to resist?
My rating:****.5

resistance

So what gives? Although this blog is entitled “Nicole Reads a Lot,” this is my first post in over a month. Why???

The short answer is: I haven’t read anything that excited me in that time period. I have read a few books that seemed pretty terrible, and many more that were just meh, but nothing that I felt like writing about. Until now! I just finished The Resistance by S.L. Scott, and I can’t remember the last time I got this excited over a book by a new (to me) author.

The premise of this book intrigued me: Holliday unknowingly hooks up with a rock star. Secret famous people stories are maybe my catnip. Novels that feature this type of storyline tend to take me to my happy place. Dalton, who is more commonly known by his stage name of Johnny Outlaw, is a world-famous rock star who takes a chance when he meets a woman who attracts him and, equally important, doesn’t initially know who he is. He just wants to be loved, dammit!

This book reads like Ms. Scott reached inside my brain, saw what I liked, and wrote a book combining all my favorite things. Holli is a smart, sex-positive, successful businesswoman who makes no apologies for her success. Her business exists because she came up with a good idea, but if she hadn’t been a great entrepreneur, it would never have gone anywhere. She doesn’t have as much of a social life as she’d like, but she makes time for her best friend. She isn’t awkward around men, and is pretty much my hero. Unlike in some books where I don’t get how the heroine (hate that word) appeals to the hero (ditto), it’s pretty easy to see why a rich, famous, world-weary rock star would fall for somebody like her.

The secondary characters in this book really add to its depth. We get a better understanding of Dalton and Holli through their connections to the people in their lives. Danny and Rochelle, in particular, are well-realized, and I’d be interested in seeing what happens in either or both of their lives (did I just come up with something?)…

The only things that I wished Ms. Scott would have included in this book are more information about JD’s relationship with his family, and really any information at all about Holliday’s. Otherwise, this book was pretty much perfect for me.

Judging by the number of her books that are on sale at Amazon, Ms. Scott isn’t a new author, but she’s new to me. I’m really happy that she’s on my radar, and I plan to enjoy going through her back catalog over the next several weeks.

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Perfect Summer by Katie Graykowski

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

CoveFinalLG-PerfectSummer

I really enjoyed this book. Summer’s belief that she was fat and unloveable was sad, but while it stained credulity a bit (why is there such a massive disconnect between characters about whether she’s curvy, fat, or obese?), I found her to be sympathetic and was invested in things working out for her and Clint. I liked that Davis and Lilly’s stories were included here as well. It’s good that this particular evil Texan mother repented, although there were things that went unexplained that I would have liked to see resolved (like, why is Lilly holding out on giving Summer her money?). I enjoyed this book enough to pick up Place Your Betts by the same author immediately after finishing this novel.

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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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Out of Turn by Tiffany Snow

Title:
Out of Turn
Author:Tiffany Snow
PublisherMontlake Romance
Publication Date:December 27, 2013
Publisher's DescriptionBreaking up is hard to do, as Kathleen Turner discovers. After a falling-out with her ex, high-powered attorney Blane Kirk, she’s moving on the best she can. Unfortunately, someone from her past is set on revenge and nothing short of killing Kathleen will stop them.

Keeping his brother’s ex-girlfriend alive isn’t something new to assassin-for-hire Kade Dennon, but this time can he protect her from himself? She’s a woman he can’t convince himself to walk away from, no matter what it costs him.

Regret is a constant companion for Blane as he realizes the truth behind the lies he’s been told. Can love heal the past, or can some mistakes not be undone?

Murder reunites Blane, Kade, and Kathleen as the police put Blane in their crosshairs. Blane may lose everything unless he and Kade can find the real murderer before it’s too late. But if they can’t set aside their love for the same woman and work together, it will tear them apart.

In Out of Turn, Kathleen is caught between two warring brothers, and the consequences may be fatal.
My rating:****.5

ootI have been eagerly awaiting this fourth entry in Snow’s Kathleen Turner series, and I was not disappointed at all. I’d been waiting since I read the third book in this series for this book to come out, and Ms. Snow had a lot of expectations to live up to. I’m pleased to say that she exceeded my wildest hopes for this book. A lot of the things that bothered me about the earlier books in this series were missing here. Kathleen had greater agency; she was more of a participant in her destiny, and I felt like she commanded more respect. Of course, this could be because she spent a great deal of this book in the company of Kade, the brother who was always more likely to treat her like a capable adult. I must admit that Blane bothered me a lot in the past. He seemed at times to treat Kathleen like an ignorant appendage, and I felt that he didn’t always afford her the respect that anybody should give another rational adult. And that was before he went and accused her of cheating on him with his brother. AFTER HE’D RESCUED HER FROM SEXUAL SLAVERY. I don’t even know how he could have believed that story at all, even before you got to the part where the person who she’d supposedly cheated with was HIS BROTHER WHOM HE’D RESCUED FROM A CHILDHOOD OF NEAR-DICKENSIAN PRIVATION. I mean, really.

Who I picture when Blane talks

Alas, poor Alaric…I mean Blane

Even though Blane’s character has been consistent throughout this series, this book marks the first time that I felt more than annoyance, exasperation, or anger at him; the sense I got when reading Out of Turn was that Blane was a man living with a suffocating amount of regret over his past mistakes. I’m a big fan of the extended grovel, and in way too many romance novels,  the hero (because, let’s be real here, it’s almost always the guy) gets off way too lightly for doing something terrible to the heroine. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” might have worked in the ’70s, but I am not on board with it at all. Thankfully, it seems that neither is Ms. Snow. Here, I got the feeling that Blane really did understand the magnitude of the mistake he made when he listened to his awful uncle, accused Kathleen of sleeping with Kade, broke the engagement, and pushed his brother out of his life. What’s more, he apologized and really meant it. Not just to get back in Kathleen’s pants, or even begrudgingly: he apologized sincerely and acknowledged the possibility that he might never be able to fix what he’d broken. Even more heartening, Kathleen (after a reasonable amount of time and soul-searching), offers him sincere forgiveness, while admitting that she may never be able to trust him again.

Team Kade

Team Kade – still, forever, some more

I still don’t connect to Blane the way I do to Kade – he’s just not my kind of guy – but I felt like I came away from this book with a greater appreciation for who he is and why Kathleen would have a difficult time choosing between him and his brother. That being said, I’m 100% on Team Kade. Obviously. I mean, I was even before I read this book, but I loved seeing Kathleen and Kade work through their relationship without having to work around Blane. Sure, he’s the elephant in the room throughout the book, as the other two try, both subtly and overtly, to explore their feelings while sparing his, but DAMN. This book basically reads like the Team Kathleen and Kade playbook.

I really appreciated how Ms. Snow was able to advance the interpersonal relationships in this story, while also moving along storylines that have been in play since book one. It was good to catch up with tertiary characters with whom the main characters had interacted in the past, and to see that events that happened in previous books still resonated with the characters in this one. To my mind, Out of Turn is the strongest book in this series yet. Although I spent a lot of time gushing over Kathleen and Kade, I really love how well the strained relationship between Kade and Blane was portrayed here. It’s easy for me to say which brother I’d pick, but I really felt how torn Kathleen was by worries about the effect that her choice would have on the other brother. The balancing at between these three characters is delicious. The whole thing works even better when I think of this novel in terms of The Vampire Diaries (when that show was still must-watch television for me): Kathleen is a smarter, more capable Elena; Kade is Damon (yum); and Blane is some weird amalgamation of Stefan and Sober Alaric.

I cannot wait for book 5.

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