Book Review: Mann Cakes

review-cover-mann cakesTitle: Mann Cakes

Author: Mysti Parker

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Suspense

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Twin brothers and Air Force vets, Tanner and Garrett Mann, return from deployment to find their thriving business burned to the ground. Time for Plan B: Move back to their hometown of Beach Pointe to start over.

But that means running into Paige and Morgan Baxter –gorgeous, curvy, and owners of Two Sisters Cupcakes.

There’s an old diner for sale across town, Garrett’s a great cook, and Tanner has an idea. They’ll make savory cupcakes that men would like. We’re talking bacon and Cheez Whiz. Even better? They’ll call it Mann Cakes. Problem is, they end up attracting an unexpected crowd.

Paige is furious. Every man in her life has left her behind, including Tanner. She’s sacrificed everything for her shop. She won’t lose it over some egotistical ex-boyfriend, even if he does have an Air Force-chiseled body. Her younger sister, Morgan, isn’t helping matters. She’s been gaga over Garrett since high school.

To hell with that. If it’s a fight Tanner wants, it’s a fight he’ll get. But how much is Paige willing to risk to win a cupcake war?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I almost gave this book 3 stars. Almost. I just couldn’t do it. I was bored. After the first few pages, I was ready to put the book down. I hung on, and I did finish the book, but I didn’t really enjoy it.

Very little time was spent on the suspense portion of this book. The murdered friend was mentioned less than a handful of times, and other than one or two incidents in the entire book, there really was no active danger or suspense built up for the characters and reader.

There was also very little of the supposed “cupcake war” this book was about. There was maybe an hour in-book time dedicated to the war between the brothers and sisters, and it was entirely one sided and basically, only one character was even involved. Everyone else was just fine. There was no animosity between them.

The romances themselves were paced pretty identically between the two couples—so it felt like we were just seeing the same romance in an echo. The romance moved along so quickly that I didn’t feel anything for the characters. It didn’t feel realistic. The entirety of the book felt like it passed in a handful of days, and before you knew it they were at their HEA’s.

Overall, it felt like the book lacked any tension or conflict. Everything was a little too easy for the characters, and nothing really happened to move the plot or relationships forward. In the end, the book just wasn’t for me.

Book Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks

review-cover-the one memory of flora banksTitle: The One Memory of Flora Banks

Author: Emily Barr

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Rating: 4 Stars (3.5)

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Description/Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have mixed feelings about this book. The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr was a bit of a slow paced read. It started slow, and it continued to remain at that slow pace throughout the book. Part of this can be attributed to Flora’s voice. She is often confused and inside her head through most of the story, and it tended to slow the pace down. Not only that, but her natural voice for the narration of this book is very dry and lacking in any overt personality. This is probably one of the biggest factors of why I dropped my rating for this book down to a 3.5 or 4 stars. I had a hard time telling if Flora’s dry, vegetative voice was a byproduct of her medication, her damaged brain, the author’s inability to write young characters, or a case of over-editing. It kind of sucked the life out of the book, and for some people, this is going to be the reason they set this book down.

That being said, I did enjoy this book quite a lot. Flora’s medical condition, though used before in fiction, is still a relatively fresh idea, and very much a fascinating one. It creates all sorts of problems in Flora’s life and became a captivating twist in the narrative as the reader is swept along with the mystery of Flora’s life. The plot was one of the biggest draws for this book, and it kept me enthralled as I followed Flora along on her adventure. Another positive point was the characters. I liked them—nearly all of them—and despite the relatively small amounts of time we got to spend with most of them, they seemed well fleshed out.

There were some parts of this story that were definitely hard to stomach. The way Flora’s parents and others treated her sometimes enraged me. It was heartbreaking to see so many people avidly lying to Flora and abusing her trust. On the other side of the coin though, there were also a lot of really great characters that were kind to Flora. It balanced out well, and even if I didn’t particularly like how Flora was being treated, it lead to a provocative narrative.

If you enjoy contemporary YA fiction, and you’re looking for a book that will make you think, this may be a good pick for you. This is a slow read, and Flora’s narrative voice isn’t going to be for everyone, but the core of the story is thought-provoking and captivating, and if you give it a chance, you won’t be wasting your time.

Book Review: About A Dog

review-cover-about a dogTitle: About a Dog [A Bluff Point Romance 1]

Author: Jenn McKinlay

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Mackenzie “Mac” Harris fled her hometown of Bluff Point, Maine, after being left at the altar–and seeking solace in the arms of her best friend’s off-limits brother. Now, seven years later, she’s back to attend her best friend’s wedding–safe, or so she thinks, from the mistakes of her youth.

But Gavin Tolliver has never forgotten the woman who has always held his heart. And when Mac rescues a stray puppy named Tulip, only Gavin, the town’s veterinarian, can help. With a little assistance from Tulip, Gavin vows to make Mac realize that their feelings are more than just puppy love…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

About a Dog by Jenn McKinlay was a heart-warming, sexy read from start-to-finish. This was one of those books that I like to label a “sure read”. The book falls back on some common contemporary romance tropes, but the familiarity of those tropes is one of the reasons why the book works so well to begin with. This is one of those books that you pick up, and you know you’re going to get the warm fuzzies.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. The narrative flowed well, moved at a good, steady pace, and I didn’t run into a lot of typos or grammatical errors that would have brought me out of the story. The characters were interesting, distinct, and likable for the most part (okay, maybe not Mac’s underwhelming “boyfriend”. It’s real hard to like that guy. The humor and witty dialogue really made the story engaging. Overall, it was a solid read.

So why’d I give it four stars, and not five? Well, honestly, I think there could have, and even should have, been more to it. This was an incredibly quick read, and I wish I’d had longer to really sink into the relationship between Mac and Gavin. Their romance was so adorable and steamy at times, that I was really drawn to the main couple, and it was kind of disappointing that my time with them was over so quickly. Yes, I am complaining that this book ended too soon. That’s not all though. There were a few opportunities in the book when I felt like there could have easily been more tension added to the plot—especially between Mac and Gavin. It felt like there were these secrets and lies built up throughout the story that didn’t really go anywhere. The conflict was just kind of glossed over in the end, and everyone forgave everyone else, and they lived happily ever after—and I have no problem with happily ever after… I just expected more of a journey to get there.

All that aside, I really did enjoy the book. It was cute, and if you like contemporary romance and you want a sexy, feel-good book, this is a safe bet.

Book Review: Dirty Like Brody

review-cover-Dirty Like BrodyTitle: Dirty Like Brody [Dirty 2]

Author: Jaine Diamond

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

As longtime manager of Dirty, the hottest rock band on the planet, gorgeous and brooding Brody Mason has had his share of beautiful women. Yet the only one he’s ever wanted is the one he never had—the one who tore his heart out.

Beautiful and elusive Jessa Mayes appears to have it all. Talent, money, and a glamorous life. But she also has a secret. Six years ago, she ran away—from her dream career as a songwriter with Dirty, and the only man she’s ever loved—without telling anyone why.

Now Jessa’s doing the one thing she swore she’d never do. She’s coming home—to be a bridesmaid in her brother’s rock star wedding… and face the mistakes of her past.

It won’t be easy.

Love this intense never is.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Jaine Diamond is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. Dirty Like Brody was another great addition to the Dirty Series. The characters were complex and vivid. They were complicated and realistic, even though they lived in this larger than life world of modeling and rock stars, motorcycle clubs, and drug addicts. It was so easy to sink into their world and be drawn in by their drama.

The book was exceedingly well written. I didn’t feel bogged down by the narrative or distracted from the overall focus of the plot–and with a book that had so much conflict and backstory, that was rather amazing. I didn’t run into any typos or structural errors that pulled me out of the narrative.

The romance between Brody and Jessa was equal parts sweet, broken, and steamy. The sex scenes were hot and very well written. They didn’t feel rushed or exaggerated in the way I find a lot of sex scenes to be written in romance books at times. It was the perfect balance of romance and raunchy. I loved Brody and Jessa as a couple. They had a good balance of sexual tension, hatred, and undying love that made you want to root for them. The author did an excellent job of dangling the unknown drama of Jessa’s past in front of us, making us wonder what her big secret was, without teasing the reader to the point of frustration.

I think the book was very well handled, and I was thoroughly entertained for the couple of hours it took me to get through it. If you enjoy contemporary romance with an undertone of “bad boy” drama, a whole lot of conflict and tension, and steamy sex scenes, this book is going to be right up your alley. I highly recommend you give it a try.

Book Review: Beastly Lights

review-cover-beastly lightsTitle: Beastly Lights

Author: Theresa Jane

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Release Date: March 29, 2017 – Not yet available on Amazon at the time this review was posted.

Description/Synopsis:

Gambled away by her brother, Freya is now bound to the music world’s resident bad boy Liam Henderson as his live-in maid.

Freya Coleman is a struggling artist who can hardly get by. With a past she would rather not revisit and a future that didn’t extend past her next cup of coffee, something had to change. Freya just didn’t know how much.

Liam Henderson lives in the spotlight. His wild nights and latest conquests make every woman want him, and every man want to be him. The rockstar has a carefully constructed persona to keep everyone out. That is, until a drunken night gets out of hand and he finds himself with the winning hand in a poker game, and the prize is a feisty redhead. A prize who just might break down the walls he has been so desperately hiding behind.

Thrown together, these two are a disaster waiting to happen. A disaster the world is eager to watch and comment on until their fingers drop off. What starts off as a fake relationship to improve Liam’s image, blossoms into so much more, and Freya is swept up into the world of bright lights and illusions. Everyone has an opinion when the lights are shining on their beloved rock god Liam Henderson, and they are eagerly waiting to tear down anyone who is bathed in the famous glow.

Can happily ever after exist when the whole world is watching?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m going to give this book the benefit of the doubt. I’ll admit, when I picked up Beastly Lights by Theresa Jane, I didn’t immediately like the main characters, particularly Freya. My first impression of her was that she was jaded, pessimistic and a bit of a complainer. The way she narrated the story made it seem as if she was generally unhappy and unkind to those around her, often making negative in-head comments about her friends and relatives. It didn’t put this book off to a great start.

The main male lead,  Liam, wasn’t much better. He was constantly drunk, jaded, and pretty much treated all his friends (and Freya) like trash. In fact, a lot of the characters were not only imperfect, but downright awful people, and it was hard to get past that for the first couple of chapters.

But (and that’s a big but), the story improved. As the story continued I found myself enjoying the stubbornness of Freya and the little disputes between here and Liam. There were moments when I genuinely laughed at her strange snarky comments and the way she handled Liam’s off-putting manner. This was a character, that although heavily flawed and marked by her past, was more than willing to stand up for herself and challenge the people around her. She didn’t let this rock star walk all over her. Freya didn’t bend for anyone—and not only did she not bend, she often pushed back. Over time, I grew to really enjoy her character and the dynamic relationship between her and Liam.

Although there wasn’t actually much maid-work going on throughout the story (make no mistake, that part of the plot was quickly dropped), the overall story was very reminiscent of some Korean drama’s I’ve seen. It was an interesting mix of dark drama, light-hearted comedy, and a bit of a power war between the main couple that made it really fun and interesting.

Although the book wasn’t a straight home-run for me—there were definitely some parts of the story that I felt could have used a little more polish, or at least been a little less obvious—I do think this was a promising start from a new author, and I ended up really enjoying it overall. I only ran into a few typos (not bad for an ARC), and I think overall, I enjoyed the book.  If you’re interested in a fun contemporary read with a dynamic relationship at its core, I think you’ll probably really enjoy Beastly Lights.

Book Review: Legacy of Lies

review-cover-legacy of liesTitle: Legacy of Lies [Hell’s Valley 1]

Author: Jillian David

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Thriller, Paranormal

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Garrison Taggart doesn’t have time to deal with touchy-feely junk like “trust issues” or “feelings.” His dad’s health is waning and the family’s Wyoming ranch is being sabotaged. Too bad his supernatural ability to tell when someone is lying has been exactly zero help in ferreting out the betrayer so far. So, when sweet schoolteacher Sara Lopez raises concerns about his son being bullied, who can blame a guy for getting a little testy?

The last thing Sara needs is any more attention or gossip after her recent breakup with big-shot rancher Hank Brand. So her attraction to surly but sexy Garrison, Hank’s rival, is entirely unwanted. When she uncovers an insane plot to kidnap the Taggart boy and throws herself in harm’s way to protect him, Garrison must risk his deepest secret and his own life to save the people he cares for the most. But will his heroics cost him everything?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I really enjoyed Legacy of Lies by Jillian David. It was a strange and fresh new concept of a contemporary rancher-romance juxtaposed with elements of paranormal and thriller, which isn’t something I’ve run across in the past.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. There were no obvious or jarring typos. The narrative was clean, flowed easily, and for the most part, the dialogue was believable and natural.

The main characters were flawed, interesting, and adorable in their strained romance—but I also think they were possibly the weakest point of the story. I liked them—I did, but there was this weird back and forth with the two main characters where they loved each other, but kept self-doubting their way out of the relationship. The way they kept backing out of the romance was irritating, frustrating, and honestly, didn’t make a lot of sense at times. It came across as a bit contrived.

That aside, I still greatly enjoyed the book. The plot was new and interesting, I liked the characters and their development. Had it not been for the constant self-doubt of the main characters, this easily would have gotten 5 stars. I was entertained, and I got sucked into the book. There’s not much more I can ask for. If you enjoy rancher-romances or enjoy contemporary paranormal or romantic thrillers, you’ll probably really enjoy this story. I’d suggest giving it a try.

Book Review: Moonlight

review-cover-moonlightTitle: Moonlight [Moonkind Series 2]

Author: Ines Johnson

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Werewolves, Contemporary

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

You can never go home again…

Viviane Veracruz is on her way home from university with a degree in one hand…and a baby in her belly. Desperate to escape the judgement of her family, she accepts a sexy stranger’s offer to pose as the father for a few days. The plan is for him to run off leaving her family none the wiser. But the longer Pierce Alcede stays, the more she can’t let him go.

Home is where the heart is…

Pierce Alcede has finally come to terms with the fact that he is a lone wolf, prone to roam the wilderness alone and never settle down with a family of his own. When he meets a pregnant woman in need, he thinks nothing of stepping in to take the brunt of her family’s ire. But somewhere between working on the Veracruz Ranch by day and climbing into Viviane’s bed at night, Pierce forgets to run away.
Can a woman searching for a place to belong find a home with a man who lives to roam?

Moonlight is the second in a paranormal romance series full of alpha men and the strong, capable women that bend them to their knees. If you like a touch of magic in your romance novels, then you’ll love the witches, fairies, and wolves in the dystopian world of the moonkind.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Moonlight by Ines Johnson was nothing like I expected. I’ve read many werewolf themed books over the years, but this one genuinely surprised me. It was interesting to see a plot where werewolves not only had a new lore behind them but to also have werewolves generally accepted in everyday life by humans. It was something I’ve seen done in many vampire novels, but not in one about werewolves.

The main Couple, Pierce, and Viviane were endearing, steamy, and unsure in their budding relationship, and I thoroughly enjoyed both characters immensely.

Editing wise, I ran into one or two typos, but nothing so obvious as to pull me out of the narrative. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet werewolf romance with some pretty unique characters and lore.