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Book Review: Playing for Keeps

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Playing for Keeps by Jill Shalvis– When it comes to the confident, charismatic Caleb Parker, Sadie Lane feels the spark—the kind that comes from rubbing each other the wrong way. She’s a tattoo artist, he’s a straight-laced mogul. But after they accidentally co-rescue an abandoned dog from a storm, Sadie sees a vulnerable side to the seemingly invincible hottie.

Caleb doesn’t do emotions. Growing up the underdog, he’s learned the hard way to build up an impenetrable wall. Perfect for business. Disastrous for relationships. He’s never worried about it before—not until he finally gets behind Sadie’s armor and begins to fall.

Both guarded and vulnerable, Sadie and Caleb are complete opposites. Or are they? Shocked at their undeniable connection, can they ever admit to wanting more? That all depends on what they’re each willing to risk.

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Published: January 22, 2019

Acquired: Public library e-book

Series: #7 in the Heartbreaker Bay Series

My Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts: I will be shocked if this isn’t one of my best books of 2019. I loved everything about it. Sadie was probably one of my favorite female main characters because I saw so much of myself in her. I could relate to her thoughts, her actions, her feelings. At one point I had to put the book down and take a deep breath because it was like reading about myself. I felt her pain, her fears, her insecurities. And it was hard not to superimpose myself into her place within the book. That kind of writing? It’s rare. 

There was so much pain in Sadie’s past and she was so guarded and careful with her feelings to the point of being standoffish and cold. It took rescuing an abandoned dog, who she named Lollipop, to really start to thaw her heart.  And she fought that thawing all the way, kicking and screaming. What began as a shared custody situation with a dog turned into an epic love story. Caleb was the perfect match for her. He pushed but not hard enough to scare her away, he accepted her dark and painful places, and he never gave up on her. He’s a book boyfriend hero, for sure! 

There were other characters in the book that I had some not so warm and fuzzy feelings about at different points. I thought Sadie’s family was a bunch of a-holes who didn’t deserve her. And Caleb’s sisters were the nosiest bunch of busy-bodies but at least they meant well. All in all, this is a book that I borrowed from the library e-book selection and loved it so much that I bought it! 

Favorite Quote ~ “Fifty Shades of Grey is only romantic because the guy’s a billionaire. If he was living in a trailer, it’d be a Criminal Minds episode” 



Book Review: No Exit

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No Exit by Taylor Adams– On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside, are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers.

Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.

Who is the child? Why has she been taken? And how can Darby save her?

There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one?

Trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with a child’s life and her own on the line, Darby must find a way to break the girl out of the van and escape.

But who can she trust?

Genre: Thriller

Published: January 15, 2019

Acquired: Public library e-book

My Rating: 4 Stars

My Thoughts: I knew I was going to enjoy this book just from the blurb and I was so right. Darby was my favorite kind of character- badass, smart, and willing to do the right thing regardless of the consequences. I literally could not put this book down. I held my iPad in one hand while cooking dinner so I didn’t have to stop reading. I ignored my family completely until I was finished and I stayed up way too late because I had to see how it ended. I can easily see this book being made into a movie. I’d go see it!

Darby is on her way to see her dying mother to make amends when a snow storm forces her to stop and hunker down at a rest area with a group of strangers. Roads are closed, cell signal is nonexistent, and her phone battery is almost gone. On the advice of one of the strangers she sets out into the snow in search of a cell signal but she finds something a lot more sinister instead. A little girl trapped in a dog crate in the back of a van. Darby has to figure out which of the four strangers in the rest area are responsible and find a way to save a terrified little girl. The kidnapper seemed obvious but as an avid fan of thrillers I knew there had to be more to the plot. Darby is in a race against time, and a race against evil, to save not only a little girl but herself. 



Book Review: For Better and Worse

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For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt– On their first date back in law school, Natalie and Will Clarke bonded over drinks, dinner and whether they could get away with murder. Now married, they’ll put the latter to the test when an unchecked danger in their community places their son in jeopardy. Working as a criminal defense attorney, Nat refuses to rely on the broken legal system to keep her family safe. She knows that if you want justice…you have to get it yourself.

Shocked to discover Nat’s taken matters into her own hands, Will has no choice but to dirty his, also. His family is in way too deep to back down now. He’s just not sure he recognizes the woman he married. Nat’s always been fiercely protective, but never this ruthless or calculating. With the police poking holes in their airtight plan, what will be the first to fall apart: their scandalous secret—or their marriage?

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Published: December 11, 2018

Acquired: Public Library E-book

My Rating: 4 Stars

My Thoughts: I got completely sucked into this book. I literally read the entire 336 page book in 6 hours because I could not put it down. The premise was intriguing and the prologue hooked me immediately. Throughout the entire book I could easily put myself in the position of Nat, the mother. Having been a foster parent, let me just say that I have seen the worst that society has to offer. The storyline was very authentic to me and the legal details were well researched and realistic. I knew where the story was going but part of the great suspense in the first part of the book was wondering when and how. After the main event happened the story did not drop off at all. The suspense level stayed high and the tension ramped up as I waited to see the resolution. The only reason this book is not a 5 star for me is the ending. The resolution was too neat and unrealistic for me. 



Book Review: Ryan’s Bed

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Ryan’s Bed by Tijan– I crawled into Ryan Jensen’s bed that first night by accident. I barely knew him. I thought it was his sister’s bed—her room. It took seconds to realize my error, and I should’ve left…I didn’t. I didn’t jump out. I didn’t get embarrassed. I relaxed. And that night, in that moment, it was the only thing I craved. I asked to stay. He let me, and I slept. The truth? I never wanted to leave his bed. If I could’ve stayed forever, I would have. He became my sanctuary. Because—four hours earlier—my twin sister killed herself.

Genre: Young Adult

Published: January 22. 2018

Acquired: Purchased

My Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts: Tijan is one of my favorite authors. I love her Fallen Crest series and her Carter Reed series but I haven’t really connected with one of her books since those. Until this one. I loved this book. It invoked a range of emotions as I was reading and the characters felt very real. MacKenzie was a great main character- she was grieving the loss of her twin sister and I just wanted to give her a hug. Her reactions and the way she processed her grief were very believable for a teenager. The way she swung between rage and emptiness, the inner dialogue she had, and her connection to Ryan- it all felt very authentic and real. The only parts of the story that felt a bit off were the scenes involving the high school mean girls. While I enjoyed watching MacKenzie’s ways of dealing with them I think they detracted some from the powerful emotions of the rest of the book. But the ending…the final 3 words. Oh holy cow, I did not see that coming at all. I am rarely shocked by an ending but I was totally flabbergasted by this one. The ending is what made what would have been a solid 4 star read into a 5 star one for me. I read this book late last year and it still has stuck with me, which is a great indicator to me how fabulous it truly was because I read a lot of books!



Book Review: Across the Horizon

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Across the Horizon by Aly Martinez– “Sometimes love happens when you least expect it.” That was what my husband’s mistress told me the day I found out about their affair. 

I didn’t believe it until five minutes later when mouth-watering celebrity chef Tanner Reese walked up, tossed his arm around my shoulders, and told my cheating husband to take a hike. 

Tanner and I couldn’t have been more different. He spent his weekends at clubs, rubbing elbows with fellow A-listers. I spent mine in yoga pants with cheese boards and a glass of wine—or six.

Our relationship shouldn’t have worked, but it did. That is until Tanner proved to me that even though love happens when you least expect it… 

So does heartbreak.

Genre: Romance

Published: December 6, 2018

Acquired: Kindle Unlimited

My Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts: Across the Horizon is a spin-off of the Darkest Sunrise duet, which was one of my favorite duets ever. The couple in this story are Porter’s younger brother, Tanner, and Charlotte’s best friend, Rita. We saw Tanner and Rita in the previous story and  while readers knew they became romantically involved we never got their backstory until now. Their romance starts at about the same time that Porter and Charlotte’s did but this isn’t a retelling of the previous story. 

This story starts with infidelity and heartbreak but soon you’ll see the strength and resilience of the Rita. Rita meets Tanner not long after her marriage falls apart when she finds out her husband has been having an affair. I really enjoyed the way her character was portrayed- sassy and strong but still vulnerable and cautious. Tanner is a celebrity chef with his own cooking show on television whose claim to fame is when he takes off his shirt mid way through the show. He also has a few successful restaurants with his brother Porter. Rita and Tanner were a really great match. There’s a fair amount of angst and drama in this story but there’s also enough moments of great romance and levity to keep the book from being too heavy.